I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: busyness is an illness.
Think about your own life and the lives of those close to you. Most of us have a tendency to do as much as we possibly can – cramming every waking minute with events, extravagances, tasks and obligations.
We think doing more will get us more satisfaction, success, etc. When oftentimes the exact opposite is true.
Less can be far more rewarding in the long run. But we’re so set in our ways that we can’t see this.
- When we work, we shift from one task to the next quickly and continuously, or we multi-task – juggling five things at once until the end of the day… and yet we still feel like we haven’t done enough of the right stuff.
- When we finally break away for some healthy exercise, we tend to push ourselves as hard as we possibly can… until we’re exhausted and sore, and less likely to want to exercise tomorrow.
- When we go to a nice restaurant, we want to try all the appetizers, drinks and entrees, indulging in as much deliciousness as we possibly can… and we leave feeling bloated, sometimes uncomfortably so, and then our waistlines stretch.
- When we travel to a new city, we want to see it all – every landmark and every photo op – so we do as much as physically possible… and we return home from our trip utterly exhausted.
How can we tame our urge to do too much?
Simply focus more on doing less every step of the way.
Be mindful of the urge to over-do it.
It’s taken me awhile to get the hang of it, but I’m getting there…
- When I’m working, I do just one thing at a time with full focus. And when I catch myself multi-tasking or feeling overwhelmed, I’ll clear everything off my plate and make a list of just one to three key tasks I absolutely need to complete by the end of the day. And yes, sometimes this list is just one thing long, because it helps me focus on what’s truly important and not feel overwhelmed.
- When I went to the gym two days ago, I had the urge to push myself to my max. I noticed this and instead decided to let that urge go. I did a solid 45-minute workout, but left some fuel in my tank. Yesterday, I went back to the gym and I put in another 45 minutes at a similar pace. This morning, I would have been happy to do the same, but I decided to take a light jog instead. My exercise regimen is sustainable, and that’s why I rarely injure myself or miss a day.
- When I sit down at a nice restaurant, I don’t try to taste and eat as much as possible. Instead, I leave the table satisfied, but not bloated. I eat less than I used to. This is something I still struggle with at times, because it isn’t easy. It takes practice. The result, however, is that I feel significantly better after each meal and my waistline thanks me.
- When I travel to a new city, I don’t try to do it all. I choose a few things to do, and I take my time. I then leave the city knowing that there’s plenty to see on my next visit – I leave myself wanting more of a wonderful thing.
Anyway, I hope you will join me on this journey.
Let’s do a little less… and make the less we do count for even more.
Here are five signs now is the right time to do just that:
- You feel overwhelmed by all there is to do. – Remember, overcommitting is the single biggest mistake most people make that makes life stressful and overwhelming. It’s tempting to fill in every waking moment of the day with to-do list tasks, events, obligations and distractions. Don’t do this to yourself. You CANNOT do it all. You have to let some things GO!
- You’re trying (consciously or subconsciously) to be superhuman. – Another major issue that keeps so many of us stuck in a debilitating cycle of busyness is the fantasy in our minds that we can be everything to everyone, everywhere at once, and a hero on all fronts. But, of course, that’s not reality. The reality is we’re not Superman or Wonder Woman – we’re human, and we have limits. We have to let go of this idea of doing everything and pleasing everyone and being everywhere at once. You’re either going to do a few things well, or do everything poorly. That’s the truth. (Angel and I build sustainable, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- You have no time to appreciate the space in your day. – Your life isn’t just about the things you do – it’s also about the open space between the things. That means the space itself is something to be appreciated as well. So, for example, if you spend your morning meditating and reading, the morning isn’t just valuable because of the meditation and reading – the space around those two activities is also incredible. The time spent walking over to your meditation mat, or finding your book, or turning the pages, or pouring a cup of tea, or sitting and watching the sunrise… these little open spaces are just as important as anything else. Pace yourself so you’re not hurrying from one thing to the next, but instead noticing and appreciating the spaces in between, too.
- You have lost track of your priorities. – Priorities don’t get done automatically. You have to make time for what’s important to you – time with your significant other, time with your kids, time for creating, time for learning, time for exercise, etc. Push everything else aside to make time. By saying no to more things that sound really exciting, you get to say yes to more of what’s truly important. (Angel and I discuss this further in the “Happiness” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Your physical space is a cluttered mess. – If you don’t have enough time to keep your physical space organized, you’re doing too many of the wrong things. Period. And there’s a good chance you’re buying too many of the wrong things too. Decluttering your physical space can lead to a less cluttered mental space – needless clutter pulls on us and distracts us in more ways than we often realize. So remember, the question of what you want present in your physical space with you is essentially the question of how you want to live your life.