“Action expresses priorities.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
When someone asks you how you are, do you often find yourself replying with a sigh and one little word… ‘busy.’
We live in a world where busy and stressed tend to be the default experience. Sure, we live in a fast paced world where the juggling act of relationships and parenting and work and is the natural order. Stress related illnesses and symptoms are at their peak and people are exhausted, unhappy and generally disconnected – always touting the excuse, ‘gosh I’d love to… I’m just too busy.’
It’s not rocket science that taking the pedal off the gas in life removes unnecessary stress makes for a better quality of life. But is it even possible to achieve? For most of us it’s not as simple as just not doing the things we have to do; like go to work, or cook dinner, or parent children. We have responsibilities that we have to take care of so how can we possibly be less busy?
We’ve all heard the advice on how to destress our lives. Work less. Spend more time with friends. meditate. Do yoga. Eat well. But none of these things are going to make a damn bit of difference if we don’t approach our lives differently. Even something as simple as coffee with friends or a yoga class can become just another thing you have to do in a day, just another thing that is making your sense of busi-ness even stronger – so much so that you can’t even enjoy it, because you are too worried about all the other things you are supposed to do/haven’t done. But there is a simple way to change this approach.
It’s basic mindfulness – and not in the fashionable buzz word sense, but instead in the real meaning of the word… it’s about prioritising the good in your life, it’s about living in the moment that you are in. It’s about remembering that this moment is truly the only moment we have and it’s fleeting.
If we can’t do this then all the wellness buzzwords we swallow aren’t going to help us one bit. If we can’t make a few simple and real changes to the attitude in which we approach our lives, then we will always feel busy. We will always be stressed.
It’s not about having less responsibility but instead about owning our responsibilities and choosing our sacrifices.
These are the five simple rules I try to live my life by. It certainly doesn’t go smoothly every day, but when it does… the balance, it’s golden. It allows me to achieve my goals whilst still living a relatively calm and simple life.
1. Leave plenty of space in your day and your week – if you find you are continually rushing from one thing to the next, from one appointment to the next, from one kids extra-curricular activities to the next, from one household chore to the next… and it is stressing you out. Then it’s time to re-evaluate the way that you structure your life. Do less in each day and make days where you don’t do anything at all. Leave bigger gaps between the things you ‘have’ to do so that there is space for really living and breathing in those moments in between.
2. What are your priorities? Choose them. Protect them. There is always time for the people we love and thing things that are important to us. Instead of saying to yourself, ‘I don’t have time,’ say, ‘it’s not a priority,’ and just see how it feels. You have time to play with your kid, you have time to nurture your friendships, learn a new skill – only if they are a priority to you.
3. Learn to say no. This is something that for those of us who hate to disappoint, who aim to always please, find the hardest. But it’s important. You are one person, you can’t actually do everything. You have to find balance. Saying no or not this time, is a way to be kind to yourself and stay true to your priorities. You can’t be everywhere or everything to everyone.
3. Live in the moment. In every moment. When you are at work, be at work – be present and active and engaged with what you are doing and then let it go when you knock off. When you are at home, be at home – be present and connected and engaged with your friends and your family. When you are with your friends and your kids put your damn phone down. Stop stressing about what you have to do next, about your growing to-do list, about the dishes that aren’t done or the clothes that need to be washed or whatever it is that someone else is doing and just be where you are.
4. Stop buying shit you don’t need. It’s a no brainer. Buying stuff costs money, more money means more work, more work means less balance, less balance means more stress. Simply less stuff equals more freedom… also, less shit to clean, take care of, put away, move around, get rid of, organise… less stress.
5. Never forget that being busy is a choice. That the feeling of busi-ness and stress is a choice. You can choose to feel full of life and let go of the stress of being busy. Remember that for the most part we have the privilege to choose our routines. We determine the sacrifices that we will make. We don’t have to be stressed by our lives.
We can choose to simplify. We can live in the moment, every moment. We may not have the luxury of choosing to work less, but we can be fully present and open and engaged in the work that we do. We can choose to stop living life as if it’s a race, as if the person who wins is the one that achieved the most in their days… life isn’t about doing the most, life isn’t a competition, being busy isn’t a badge of honour.
Breathe easier, connect with real people more, find your creativity and feel rewarded by the powerful truth that is truly living your own life. Having all this choice is a privilege that is not afforded to so many, don’t be so careless as to throw it away.
Live a life that is full, full of people and laughter and work and joy… and feel less busy doing it.