It’s been feeling like a rat race around here lately. Between keeping up with all of the kids activities at school and trying to accomplish all of my business goals, I’ve hit a place of non-stop crazy. It’s awful. Someone always seems to be needing me.
I hate those periods in life when I can’t get things to slow down. We seem to keep running on a fast paced hamster wheel that I can’t jump off of. And the worst thing of all, I sense a pride these days in moving along at this frenzied pace. There’s no balance between doing stuff and enjoying the things that we are doing.
As Eddie Cantor says, it’s not only the scenery that you miss when life is moving too fast. You also lose a sense of where you are going and why. Forgetting these things can have a negative impact on your business. You end up focusing only on the daily scramble and not on your overall growth plan.
I usually approach these periods in life knowing that they will eventually end. We will some day soon return to our normal pace of life.
But if you are finding it hard to return to your normal busy these days, then it might be time to focus on getting your life to slow down instead. Easier said than done. I know. There are some techniques I’ve used over the years, though, to get my life to slow down more. They help get our family back to a normal pace without having to give up too much.
Red line your schedule
Grab a red pen (or any other color that causes an alarm to go off) and start crossing out everything on your schedule that isn’t really that important. You might not drop all of these items in the end, but it sure feels good crossing them out.
After you’re done, see how many things were scheduled that you considered excess. How many of those things do you really have to do? Which of those items would you like to drop permanently?
Even though you might not be able to slash all of the items for good, you could try eliminating one or two of them. More importantly, think twice about putting them on the schedule again. These are commitments you are clearly not that thrilled with. Don’t schedule them in the first place. It will give you more free time to spend with the people and things that really matter.
Have a no spend weekend
I have found that there is no better way to put a halt to all of the fun than announcing we are having a no spend weekend. We try to do these once a month – sometimes to get our budget balanced and sometimes because we are just plain tired.
A no spend weekend doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything at all. You just need to get creative with how you spend your time. We usually rent movies from the library, get out board games and plan a family art night. Sometimes we find a free festival in the area or have a picnic at the park. Most importantly, we don’t spend any money except maybe on some gas.
I also take off anything on the calendar that required us to spend money. This usually naturally slows us down. If you are having trouble finding a free weekend to do as a no spend one, try scheduling one at the end of a series of busy weekends. For example, if you are crazy with a sports season, you could plan a no spend weekend right after the last game. Then, write it down and make a point to spend it as a family. It really helps to slow down the bustle of life.
Remember less is more
Whenever we go through a fast paced period of life, I notice that stuff starts to pile up around me. It’s not that I necessarily have a lot more things, it’s just that my process for filtering them out breaks down when I’m busy.
To start feeling like I am able to slow down, I love to clean cluttered areas. These usually include the front door space and kitchen counters. I will make time to sift through paperwork, recycle, file and take photos of the kids art work.
If you are more ambitious, you can also try decluttering spaces in your home that make you anxious. Get rid of the pile of papers in your office, the abundance of toys in the play room and other items that are making your life feel cluttered. Create a list of the things you actually need to achieve your tasks each day. Then, get rid of or put away everything else.
For many, toys become the problem over the years. There are just too many of them. I find when we are really busy, I discover the ones that have true meaning to my kids. They are the toys that the kids actually play with. The rest just gather dust in the corner.
Discuss with your kids the things that they enjoying engaging with and those that they don’t. Sort, purge and plan a yard sale (or participate in a local consignment sale). Adopting a less is more mindset will help things feel more calm when you do hit busy periods.
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
Remember when we wrote our family mission statement? Busy periods are a great time to review it. It’s important to remember what things are important to your family. If you find that you are accepting commitments and doing things that don’t fall into your mission statement, it’s time to get back to your priorities.
Only schedule (or keep scheduled) commitments that fit your family’s overall purpose in life. For us, our priorities include family events, school community builders and close friend’s birthdays. We do not attend every birthday party since there isn’t enough time in our weekends. We also try to go to neighborhood gatherings to build relationships in our immediate community.
Plan family dinners
Studies have shown for years that kids (and families) are more successful when they eat dinner together as a family. They have better grades, more healthy eating habits and feel closer to their family. You even see more increased savings overall. But most importantly, taking time to eat together as a family gives everyone a chance to slow down.
Family dinner times have been one of my biggest priorities as a mom. I grew up in a household that focused on dinner in front of the television. Half the time the table was too cluttered to even sit at and my dad wasn’t home to eat together any way. These were some of the loneliest times of my childhood and I pledged to fix it if I ever became a mom.
