Tightness in my chest, shallow breathing, headache, and a list with several dozen things on it constantly going round in my head. Then, there’s the feeling that I’m not enough and too much all at once. Have you felt this way?
I can’t get enough done. I want too much. I feel too much. I care too much. This used to be how I lived, and can easily be the way I live now if I’m not careful. In fact, I recently confessed how busy I was feeling while pursuing a passion.
It seems like we go through seasons where we have more activities on our calendar than we have time for. This takes us away from the things we claim are most important—like better health, down time with our children or spouse, learning a new language, going back to school, chatting with our elderly neighbor, or volunteering for a cause we believe in.
Interestingly enough, research shows that leisure time has in increased over the years, and busyness is more about perception. It also confirms something painfully obvious—we continue to wear our busyness as a badge.
How can we go against the grain and slow things down? How can we do the important things and focus on things that matter?
Here are four things that help me remove the busy in my life:
1. Take a reality check.
We all have 24 hours in the day, and we should treat time as money. We have the mindset that every second has to count, but how do we want it to count?
Does it have to be in income producing activities? Does it have to be placing our kids into every extra curricular activity available? Does it have to be overextending ourselves to fit in every activity presented to us? Does having moments to reflect deeply or have meaningful conversations count?
The reality is we may need to look at where and how our time is spent and see if it truly lines up with our priorities. To do this, consider keeping a time journal for a few days and be brutally honest in logging it. You don’t have to change your days, just go through them as normal. When I did this, I really felt the urge to stay off my phone more than usual, and spent less time on social media.
2. Learn to say no.
Not everyone is a natural people-pleaser like me. If you easily say “no” to new commitments, don’t completely discount this section. I used to cringe when I had to tell someone no. My knee-jerk reaction when asked to do something or be somewhere or help out was “yes.”
Everything seemed like a good opportunity and many times it is a good thing. Then I noticed all those “yeses” meant I was making sacrifices elsewhere in my day. Sometimes though, the person we have to say “no” to is ourself. Do you find yourself to be mostly committed to things you care about?
If you still feel the crunch of time, maybe you’ve disregarded the need for downtime in your day. I can easily fill my day up with things I love.
In recent years, especially since having kids, I have come to terms with the fact that I can’t do everything right when I want to. Sometimes its not the right timing, which doesn’t mean we’ll never do it—just later.
3. Make time to de-stress a priority.
Rest, exercise, meditation/prayer, sleep, play. These are all significant parts of our lives. Trust me when I say, I know this is hard. I fail at this more often than not. The funny thing is I love exercise. I love reading. I love playing something that gives me life and make me smarter and stronger.
However, these wonderful things are the first things to get cut from my day it seems. I literally will schedule it on my calendar when I know that I’m at my breaking point. It seems I would do well to schedule it more frequently and before I get that far down the road to burn-out.
4. Simplify your days.
When we have habits and routines, we are saving mental energy for other things in our days. By simplifying our routines and turning them into habits, we make these normal parts of our lives easy, successful, and more beneficial.
In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown also speaks to the “Genius of Routine” and about removing obstacles in our days. Maybe your phone is an obstacle when you really need to get something done. Consider charging it in another room while you get stuff done.
Socrates once said, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days. The days that are busy are often filled with tasks and things I do not love. Some of them are unavoidable, but sometimes they are things I could let go of.
But a full day, those are the days that could be spent hiking with my kids and husband or a day working hard on something that is meaningful and makes a contribution—even if it’s just laundry.
I don’t want a busy life where I constantly put off the best and most important things for later and “someday when we retire.” I want to live a full life now.