Inside: Here you’ll find 3 strategies to help you not just survive a busy season, but to thrive in one.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” -Bob Goff
Every year I forget about May. Year after year she shows up on my doorstep like a book I preordered on Amazon months ago, but totally forgot I ordered. “Wait, what is happening?”
I stumble through, wondering how I’ll ever make it when suddenly June arrives. Like a breath of fresh air, school lets out and summer lightens my load. It’s as if everything I just went through to wrap up the school year fades from my mind. Almost as if it never even happened.
This year, however, I’m a bit more prepared. And it only took me almost a decade of parenting through the school years and five years of minimalism to figure it out.
I’ve been asked a number of times by friends and readers something to the effect of, “I know you are minimalist with your stuff, but do you practice minimalism with your time?” It’s become one of my favorite questions to answer. And that answer is, YES!
You see, “busy” gets a bad rap. Being “busy” isn’t all bad. In my experience there are three kinds of busy.
3 Kinds of Busy
- Busyness outside our control: This is caused by extenuating circumstances such as unforeseen car trouble, illness, family/friend issues, or your five closest friends all coincidentally getting married during the exact same month etc.
- Busy as a way of life: This is what happens when we aren’t paying attention. When we say yes to everything and use busyness as a coping method for avoiding the stress of our cluttered homes and heavy mental loads.
- Busy we choose with intention: This is when we know our “yes” will make us busy, but decide with intention that it’s worth it.
If you attempt to go through life expecting the practice of “simplicity” to free you from ever having to experience any kind of busyness, you’re going to find yourself both disappointed and ill-equipped to handle busy seasons when they inevitably arise.
Minimalism, when applied to your time, helps you break free from “busy” as a way of life and create the margin in your calendar to absorb unexpected seasons of busyness. More than that though, it equips you to choose busy on purpose when it matters.
There is a time and place for a busy season. Finding yourself in one doesn’t mean you failed to adequately simplify your life. It means you’re a human.
We don’t have to only avoid or endure busy seasons. Instead, we can enjoy them. Heck, we can even create them. Here are three strategies to ensure you come through a busy season in one piece.
How to Survive a Busy Season
1. Bubble Wrap Busy Seasons
Look at your busy seasons as a fragile artifact traveling across the globe. You’d never cram a box of rare, priceless antiquities full and then ship it to the other side of the world. No, you’d carefully bubble wrap each one and keep them from bumping into each other with packing peanuts.
This is how we should be treating our busy seasons. We need to space them out and bubble wrap our busy seasons with what fills us back up. The first step in not only surviving a busy season, but also enjoying what you committed to, is to start and end your busy seasons with plenty of margin.
While May is busy, Fall is hands down my busiest season. Last fall, with only one month between the end of soccer season (I coach Jr. High soccer) and the launch of my book, Messy Minimalism, it was especially chaotic. The only chance I stood in surviving those two events with my sanity intact was to intentionally and ruthlessly guard the margin between them.
I committed to nothing during that month. I said no to everything during that month.
This is about safeguarding your mental energy and ensuring you have what it takes to give the best part of yourself to the things that matter most. When busy seasons occur one after another after another after another, you move into survival mode. In survival mode we exchange the things that matter for just getting through to the next day.
Now, we don’t always have the luxury of knowing a busy season is coming. Sometimes they blindside us. When that happens, it’s time to simplify everything you can’t say no to.
2. Simplify Everything You Can’t Say No to.
Everything seems harder when you’re busy, late, or short on time. When you find yourself in a busy season, whether expected or not, look for any and every area in your life you can simplify. After almost five years as a minimalist, this has become a bit of a habit for me. My M.O. used to be to either hustle harder or stick my head in the sand. There’s a better way.
Instead, recognize those feelings of overwhelm as red flags warning us that we’re carrying too much. Take inventory of everything on your plate and look for anything and everything you can either simplify, delegate or quit altogether.
Let that feeling of “too much” lead you to pause and ask yourself, “What can I either stop doing or drastically simplify in order to safeguard my mental wellbeing and show up wholeheartedly today?”
Here are 3 things to simplify when you have a busy schedule:
1. Meal planning
Instead of doubling down with a detailed complicated meal plan, implement this simple meal rotation strategy to feed your family a relatively healthy dinner with only the occasional stop at McDonalds.
Years ago I created The Simplify Your Life Meal Plan and have been feeding my family this way ever since. It’s a simple meal rotation system that takes the planning out of meal planning. Game changer.
2. Create a capsule wardrobe
Right now might not be the time for you to take on a project like decluttering your entire wardrobe. However, you can pull from the rubble a simple capsule wardrobe and wear the same weeks’ worth of clothing over and over until you can breathe again. This will streamline your morning, simplify laundry and reduce the mental energy you’re spending on unnecessary decisions such as what to wear today.
3. Home/Work Tasks
What projects or tasks can you either delegate to someone else or even pause for the time being? Evaluate which tasks are helping propel you forward and which ones are slowing you down while offering little reward for your effort.
For example, during busy seasons I cut back on the social media component of my work, pay extra to have my groceries delivered, get my kids McDonald’s for dinner after soccer practice and narrow my capsule wardrobe even further. (You’ll likely find me wearing the same outfit 2-3 times a week right now #itsfine).
Intentionally simplifying mundane areas like food, clothing and home/work tasks can allow you more time and energy to enjoy the busy season you are in.
3. Say No to Everything Else
Busy seasons are time to say no to nearly every inessential activity. Now is not the time to start that book club, lead that bible study or join that 40+ indoor soccer league. Hold off on play dates and pause extracurricular activities until you have the capacity for them. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in need of saying no to a few essential activities as well.
Figure out what you’re one priority is during this season and say yes to only that. Remember we can’t do that well when we spread ourselves too thin.
During the weeks leading up to the launch of Messy Minimalism I even intentionally skipped my morning workout. (Gasp!) The moment my kids left for school, I sat down to write articles and preorder bonus content until they were completed. I’m well aware this goes against popular opinion. Health and self-care gurus would likely argue that this should never be on the list of things to say “NO” to. I get it.
However, when a busy season is just that, a season, I find tabling even typically essential activities frees me from the pressure of feeling like I have to do it all.
Picture your busy seasons as if you’re on a boat during a storm. The waves are splashing aboard, weighing down your ship, threatening to pull you under. If you’ve got to start throwing items overboard to keep that ship afloat, what is it you can confidently toss over today?
As a former “busy life” addict, I can tell you that an intentionally slower paced life is far more enjoyable than the chaos of always busy. At first it will feel odd to say “no” and slow down, especially when it’s rest and margin you’re making room for. However, in time, you’ll find the fruit of your lack of labor to be far sweeter.
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For more information on Messy Minimalism head to MessyMinimalism.com
For more inspiration follow Abundant Life With Less on Instagram.