Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

By Doing Less, You Can Achieve More

June 3, 2005

Are you running short of time? In all your busyness, are you neglecting the basics of life? Do you feel OK about the time you have for contemplation, for spirituality, for your children, for your marriage partner, for renewing your spirit and energy through play and leisure?

Are you living a life you really want to live? Are you wittingly or unwittingly giving large chunks of your time to empty distractions such as TV, more hours devoted to work than is reasonable, or to the accumulation of possessions and goods which extract their own time demands? If so, then this column is for you.

Work, money and perspective. Design a life with the end in mind. Visualize the lifestyle and the work you want to do. Find a job or profession that challenges your best skills, creativity and brings excitement to your life.

If you don't like what you are doing, go back to the drawing board. Life is too short to be spent in work you don't enjoy.

Put your money to work for you. Through business or investment, liberate yourself from having your income pegged to your time.

You can be wealthy and time poor. You can work so hard that there is no time left over for important things. How people spend their money or their time represents great tests of the real values they live by. Don't let pride and misplaced values tempt you to live beyond your means. Saying no to more work and more income frees up time for other priorities.

Money in the bank is stored freedom. The more savings you have, the more choices you have about how to spend your time. Money in the bank doesn't mean making good choices on how to use time. Debt means obligated time and fewer choices.

Money tied up in possessions can't be translated easily into choices about time. Possessions take time.

Simplify your lifestyle. The way out of the hectic lifestyles of today isn't by increased efficiency, by squeezing more activities into an already crowded schedule and daytime planner. You already know the formula: set goals, make a "to do" list, prioritize, do the top items first, don't procrastinate, etc.

The problem isn't getting more done in less time. Rather, the challenge is to loosen up your schedule a bit so that important personal and family needs are met.

This goes against our "do everything", "have everything", "get everything done"culture. To be free from the tyranny of the clock, reign in your ambitions and narrow your focus to those dreams and goals that really matter. Simplifying your lifestyle is a way of getting control back in your life.

It also means coming to terms with finding meaning in life, accepting that life is fleeting and time is finite - that death is inevitable and that there isn't time for everything. Those who have had near-death experiences,incapacitating illness, or other major setbacks tell us plainly how their experiences taught them what is important in life.

Other dimensions of life come into play - time for reflection, time for meeting personal needs, time for play, time for intimacy, time for relaxation, time for incubation of new ideas, time for rest, time to be present, time to appreciate the moment, time to be compassionate; time for those in need, time to be a friend.

By doing less, you can achieve more of what you really want.

Having a spiritual orientation to life, giving service to others, and having a good sense of humor enable you to detach from the cares and pains of most everyday problems.

Time clutter. The clutter in your life may not be just on your desks, in the garage or attic, or in the abundance of objects you have to take care of. There is a different kind of clutter - time clutter. To have a high standard of living from a time standpoint may mean cutting back and simplifying your life.

The object isn't to drop out but to put on the brakes, to decelerate, to say no when no needs to be said, to plan life instead of time, to live with a satisfying tempo, to live a life with balance.

Tips on how to take time out. Besides learning to cut back and using time to suit real purposes, here are other tips on how to take time out from a time pressured world:

- Plan a weekend away with no time constraints or schedules to keep.

- Go on a camping trip where your internal clock gets set according to hunger pangs, sleep and by sunrises and sunsets.

- Find a creative hobby that is compelling and fun. Work the task and not the clock.

- Enjoy a long, unhurried conversation.

- Take breaks on holidays, evening and weekends. Don't let work intrude.

- Protect free periods to plan, think and read.

- Plan fun and relaxation with family, friendships and your marriage partner.

- Say no.

- Learn that doing nothing can be just as important as doing something.

- Let your unfinished work wait for you.

"Live as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow." - Algerian proverb.

The book, "Timelock," by Ralph Keyes was used as a resource for this article.