William Powers: living slow in a big city – SHP024

William Powers: how to live slow in a big city - SHP024

One question I’m asked a lot is whether slow living is really accessible to people who live in big cities, and today’s guest, William Powers, is the perfect person to ask.

Bill’s most recent book, New Slow City, explores what it means to live slow in one of the world’s most hectic cities – New York. He and his wife spent a year living in a micro-apartment in Manhattan, and amongst other changes, Bill set about to cut back his work schedule to just 2 days a week.

This is a really fascinating look at what it takes to slow down in the city, and why people who live in a fast-paced environment stand to gain a great deal from simplifying, living with purpose and opting out.

I loved hearing not only about the slow year Bill and his wife lived in New York, but also the changes they’ve made since and what drove them to move to a Transition Town in Bolivia.

Such a great conversation, and I hope you enjoy it!

Today’s show is sponsored by Audible.com where you can access over 180,000 audiobooks, including Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari. Click here to get a free, no strings attached, 30-day trial of Audible and claim one free audiobook of your choice.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • Bill’s previous attempts at slow living, including creativity sabbaticals
  • The micro apartment he and his wife shared for a year, after letting go of more than 80% of their belongings
  • How communal living helped them navigate life in a tiny home
  • The superb idea behind working 24/7 and why it is so appealing (and no, it’s not 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!)
  • How Bill learnt to pay himself in time, not money
  • Why he doesn’t believe a slower, simpler life is only available to the wealthy
  • The number of work hours Bill found to be his peak productivity level
  • How to make the transition from working hard to working smart
  • Why people tend to respect the boundaries you set for yourself and how to use this in your favour when disconnecting from work
  • Bill’s advice for people who work for large, inflexible organisations and how to reclaim your time
  • What would happen if everyone in New York started working less
  • The incredible revillaging movement and the Transition Town that Bill and his family now call home.

Things to Check Out After Today’s Episode:

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5 Responses to William Powers: living slow in a big city – SHP024

  1. Hey Brooke. I really love your podcast and I think William Powers’ take on slow city living is really interesting, but there’s something that’s bugging me. I know you’ve acknowledged recently that you want to include more stories about people who maintain their traditional full time jobs whilst wanting to slow down, but I sometimes get this feeling from your guests like they think no full time job is a worthwhile way to spend your time.

    I’m a newly qualified junior doctor and I know in my heart this is what I’m meant to do, full time, until retirement. I am willingly signing up to work long hours for the rest of my life to do the only thing I’ve ever felt driven to. However, I still feel like I can achieve slow living both in my spare time and at work, and that doing so will enable me to look after myself well enough to keep doing what I do. I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like the response to “how do I slow down if I work full time?” Is so often “find a way to work less”, but what if that isn’t possible or what you want? What if you want to feel like your commitment to slow living is as strong as somebody who has chosen to leave their office grind for writing a blog? I appreciate it’s probably not an easy task to find guests who represent that viewpoint as they probably aren’t as visible in the community, I guess I just wish there was more acknowledgement that not all of us are exchanging our time for money in such a simple transaction. Feeling fulfilled at work doesn’t make slow living redundant, and I really believe it’s possible to do both – I just don’t feel like I’ve heard much about how! My job is mentally, physically and emotionally demanding and I think slow living is what will keep me doing it without burning out. I’d love to know what you think about this.

    Keep doing what you do, your podcast is my all time favourite. I hope one day you organise a workshop in the UK, I would drop everything to meet you. Much love, Grace

    • Thanks so much for such a thoughtful comment, Grace, and I really do agree with you. There are many many ways to incorporate slow living into a life that is full, a life that is in service to others, a life where you are actively accepting longer hours, harder work. I think the reason I find it so difficult to find guests to talk on this (because I am trying :) ) is that they’re too busy living their full lives and enjoying the slow in between to look for opportunity to talk about it – they’d just prefer to live it.

      That being said, I am trying to book some guests who specialise in slow management and slow work environments who work in fast-paced corporate environments and have insight into how we can incorporate mindfulness and slow living into busy working lives.

      The truth is, a lot of people do want to work less, but there are also a great many who love what they do and are looking instead for a way to slow down the way they work, the way they think, or the down time in between the job they love.

      I’ll keep looking for people to fill this gap though, and if you think of anyone, please let me know!

      Thanks again for listening and for such a thoughtful comment. xx

    • Hi Grace,

      I hear you. Part of it is the “meditative” (i.e. Slow) mindset one brings into whatever activity. I’m imagining you doctoring Slowly… in other words fully in the moment with each patient and situation, keeping your head even when all around you are losing theirs.

      And then as a five year plan– or ten?– setting the goal of far less hours on the clock through a non-tradational work schedule. But, if you find you are Slow inside even in what others call the grind, well… cheers!

      Big Hug,
      Bill Powers

  2. RE: Guaranteed minimum payment to everyone in the U.S. (@43:00 in podcast) – That sounds great. But we really need to look at what the motivation behind such an offer from the government would be. My motto is “Question everything.” The same goes for the urban-living movement. Sounds great. But be sure to research Agenda 21.

    I’m all for slow-living. I pretend I live in a small town, even though I live in a huge inner-ring suburb.

  3. Brooke,

    Let me begin by saying two things….

    1. I love these Podcasts and almost always always get some good ideas or tidbits. (including this one)
    2. I’m relatively new to the Slow Movement.

    I do recognize that the Slow, Simple Movement is a big umbrella/tent and encompasses a wide range of people, philosophies, and lifestyles. That said, I do feel compelled to point out that Mr. Powers seems to be advocating socialism or collectivism. While that might sound like a good theory, history bears out again and again that socialism is a flawed concept. Maybe it somewhat works in a remote village in the rain forest, but it certainly has failed on a wide spread basis.

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