Life today for most people moves at a hectic pace. A surprising number of people are convinced that they always have to be “doing something” and are so afraid of boredom that they deliberately fill any free time with activities and planned events… multitask to take advantage of every single minute… and then wonder why their lives still feel empty. Feeling that you’re just existing instead of really living each day is a horrible feeling.

Life doesn’t have to be like that.

Voluntary simplicity is about making conscious choices in your life… emphasizing the good, minimizing or eliminating the bad, and making deliberate decisions about the best path to take… for you and your family. The most meaningful advice for anyone having trouble getting their life under control is to simply slow down.

The stress of always being in a hurry drains your spirit, distracts your mind, and prevents you from focusing on what is really important. It fools you into wasting time in areas that don’t reflect your values or your goals. And worst of all, it robs you of the peace of mind and serenity that a life of voluntary simplicity will bring.

So what can you do if your life feels like it’s spinning out of control and you don’t know how to slow it down? Start small… here are a few simple but effective ideas.

  • Learn to say no. Accept that you can’t do everything that everybody asks you to do. Saying no politely but firmly is a skill that everybody should work on. Sometimes people will make you feel guilty if you say no, but keep your priorities in mind. Saying yes to everyone isn’t generosity… but it is unrealistic and self-destructive.
  • Cut down on your Internet and telephone time. The Internet is a wonderful tool, bringing a world’s worth of information, communication, and entertainment into our homes almost instantaneously… but it can also be the world’s biggest time waster. Don’t let the Internet be your time management excuse, and don’t buy into the cell phone companies’ idea that we need to be on the phone all the time.
  • Take a break. The sameness of day-to-day activities can sap your energy, so take some time throughout the day to recharge your mental and spiritual batteries. Pray, rest, meditate… take a short walk outside, play with the family dog… spend a few minutes doing whatever works for you to renew your spirit for the rest of the day.
  • Change your mindset. This takes courage and is the most important point of all. Stop thinking of unscheduled time as wasted time… some of life’s best moments come when you least expect them.

There is an old saying that every day is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that each day has twenty-four hours… the curse is that each day has ONLY twenty-four hours. A hectic and unmanageable life isn’t a problem with time because we all have those same twenty-four hours… it’s a problem with time management.

Slow down… make conscious choices instead of knee-jerk reactions… and try to pack your life full of richness and meaning rather than frenetic activity.

I think you’ll find that those twenty-four hours are more than enough time to make each day of your life as wonderful and fulfilling as you deserve.

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Comments

Becki

Ever since I read this post I have been trying to limit the time I spend on the internet. I cannot believe how much time I was wasting. I have also tried some of your other ideas. They really help. Thanx!

Jim

Good advice, well put. Lately I’ve been asking myself, if today was my last day on earth, would I be happy with the way I spent it? I’m trying to make some real changes in my life and this blog is proving to be very helpful. Thank you for your insight and wisdom.

M.L.

Shirley,

First, I want to thank you for sharing yourself, and your knowledge, through your website. For several years I have been researching voluntary simplicity, trying to find a source/group that more closely resembled how I understand simplicity. I wish I had come across your website at the beginning of my research! I have been reading through some of your articles over the last couple of days, and finding myself agreeing with almost everything you say, although not everything. ;) I especially liked your articles where you spoke about what voluntary simplicity/frugality is, and what it is not. Anyhow, I decided that I’d better take a moment to write to you before reading through too much more of your website because there are many articles/conversations that I would like to comment on/add to, and will have a lot of back tracking to do if I don’t “get to it”.

Although I am not where I want to be in regards to living a more simplified life, I have been constantly evolving over the years. Some of the things that have not changed are out of my control, other things are a matter of compromising with my husband/kids, and some changes that still need to be made are the result of laziness, a lack of confidence, fear, etc. I’m not one to let those things hold me back though, it just means that it takes me longer to do so as I muster us the courage to move forward in whatever aspect of life that is the most prominent and important at the time.

For now, I will be spending more time than usual on the computer reading through more of your articles. :)

learning to say no

Thank you for the great blog. How encouraging! I find that I get volunteered/guilted into all sorts of projects or organizations and I feel obligated to commit 100%. Last year I really burned myself out. It isn’t easy saying “no”. It’s amazing the type of expectations people place on you once you say yes to helping. I made a list of what my priorities are this year and if something does not fit then it’s a “No” (I will still help/volunteer in some ways but as far as meetings and planning committees-I’m out!).

Lisa

Thanks for the great reminders. I’ve just started doing Unplugged Sundays – once a week, the computer stays off all day! It’s amazing how much time it’s given me and it’s really changed my perspective on my internet use. Thanks for the wonderful site!

Brenda

Thanks for your post, Shirley. I discovered your blog just tonight. I’m in the process of trying to decide when to retire from my teaching job of 28 years. I was going for 30, but I don’t think I’ll make it. Your writings have helped me to know what I should do, like track my spending, and other things that will guide me as I make my decision. I’m retiring not because I don’t still enjoy teaching, but because I’m ready to have more time to do what I enjoy around our home and with the people who are important to me. I can feel that other life calling to me, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to afford it. That’s why your posts about simplicity and frugality are of such interest to me. Thanks again for your insight!

Stephanie

Absolutely wonderful! Reminders are very helpful for me from time to time. Thank you for this lovely reminder.

Deb

Shirley…Amazing advice…I printed this off and read it every day to remind me that “frenetic activity” is pointless and harmful. I too have a problem saying no to my family and crave that time alone. Even though every day is packed with work, chores, and family there is never enough time for spirit. I am trying to make more conscious decisions each day – living more fully each day. What an awesome post…Keep them coming!!!!

Gillie

What a wonderful post. For too long being busy has been some kind of badge of honour; a means to prove that you have worth. We have become busy at being busy. I was as guilty as the next person.

A few years ago I made two conscious decisions. The first was that I wouldn’t worry. If something bad has happened, it has happened, I can’t turn back the clock. I would make the best of every situation and refuse to cry over spilt milk. The second was that I was not going to be busy. I might have a lot of things to do, this time of year is particularly job heavy. But I will do them ONE BY ONE. I will not try and multitask (though I do still play patience on my laptop whilst waiting for the phone to be answered by some call centre the other side of the world) but instead do each job mindfully taking as long as it needs to get done. If I don’t get everything done the world will not stop turning.

Gradually I became more relaxed and laid back. Jobs that I thought were vital suddenly turned out not to be. If I needed to stop what I was doing to take somebody to the station or walk the dogs then I did. Supper was still on the table, paid work somehow still got done and I became a much nicer person to live with :)

Kara

Thanks for this post. I really needed it today. A great reminder of how I want to live my life, but sometimes forget.