Since we can get awfully busy with school, work and extracurriculars, dinner time is sometimes the only time of day we all see each other together. I love this time when we can come together, share a meal and show gratitude. It gives us a chance to catch up on what the kids are learning in school, exciting things coming up and what happened at recess.
This time together becomes even more important when we are really busy. It gives us a chance to slow down and be with each other even when we don’t think we have time. These days we usually follow dinner up with family game time or read alouds. It reminds me of what is truly important in life.
If you don’t have a family dinner time scheduled in your family yet, schedule one at least a few times a week. I don’t mean keeping it in your mind and hoping it happens. Add it to the family calendar. Write it in and don’t let anything get scheduled on top of it.
You can even get creative with your family dinner time. Try to plan a fun meal idea that night too – such as making pizza or having a special dessert. You are more likely to get full family participation if you make it more exciting.
Take a stay-cation
Have hotel points that need to be used? If you are feeling overwhelmed by the bustle of the every day, it might be time to take a break. Locally.
Depending on where you live, many local hotels have great deals and you can get a lot of room for those unused points. Try to pick a place with a pool to enjoy or near a major attraction you’ve wanted to see. You’d be amazed how much fun can be had just getting away from your house for a few days.
If you don’t have any extra room in your vacation budget, you could schedule a staycation right from your living room. Pick some local places to go explore and get out for the day. I recommend making the locations one to two hours away. You will be more likely to see something new that will rejuvenate your mind. Plus, it’s amazing what you discover right in your own backyard.
Give back to your community
And I don’t mean just write your favorite organization a check. Find a non-profit, preferably in your community, that you believe in and want to support. Then, find out how you can help beyond just a donation. You could collect supplies, volunteer for one of their programs or organize a fundraiser.
The act of giving back will help boost your spirits and slow you down. According to Time Magazine, giving back activates the same parts of the brain as food and sex. Not that either of those can be connected with getting your life to slow down.
Giving back does change the routine actions we are taking every day and makes us remember that there are other important things going on in the world. When choosing how to give back to your community, find a place that can use your passions and skills. It will feel less like work if you are doing something you enjoy.
Also, involve the family with your community service efforts when you can. Volunteering can help kids build empathy, encourage leadership skills and overall make your kids happier. It’s a great way to slow down all of your family’s lives.
Our speed through life is showcased by how fast we drive. When we are late for school and going a little fast on 25 mph roads, I feel so hurried and stressed. When I can slowly drive through these beautiful country roads, my life feels balanced and at peace.
Even if you are late for arrival, slow down. Getting there first isn’t the most important thing. It’s arriving at all. When you drive slower, you can notice more things around you. The new shop in town to check out. What the farm stand is selling this week. For us, lots of cows and Amish buggies. A slower pace let’s you take in your surroundings.
And a side note about buggies… I live in a place that has lots of them. They love to drive at the most inconvenient times and aren’t always that easy to pass safely. I used to hate this. But the one thing the buggies make you do, at least for a little bit, is drive at a buggy pace. These days, when I come upon a buggy, I take deep breathes and look around before I pass. Life is pretty amazing when you move at a buggy pace.
And I don’t mean from each other. I mean put your phone down. But I run a business and customers might need me? True. But, having done this now for over six years, I can guarantee that if you don’t establish some actual working hours early on, you never will. Social media, Etsy app and email provide us with constant contact with our customers. It also means that we never really disconnect. This can lead to a frenzied state of always completing orders, building our shop and worrying about customers.
You need to take some time off. I always put my phone on airplane mode when the kids are back from school through their bedtime. This is family time. And I try to use every second. Then, after they are in bed, I do a quick final check. Over time, I’ve discovered that not much changes in those hours. I think my customers are all doing the same tasks that I am.
I also feel more refreshed and relaxed to go to bed early. Then, I can tackle business matters early in the morning. So, set up hours each day when you are off your device and computer. You will spend more quality time with your family and your brain will benefit too.
Transitioning from a busy period of life to a slower one is not that easy. It’s hard to control how fast paced your business gets or how busy the kids’ activities are. But it’s important.
Being too busy can lead to stress and grumpiness. I always find I snap at more people when there is too much to do and everyone needs my time. That’s when I put on the brakes and start to look at ways I can slow us down. I become more mindful again about how my time is being spent and whom I am spending it with.
Being busy happens naturally in life, but slowing down does not. You have to approach that with purpose. Here’s to finding more peace and calm in the new year.