Reducing the amount of possessions you own is vital to embracing minimalism, but equally important is decluttering your schedule and limiting what you allow on your calendar.
House work time, meal prep, and taking care of family needs has become much more efficient, and people these days have more free time than they did in the 1960’s, so why, do we feel so busy?
Partly because we want to:
A busy schedule has now become the main indicator of high status these days.
We brag about how full our calendar is and how many people are vying for our time: “Of course I’m busy, I’m an important person!”
To see how absurd it is to value sheer activity in this manner, consider a story told by the behavioural economist Dan Ariely, about a locksmith he once met. Early in his career, the locksmith “was just not that good at it: it would take him a really long time to open the door, and he would often break the lock,” Ariely says. Still, people were happy to pay his fee and throw in a tip. As he got better and faster, though, they complained about the fee, and stopped tipping. You’d think they would value regaining access to their house or car more swiftly. But what they really wanted was to see the locksmith putting in the time and effort – even if it meant a longer wait.
Too often, we take a similar attitude not only to other people, but ourselves: we measure our worth not by the results we achieve, but by how much of our time we spend doing. We live frenetic lives, at least in part, because it makes us feel good about ourselves. To put it mildly, this makes no sense. Perhaps we’d pause long enough to realise that – if we weren’t so damn busy. ~Why you feel busy all the time when you’re actually not ~ BBC
Part of the feeling of overwhelm doesn’t even have anything to do with what is on our calendar, it’s more of what is on our mind:
Finally, though, the sheer volume of modern distractions may make life feel busier than it is. Constantly trying to do two things at once means you can feel pulled in multiple directions. You can be working a regular 40-hour-per-week job, and check work email five times at night while eating dinner or watching TV. At just two minutes at a pop, that adds a mere 10 minutes of work, but can pollute whole hours.
If that’s the case, then the key to feeling less busy may be quite simple: stop multitasking. Make the distractions less distracting and time will feel just like it always has. ~Laura Vanderkam
Learning to embrace free time and open calendar days can be challenging at first, but you will end up thanking yourself!
I recently read Essentialism and I loved Greg McKeown’s visual picture of our calendar compared to our clothes closet:
Imagine sorting through your clothes in the morning, getting rid of the excess, having your closet beautifully organized and only having what you love there. Then you leave the house and throughout the day other people come by and stuff clothes they want you to wear into your closet. By the time you come home at night, your closet is stuffed to the brim and you can’t even find the items that are important to you.
If we wouldn’t allow people to do that to our closet, why do we allow people to fill our calendar for us?
Saying Yes is Not Really Saying Yes
Saying Yes to everything means you really have time for nothing. You can’t possibly say Yes to everything, because where will you fit it all? Want to go to every meeting, every event, every coffee? Want to do every project that comes along? Your days will be crazy, and you’ll have no rest, and what’s more, you’ll likely not meet all your obligations.
Saying Yes to everything means you’re not really saying Yes — it means you’re not setting priorities. You’re not making a serious commitment. You’re not being conscious about your life. ~Leo Babauta
Take this approach: if you can’t say an enthusiastic “YES!!!” then, it’s definitely a “no.”
Say Yes to less, and simplify your life.
Ask questions before allowing things on your calendar
When you look at your calendar, don’t look at what you can remove, but rather, decide what things are valuable enough to stay.
- Is this activity essential to live the life I want?
- Is THIS the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?
- Does this get me closer to my goal/priority?
Decline requests for your time
- Separate the decision from the relationship. Just because you say no to something doesn’t mean you don’t value that person.
- Have preset boundaries. This might mean that Saturdays are always family days, or you always save Friday evenings to work on your own projects. Be firm with your boundaries. Sure, it’s hard for people at first, but in the end, you will do more good and be respected for valuing your time.
- Understand that being focused accomplishes more. Often times we’re asked to participate in something, and though we could “squeeze” it in, we would be rushing from one activity to another and not really able to give our all to one thing. Limiting what you allow means the things that you do allow will have better results.
But how do I say “no”?
- “Thank you for thinking of me, I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend.”
- “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for my schedule, but can we have coffee/phone convo, etc. next month? Tuesdays are good for me.”
- “I’m honored that you would like my help, but I’m not in a situation to give it the time it deserves.”
- “This may be disappointing, but I am committed to getting ________ project done before taking on anything else.”
- “Thank you for the invite! Weekends are strickly family days, so I’ll have to pass.”
Saying “no” graciously is often the kindest thing you can do.
People can understand “yes” and “no”, but the “maybe”… well, it’s best to avoid that. You are not being nice or “letting them down easy” when you are vague about answering. If you have to think about it, feel free to take a day to respond, but commit to giving a yes or no answer after 24 hours.
If you know you have prior engagements and you simply can’t attend, then just say so. It’s not fair to anyone to wait for you to show up and be disappointed when you don’t, or wonder why you were so distracted when you stopped by.
Like Leo Babauta says: say no so you can say yes!
If you’ve already simplified your schedule, what has that allowed you to say “Yes!” to?