Life in the slow(er) lane

Life in the slow lane palm image 1

In July last year, I threw the ultimate uppercut to city life. I packed my bags (and by bags, I mean 56 boxes and 2 truckloads of belongings and plants. Mostly plants) and moved my life and my little family, to Coledale. A sweet little suburb just an hour and a bit south of the Sydney chaos tucked in behind the national park.

Life down here is simple. We’ve got the towering escarpment to our West and beautiful coastline to our East and only a few blocks of houses in between. We’re cocooned by stunning landscapes, cheap beer at the local pub and friendly locals with all the time in the world to chat about the weather. Our home is quiet, our mornings slow and our rhythms finally settling into a more manageable pace of life.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. And I’m finally getting some real work done for the first time in years. My stress levels have plummeted, my budget for parking fines vanished and I’m almost positive my heart rate has actually slowed. After 8 years in the big smoke, I’m starting to feel what it’s like to be ‘Tess’ again.

Why am I telling you all of this? It’s not just to brag about my awesome new life, although if anyone wants to listen to that, I’ll certainly give them an earful, but I wanted to share this slither of my life chapter with you to say loud and clear that as a business owner, your business depends on your health, happiness and productivity.

I love the saying ‘Happy wife, happy life’ and manage to cram in about 4 reminders of this saying to my boyfriend all before 9am each day. And I think this adage can be applied to our business lives too. In business; Happy business owner, happy business.

It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but I can personally vouch for the truth in this statement.

When you’re suffering from stress, overwhelm, anxiety and I-don’t-even-give-a-flying-F-about-this-shiz-anymore feels, it will 100% be reflected in your work. Your profit and loss statements start to look a little dreary, your productivity dwindles to an all-time low and your staff will most certainly pick up on the lazy cues and run wild with them.

My move to Coledale might seem small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things (hello Trump), but this move taught me some seriously big life lessons. The biggest of the big, was that I/you/we can all live the life we want, full-stop, end of sentence. Regardless of the things you tell yourself are holding you back, regardless of the limitations, we create for ourselves or the negative comments your sixth grade teacher had to say in your report card you can do and be whatever the hell you want (spoken like a true millennial).

The modern day office is changing – particularly for us in the creative industries or working within innovative companies, we no longer need to slog out 100 hour weeks in the same building at the same desk in our freshly ironed beige slacks. Even the most corporate of corporate companies are getting with the times and allowing staff members flexibility with working from home, reduced hours and more relaxed office environments. As business owners, we need to harness the power of our creations and use it to our advantage to create the life of our dreams. Because really, isn’t that why we got into business in the first place? To create our own mini utopia? Yes, damn right it is.

My boyfriend and I now joke that we should have made the move down here years ago. But to be honest, for many years I was a bit hesitant in leaving our Sydney life. Not because I loved it, but because I was scared of what leaving behind my buzzing little studio might do for the business and our bottom line.

When you’re building a company, it’s easy to think you’ll fall behind if you don’t keep your foot on the gas at all times. It’s easy to think that if you’re not whipping yourself into a state of burn-out that nothing will happen. It’s easy to think if you take a lunch break you’ll come back and your business will just be a pile of ashes on the ground. But frankly, it’s quite the opposite. When you create calm, give yourself time to create and make careful and strategic decisions, your business will move forward in leaps and bounds. Just like anything in life, balance is the key to growth.

Living in the city was full of opportunity and creativity, but the pace of it was not for me. I was constantly stressing about stress before there was even stress to stress about. Why couldn’t I work faster and get everything done in a day? And how could I possibly fit in social activities, exercise, being nice to my boyfriend and drinking a goddamn green juice?! I forever felt behind on my work-related projects and my life admin swallowed me up and spat me out on a regular basis. I had obligations with friends that either loomed over my head like ghosts of people past or that consumed my entire weekends. On average I had about 120 unread emails that swirled in my head as my head hit the pillow at the end of another marathon day. I had meetings with people I didn’t need to meet with, questions that could have answered themselves and tasks that kept me from doing the work that I really wanted to be doing. I was forever frustrated with myself for not being completely “on top” of my life.

Super fun times right? Someone pour me a vodka and fetch me a sauso roll.

It wasn’t until I got here, to Coledale, that I realised I’d spent the last 9 years racing around the city on high speed, even when there was absolutely no need. It had gotten to the point that even when I wasn’t in a hurry, I was. Whether it was walking from my car to my house or making my morning chai, there was a looming sense of urgency. To get it done so that I could simply hurry to the next thing.

It reached a pinnacle at the end of last year. I began to wonder if there was some way I could just back away slowly from this whole thing and go live off the grid in a DIY tree house and sell homegrown ‘greens’ for a living.

As a kid, I was a member of the latchkey generation and had a few hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon. My brother and I would come home from school teach our dog magic tricks, play hide and seek in the yard, eat mulberries off the back tree and chuck unripened grapes at people walking past our house, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day.

Those days were happy days. As an adult, I have intense cravings for that sense of freedom, unstructured time and slow living. So, it’s not much wonder that I am starting to feel right back at home in a small coastal town with only one set of traffic lights to pause my trip.

Here are some things I’ve learned about life in the slow(er) lane. Cue the confetti people, this is where the good stuff is.

