How to Be Less Busy in Life

eric kim cindy project hanoi
Hanoi, 2016 #cindyproject

Dear friend,

Most of us always complain that we are always too busy. We all strive to have more leisure, relaxation, and peace in our lives. But why do we always let others barge into our free time, and allow ourselves to fall into the “busy trap?” How can we learn how to play offense— and protect our precious free time?

Do less

For some strange reason, we believe that by being more busy, we will be more happy.

In reality, I think we all want to do less of stuff we don’t like doing, and more of what we want to truly do.

It is hard for us to find more time to do what we’re passionate about. It is hard for us to find more time to make photos. It is hard for us to prioritize our creative work. No matter how hard we try, it is very hard to “add” free time to our lives.

The easier thing to do: subtract superfluous and unnecessary activities from our lives. In order to be less busy, do less.

What are the pointless social obligations you can graciously say “no” to (in a nice way?) What are the time-wasting apps on your phone that you can uninstall? What are the distracting websites and blogs you can block from your browser? What are the passive forms of entertainment that you can subtract from your life— to focus on being a maker, not a taker?

Learn how to deflect

Portrait by Josh White

I know it first hand— I cannot say “no.” It is because I am a people pleaser. I put the needs of others before myself.

I’ve found a more effective way to say “no” is to deflect. When someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, or when they invite you to some social event that you don’t want to go — use strategic delay to your advantage.

For example, instead of saying a flat-out ‘no’ to someone’s face— learn how to say things like:

  • “Oh, that sounds like fun! Unfortunately my bandwidth is a bit maxed out, so unfortunately I will have to pass this time.”
  • “Thank you so much for the offer, that is very kind for you. But not this time, maybe next time?”
  • “That is very generous of you, but unfortunately I have a few other affairs to tend to this week. Thank you so much.”

I think the secret is knowing how to be grateful for the offers of others (after all, they are trying to be nice). But it is also knowing how to deflect and say “no” without saying it directly.

Seek emptiness

Hanoi, 2016
Hanoi, 2016

Life is all about emptiness. When you are empty, you have more room to breathe. More room to create. More room to pursue what you’re passionate about.

I love empty interiors with high ceilings. It makes me feel like I have all this opportunity to create, and fill up the space.

I love having an empty bag— the emptiness allows me to have the opportunity to put things in. And also the emptiness means less weight— which is less of a burden.

I love having an empty mind, where I have no worries, concerns, or thoughts. The emptier my mind, the more creatively I can fill it.

Assignments to reclaim your time

Photo by Luis Donoso
Photo by Luis Donoso

So if you want to be less busy in life, try these assignments:

  1. For a week, deflect all offers of doing things, going out, and socializing. Learn how to say “no” (in a nice way). Just say it in a way which is natural to you.
  2. Think to yourself: “If I lived a life where I never did anything I didn’t want to do, how much more time, energy, and opportunity would I have to do what I am truly passionate about?”
  3. Imagine you only had 6 months to live. What would you stop doing in your daily life (besides going to work) in order to live life to the fullest?

Your life is short. Don’t let anyone else steer your life for you. Take control of the steering wheel of life, and lead a life true to yourself.


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