Burnout, over commitment, and stress are epidemic, especially among working professionals. Too often we are told to prioritize, focus and say no to anything and all things we do not care for. This approach can be challenging, especially for junior and inexperienced folks. It's easier to agree and then suffer from the over commitment later on. We take our time and our bandwidth for granted; we overestimate how much time and headspace we have and over inflate our abilities. We expect a lot from ourselves, and all of this comes at a cost (lack of free time, underdeveloped relationships, estranged family, etc). When we become stressed, we try to increase the efficiency. We'll cut out our lunch breaks, multi-task, work longer hours, work harder etc.
I read an article on efficiency, and the article compared Life to a suitcase. We can roll up our clothes, and squeeze in every nook and cranny of the suitcase, but efficiency can only go so far. The space is fixed, and at some point, you'll have to sort the things you want to take, and leave the rest behind. Frequent travelers are pro at packing. They know what the bare essentials and unforgivingly leave behind all things that do not serve a purpose. In the same way, if we reframe life as a suitcase with limited time, and the prospect of travel as experiences in our life, then perhaps we will have a better sense of what to take with us and what to leave behind. What are your bare essentials? If one suitcase equated to 1 year of life, then we only have 80 suitcases to fill, which is not much. Life is short. When I imagine my day, week, month, year in terms of life suitcases, I find it much easier to see clearly what is important, what's borderline, and what definitely is not worthwhile. For example, one consideration I've entertained for sometime is the idea of decreasing my work full time status. If/when I cut back on work (which is easy to say and hard to do), then we can free up time and give ourselves space. But, it comes at the cost of decreased income and the associated cringe that comes with that idea. If instead, I imagine my life suitcase full of money and no free time vs less money but more free time, then the right answer is more obvious to me. Time is a non-renewable, fixed and invaluable resource. The image of packing my life full of work and no time to play sounds unpleasant; instead a suitcase containing just enough while also making space and time to explore, learn, travel, develop relationships seem so amazing. Next time you're stuck and unsure how to move forward, ask you self what would you take with you in your Life suitcase today, this week, this month? Anything you take means less space for something else. What would an amazing day, an amazing week, an amazing year look like? Then, pack your life full of all the goodies, and let go of the rest.