    The only way I was able to relinquish control and step back from being at my desk at the studio day-in, day-out was by hiring a General Manager. Elodie, if you’re ready this, thanks for saving my life. By hiring someone to take the reigns and ensure that there were no small fires burning in our storeroom or that no staff member attempted to fly from our balcony, I was able to transition south and now only commute to our Surry Hills studio two days a week. That’s not to say that you need to mortgage your house to afford yourself the Taj Mahal of staffing, but just build up your network as best you can. Make sure that you have a support system that is as tight as Freddie Mercury’s pants – whether it’s your extended team of accountant, lawyer, and VA in the Philippines, or like me you have a physical team in a physical space, make sure that they are more supportive than a top of the range Lay-z-boy recliner.
    When I’m stress free, I’m pretty much gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and chugging water and vitamins like there’s no tomorrow. The moment the cortisol rises, I’m inhaling donuts, nuzzling my face in pizza, doing lines of sugar and injecting wine and/or vodka into my veins. Slow(er) living means taking the time to make the right choices, healthy choices, it’s looking after yourself.
    Moving. I tried to come up with an analogy for something that incites suffering, dislodges your vertebrae, reduces you to a steamy hot mess and triples your phone bill with hotspotting charges. But, just like the whereabouts of my favourite watch after the move, I came up with nothing. Transitioning to slow(er) living – whether that’s 2 truckloads on the road, or maybe the promise to turn your phone off each Sunday – will be hard at first. But once you see the light, time, space and sanity on the other side, will be so worth it.
    Purchasing my house was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my life. So much so, in the thrill of excitement I misspelled my own name on the contract. Signing my life (albeit slightly misspelled), over to a mortgage was single-handedly the biggest, most adult thing I’ve ever done… And made even more particularly exciting/nerve-wracking because we hadn’t even seen the house, (yes I’m crazy and blew a ridiculous amount of money on a house I’d never even visited). But I knew, that in order to truly seek out a slower life, I had to commit full throttle to changing my life.
    You don’t have to buy a house and move cities. And you certainly don’t have to buy herbal toothpaste and start milking your own goat to enjoy the simple things in life. Whilst I was stressed in Sydney, I sure did my bit to live the slowest life I possibly could there. I made an effort to not get in my car on weekends, I made a conscious effort to begin each morning with meditation and I only agreed to the bare necessities of social commitments. Oh, and each and every day I always partook in a little “Red Dog Therapy” and walked my Kelpie along the beaches. I made an effort to not take my phone with me, pause to look at the beach in awe and smile to at least 3 out of 10 strangers. You can start to introduce the slow(er) life just by doing small things, like not trying to stack the dishwasher, get dressed, make breakkie and plan your summer holiday all by the time the kettle boils. #guilty
    When life gets busy, we all get sucked into our own vortexes of complex lives. We become a little self-involved and spend more time in our heads, calendars and commitments than we do nurturing the important relationships in our lives. Before you know it you’ve dropped off the Whatsapp group, the coffee dates land in your spam folder and baby shower invitations sent by carry pigeon died mid-flight. And you know what? That’s okay. As a proud introvert, I can count my close friends on one hand. I love them dearly, and make time for these cherished people. But I don’t seek to have a million friends that I could never keep up with and be a good friend to those people. For me, it’s quality over quantity.
    Everywhere you go, people are on their phones. Not making calls mind you, not actually really connecting with someone. But snapping and sharing and scrolling and wasting precious time. Feel free to point your finger at me and call me a hypocrite because I am a total sucker for this too, but I have been really trying to curb my habit and feeling so much better for it.Being constantly ‘connected’ on social media is a funny thing. Contradictory to its name, social media can leave you feeling very lonely despite having lots of “friends”. It’s important that we all tend to our friends IRL, not just our feeds.
    In this crazy, fast-paced world we live in, there is an avalanche of noise everywhere we turn. Each moment of everyday we have people, commitments, to-do-lists and inboxes demanding something from us. It’s like we live in a constant state of theme park adrenaline where every stall, ride and kid is screaming for us to do the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. With the daily messages flying at us at the speed of light, it is easy to be sucked into a stimulation vortex.Our conscious brain (10% of our overall thinking capacity) needs to access our subconscious brain (which governs 90% of our cerebral activity) in order to be creative and to make well-informed decisions. The ‘magic’ happens when we have fewer distractions, we’re feeling relaxed, being more ourselves and, therefore, more open to possibility and inspiration.

Since moving down the coast, I’ve felt a shift in my energy and my approach to what is still a very busy life. I haven’t opted out of society completely (much to my boyfriend’s disdain) and I sure as hell haven’t run away from my businesses and responsibilities to live a life of yoga and cheese boards, but what I’ve found is a new perspective on the notion of time. I feel more in control of my time and am on a constant mission to do less with more focus.

I’m tuning in to the idea that time is the most valuable asset we own, and I’m doing my best to use it wisely.


  1. Shawnee says:

    Yaaaaaaasssss Tess! Thank you for sharing. Only last night I was having a “what the F**k” at I doing moment and I think the cause is snowballing out of a stressful busy life. I feel so much more ok with doing some me time after reading this! Thank you!

  2. Tabitha says:

    Dear Tess, Just wanted to let you know how beautifully this was written, and how much it resonated with my core. My little famster & I just bought our first family home in Bowral, and with the move pending (after 2 decades of Sydney fast-paced-living and running my own fast-paced clinic, I can assure you my inner child is pining for the change of pace. Thanks for sharing your experience. x Tabitha

  3. Anabelle says:

    Welcome! Life goes too fast on its own!

  4. Mukti says:

    ON POINT 1000% love this and love you…
    I did the opposite… 20 years of life on the farm …was a kinda too laid back… I now reside in Melbourne, although HQ is on the Sunshine Coast. I realise everyday how fortunate I am to have created a product so that I actually don’t need to be bound anywhere…I just need an awesome team and an efficient project management tool like Asana… ohhh and of course, a stellar external graphic department team…I have all of that now and I’m extremely grateful…Having a small business is not about being bound and’s about creating freedom and choices..and that objective does eventually come to fruition after the initial mountain of tenacity, patience and putting in the long hours..
    May you continue to be duly rewarded and blessed. Keep inspiring..Happy New Year to you
    Mukti xo

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