Simple Living Tips: Finding balance by reducing first

A couple weeks ago I posted a video by Nigel Marsh on work-life balance. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t seen it yet. At one point in the video Marsh tells a story about a woman he met who was trying to find more balance in her life. Marsh recounts what she said: “My life is completely out of balance. It’s totally dominated by work. I work 10 hours a day, I commute 2 hours a day. All my relationships have failed. There’s nothing in my life apart from my work. So I’ve decided to get a grip and sort it out. So I joined a gym.”

I think this is a great representation of how many people approach trying to find balance in their lives. Too often we take a look at our lives and say, “I need to work out more, eat better, spend more time with my family and friends, etc., etc.” and we then attempt to squeeze those missing or unbalanced pieces into our already jam-packed lifestyle.

The problem of course is that this doesn’t get us any closer to the harmony that true balance offers; it simply makes life more difficult and stretches us even further beyond our means. (Check out my earlier post related to this idea of Squeezing vs. Simplifying)

It’s not about squeezing additional things into an already crammed suitcase – it’s about unpacking some of the stuff (hours at the office, hours in commute, how much we buy, time spent in front of the TV, etc.) in order to make room for other things you’ve been neglecting.

In other words, simple living is an approach that reduces and replaces, rather than adds as a way of achieving balance. It’s balance via simplicity.

So don’t sabotage your pursuit for balance by trying to pack more into your already over-packed suitcase. Instead, take a good, hard look at what’s in the suitcase already and figure out what you can cut back on in order to free up some much-needed space (time, money and energy). Here are some ideas:

More time

  • Cut back on the amount of TV you watch each day/week
  • Limit how much time you spend on Facebook/the Internet
  • Consider moving closer to work or telecommuting if possible to reduce the amount of time commuting
  • Establish and enforce boundaries/limits related to mobile device usage at home

More money

  • Buy less (consider taking on a buy nothing new challenge!)
  • Buy used, generic, etc.
  • Borrow more [Note: as Andrew so sarcastically points out in the comments below, this appears as though I’d advocating people borrow more money as a good simple living strategy (as in taking on more debt, etc). What I MEAN is to borrow more stuff from your friends and neighbours, rather than always going out and buying something new that you’ll only ever use once in a blue moon. Thanks for keeping me on my toes, Andrew!]
  • Cut up your credit cards and get in the habit of carrying cash to keep better track of your expenditures

More energy

  • Watch less TV so you can go to bed earlier to get more rest for healthier, more productive days
  • Cut back on the junk/fast food
  • Spend less time on the couch or in front of the computer screen and more time participating in active hobbies like walking, running or playing a sport (although don’t overload your calendar, as per the next point)
  • Declutter your calendar by taking on fewer extracurricular activities so you’re not running yourself ragged every day of the week to the point of exhaustion

These suggestions are all relatively “surface-level” ideas (although that’s not to suggest that they’re necessarily easy). But don’t forget to consider the bigger areas of reduction that require larger value and behavioural shifts; things like finding a new job with more reasonable hours, redefining needs vs. wants, downshifting to a smaller home, valuing the experiential over the material, embracing minimalism, etc.

What have you taken out of your suitcase in order to make room for neglected priorities in your life?


Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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6 Responses to Simple Living Tips: Finding balance by reducing first

  1. Andrew Wheeler says:

    Only a total whack job would take on a buy-nothing challenge!

    • You watch your mouth, Wheeler! 🙂

      • Justine says:

        Simply to follow up on the updtae of this matter on your website and want to let you know just how much I appreciated the time you took to write this useful post. In the post, you spoke regarding how to seriously handle this issue with all comfort. It would be my personal pleasure to collect some more ideas from your web site and come as much as offer some others what I have learned from you. Thanks for your usual wonderful effort.

  2. Andrew Wheeler says:

    And I am shocked you are encouraging us to borrow more money. Finally, something I can achieve!

    • Oops! I guess that should have said “borrow instead of buying” (as in, borrow your neighbour’s jigsaw instead of buy a new one for yourself). Sorry to burst your bubble, Andrew! I’m going to fix this now!

  3. Pingback: Hay Bale to the Head: A lesson in work-life balance | Josh Martin Ink

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