What to do When You’re Too Busy to Travel (or to Even Think About It)

4 ways to make space in your life for what matters most

Life is just like a kitchen junk drawer.

We all have one, right? It’s where we cram the microwave operator’s manual, paperclips, hair elastics, home insurance papers, old receipts, a half-eaten granola bar, and the TV remote that’s been missing for months now. And even though it’s already full, somehow we always manage to find room for more.

Just like that junk drawer, our lives easily get crammed full of stuff.

But what kind of stuff? Is any of it important? Is any of it worth hanging onto?

Is your life overflowing with stuff you have to do? So much so that there's no room for the things you want to do? Are you too busy to travel and too busy to follow your heart? We have some answers.

Busy Doesn’t Equal Happy

Before we left on our bike trip, Stephen and I were living typical busy city lives.

He was teaching 14 yoga classes per week, plus a few private sessions. I was working full time, often driving more than two hours a day just to get to the office and back. We always had something going on. Lots of our commitments were fun, but they sapped our time and energy.

For seven years, we rarely made it out of the city, let alone the country.

I’m not saying we weren’t happy. We were, more or less. But, especially for me, that full life felt utterly meaningless. Time was slipping by and I was going nowhere.

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4 Ways to Clear out Life’s Junk Drawer

If your travel dreams are crammed in the back of your junk drawer, right next to that old wrapping paper you thought you might reuse one day, here are 4 ways to start cleaning out the junk.

1. Work your hours, not long hours.

There is a culture of work, especially in North America, that rewards people who are at their desks early and are still there long past quitting time. If you spend more time at work than you’re getting paid for, just stop. It’s well documented that working longer hours makes you less productive. Focus on your work while you’re at work, get shit done, and when it’s time to leave, leave.

When You're Too Busy to Travel

Related: An Expert’s Guide to Quitting Your Job

2. Make lists.

Every morning, my first task (after I write for an hour) is to make a list of everything I want to accomplish that day. Then I slot each item into my 6 hours of working time, putting the most important or most onerous task first.

Using a list helps me focus; it keeps me on track and off of Twitter. It also keeps my mind organized, which makes me feel less busy. Lists are not just for work activities either. I keep lists of friends to email, chores to do around the house, and, most importantly, amazing places I want to see around the world.

3. Focus.

How often do you find yourself trying to accomplish two things at once? Do you schedule phone meetings while you’re driving, watch TV while you’re cooking, or check social media while having dinner with our spouse?!? Not cool. It’s a fantasy to think that lumping two activities together somehow makes you a smarter, more productive person. In fact, the opposite is true.

Every time you multitask, you end up half-assing both activities, resulting in annoyed coworkers, pissed-off spouses, burnt dinners, and maybe a few car accidents. Focus on the thing you’re doing, get it done, and then move on to the next. Not only will you feel less busy, you’ll find yourself being better at everything you try.

Laser-focus your travel planning with the Travel Planner’s Cheat Sheet →

4. Quit something.

Once we commit to something, it can be very hard to let it go, even if it’s something we hate. Think about all your weekly scheduled activities (or your kids’ scheduled activities). I bet there’s one that you dread. Drop it. Today, right now, take a deep breath and call (or email) the person in charge and say a sweet sayonara to that hated commitment. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief as soon as it’s done and reap the benefits of that free time every single week.

Related: Your 5 Best Excuses Not To Travel, Busted

When you’re too busy being busy, your life can be a swirl of meaningless activity, and your dreams get crammed away and forgotten.

“One day” never comes if you’re too busy to make it happen.

So pull open the junk drawer of your life and examine what’s inside. If you can’t find a few things that belong in the trash, you’re not looking hard enough.

Photo by Liz West

Question: Do you have a junk drawer (either a real one in your kitchen or a virtual one in your life?) What’s in there? What can you throw away today?

5 comments

  1. Pingback: How to Say No – To Yourself | My Five Acres

  2. Comment by Laura @ Bottled Air

    Laura @ Bottled Air Reply June 8, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    I think I’d be lost without making lists. I’m a bit of a perfectionist sometimes, and if I don’t have a very clear idea about what needs to be done in which order and WHEN, I’d spend all day on one task that could have been done in an hour. Will always complains that I put too much effort into stuff haha

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane June 9, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Yep, it’s the perfectionists and control freaks who love lists (me included). Why am I so disorganized right now? No list. Argggh.

  3. Comment by Andréa Jones

    Andréa Jones Reply June 4, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Love this! I’m still working on the “not working long hours” part. Lists and focus as helped tons! I use to think I was a “free spirit” but I get much more work done when I stick to my schedule.

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane June 4, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      So true. We creative types are always saying how we “can’t create on a schedule”, but it’s total bull. Now that I have decided I’m going to write every morning for one hour before I get out of bed, my brain knows it’s time to create, every single day. I get so much more done in that hour than I used to writing sporadically throughout the week.

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