“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”

~ John Kabat-Zinn

I used to commute to a job an hour away. I got up early, drove for an hour, worked a full day and then drove home in rush hour traffic. Including my lunch hour I was away from home for eleven hours every weekday. During this time, there was a 21-day period when I had something on my calendar every single night except one. Constantly being on the go was extremely hard to sustain. I would usually get to bed late and end up feeling exhausted the next day. I was running on fumes. I found myself triggered by something, then cry at my desk in the middle of the day. I felt pulled in a million directions. I was doing too much and really didn’t have anyone I could delegate anything to. They were all good things that I was doing, I just should have said no or postponed a few of them.

Instead of experiencing a complete burnout, I assessed the situation and built into my schedule two mandatory nights a week to just stay at home. Even though my work is closer now, this solution has worked beautifully ever since.

If I’m not careful though, I find that I slip back into my old habits and start feeling like a hamster running on a wheel again. As the stress builds, I have to stop and realize that although there are many things vying for my attention, only a few are truly important. I remind myself to slow down and remember that I am a lot happier when my life has balance.

What does your calendar look like? Is it so jam packed that there are few empty spaces?

When we keep going at full speed day after day without recharging, life can get overwhelming. Maybe you feel there is so much to do that you have no choice. When we’re overextended we don’t function well. Are there so many things on your to-do list that you don’t even pause long enough to recognize you’re on the road to burnout?

Maybe you view your life with scarcity mentality–not enough time, not enough energy, not enough magical ability to fit everything into twenty four hours. Or maybe you’re living in fear– fear of failing, fear of disappointing others, fear of feeling embarrassed or incapable.

If this sounds painfully familiar, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and trapped. Here’s a prescription for how to get out of the spin cycle and find some balance:

1- Slow down. Go for a walk, breathe deeply, make some time for reflection and write in a journal.

2- Approach the mess with gratitude. Be grateful you have so many skills and abilities, so many people to love, so many people who trust you to do a great job that they ask for your help. At least you’re never bored.

3 – Ruthlessly prioritize. Physically write down your to do list. Do a brain dump. Write down everything swimming around in your head. Cut out everything you feel like you “should” do and focus on doing only what needs to be done. Chunk similar items together – phone calls, online tasks, errands and projects. Chunking not only makes things more efficient but it somehow makes things feel more manageable, less paralyzing. After you get everything on paper, prioritize. Organize tasks based on importance and urgency. Plan to do the difficult things in the morning and save a few easy ones for 3 o’clock in the afternoon when you’ll need some instant gratification to keep you going.

4 – Schedule spaces into your calendar. When your nerves are frayed, be wise and schedule a “time out”. Make an appointment with yourself. Better yet, make two. Create two separate times during the week when you plan to do nothing. This doesn’t mean you can fill up these two to three hour time blocks with doing little jobs around the house you’ve neglected, this must be real down time to be effective. Release yourself from all expectations. Be courageous enough to only fill this time with self-nurturing activities. Lie on the grass, take a nap, read a novel, watch a movie, take a bath, paint your nails, sit on your porch and gaze at the sky. This is recharging / rejuvenation time. Only do things that truly fill your bucket.

By following these four recommendations to simplify your life, you will find yourself feeling refreshed and invigorated and better able to accomplish the tasks of everyday life.