HOW TO BE LESS BUSY
How busy you are is largely down to you. In this article I’m sharing some helpful tips on how to be less busy. Plan ahead, prioritise what’s important and learn how to clear the clutter from your schedule. Find the value in slowing down and let simplicity help you re-connect with yourself and what matters to you.
WHY DO WE GET SO BUSY?
Being busy seems an inevitable part of modern daily life. We all have things to do, places to go, pulls on our time, energy and freedom. It’s difficult to press the pause button on life until you’re ready to go again! How busy we are often also seems beyond our control and we accept it as the default state for a full, rewarding and valuable life.
Yet, if I was to ask you how you feel when you’re busy, what would you say?
Would you say you love it, you thrive on it and need it in your life or does being busy make you feel a little on edge, wired, tense, even stressed or anxious? Perhaps you recognise some of these signs you are too busy in yourself?
When we’ve got too much on our plate our bodies and brains react. Feeling anything on the spectrum from totally overwhelmed to needing that extra cup of coffee is a sign that perhaps we need to slow down, check-in with ourselves and find a little breathing room out of our busy day.
HOW TO BE LESS BUSY
If this sounds familiar, here are some helpful tips to bear in mind on how to be less busy and create some space, time and freedom in your schedule…
1. Busy is a choice
Whilst there are many things we have to do in life, there are also many that we don’t. This is your life and it’s largely up to you what you do with it. That includes how you spend your money, energy and, of course, your time. If you don’t want to do something, make a choice to postpone or cancel it. How busy you are and what fills up those spaces in your diary, is up to you.
2. Define your priorities
Priorities are things which matter most to you. As Karen Martin says, ‘When everything is a priority, nothing is.’ Decide what’s most important and do that first, the rest can wait. Whether it’s the items on your To Do list, accepting an invitation or choosing to do nothing – choose your priorities and honour those first.
3. Get comfortable with saying no
Saying no can take practice. We often shy away from it because we don’t want to miss out, upset someone or we feel selfish or guilty. Instead think about it this way – saying no to one thing means saying yes to something else. Choose what’s most important (see the point above) and find ways to say no. It doesn’t have to mean no forever, it could just mean no for today, or this week.
4. Busy isn’t a badge of honour
It’s easy to fall into the trap that busy is a sign of importance, that our life is then full of meaning and value. We measure our success in terms of holidays, invitations, after-school activities, meetings, appointments. If we live a life of opportunity then our schedule has to be full and rich to be rewarding and happy. Often though, an overstuffed diary leads to an overstretched body and brain. We lose sight of the little things that make up a happy life because we’re too busy keeping up with our busy lives. Busy isn’t a status symbol or a sign that you’ve made it in life.
5. Appreciate the value in being less busy
Instead of thinking busy is good, explore the benefits of being less busy. You might have more space for yourself, less stress and rush, more time for your family and loved ones. Time for hobbies, self-care, reconnecting with yourself and what really matters. Catch up with yourself instead of struggling to catch up with life. Try knocking something off your To Do list or your calendar for this month and gift yourself some free time instead. What will you do with it?!
6. Be more productive
Busy is different from productive. You can still be busy and not get much done. Focus on your priorities, avoid distractions, work smarter not harder and get the right things done in less time. For more tips, try this article on 15 ways to be more productive.
7. Broaden your definition of self-care
Self-care isn’t just warm baths and flowers. Self-care is what you do to feel better about yourself. If taking 10 minutes out of your day to switch off from the screens, slow down from the rushing, listen to yourself instead of the world around you and press pause on the day helps you to feel better, then this is self-care in itself! Make time for yourself a consistent part of your self-care routine and feel how this begins to make a difference.
8. Get rid of your clutter
Clutter is so much more than the stuff we have in our homes but home is a good a starting place. Think about how much time you spend clearing, tidying, sorting and cleaning. Having less stuff is a great way to make all this easier and quicker. For a complete guide to decluttering your home and why it matters, try this article on how to declutter your home and life.
