How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards. – Spanish Proverb
We live in a world where everyone is constantly busy. The standard answer to “how are you?” no longer seems to be “I’m fine,” but rather “I’m so busy!” Many people seem to consider being busy a badge of honor. But have you ever stopped and asked yourself what would happen if you could just stop being so busy?
Our culture reinforces that busy is somehow good. Being busy, supposedly, is one of the marks of someone who is successful. And this conditioning starts early in life. Today’s children are over scheduled with homework and after school activities. There is no time for play, and this goes for adults, too. Few families still take the time to sit down together at the dinner table.
Unfortunately, all this busyness, without taking time to just be, is destructive to your mental, emotional and physical health. Feeling constantly overwhelmed is a mismatch between your expectations and what you actually manage to get done. And that’s the good news, because it means that even though you may feel powerless, you have the power to make different choices.
Most time management advice offers suggestions on how to fit everything you need to get done into your day by categorizing it into various categories of importance. Unfortunately, this won’t help you feel less busy, because it’s simply not possible to get it all done.
It goes without saying that we all need to earn a living and provide for our families, and that takes time. But beyond that, most of us spend far too much time on tasks that not only aren’t that important, but that don’t support our physical, emotional and spiritual well being.
The following 3-step approach may help you stop being so busy and enhance the quality of your life:
1. Decide on the most meaningful way to spend your life
Make a decision about what really matters to you in your life. Is it spending time with your family? With your cats? Do you want to pursue your life’s passion? These are the things that feed your soul. Make a list, and keep it as a reference whenever you feel that your schedule is getting out of control. Evaluate the items on your to do list against what really matters to you.
2. Schedule time for the things that really matter
Make time for the things that you identified in the step above, and give them priority on your to do list. Don’t make them optional. Everything else you think you need to get done will have to fit around these core things.
3. Accept that a lot of things won’t get done
If you follow steps 1 and 2, a lot of things won’t get done. Maybe even some important things. It’s simply not possible to do everything; you have to choose. And there is power in that choice. “The biggest, trickiest lesson,” said author Elizabeth Gilbert, “is learning how to say no to things you do want to do.” Maybe your house won’t be as clean as it used to be, maybe you will only work out five times a week instead of seven, and maybe you won’t go to the happy hour all your friends are going to every single week. By saying no to things that aren’t as important to you, and saying yes to the things that really matter, you will feel less overwhelmed, and ultimately, you will feel more in control of your life.
I offer you this challenge: eliminate the words “I’m so busy” from your life. Do it for even just one week. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be amazed at how frequently you use these words. Eliminating these words is a great first stop to stop being so busy.
And if you need some help, look to your cats for guidance. Most cats wouldn’t know what being busy means. You’ll never find a cat thinking “I’m too busy to play right now.” They know that the only thing that matters is whatever happens in the present moment.