A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Busy is Easy. Slowing Down is Hard.

Being busy is familiar. We have become comfortable with the chaos because it’s all we really know. Being busy moves you from one soccer game to the next dance recital with a dozen appointments and meetings in between. You never have to question what your days will hold because your schedule is already planned out months in advance. Being busy is easy.

Slowing down is hard. You would think slowing down would be easy, but we get so entrenched with chaos and living hectic lives that it actually feels wrong to slow down. If the internet goes out, we panic. If the car leaves us stranded at home, we call in reinforcements. If we are sick, instead of slowing down and resting we bring our work home and pop open our laptops.

Why is it so hard to slow down?

Slowing down makes us think. In the rare moments that we slow down long enough to hear ourselves think, our thoughts can be overwhelming. Mental to-do lists come flooding in:

  • I need to pick up dog food, we’re almost out.
  • I forgot to call the vet back and reschedule that appointment.
  • Oh, that light bulb is still out over the mirror.
  • I think we’re out of light bulbs. I should get some next time I go shopping.
  • If I’m going to go shopping I should pick up some groceries.
  • I wonder what I should fix for dinner tonight.
  • I should really go exercise. I need to lose some weight.

. . . and the list goes on and on.

Slowing down feels unproductive. We become so accustomed to being busy all the time that we’ve associated being busy with being productive. Being on every committee around makes us feel like we’re being productive for the community. Having our kids in multiple sports and activities makes us feel like we’re being productive parents. Consequently, when we are less busy we feel less productive.

Slowing down opens our eyes. A walk down a country road looks drastically different than seeing it flash by us from behind a car window. When we slow down it is harder to ignore the life we see around us. The hard truth is that when we take a closer look at ourselves, we may not like what we see. If you examine your life and are totally content, then consider yourself extremely blessed. But if the opposite is true for you, what do you do then? Sometimes we let ourselves stay busy enough that we don’t have to deal with the difficult questions.

Why is being busy a bad thing?

Being busy causes stress on your body. If you don’t take the time to make changes to lessen that stress, you could experience the following physical conditions:

  • Heart disease
  • Skin conditions
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Obesity
  • Memory impairment
  • Depression

Wouldn’t you rather slow down now by eliminating some excess busyness in your life than waiting until something happens that is much harder to deal with?

Being busy causes you to miss out on relationships. When you spend your time on countless activities, you are missing out on the time you could be building relationship. You are missing out on:

So how do you slow down?

Granted some things are unavoidable. You can’t avoid those dentist appointments unless you want to suffer the consequences. But I challenge you to look out for the obvious and the not-so-obvious time stealers that prevent you from slowing down.

Slowing down is really pretty simple. . .just stop doing so much. No big secret there. Sit down with your calendar and put forth some real effort to Do Less! If you don’t have any days with nothing scheduled then you are doing too much.

Don’t be afraid. Your life won’t suffer from slowing down.

  • You won’t die if you exercise at home instead of driving to the gym.
  • Your child’s chances at a major league contract won’t suffer if he’s not in T-ball.
  • Skipping the six dozen birthday parties at school won’t emotionally scar a child for life.
  • It is actually possible to paint your own fingernails or wash your own car instead of taking the time to have someone do it for you.

Slowing down is hard, but don’t give up. It will feel strange when you start to do less, but give yourself time and you’ll never look back.

————-

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photo by CanadianSc

Article originally published on 01/26/2011

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Comments

  1. Hi Faith,

    What a great post. You’ve hit the nail on the head — slowing down is hard. It really is! Our minds just want to go, go, go. Like you, with three kids and a household to take care of, we’re often just a load of laundry away from mental or physical shutdown!

    But while we may have been conditioned by our modern culture to be this way, there are practical steps we can all take to begin the process of slowing down, unwinding and enjoying the pleasures of the moment. I find that the simplest of activities can help me with this: meditating, hanging clothes on a clothesline, sipping my coffee outside in the morning, gardening.

    And thank you for the link to The New Pursuit. I’m so glad you found value in that post. Be well!

    • Faith Janes says:

      Thanks for replying, Bill. I love your reminder that the simple activities can really help with us slowing down. Sipping coffee on our deck is one of my favorites quiet moments. And thank you for your blog. I really enjoy your insight.

  2. This is very timely for me. I have actually been able to slow down a bit more now that my kids are in middle and high school and I’ve stopped volunteering like I used to. But you’re right; I find myself thinking of all the things I “should” be doing instead of enjoying doing, well, nothing. I feel like if I’m not doing something productive, then the time is wasted and I don’t deserve it. Or I go in the complete opposite direction and waste hours and hours on a weekend buy watching stupid, mind-numbing TV. I struggle with finding a happy medium.

    • Faith Janes says:

      It can be hard to find a happy medium but I think the key is to keep looking. When we get settled in our ruts (whether it’s mind numbing TV or chaotic schedules) it can be hard to break those habits. Just asking ourselves questions about why we’re doing what we’re doing can be the catalyst for change. In fact, I originally started writing a post called “Why Do We Do What We Do” and it wandered off into the topic of being busy versus slowing down. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Faith,

    So tickled to have found your blog, will be sharing it with friends and our readers, too! You make great points about slowing down and as we’ve dubbed it ‘right pacing’, it can be so hard to find the pace or hit the stride that is really right for you individually and as a family. Our lives are only getting faster paced and ever fuller of technology, we have to choose to openly look at what it takes to properly prioritize, ‘priority share’ and free one another up to live a full but simple life. Not an easy feat, but not impossible. We radically simplified and moved to an island; something we felt ‘called’ to do, those decisions have made it easier to slow down, or as they say here ‘Go Slow’, even so we have to stay committed to doing so or stuff and overcommitments creap back in. Thanks for addressing this, we’d love to link to it in a future article.

    With Aloha!

    • Faith Janes says:

      Glad to have found your blog as well! Moving to an island just sounds glorious! I have often wished for something in our life to “force” us to slow down but I’m not sure that would be the best transition. Wouldn’t it be great if we could create that kind of clean slate affect to our busy lives? It is often hard to pick and choose what to eliminate once it’s already present in our lives.

  4. Suzanne Schultz says:

    It poses the question of… “Why are the things that are best for you the hardest to do? and Why are the things that aren’t good for you the easiest to do?” We continue to make impulsive choices that are satisfying for a brief moment but don’t give a long term positive feeling / impact / change. It’s like a little devil sitting on your shoulder with every choice you make. Now you get to choose. So choose for the long term and not for what you feel like in the moment. Choose wisely.

    • Faith Janes says:

      Deep questions indeed. My father likes to say, “If it were easy then everyone would do it.” I think that applies to making wise choices and can be applied to a slowed down life as well. It’s not easy and it’s not popular. But I do believe that can be said of most worthy pursuits.

  5. oh gosh, i know what you mean! my life is constantly go, go go. i don’t know how to settle down and relax and when i try, my mind goes crazy thinking of all the things i should be doing instead. that said, i have been trying to cut things out of my life lately just to slow down a little bit. it’s been really difficult identifying what can be let go and what’s not really a priority. thanks for the reminder and i will try to make more effort to slow down a bit. 🙂

  6. Faith,
    My life was so fast for so long, and since I had to leave work due to health issues, I have had to slow down. Now I have gotten used to a much slower pace and can’t imagine living at the fast pace I used to. I am actually at a conference, and skipped an afternoon session because it was too much “going” for me. I needed time to just BE for a while, plus we have a busy evening coming up!
    Going to check out some of the links!
    Bernice
    Eating for Balanced Living

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