9. Be present
I find that I ‘feel’ too busy when I’m thinking about one thing whilst doing something else. An example could be listening to my daughter read whilst remembering to put the oven on for dinner. It’s not so much a case of ‘being’ busy but ‘feeling’ busy and the best way to combat this is to be present and engaged in what you’re doing right now. Read more about essential mindsets to help you get more out of life.
10. Stop multi-tasking
Building on the point above, multi-tasking might seem like a clever little super-power but actually it makes us feel busy. We’re forcing our mind to focus on different things all at the same time which means our brains don’t know what to focus on properly. When we switch from task to task, our brains have to catch up. Wherever possible, do just one thing at a time.
11. Plan ahead
Life doesn’t always lend itself to being planned but a little preparation goes a long way to helping us be less busy. We can see what we need to do, when we need to do it and what we need in order to do it. Less stress, less things we forget or miss and more scope for planning some precious free time to be less busy. For helpful tips on planning ahead, try this article on how to plan for the week ahead.
12. Delegate and automate
Stop doing everything yourself. Ask the rest of your household to help with chores, make a rota for who cooks dinner or washes up. Hire a cleaner if your budget allows, shop for groceries online so you don’t have to faff with queues and parking. Pay your bills by direct debit, set reminders on your phone so you don’t have to rely on your brain. These are just a few examples, perhaps you can think of others? Here are some other tips on how to be more organised.
13. Leave wiggle room
My favourite technical term for giving yourself flexibility and space. Stop cramming your diary back-to-back, overestimate how much time something will take instead of underestimating it. Leave yourself a wide margin in case things don’t go as you planned and you might even find you have a little time on your side that you weren’t expecting!
14. Create rhythms and routines
I bet that if you left the laundry for a week or two, you’d have a pile-up that could take a while to sort out. Same goes for the dishes! If you did a little bit every day, then it would take minutes to sort. Establishing some simple daily habits helps life tick over with minimum effort from you and breaks big jobs down into smaller, more manageable ones. Here are 24 habits for your daily routine which you might like to explore to create a little more time in your day.
HOW BUSY YOU ARE IS LARGELY IN YOUR CONTROL
In this article we’ve explored how to be less busy but still enjoy a full, rich and rewarding life. Busy is a state of mind that we need to learn to free ourselves from. It’s just a question of keeping in mind what we’re busy doing!
“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” (Henry David Thoreau)
Next time you feel your life is getting a little busy, ask yourself the same question. Perhaps even, make a conscious decision every day to do a little less, choose a little less and push a little less.
You might find that simplicity in your schedule gives you the breathing space that you need for living your best life. It might be a life that’s squeezed out when your schedule gets too busy.
Being busy is largely in your control.
- Define your priorities, choose what matters and what’s important to you over and above the things that shout the loudest from your To Do list.
- Keep some white space in your calendar each day, week and month so you have room for yourself and loved ones.
- Maintain your routines, plan ahead and be clear on what just distracts and clutters your time, instead of what helps you make the most of it.
These are the cornerstones of living intentionally and creating your best life, whatever that life might look like right now!
SIMPLICITY IN YOUR SCHEDULE AND YOUR LIFE
We’ve been looking at some ways you can simplify your schedule and give yourself less to do. We discussed how to get organised, become comfortable with saying no and focusing more on quality not quantity in how and where you choose to spend your time.
In all of these things you’re being deliberate and intentional about what you say yes to. You’re making decisions to remove the excess from your diary so you can give more time to the things that make you happy and you value most.
Really this is what simplifying life is all about – removing the ‘stuff’ in your life that removes YOU from living your best life.
RESOURCES TO HELP SIMPLIFY LIFE
If you’d like to learn more about simplifying other aspects of your life and how this could help you create more time, space and freedom, here are some articles and resources to help simplify life in different ways:
RESOURCES TO HELP YOU BE MORE PRODUCTIVE
Apart from knocking things of your To Do list and clearing space in your schedule, you can be less busy by being more productive. Here are some resources on productivity and time management you might like:
- 15 ways to be more productive – Get more done in less time
- Maximise Your Time – My popular little time management course to help you be productive, organised and the boss of your schedule
- Simple Productivity Planner – a printable planner to help you get organised, productive and declutter your schedule (plus much more!)