This is how we slow down and build a better life. “I’m busy” is a misdiagnosis. We are only so busy because life is so complex. These might sound like the same problem, but the hurried and victimising state of “busy” is the symptom of the true problem: escalating complexity, which mostly happens slowly and without us noticing.
For most modern adults, it’s not possible to improve life by addition, because part of our struggle is the lack of margin to do so. So, we must return to sanity through simplification, requiring a painful amount of necessary subtraction or “deletion”. Here are some deletions that would serve most modern adults well:
- Delete your expectation to watch two hours of television per night.
- Delete some of your devices (just sell them if you have more than you need – most of us have far too many screens.)
- On remaining devices, disable nearly all notifications. Your attention is precious; so precious that it drives the new economy! Protect it.
- Delete social media entirely if you can, and communicate directly with true friends.
- Delete most of the news and articles you read, leaving only the highest quality material (the best daily filter for news is, aside from the quality of the source: “will this still matter in three months?”)
- Delete apps which present endless feeds of content and prey on your attention.
- Delete your expectation to serve a MasterChef-quality meal every night (unless this is something you deeply enjoy).
- Delete some recurring appointments which you’re only maintaining because of the expectations of invisible others. Do your kids really need to be enrolled in seven extracurricular activities every week? Delete at least half of them. Stay home and play a board game.
- Delete your self-imposed and world-imposed expectations about what constitutes “the good life” and consider how Jesus described and modelled “life to the full” (John 10:10). Why are we striving for so many superficial and temporary things?
These are just examples. The most proactive response to modern madness is to take an honest inventory of your time usage for a week or two and discover where it’s all going. Then, have the courage to take control. Your life was perfectly fine before these complex demands emerged, and it will be perfectly fine without them. The hardest part is letting go.
The excuse “I don’t have time for…” is dishonest. We all have the same amount of time. “I don’t make time for…” is always the true answer.
Imagine making the time and space to do the most valuable things: Time connecting deeply with loved ones; rich times of prayer; time reading scripture and books which grow you toward true goodness (that is, Christlikeness); time enjoying nature and exploring creative hobbies. Imagine living more like a child again, doing these things in whichever order you like rather than following some plan for personal growth and productivity in every waking moment. Imagine thinking less (or not at all) about becoming someone great, anxiously awaiting that future (which never arrives), and instead living more fully in the present.
We can all make time for this kind of life. But for most of us, that possibility lies on the other side of a mass deletion.
What are you waiting for?