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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?