How To Not Be Busy: 6 Purposeful Tips

We have long been told to wear our busyness as a virtue. In the pursuit of inbox zero and a ticked to-do list, we gave up sleep and ignored the very human desires we have for ourselves (connection, hobbies, free time). But as we have learned, there is a demoralizing danger in chasing productivity just for the sake of productivity. And sadly, many of us reach an age where we discover we’ve been looking for the wrong things all along. I reached that point in my late twenties. So learn how to do it Not Be busy is my biggest rebellion so far.

It’s a much-discussed reality that still feels elusive: To actually make sense of our days, we need to push ourselves with the clutter of what we’re supposed to be doing — and ground ourselves in the truth of what we’re supposed to do really want.

Featured image by Kristen Kilpatrick

Picture by Emma Bassill

Luckily competing buzzwords like intentionality, mindfulnessand purpose entered the common lexicon. They are here to remind us that life is more of a quality over quantity game. But we live in a world where being a multi-hyphenate is glamorized and it seems everyone is the CEO of their social media-driven company. And while I certainly don’t shame the achievements of these inspiring folks, the urge to produce and fill each moment with usefulness pulls us deeper into ours do state and further away from easy being.

So if you’re tired of life feeling like an endless hamster wheel, read on. These are the seven tips that finally taught me not to keep myself busy – and to enjoy my life all the more as a result.

Picture by Michelle Nash

How not to be busy: 6 tips to help you connect to your purpose

Identify your values

A few weeks ago I shared with my therapist that it felt impossible to relax. Every time I picked up my knitting, sat down to read, or went into the kitchen to bake, I felt a pang of guilt. Guilty for relaxing and guilty for not being more productive with my time. Your Answer: Is productivity something you personally value? It took another appointment and diary writing in between to realize my answer: no.

Of course I appreciate hard work and love to share my creativity with others. But in my reflection, I realized that the community I grew up in taught me that being productive means being good, competent, and sufficient. In order to detach ourselves from toxic busyness, we need to find out where our need for it comes from. Does it come from us or does it come from somewhere else entirely?

Take stock of your day

I got this tip from Kate Waitzkin, who led an inspirational workshop on rituals at the Camille Styles retreat a few weeks ago. If you want to change how you spend time, you must first understand how you currently spend it. Set aside one day during your work week and one on the weekend to write down what you did, when, and for how long. The task may sound tedious (and it is), but believe me, it’s the most effective tip I’ve found for helping me truly understand how I’m spending my time.

When you’ve got it all written down, note the minutes (or hours) you spend scrolling through social media or hiding from a Netflix show you’re not even sure you like. Are there opportunities to work on the book you plan to write? Is there time you can devote to the ceramics course you wish to take? Could you maybe set aside a whole night to read? Chances are, it’s time.

Picture by Michelle Nash

Pick a track – and focus

As someone who considers themselves more online than most, being confronted with all the noise on social media can be overwhelming for me. When you come across images of people with multiple income streams who seem to be thriving in all their creative endeavors, it can be hard not to believe that something is wrong with you because you’re not accomplishing the same thing.

But to work towards your dreams and passions amidst the clutter of content, you must have faith in the path you are on. Believe me, I started programming, running, and so on, because I felt that was what I had to do to be considered successful in the eyes of the world. But when I accepted being a writer, a reader, a baker and a craftsman, I suddenly stopped spending my time on what didn’t matter – and leaned towards the truth of what is.

Image by Teal Thomsen

Separate your needs from your wants

When everything feels like a priority, making a decision about how to spend your time can be overwhelming. Instead, learn to label what needs to be done and what feels like a nice-to-have completion. If possible, put the three things at the top of your list to have to get ready before you can end your day. That way, once you’ve ticked off, you can walk away satisfied with what you’ve accomplished. Also, there’s always this truth: there’s more work waiting for you tomorrow.

Accept that productivity is an endless loop

PSA: You will never get to the bottom of your to-do list. Sure, there might come a day when you tick it all off. But you can – and will – always keep adding. Additionally, skipping a task may feel empowering for a moment, but doing it isn’t the path to true satisfaction. So instead of feeling like you have to do everything before you can be a part of your life (see introduction for a refresher), why not set aside some time to enjoy your life? now?

Image by Beatée Photography

Finally: learn to say no

I’m a chronic overcommitter. I’ve written about this before, but learning to say no (properly and compassionately) has been one of the biggest wins of my life. As women, we are socially conditioned to believe that our worth and worth depends on our sympathy. This, of course, is at the core of our chronic “yes” habit. But it’s 2022, and to protect our well-being and protect ourselves, we can refuse almost anything. An invitation, a requested favor, a brief conversation. Sure there are things we must do if we don’t have the bandwidth, but remember that in this matter you have autonomy, power and choice.

The benefit of this challenge? you may say Yes indeed to the life you really want.

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