Suburban Simplicity

Work. Gym. School. Soccer practice. Dance class. Homework. Dinner. Dishes. Car maintenance. Phone calls. Email. Walk the dog. Grocery shopping. Yard work. Social Media. Work from home. Carpool. Boy Scouts. Dinner at mom’s. Bake sale.

Reno, our to-do lists are never ending.

A recent Gallup poll showed that nearly half of all Americans feel as if do not have spare time; and 40 percent are frequently stressed. This survey showed that lack of time and increase in stress go hand in hand. And these same percentages have been holding steady since 1990, when this question was first asked.

Lack of Time on Health

Complex daily schedules and lack of routine are linked to declining quality of physical health and mental health. Recent studies have shown that irregular schedules for shift workers, common to northern Nevada — like nurses, retail and casino workers— can be a direct cause of unhappiness.2 So, just as simple as not having a nine-to-five job, can cause a big set-back in one’s general well-being.

The authors of this study reported, “These data reveal that exposure to routine instability in work schedules is associated with psychological distress, poor sleep quality, and unhappiness.2

Further research indicated that having enough time is an important social determinate for well being, and a negative relationship between lack of time and that of health and well-being.2 The busyness of our modern lives has been linked to declining birthrates in America; meanwhile rates of stress, depression and anxiety are rising. All of which can have an ill effect on health and well-being, just as comparative to a virus, and all linked to the stress that stems from lack of time.3

Principles of Time

Time cannot be created nor destroyed, it simply changes form. Or something like that. With only 24 hours in each day, we are forced to stuff and unstuff as much activity as we deem necessary.

“Research suggests that for many people happiness is being able to make the routines of everyday life work…”4

The act of simplifying daily schedules and allowing for more free time is exactly the solution to our suburban ailing crisis.


“Time Management is very important quality of happy people. If you respect time, time will respect you.”5

The key to simplifying your schedule, experts have pointed out, is not necessarily planning a schedule, but following a routine or a habit and allowing for free-flowing time throughout a structured day. Schedules are good as a guideline, but can often backfire when their strict to-do lists remain undone. Even good advice on scheduling personal and enjoyable time can seem well-intended, but produce very opposite results.

“…they find that scheduling a leisure activity (vs. experiencing it impromptu) makes it feel less free-flowing and more work-like. Furthermore, scheduling diminishes utility from leisure activities, in terms of both excitement in anticipation of the activities and experienced enjoyment.”6

Set a simple, broad routine for success.

“Importantly, the authors find that maintaining the free-flowing nature of the activity by “roughly scheduling” (without prespecified times) eliminates this effect.”6

To translate this into our own daily lives, break your day in to big chunks, like: early morning, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon, late-afternoon and evening. Set goals for yourself and your day, but allow them to happen more naturally. Set out to go to the gym, not at 6 a.m., but rather in the early morning, or about noon. Plan for all of your work meetings for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, don’t set a time, just ask the meeting attendees to give you a ring before they come over to see if now is a good time. Plan for a book and bubble bath during one evening this week, not a specific appointment time, and see when the nature of life will allow.

Chunking, or blocking, as this is called, allows for intentions to be set and tasks to be listed, but also allows for flexibility should a snooze button be pressed, if a phone call runs long, or an urgent email needs to be addressed.

Personal lives can also be sculpted by chunking. Simply schedule all the extra- curricular activities to occur on the same day, leaving the other days open. Choose to do one quick chore everyday, any time you have open. Perhaps making a habit of being home immediately after work on Mondays and Fridays will allow for the evening to be more simple.

Routines are helpful, in that they do not use time schedules, but rather action cues. Create a routine that you will workout after you wake up every morning. It ties the activity to the action of waking up, no two the time you was up. You can’t be late if you don’t have a time. Plan a bedtime routine of taking a shower and reading for a few minutes in bed. When you feel the cue of bedtime, you will be able to sleep more soundly. Develop a routine to check email only at certain points of the day, such as mid-morning and mid-afternoon, ignore all other dings and pings until your designated time.

