The Unstuffed Life

Charles Dickens once wrote, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.” Yet while many seem to understand this principle when it comes to money, far too few demonstrate such an understanding when it comes to time.

When it comes to one’s time people generally subscribe to the belief that more is more. Whether it’s the jam packed schedules of today’s children, or the workaholic schedules proudly shared by famous tycoons, modern life revels in being busy.

Rather than the examined life, we seem intent instead on living the overstuffed life.

Yet quality is more important than quantity when it comes to how you live your life. By filling our calendars, we turn everything into a matter of scheduling. We rush to finish whatever we’re doing, never pausing to enjoy or savor, because any break just means we fall further behind.

Why do everything if that means you cannot enjoy anything? For money? A friend lamented not going into hedge funds like his other friends so he could cash out and live the good life. I simply asked, “How many of your hedge fund buddies actually retired after they made their FU money?”

My friend thought for a moment and said, “None. They’re all still working.”

Doing too many things, even things that you love, leads to unhappiness. Do yourself a favor and unstuff your life.

7 thoughts on “The Unstuffed Life

  1. For such a short word, "No" can be so hard to say.

  2. I agree so entirely with this … I recently wrote about an Anne Lamott essay where she asserted that we do in fact have time for the things that matter to us, and not doing them is a statement of priority, not ability. So I then turned around and posited that the way we spend our time represents our values and the things we prize … right?

  3. There's a great moment in the obscure Michael Keaton movie "The Paper," where his long-suffering wife tells him that the key choices in life don't show up in big dramatic moments, but in the little choices we make every day in how we spend our time.

    I'm quite happy (and lucky) that today I'll have had three meetings/calls with friends that all relate to my business, but will all have been occasions for joy, laughter, and a little introspection.

  4. Here's to less!

    Living one's values consistently is a great way to minimize self-generated distractions.

    And recognizing the difference between urgency and importance will further minimize those nagging intrusions from other people.

    You can always earn more money — but you'll never be able to earn more time. Better to spend it doing things you love and being clear about when and why you're trading it for cash.

  5. Josef Pieper wrote "Leisure: the Basis of Culture", in 1947. When asked, "What are scientists going to do now, that the war has come to an end?", he responds:

    "[T]he world of work is becoming our entire world; it threatens to engulf us completely, and the demands of the world of work become greater and greater, till at last they make a 'total' claim upon the whole of human nature."

    Josef's thesis is that we need time for leisure.

    David Levy (PARC, Library of Congress) ponders:

    Will it ever be possible to keep, or reclaim, some room for leisure from the forces of total work? And this would mean not merely a little portion of rest on Sunday, but rather a whole 'preserve' of true, unconfined humanity: a space of freedom, of true learning, of attunement to the world-as-a-whole? In other words, will it be possible to keep the human being from becoming a complete functionary, or 'worker'?

    Without leisure, people will become less fully human.

    Leisure is a form of stillness that is the necessary preparation for accepting reality; only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still cannot hear… Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion in the real.

  6. Jason,

    I often think that people gravitate towards the noise of the external world because they're afraid of what they'll hear if they give themselves the leisure to listen to what's inside.

  7. Hi there,

    I have a proposition for you. Would you mind getting in touch with me at I'd appreciate it!



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