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By Nathan Bailey, MA, LPC

It’s not uncommon to read or hear someone lament “life used to be so much simpler” when they refer to times past. In a similar vein, maybe you or someone you know daydreams about living on an island with all the cares of the world are far away. We often think it’s the world around us that leaves us feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and burned out. Our responsibilities can create this way of life to a certain degree but we often have more control over this than we think. 

I’ll never forget striking up a conversation with a guy who owned a business renting beach umbrellas. His “office” was sitting on the dunes, feet up in swim trunks and shades. As laid back in the workplace as one could ever get. When I asked him about his work he said “yeah, it’s nice…some days I’d rather go fishing, so I close up and go.” I’m not suggesting we all go this route (I wonder what his retirement plans might be?) but I think there’s some lessons to be learned from making the choice to do things differently. If you’re feeling weary from the everyday life, ask yourself these 6 questions:

1. Why do you do what you do?

Is it what you want to be doing or what you think you’re supposed to do? What are the goals for your life and how do they reflect your values? Are you putting time and energy where it matters most or do you feel more bounced around like a pinball? Stephen Covey suggests writing a personal mission statement (and maybe even one as a family). Sounds overly formal? Overkill? The idea is that you boil down the most essential values, goals etc. into a cohesive document. With this in hand (not literally…), you can say yes or no to the choices or decisions you make about what to do with your time and resources. For most of us, we need to do a better job of saying no or closing doors so that we can simplify our lives. 

2. Have you overcommitted yourself?

We have a lot of choices of things we can spend time doing. A lot. If you have kids, your kids also have a lot of choices. Have we inflated the value of “doing” far above anything else? If we want a simpler life, this means we’re going to have to say no. A lot. If we want to open the door to something, we should probably close the door to something else. This might be easier with the “bad” stuff but a lot harder with the “good” things. Why would you ever say “no” to good things? So you have more time and energy for the best things you identified in the first question. 

Have you ever heard the idea that if you bring something into your house, you should get rid of something else so your house doesn’t become packed? Some people practice this with material possessions, how many of us practice that with our time? If we commit to one thing, do we say no or end our involvement in something else? We can’t just keep adding and think it won’t have an impact on us.  

3. Do we make time for what matters most?

What matters the most to you? Discovering this is obviously the first step. Is there something you used to do and but don’t get to do anymore? Is there something you’ve never gotten to do that you’ve assumed you’d get to (but hasn’t happened yet)? Is there a friendship that means a great deal to you but spending intentional time together or catching up on the phone just doesn’t happen with any regularity? We likely need to minimize (or stop) the things we are doing that only serve as a distraction and invest this time into a more rewarding area of our lives. Try scheduling time for these priorities in your week first, like you would a Doctor’s appointment to make sure they happen (instead of daydreaming about them). 

4. Are you wasting time?

We can work to minimize the time we do have that we waste. How much time do we waste jumping on our smartphones or watching Netflix etc.? Not that these things can’t be rewarding within careful boundaries, but I’ve yet to talk to someone who hasn’t admitted they get way more sucked in than they intended. We might default to these kinds of activities because we don’t think we have enough time to do the more important, high value stuff but those time-wasters add up and in reality we’re doing way more of it than we’d like to admit.  

5. Do you even know how busy you are?

When was the last time you sat down and listed all of your regular appointments, activities or responsibilities? If you have kids, list everything they’re doing because that likely involves you as well. Got your list? Pretty long huh? On paper, it might not even look possible. Try dividing up the list between “the musts,” “the shoulds” and “the nice to’s.” Start cutting! This isn’t going to be easy but it can be rewarding. Why? Having time gaps in your day/evening is precious. Get yourself the time to sit and reflect; spend time just doing nothing with a close friend or family. Enjoy not having to rush from thing to thing. 

6. When was the last time you had some quiet time?

Ok, this one is low hanging fruit. We have access to so many podcasts, an infinite amount of music and entertainment that we often fill every moment with something. Of course this is enjoyable but our minds need time to rest. Try driving in silence, take a walk without the headphones or even just sit in your backyard. This costs nothing, is incredibly easy to fit into even the most insane schedules and will have a much bigger reward than you think. Someone I shared this with told me after a quiet walk “that was amazing!” 

Need some help?

If you’re finding yourself lost and feel like you’re spinning your wheels, professional counseling might be a great next step. Lime Tree Counseling offers different services to meet your needs. Reach out today and learn more about anxiety counseling, drug and alcohol counseling, trauma therapy or marriage counseling.