Five years ago, my typical day was spent running around my town, doing the things that I thought I should be doing. When your kids are in their pre-teen years and start to express an interest in a sport or activity that they love and may excel at, you go all in.
That meant a lot of driving around after school late at night and spending weekends at events and tournaments. That’s the start of the busy cycle. Then add in some volunteer activities at their school (also a time to fit in some social interactions) plus doing a full-time or part-time job, and you somehow get stuck being busy and other parts of your life start to suffer.
At this time I was also in the thick of selling a product line of fashion jewelry through a direct sales organization and spending money needlessly became a by-product of that. I also was a large consumer of this same line of jewelry. In order to sell it, I had to purchase samples to show my clients, and then there were often deals and incentives which meant purchasing more. I probably spent nearly $5000 a year on ‘samples’. When I left the business, I sold much of it, but I still have drawers and drawers of pieces that were favourites. More than two years later, much of it is tarnished and dated as it has stayed sitting in those drawers. I have my 10 favourite pieces that I rotate in my daily wear and that’s it.
I got caught in the cycle that so many of us fall prey too—busy and buying. I am too busy to really think about what I’m doing so I just keep running at a fast pace and making decisions based on emotion or necessity. When you’re running your kids all over town, four days a week, you tend to eat on the run. Getting takeout. Buying things twice, like materials for craft projects or school supplies, because you never know what you have at home.
Being busy gets expensive.
So I made a conscious decision to slow down a bit, at the expense of not working as much. I gave up the jewelry business and started solely freelancing. While I didn’t net as much money, I was actually making more because my cost of doing business went way down. And the supplies that I needed to do the work were slashed too.
I started thinking about being busy and watching others around me too. What I noticed was that ‘busy’ people had a tendency to be reactive. Planning ahead may not be their strong suit. Or they fill their calendars so full of appointments, volunteer activities, and work so that they don’t have to deal with some of the more mundane tasks in life that are less social or fun. Busy people never clean out their storage rooms because they don’t have time. Busy people buy more ‘stuff’ because it’s easier, faster and seems more efficient in the moment.
But if you want to design the life that you want to lead, sometimes you have to say ‘no’ to busy. And start saying ‘yes’ to streamlining.
It can be as easy as a math equation. Add up how many hours you are awake in a week. Subtract the hours you are working or at a job. Add in tasks that you cannot avoid. Then factor in hours of things that are non-negotiable for you; driving kids, exercise, etc. See how much time is left.
Factor in some time for peaceful activities. Watching Netflix, meditation, a board game with your family.
Say ‘no’ to things that aren’t contributing to your larger goal in life. Outsource things that you don’t want to do yourself that you feel is taking away from the life you want to lead. That could be things like housecleaning, grocery shopping (you could shop online) or meal preparation. Never sacrifice your non-negotiable time.
Think about your possessions and why you have them. Every time you get a call from an organization that collects gently used items, donate something. Make more time for experiences and spend less time on your stuff. The more possessions you own, the less you are probably using them. Studies say that we are using 20% of our possessions 80% of the time (also the case with my overflowing jewelry collection).
Letting go of ‘busy’ can be an exercise in self-awareness. Are you filling your life up with appointments and tasks because that is how you feel valued? When I made a conscious decision to live more simply and get rid of possessions, it took me a while to readjust. I felt my identity was defined by how many things I did, rather than fewer (but more meaningful) connections.
But after some time I felt better, lighter and more aligned with my true purpose in life. And while I miss some things at times, getting off the busy train helped me to truly live the life I want to lead.