If there is one thing I have a passion for it is helping women slow down in a world that is all about go, go, go…All.Of.The.Time. Where being on the busy train is the norm and if you aren’t on it something is wrong with you. I know. My life used to run at hyper speed, many many miles an hour. I was working full time (bringing work home with me most evenings) with two young kids in daycare and many after school and weekend activities to juggle as well. I was an angry mom, a terrible wife and yet I felt that this was just how it was suppose to be and I just assumed that something had to be wrong with me for not being able to manage it all. I didn’t know how to slow down even if I wanted to, I saw no way off the busy train.
It’s a struggle so many of us contend with as we try to figure out how to balance and fill in the 24 hours we each have available to us in a given day. Do you feel stuck on the busy train that runs at full speed with no destination in site? I get it, oh how I get it. I was there once. But I’m so thankful that today I am no longer the same person I was 7 years ago and am no longer carrying a one way ticket to busy town. God used a surprise baby and a job loss to get the message through to me loud and clear. It was a massive transition for me and it took many years for me to adjust and discover a new normal. It wasn’t a smooth process for me, the change was hard and to be honest let’s just say I may have been a bit reluctant. When you are use to filling every waking minute with stuff, it is hard for change to happen overnight. And please know that I am not advocating or saying that the only way to slow down is to quit your job. I know many stay at home moms that struggle on the busy train the same way a work away from home mom does. That is just one of the ways God opened my eyes and shaped my testimony. Everyone’s journey is and will be different.
Gradually my eyes opened to the benefits of simplifying and I started to get more and more excited about the changes. I started this blog about the same time my journey began and boy have I come a long way since then :)
Here are 6 steps to start with that can help you slam on the brakes of the chaos train you are on so you can truly experience the benefits of living a simpler slower way of life.
1. Come out of denial
I made this the first step as one of my favorite books on the subject of slowing down “Just Too Busy: Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical” suggests that many of us are in denial about our busyness and might not even recognize it yet. In fact the author, Joanne Kraft, calls it A.D.D. – Activity Denial Disorder. She goes on to say that denial is a funny little creature. It finds wicked pleasure in talking all of us busy moms into believing everything is just fine and will stop at nothing to keep us busy. Take a good look at your life. Are you in a constant state of stress and overwhelm? Is clutter and chaos a part of your daily life? When you are no longer in denial about your addiction to busyness, you are much more receptive to seeking ways to slow down.
2. Let go of perfect
This step was huge for me. In order to fully let go of the value I placed on busyness I had to let go of my desire for everything to be perfect. And to do this I had to loosen my death grip on control. Easier said than done that is for sure. Trying to keep all the balls in the air was killing me but I was so afraid that life would fall apart should one happen to drop. I was petrified of the outcome but you know what? When I stopped pretending to have it all together and let others in on how life really looked, nothing happened. Nothing bad anyway. In fact learning to be vulnerable with myself and with others changed my life. One of my favorite sayings is life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Oh my how true it is. No one has it all together, no one. Do yourself and us all a favor and please stop pretending that you do.
3. Give thought to each yes
Have you noticed being busy has become a way of life? It’s almost a badge of honor to say we’re busy when someone stops us in the street to say hello. Does it make us more important? More worthwhile? More significant to the human race if we declare that we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off? How in the world did this become a popular way to live?
Today there are so many options, choices and activities presented to us that we scramble to fit in as many in as we can for a variety of reasons that make sense to us at the time. Everyone else is doing it, if I don’t, who will?, it’s only for an hour, it’s fun and exciting, it will help my child get ahead, and so on and so on. What we neglect to give some thought to when we are saying yes to all these opportunities (and let’s face it some of them can be great!) is the time we can actually afford to devote to them. We say yes, sign up and then decide to work out the logistics.
Each time we say yes to something, we say NO to something else.
4. Establish time rules
What I mean by this is to establish a set of criteria ahead of time that will make it easy for you to determine whether or not an activity is appropriate to say yes to.
For instance, I don’t volunteer for anything that doesn’t have a definitive ending time within the next 9 months. Also, my kids are each allowed to participate in one activity at a time and it can’t take place more than two days a week. In addition, at least one night of the weekend is family night and no other activities can take place that night.
Knowing my criteria and having it in place gives me a direct out and the ability to say NO when an activity is presented to me that doesn’t fit into my established boundaries and limits. Everyone’s “time rules” will be different and only you can decide what is ideal for you family.
5. Schedule the neglected activities you crave
If family time is something you wish you had more of, make sure you schedule it in first before filling up the remaining time slots, not the other way around! Scheduling this time together like you would any other activity means that time is protected and when someone or something else presents another offer, you can easily say, “Oh, sorry, I’m afraid not, that time is already spoken for.”
Planning ahead for the important things, instead of trying to fit them in after everything else occurs, makes them a priority and increases the chances of them actually happening. Whatever you wish you had more time for (even something as simple as a long, hot soak in the tub), schedule it before anything else and you’ll be amazed how much easier it is to protect that time and keep something else from invading its space.
6. Look hard at extracurricular activities
If family time is something you desire more of but your kids extracurricular activities are making it impossible for that to happen, then why not forget the hockey practices and go for a family bike ride or hike instead.
I see families devoted to their kid’s activities that take up four and five days of the week, for what? So they get more exercise, stay out of trouble or become the next Wayne Gretzky? A family bike ride or hike can accomplish all those things just as well (except of course of becoming the next NHL great but, really, what were your child’s chances anyway…be realistic!), plus you get the added benefit of spending time with the wonderful beings you brought into this world.
It’s not easy to go against the grain of what culture dictates but it is possible. I pray that if you are in a place of overwhelm right now that you are strong enough to make the changes necessary so that chaos is no longer calling any of the shots.
How fast is your busy train going? Is it time to get off yet?