If you’re a life squeezer who crams the maximum into every day, then the gentle art of letting go can be hard to learn. The first step is acknowledging that we all need a little downtime once in a while…
- Leo Babauta, simplicity blogger and author of The Effortless Life (Editorium)
- Life coach Suzy Greaves
- Francine Jay, minimalism blogger and author of The Joy Of Less (Chronicle)
What’s a life squeezer, you ask? It’s someone who is continually trying to cram one more thing into an already packed day. Sound familiar? So how do we slow down the pace, and stop our to-do lists from building up and overwhelming us in our daily lives? Here’s where to start…
Slow down incrementally
If your usual speed is breakneck, don’t expect to clear your schedule overnight. Start by taking a slow hour. Make an appointment with yourself to do nothing. Switch off your computer, switch of your phone and kill all thoughts of what ‘needs’ to be done.
It’s okay to do nothing
It’s a hard lesson for driven souls to accept that it’s okay to do nothing, but we all need to give ourselves permission to have a day where we forget about our commitments, banish to-do lists and just flop.
Embrace the idea of ‘Good Enough’
In most of life, perfection is superfluous. It’s not necessary, not expected, and the likelihood is that it won’t even be noticed if you do go to the extra trouble. Take pride in what you do, but be realistic. Once you’ve reached the ‘good enough’ stage, the extra time and effort to make it ‘perfect’ is rarely worth the reward.
Pottering around at home isn’t ‘wasting’ time; rather, it’s about cherishing it. Finding space to ‘just be’ will relax and strengthen you, giving you more energy for others.
Edit Your Life
Start by realising you already have enough
This is key. It’s vital to take stock, and find contentment in what you already have. This is not the same as complacency or abandoning ambition or aspiration. It’s just a simple look around at what’s good and what works in your life. If you ignore that, the faster the return of unachievable targets, action plans and packed diaries that leave no time for you.
Identify your essentials
Before you get subsumed by a busy new month, take a step back and look at what you do in a typical week: meetings, working lunches, shopping, exercise class, cooking dinner, Internet surfing, driving family around. We often move through our days on autopilot, jumping from one activity to the next without thinking. This exercise makes us ‘see’ exactly where our time goes. Now ask which parts are important. Which areas are making you happy?
Eliminate the excess
Which commitments can you renegotiate and which tasks can you remove? Which have to stay as fixtures? Now, quite literally, experiment by dropping the rest. If you get it wrong and cut back on something that matters, it will naturally rise to the surface… If it doesn’t, you can carry on without it. So if you do less washing, maybe someone else in the family will take over or stop bundling everything in the washing basket instead of hanging it up! If you cut some work meetings, other people may pick up responsibilities or, maybe they won’t – and from that, you’ll learn which are important to attend. If you stop chauffeuring your teenage children, perhaps they’ll start arranging more lift clubs with friends so it’s not always down to you.
Jumping from task to task gives us more to do. Instead, group similar activities and tackle them at once. For example, at home, cook in batches. At work, check e-mails twice a day and not at any other time, or have a day of concurrent meetings, followed by a day working on one project.
You can try to do everything or choose to do fewer tasks, but pick those with most impact. Assess each job; it could get you long-term recognition, be beneficial to your company, make you money in the long run, and have the potential to advance your career.
Can you pass on some of your low-priority work? Good delegators allow people to pick up responsibility. At home, ask your kids to look after their rooms and clear up. If you link pocket money to chores, be consistent and don’t hand it over if the work’s not done.
Once you’ve cut back and freed up space, do something purely for pleasure. It might be ongoing, such as taking up a yoga class, or a once-off, such as a baking session.
Many of us tend to over-manage, both at work and home. This gives people less room for creativity and no space to succeed or fail on their own. Stepping back is the only way to discover the best others can offer.
Don’t take charge of all your children’s time, fill their schedules or feel obligated to ‘find’ them things to do, whatever age they are. Freeing up their time frees yours up too and will make your children more resourceful, confident and independent.
Yes, the economy is dire, people are difficult and call centres drive us mad, but, remember, the only thing you can control is yourself. Keeping a sense of your value and separateness is a great way to calm.
Words Anna Moore