I have to say that, so far, I'm loving my "year of less." We are only in January and I had a noticeable positive shift as a result of it.
Externally, not much has changed. I engage with similar activities as I have in the past year and my routines have not changed much.
The restlessness I would often feel when I wasn't busy, is no longer present. Specifically, there is no internal pressure to do something "important" or productive with my time. I am not exaggerating when I say that, for the first time after a very long time, I feel at peace doing nothing. Doing nothing was my nemesis and a biggest "waste" of time. But I am learning how to appreciate the joy of wasting time.
In case you too, find yourself struggling to relax, want to be more at ease, and be an expert at wasting time without feeling guilty, here are a few reminders that helped me. As always, take what resonates and make it yours, and disregard the rest.
1. I get to do whatever I feel like with my time. No matter how 'unproductive' it may be considered by societal standards, if I enjoy myself, feel good, rested, or had fun, it is absolutely worth my time.
2. Question the idea of wasted time. There is no inherent value in any specific activity or way of being, there are just different things I get to do in different moments - none of them are "better" than the other. If there is something "better" to do, I would be doing it.
3. Question the pressure for productivity. Will my life really be better if I'm more productive? Is this coming from me or did I buy into this idea? Also, thinking about productivity is not productive. Pressuring myself to be productive, but wanting to relax, is also not productive. Doing something that feels good to my soul is always productive.
4. Address the fears associated with wasting time. Your mind will offer you all sorts of doomsday stories about what will happen if you stopped forcing yourself to be productive. In reality - absolutely nothing will change. Like me, you might notice yourself engaging in the same activities without the unnecessary pressure to do something more important. And less pressure means more available energy for the things you actually enjoy.
5. Throw out the idea of earning rest. If you're a perfectionist, overachiever, or like to punish yourself in similar ways, at first, this might be difficult to embody. Feeling like you need to be productive before resting or having to earn rest might be deeply engrained in you. Even the self-care practices we often hear about are suggested for the sake of being more productive later. No thanks!
6. What you value matters. Think about your current values (how you're actually living and what you prioritize) and desired values (how you want to be living and what you want to prioritize). Notice the discrepancy and think of using your time on priorities you actually desire. This helps you be more congruent with your real self, which leads to spending time on what you really value, which is never a waste of time.
7. Waste of time is full of benefits. When every moment of life is scheduled or filled with things to do, there's no space for the unexpected, spontaneous, and the creative to emerge. If you give yourself enough time to waste, eventually your instincts and preferences will lead you towards something exciting and unexpected.
8. You won't be rewarded for torturing yourself and not enjoying your life.
Really consider: What if nothing is a waste of time?
Just because you’re at a different point in life than someone else, it doesn’t mean that you’re behind or that you’re not making progress.
In those moments when we compare ourselves to others we forget that we had different starting points, different circumstances, families, experiences, opportunities, etc…
When you remember that it’s easier to see how pointless comparison is.
Much more useful use of time is to reflect on whether you are living in alignment with your values and priorities.
We are not meant to live in states of overwhelm, anxiety, and lethargy.
We are meant to grow, learn, and evolve through our challenges, not be defeated by them.
We naturally long for playfulness, ease, connection, and meaning. Our desire for these experiences is not to be judged, dismissed, or ignored, but honored and followed.
If you notice that you live daily in states of anxiety, overwhelm, stress, lethargy, depression, etc. consider finding professional help.
Your mind, body, and soul want to free themselves from these energy sucking states and want to soar into a more fun and relaxed way of living.
Balance doesn't mean we equally give attention to every aspect of our life. It is about knowing what matters to us, and what our needs, values, and priorities are. The below suggestions are based on my personal 'rules' so feel free to take what resonates and adapt them in a way that makes sense to you. Redefining balance is not about forcing yourself to mimic someone else's way of living, but creating your own so it is sustainable with your lifestyle.
1. Start with daily non-negotiables.
These are daily habits that create the foundation for your mental and physical health. I try to prioritize these regardless of how busy or unpredictable other areas of my life are. I look at this as the foundation around which everything is arranged.
2. Spend more time on fulfilling experiences, people, and activities, and spend less time on soul sucking ones.
Knowing what energizes you and what drains you AND intentionally making decisions from this awareness is crucial. Notice your energy levels at different times of the day, around various people, activities, experiences, topics, places, etc.
3. Ask yourself what matters to you in this season.
For example, if I notice a lack of enthusiasm for something I enjoyed doing, or if it feels like I'm forcing myself to pursue a goal I set a while back, I reevaluate whether it still has the same importance to me and if it doesn't, I give myself the option to take a break from it or spend less time on it. Our priorities will shift as we change and evolve.
4. Minimize reliance on coping strategies for immediate relief and satisfaction.
We all have our habitual ways of responding to distress, but coping strategies that are geared towards escaping our experience and quickly feeling better, often leave us feeling worse in the long term or they tend to create an additional problem. Instead, learn how to be with and tolerate distress and seek to find more grounding and creative ways of coping with it.