Former BBC Journalist Speaks of Slow and Solace in Our Go-Go World

As life would have it, I continue to be blessed with the most amazing encounters. The world contains some really incredible people so I raise my hands to the sky and thank the Universe for providing me with just the right thing at just the right time.

In truth, it always does. We may just not see it that way.

Just yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing former BBC journalist, Ros Toynbee, about the power she finds in slow. As a new mom (or shall I say, mum?), she has found a great way to channel her creative energy while maintaining the alignment toward her truest purpose. Read on to find out how Ros lives, and loves, the slow.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum: As a corporate coach, leadership trainer, lawyer and interview expert, you seem to do a lot. How have you managed to keep all your projects in order and still find time for yourself?

Ros Toynbee: I have stopped trying to get all my projects done. Instead, every quarter or so I review my goals for the year that I set in January (using Jinny Ditzler’s Your Best Year Yet questions) and see what I’ve done and what I haven’t done. If that project is no longer important – at least in the next three months – I allow myself to revisit it later in the year or give myself permission to drop it entirely.

I also make to-do lists, but I don’t work off them. I don’t just work down the list from the top because it’s so demoralising. There’s always something left!! When reviewing the next week I look at the list – which is categoried Kirsty and Matt, House, Business, Other – and decide what are the things that are most important or urgent that week, then I schedule time to do them in my Outlook. Each day the question I ask is

“What two or three things (or if it’s a very busy day) what one thing that if I got it done today would make today a success?”

I do that and acknowledge myself for having done that, instead of worrying about what didn’t get done.

On days I’m not working on my business (two days a week), I’m with my daughter and/or my partner. Those are mummy days and they are very slow, and I don’t try to get anything business-related done. I just try to be present when playing, bathing or walking with Kirsty. And for one nap a day I try to have a nap too. The other naptime is when I wash the dishes, wash the clothes, clear up etc and I have a cleaner once a fortnight. I have dramatically lowered my standards about the state of tidyness of my house, because in the scheme of things that’s not as important as my relationship, and my daughter.
As for time for me, when my partner isn’t on his shift, he takes Kirsty out and that’s my time to have a long bath, read a book or take myself off to a cafe and just “be”.  And on business days when Kirsty is in day care, I can have a nap or go for a walk or take a yoga class.

Some weeks though things go awry, in which case I accept it, and try to go with the flow. Monday is a fresh beginning! Nobody’s perfect all the time 🙂

CLH:  Do you believe there is such a thing as work/life balance? If so, how does it look to you?

RT: Hmmm. For me it’s not about hours worked; it’s about the proportion of time spent doing versus being. If I am doing too much, my body feels it. I am tense, and not myself. I get annoyed over silly things and notice myself being “short” with people. When I notice this happening, I try to do a “being” thing or something that will shift my mood. So breathing for example, going for a walk, or calling a friend to talk things through. Sometimes it’s putting on a CD and dancing.

Before I had my daughter I would say that work/life balance was about having the time to do things I enjoyed doing like running my reading group, going to yoga three times a week and socialising. This is no longer possible with a ten month old baby because she had to go to bed by 7pm and I have no extended family so I have to organise childcare to do that. That’s too stressful for me, so I have delegated the running of the reading group, do the mummy and me yoga class where I can bring Kirsty and I socialise with other mums at playgroups. It’s not the same and I miss the kind of socialising I had with old single friends but life is different when you have a baby so you have to re-define work/life balance in a way that is do-able and meaningful now.

CLH: You say your passion is teaching other journalists to be ‘sensitive interviewers’.  What are the basic guidelines to become a better interviewer?

RT: Treat this interview as the most important thing that you could be doing in this moment (that’s very slow!) That means putting aside in your head all the things you have to do that day, including the fact you might be on deadline, and your “performance anxiety” and being very present with that person. It means putting aside your assumptions about what you think they will say and instead put your “curiosity” head on and explore their story in partnership with them. Then it’s about truly listening to what they have to say, and following your instinct in terms of where the interview might go next. In this way however long you’ve been interviewing, the process stays fresh and you can make the experience joyful for you both.

CLH: Can good listening skills be taught?

RT: Yes they can. It starts thought not with the skills of how to listen or what to listen for (which includes what’s said or not said, emotions and intentions for example) but having the intention to listen, really listen with a view to understanding what it is like to be that person and have the experiences they’re having.

CLH: How does listening to your inner voice (aka intuition) help you live the power of slow? (The power of slow means ‘mindful living’).

RT: You ask great questions! First I think your voice doesn’t appear unless you stop and make space for it to appear and are willing to listen to it. The second thing is willingness to explore and act on what comes up. When I ask myself the question “what one thing would make today a success?”, the answer may me surprising to me, yet it sense. I find that when I ask this question whatever comes up is meaningful for me and naturally motivates me. When I ask the question most folk ask “What do I have to do today?”, I find that I get a logical answer which can feel like an uphill battle to accomplish. Another intuitive time management question is “How would I prefer to do this task?” and again I find that the answer is a slow one – which helps me connect with myself and what I’m doing in an easy, enjoyable way.

CLH: Thanks for the great chat!

RT: Thank you!


The power of slow lives all over the world. More importantly, it can live in the hearts of every one of us. What kind of world would it be if we all honored our internal song?


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    September 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm

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  2. Zengirl @ heart and mind

    September 14, 2010 at 4:54 am

    I like slow life, slow food and slow blogging so I clearly can relate to this interview and its message. I have to check this book “your best year yet” books, seems like a intriguing read.

    Thanks for sharing this interview and its message.

    1. powerofslow

      September 14, 2010 at 6:18 am

      Thank you, Zengirl! Slow really is faster. Sometimes we forget, but that’s the great thing about life being our best teacher. It reminds us every time!

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