Everyone these days seems to be focused with achieving more, doing more and pushing forward. We live in a time where the culture is to praise those who achieve a lot and who live life to the fullest. The more experiences we have, the more we area deemed to be ‘living life’. At the same time, if we can achieve more at work, manage more relationships and have lots of hobbies and side activities, then surely we must be more successful as people.
And this ‘more is more’ attitude also bleeds into other areas of our life. Commercialism and capitalism pushes us to keep filling our homes with new possessions, while we’re constantly working longer hours in the office and spending more money on more memberships, services and things we probably don’t need…
The price of all this? Oh, only our sanity!
While there’s nothing wrong with trying to push forward and do more – and while living life to the fullest is certainly to be celebrated – it’s also highly important that we recognize our limits and know where to draw the line. The ultimate fact of the matter is that we can’t have everything. We can’t do everything. And if you keep trying to, then you’ll end up not really getting satisfaction from anything.
For many of us, it’s simply time to scale back and to start living a little more simply again.
Are You Wired and Tired?
Does this sound familiar?
You wake up first thing in the morning. When you do, it’s because your alarm is going off and it has startled you out of a deep sleep and jolted you awake in your pitch black room. You hit snooze a couple of times and you now have precisely 20 minutes to get ready for work and to pack yourself off.
So you start rushing. You make yourself breakfast quickly by grabbing a snack bar or the like, you don’t have time to properly wash and you hop out the door with one sock on (this was exacerbated by not knowing what to wear).
Thus follows the busy commute to work, filled with other angry commuters pushing and pulling you. There couldn’t be a more high-stress situation. Work involves being pushed from one thing to the next and you don’t have time to actually start getting on top of your work load – you’re just trying to stay afloat.
After work you’re invited out for drinks. Either you do go (despite knowing it will be awkward) or you don’t go and then you feel guilty all night.
You make the same stressful commute home and then you make yourself a very quick dinner – probably a microwave meal because there’s not much time to make yourself something proper. The house is a mess but at this point you have no energy to do anything like tidying. You also don’t have energy to work out as you promised yourself you would. And instead of talking to your family, you all just stare at the TV like zombies. And you play Angry Birds at the same time.
In fact, you actually end up doing this much later than you planned because you lack the energy to even get yourself ready for bed. Thus you have a 1am bed time and that means under 6 hours of sleep – again! And you can’t get to sleep all that easily because your mind is still racing. Tomorrow you have to go through the entire process all over again, exactly the same. The only difference is that you also promised to call your Mum and you’re supposed to be meeting that friend you’ve put off meeting for the last two weeks.
Guess researching that mortgage will have to wait another week…
How to Start Scaling Back
Okay, so that paints a pretty bleak picture. Perhaps it’s not that bad.
But you can probably also relate to at least some aspects of all this. Most of us simply don’t have time in our schedule, don’t have energy and don’t have the opportunity to focus on the things we really want to do or the things we really enjoy. We let time with our family pass us by and we aren’t able to commit to things like exercise routines or healthy eating simply because we don’t have the space.
We’re treading water, trying to stay afloat and surviving – but not thriving.
So what’s the problem?
Well, the irony is that we’re trying to do too much a lot of the time. In order to do more, we need to start doing less and we need to give ourselves permission to occasionally say ‘no’ to some things that we don’t want or need to do. In doing that, we can start to appreciate our lives more and at the same time, to start deciding the direction we want to take them in and the things that are important to us.
Getting Into Shape
Let’s take getting into shape as an example. This is something that most people can relate to and it’s something that a huge number of us have tried to do at some point or another. Maybe your plan is to work out and build extra muscle. Maybe you just want to burn some fat. Either way, your plans will probably begin with a training program and often this will be devised based on recommendations you’ve read online or things your friends have told you.
A common example might involve working out for an hour each time you go to the gym and trying to go to the gym four times a week. And very very often this simply doesn’t work out. Why? Because you’re simply asking too much of yourself. You’re already feeling tired and stressed – that’s why you aren’t already in great shape – and you’re simply trying to add all this extra activity and commitment on top of that without doing anything to make your life easier.
