I began this blog a few months ago in an attempt to stay focused on my goal of cultivating a less busy life. When asked the other day if it had worked I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. Starting the blog and other social media endeavours have certainly kept me focused on my goal. However, I’m not convinced that my life is any less busy. The truth is, I’ve had a ridiculously busy start to the year, and taking on another project hasn’t helped a great deal with reducing the busyness. I realised it was time to re-evaluate how things were going and to work on a how-to guide for moving forward.
Generally my aim has been to at least feel less busy, even when I still have a lot on my plate. It’s likely that I’ll never have quite as much free time as I might like, and that’s okay. The trick is to structure life so that there are periods of quieter, less frantic time amongst the busyness, and to gain an overall sense of being more relaxed.
When I tried to think of the key changes that might help to achieve a sense of a life less busy, this is what I came up with:
1. Have a Clear Vision of Your Ideal Life
One of the most important things to do initially is clearly define what your ideal life looks like. For me, knowing that I have a weekend completely free of any social engagements, where I can relax at home doing as I wish, is a dream come true. For other people, this would be neither achievable nor desirable. We all have a different sense of what busy actually is, and how our life would need to work for us to feel relaxed and happy. It is a worthwhile activity to actually record this in some way. Write a list, a description, create a mood board, whatever works for you. But be very clear what it is you are seeking. Once we are clear with what we want our life to be like, it becomes easier to make the changes to create the lifestyle we are after.
2. Simplify Your Stuff
When we have too much stuff in our lives we can feel extremely overwhelmed without always being consciously aware of it. Homes filled with clutter can leave us feeling burdened. Often it’s because we have a mental to do list that includes things like clearing out the cupboards, tidying the study, sorting the photos, culling the kids toys, and on it goes. Those things tend to hang over us like an invisible weight. So even when we do have spare time we feel like we can’t relax, because there is just so much that needs to be done. The solution? Clear out that clutter. Just start getting rid of things that are not needed, or that don’t make you feel good. Over the past few years I’ve been slowly working on this and it does make a difference. I’m no minimalist, but there is a sense of lightness that comes when rooms are clear of excess. I very recently took another boot-load of books, clothes and bits and pieces to the charity shop. It feels good. There is a genuine sense of freedom that comes with simplifying the physical possessions you are responsible for.
3. Slow Your Schedule
This ones seems obvious but if you are doing too much, you are never going to have time to relax. In order to cut things out of you schedule you need to learn how to say no, and understand that saying no is perfectly okay. I’ve dropped some commitments from my life and initially I did feel somewhat guilty, however, over the longer term I know that the positive impact on my sense of wellbeing have made those decisions worthwhile. Be sure that the activities you are filling your time with are things you actually want to be doing. It sounds like a no-brainer, but often we find we are running from here to there, doing things we don’t really want to do, and this can lead to soaring stress levels. While it is important and often necessary to do things for other people, it is important to find time for your own needs and interests as well. If you have children, make sure that they are not over-scheduled as this flows on to your own sense of busyness. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that kids need far less structured activity than most parents think. Check out Carl Honore’s book ‘Under Pressure’ if you need convincing. It’s all about finding a good balance. Take a good look at your schedule, draw it up on a piece of paper and highlight all the things you want to do one colour, and the things you need to do in another. Those things not highlighted at all might be things you can let go of.
4. Clear Your Mind
A busy life can lead to a busy mind, but the reverse can also be true. If your mind is constantly on the go you may find it impossible to actually relax, even if you do manage to create a less busy lifestyle. These days many of us are constantly taking information in, from work, study, the internet, our phones, it’s a constant barrage of information. Our brains are just constantly taking more in. For us to make any meaning of all this input, it’s critical to find time to reflect, to let things float around and settle, and to make sense of it all. There are many ways to clear the mind, meditation being the most obvious if that works for you. If not, there are other ways to give our brains some down time as well. Being more mindful and enjoying the present moment can be a great start. Putting screens away can stop the information overload and the time sucking that things like Facebook and Instagram can cause. I know I’ve sat down to check Instagram and looked up an hour later wondering where the time had gone. I’ve put strict limits on myself now and removed certain apps from my phone. I log out of others and only check in once each day. Sometimes I try and sit and just do nothing, just be bored for awhile. I let my mind wander and see where it goes. Often it is during these times that all the information my brain has been taking in will swirl around and suddenly make sense, or I’ll come up with a great creative idea. I also come away feeling like life is a bit more leisurely than it actually is. Which after all, is what having a life less busy is all about really.
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I still have a long way to go and I’m trying new things all the time. I think the secret is to have that clear picture of what you’d like your days and weeks to feel like, and then making small adjustments to take you closer and closer to that ideal. We may never quite get there, but each step closer is a little more comforting than the crazy busy world we are living in right now.