We want our days to be less busy and to have more free time in our schedule – but how? Here are three ways for achieving a more relaxed life, including throwing away your to-do list.
- Discover what is important to you
People are as busy as they are nowadays because they don’t take the time to gure out what’s a priority to them, says British business psychologist and author Tony Crabbe. But actually, it’s not that difficult: Just write down what you value the most. Crabbe’s values are: helping more good ideas find their way into the world, staying inspired and building strong relationships with his loved ones.“I begin each day by asking myself: How can I express these today?,” he says.“It’s one of the simple but essential mindfulness strategies that can help us make that choice about what we are going to spend our time and attention on.” So formulate the values you want to build your life on, but—and Crabbe says this is important—don’t think you have to set these values in stone. Accept that you might get it wrong and consider the values as hypotheses that can be adapted when appropriate. As Crabbe says: “I didn’t discover what was truly important to me until I was 40.”
- Throw your to do-list out of the window
We often feel like we can do it all, if only we manage our time well. Crabbe says that time management not only is a surefire way to develop a neurosis, it’s also simply not true that we can do it all. The only solution is to formulate, for yourself, specifically what you will be able to accomplish, and—therefore—what you won’t be able to do.“If you don’t do this, chances are high that you will be sucked along in a maelstrom,” Crabbe says. “That’s why you have to get rid of the to-do list. I don’t put ‘Spend time with my children’, or ‘Write a second book’ on my to-do list. So if the list is your guide, you by definition won’t be doing what is most important to you. People say things like, ‘When I have more free time, I’m going to do this and that’. But guess what: It never happens. My advice is, just do it.”
- Don’t let your brain rush you
Something we like to think is that if we do things very efficiently, we’ll have more time to relax. It’s a falselogic though, according to Dutch labor psychologist and mindfulness trainer Margot van Stee, because our brain is wired for scarcity and not for the surplus we currently live with. “The happiness-inducing neurochemical dopamine isn’t produced when we achieve something, but when we are looking for something,” Van Stee says.“This explains why we have so much trouble getting off our smartphone, iPad or laptop. The apps never satisfy, but create a never-ending demand for more. And all that continual searching results from the illusion that if we just run fast enough, we’ll succeed; we just need to try a bit harder now. We might get very far, but it comes with a price: restlessness, a permanent sense of being rushed and stress. Having insight into how our brain works can help us make better, more balanced choices in the future.”
*More tips can be found in Issue 21.
Text Fleur Baxmeier Photo Astrid van der Hulst