It felt a bit ironic that I read ‘Slow at Work’ quickly, but the ease in which it reads is part of its charm. Aoife McElwain writes in such an earthy and grounded way that reading her new book is like sitting down beside her in her favourite Fumbally Café as she openly and honestly talks you through her quest to get to core of the often ‘elusive’ concept of ‘Work/Life Balance’.
Aoife is a freelancer. For a long time that meant, like so many, running around like a mad thing, chasing deadlines, and juggling multiple projects. Then, one summer, after a bad back injury – induced by too much work and carrying heavy loads, both physically and mentally- she clearly realised the trap she was in: a distinct unbalance modulating her between extreme activity and burnout. And it was taking its toll.
Slow at Work, published by Gill, is the result of Aoife’s year long (ish) investigation in this core question, essentially: how to stay sane in an always ‘On’ world. Alongside extensive reading into the topic she interviewed about 100 people from different sectors- wellbeing professionals, coaches, other self employed people, restauranteurs, artist and creatives- gathering insights. Over the year she then experimented with new approaches and tools to actively apply to her personal and professional life and kept a list of her own nuggets of insight and ‘aha’s’ along the way (which she shares at the end of each chapter).
Diving into topics ranging from managing our inner critics, procrastination, technology and social media, burnout, energy management and gut instinct, Aoife provides a useful distinction between ‘percolation’ and ‘procrastination’ and a handy approach for getting to know (and tame) your inner critic. There are also plenty of insights into how our working environments, diet and physical activity have an impact on our overall wellbeing, alongside an open conversation about money and also our relationship to social media.
It would be tempting to wrap up such a book with the presentation of a ‘Seven Steps to having it all sorted’, kind of list. Refreshingly Aoife instead gives a considered evaluation of the evidence for ‘slow’ in the context of her own life. In that sense ‘Slow at Work’ is not a prescription, more of an invitation. “It turns out you can slow down and keep up’, she writes, ‘it just depends on what your idea of keeping up is”. Like many of the interviewees, Aoife is open and frank about the pitfalls of the entrepreneurial lifestyle- that the promised freedom can come at a high cost unless clear boundaries around time and a very very conscious commitment to wellbeing is applied – with discipline.
In our fast paced, ‘always on’ world, it’s reassuring to meet someone life Aoife who is writing so candidly about the perils of ‘ON’. It’s reassuring too that she’s not alone in her quest to switch gear, still do brilliant work and find ways to create flow and freedom. So if you are looking for new ways into considering what ‘keeping up’ means for you, you’ll find a fresh, friendly and honest voice in Aoife. So grab yourself a coffee, turn off the devises, and in finding your way to Aoife’s words you are already finding a way towards your own quest for sane…
You can pick up your copy of ‘Slow at Work’ in any good bookshop, as they say, or over on Gill Books website.
Happy reading 🙂 And if I have one piece of advice: take your time…
(I was honoured to be one of Aoife’s interviewees in the book, alongside many wonderful Irish voices who I respect and admire. I am also so delighted that Aoife’s work is out in the world in book print form- such a great achievement and a valuable addition to the wellbeing conversation.. well done Aoife! )