One of the central principles of minimalism and simplicity is sculpting your life to avoid the stress of time-consuming busyness. The ultimate goal is to spend your time calmly doing things which you care about, but to do that it’s usually necessary to pare down your commitments. In an article today on Zen Habits, Leo Babauta implies that you just need to decide to “put an End to Busy”. Unfortunately, he articulates the cause of most people’s busyness quite poorly in the article. People are busy because they’re passionate about many different things; it’s not a form of “bragging” or a need to feel “important”, as Babauta implies.
The actual solution to the problem of busyness is complicated. First, it’s important to sit down and figure out what the most important things for you are. It can be as few as one, or as my mom (the perennial busybody) decided, as many as five areas of your life. Then you need to consciously realign your priorities, in action as well as intention. De-emphasize activities that don’t fit into one of your main areas of focus. It’s not easy; as I’ve asserted before, changing your habitual behavior is one of the hardest things there is. It’s tough removing things from your life, because doing those things must have seemed important at one point. But you don’t have to do everything, and you will probably be happier if you focus in on just a few things.
Society is telling us otherwise; we’re told that yes, we should be doing more things, we should be doing as much as we possibly can! Productivity! Industriousness! But while these qualities in our behavior are beneficial to a certain extent (you’re not going to be happy if you just sit around on the couch all the time), they’re not directly correlated with happiness. Be productive and industrious, in moderation, on a few things that are centrally important to you. That’s the way.