My life is busy with a wonderful family that includes three active kids, professional responsibilities and a list of community activities that make my days rich and rewarding. Each day begins with a thousand thoughts racing through my mind of what needs to be accomplished. Some days, the weight of my to-do list can be overwhelming.
As a society, we’ve come to equate a hectic schedule with success. Being busy tends to make us feel important and productive, but it comes at a price: An unending workday, an unrelenting to-do list, and an almost unfathomable list of commitments to keep. The “time-saving” technology that we carry in our pockets keeps us constantly connected with emails, messages and app notifications that are perpetually disrupting our concentration. However, they disconnect us from what matters most.
Busyness and worry go hand in hand. Our tendency is to think a certain amount of worry is acceptable and possibly even good. After all, sophisticated people and responsible citizens tend to worry, don’t they? As a colleague of mine pointed out recently, if we aren’t tired, over-stretched, and stressed out then we wonder if we aren’t pulling our weight, as though worry is a shared burden we’re all obligated to bear. Most people consider it normal and acceptable to be busy and worried, as long as it doesn’t become “excessive.” However, since all worry is nonproductive and harmful, we don’t have a good definition for when it becomes excessive.
Here’s the kicker: Life doesn’t need to be this way. Simplify. Be intentional about resisting the temptation of busyness and worry. Here are a handful of suggestions to get you started:
- Make a short list. List 4-5 of the most important things in your life. Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.
- Drop one commitment. Take action today to drop a commitment that doesn’t make your short list.
- Move slower. Simplify your life by doing less and doing them more slowly. Be more deliberate. Be present. This isn’t something you’re going to master today, but you can start practicing today.
- Invest your time wisely. Pay close attention to the choices you make with your time. Invest in enriching personal relationships. Be intentional about spending time with friends of varied ages, genders, educations and income levels.
- Single-task. Instead of multitasking, do one thing at a time. Remove all distractions, resist any urge to check email or do some other habitual task like that while you’re doing the task at hand. Stick to that one task, until you’re done. It’ll make a huge difference in both your stress level and your productivity.
Make 2015 the year of simplicity. Make space to be creative and enjoy the beauty and possibilities of the world around you with your loved ones. And, don’t worry about what other people think. After all, in the words of Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”