Bear in mind that four hours of weight lifting per week is not really just four hours of weight lifting. It’s also 1.5 hours of travel in the car. It’s also $50 a month on a gym membership. It’s more washing. It’s 30 minutes of showering. If you’re already tired and you don’t have the time… then how can you fit this in?
If you actually want to start working out and if you actually want to get the body you want then you need to be realistic and you need to know your limits. And this means that you need to decide what you’re going to cut out of your routine as well. That might mean that you’re going to stop attending some kind of after-work class you currently frequent. Perhaps it means you’re going to remove some of the ‘toxic people’ from your life. Perhaps it means you’ll make your home a little tidier and a little easier to stay on top of than it was previously so that you can spend less time tidying.
We look at all these things in detail in the B3 program.
Either way, you need to cut things out in order to add things in. And that means you need to know what you want out of life and you need to focus on that one thing.
This isn’t only true of exercise: it’s also true of spending time with your family and of progressing your career. Whatever it is that matters to you, you need to learn to focus on that.
The Importance of Energy Management
Some of you reading this might find yourselves thinking you don’t need to change your current routine. You’re probably thinking you already have time in the evenings to fit that in. But now it’s time to recognize a key difference: time isn’t what matters. Instead, what matters is energy.
Energy management is just as important as time management. In fact, it’s probably more important. You probably already have plenty of time if you really appraise your situation – otherwise where did you find the time to squeeze in that Netflix binge session you watched through? Very few of us genuinely have ‘no time’ to do anything. The problem is that we have no energy. You get home from work and you’re tired.
And this is the real symptoms of our busy, hectic lives and schedules. When you spend all day rushing from one thing to the next and when you spend so long looking at screens and being booked in for appointments by your friends and family – how are you supposed to find the time to focus on the things that matter to you?
And it’s not just physical energy that matters but mental energy too. Perhaps you’ve heard of ‘decision fatigue’. This is a phenomenon wherein the act of making lots of decisions throughout the day leaves you with no more ability to make more. Even little decisions like choosing what to wear use up that crucial energy and leave you too tired to motivate yourself later – it all adds up!
The same goes for your home environment. Most of us live in cluttered homes that are untidy and disorganized. This places a serious amount of stress on us unconsciously as it means our environments are constantly busy and cluttered and it means that we feel almost claustrophobic. It also means that whenever we go to do something small, we find ourselves having to route through belongings to find that crucial document, or that thing we wanted to wear.
How to Start Getting on Top of Life Again
The key is to understand that we are masters of our own time and energy and that we need to take a step back in order to declutter our lives and set the course we want for them.
Step one is to decide what you want from life. If your aim is to see the world, then you need to find time to travel. If your aim is to spend more time with family, then you need to put that first and stop going to the pub every night. Once you’ve identified these things that really matter to you, write them in your diary. That might even just mean setting aside a day to go for a walk! ‘Me time’ is important to your mental health and is something that makes many of us a lot happier.
So put it in your diary and then treat it just as you would any other appointment. If someone asks you to do something that day, learn to say ‘no’ and give the thing you want to do the attention it deserves.
Meanwhile, focus on scaling back and simplifying. That means reducing clutter in your home. It means streamlining your workflow at work. It means going out less. It means reducing the number of decisions you make and the amount of time you spend playing games or watching TV. Try to find time to create space and to reflect on your life. Try to find time to enjoy and appreciate all the things you already have. Stop always pushing forward and learn to stop and smell the roses once in a while.
When you do this, you’ll find that not only do you actually achieve much more of what matters to you but that you also feel much happier and more content with your life just the way it is.
You can find out how to do all these things in the B3 Program. There we discuss in detail all the different things you can do to start making life that little bit easier and simpler and to start focusing more on the things that make you happy. You’ll learn how to stop feeling pressured into commitments you don’t want to make and you’ll learn how to create mental space through meditation and even just tidying and cleaning your home.
Either way, learn to start putting what you want first and to remove all those distractions and stresses that are holding you back.