Money = Time

It is often understood that time is money; but money also equals time. Money cannot buy you happiness, but it can buy you more time. Delegate tasks to others to free up some of your time.

Meal-ordering and grocery-delivery services, landscapers, car washes, doggie daycare, subscription services, repairmen; all of these tasks can be given to someone else. You will have to spend money and purchase these services, but what you are doing is buying more time, and more time allows for more happiness.

“Time saved is money earned and more importantly life years earned.”5

Just Say No
Minimalizing and simplifying experts say to be judicious with your time and your social obligations. Teach yourself how to say know to additional tasks and duties.

Be conservative with your “yes” response. Question every activity. Plot out every activity you are involved in and question how does it fit into your life and the life that you desire.

Question every invitation. A simple invitation is not reason enough to attend. Every yes you give, is a no to something else. If you attend the party, you will have to trade your family movie night, or if you agree to go to lunch with a co-worker, then you will have to sacrifice listening to your audio book and gym time. For every extra activity, invitation or gathering, question it. If the answer is not a, “heck, YES!” Then the answer is no. Use your “no” response, and don’t feel bad about it.

Simplify Your Work Schedule

  • Spend the first 10 minutes of every day, planning your to-do list.
  • Organize your day into chunks- early morning, mid-morning, early afternoon, etc.
  • Bulk/Group tasks together in those specific chunks of time.
  • Create a routine, not a schedule. Things one after the other, regardless of time.
  • Eliminate distractions.

Simplify Your Life Schedule

  • Define your life and what fits into it.
  • Chunk your days into timespans — morning, early afternoon, evening, etc.
  • Create a routine. Plan things into groups, regardless of time.
  • Delegate tasks- to children, to food delivery service, to landscaping professionals.
  • Question EVERY activity.
  • Question EVERY invitation.
  • Learn to say no. And don’t feel bad about it.
  • Schedule a rest day- or half day.
  • Intentionally slow down.

CC The text cited in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Sources
Carter, Christine. “How to Structure Your Day to Feel Less Stressed.” Greater Good, 26 Jan. 2021, Original Material.

“Pursuit of Happiness.” Jainavenue, 2 Nov. 2020, Original Material.

Fisher, Cynthia D. “Happiness at Work.” International Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 12, no. 4, 2010, pp. 384–412. Wiley Online Library, Original Material.

Tonietto, Gabriela N., and Selin A. Malkoc. “The Calendar Mindset: Scheduling Takes the Fun Out and Puts the Work In.” Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 53, no. 6, Dec. 2016, pp. 922–36. SAGE Journals, Original Material.

N’takpé, Tchimou, and Frédéric Suter. “Don’t Hurry Be Happy: A Deadline-Based Backfilling Approach.” Job Scheduling Strategies for Parallel Processing, edited by Dalibor Klusáček et al., Springer International Publishing, 2018, pp. 62–82. Springer Link, Original Material.

References

Inc, Gallup. “Time Pressures, Stress Common for Americans.” Gallup.Com, 2 Jan. 2008, https://news.gallup.com/poll/103456/Time-Pressures-Stress-Common-Americans.aspx.

Schneider, Daniel, and Kristen Harknett. “Consequences of Routine Work-Schedule Instability for Worker Health and Well-Being.” American Sociological Review, vol. 84, no. 1, Feb. 2019, pp. 82–114. SAGE Journals, https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122418823184.

Liss, Miriam, and Holly H. Schiffrin. Balancing the Big Stuff: Finding Happiness in Work, Family, and Life. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Olsson, Lars E., et al. “Happiness and Satisfaction with Work Commute.” Social Indicators Research, vol. 111, no. 1, Mar. 2013, pp. 255–63. Springer Link, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-012-0003-2.

“Pursuit of Happiness.” Jainavenue, 2 Nov. 2020, https://jainavenue.org/pursuit-of-happiness/.

Tonietto, Gabriela N., and Selin A. Malkoc. “The Calendar Mindset: Scheduling Takes the Fun Out and Puts the Work In.” Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 53, no. 6, Dec. 2016, pp. 922–36. SAGE Journals, https://doi.org/10.1509/jmr.14.0591.

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