Limits can set you free

The photographic exhibition that I stumbled on along the beachfront.   The cornflower blue sky bleeding into the sea.  Fresh air and exercise, basking in the early summer sunshine.

I would have missed it all if my budget had allowed for a return bus ride from my coffee date.

Instead, I spent the fare on another drink and took an hour to meander back along the seafront.  The whole morning was pure fun, with none of that queasy feeling you get when you spend more than you can afford.

Is there anything more joyful and freeing than knowing you have more than enough – money, time, energy, love, health?  Isn’t that what we are all striving for, really?

And yet, without limits, they are so easily squandered.

  • We spend money we don’t have, rather than stick to a budget or a list, feeling uneasy even as we spend it.
  • Tasks are allowed to take as long as they take.  Deadlines drift and bleed into others and into our free time.
  • Meetings are held and nothing is achieved.  No matter, we’ll just schedule another one, and another until our deadline is so close that we have to be productive.
  • Bedtimes flex and we pay the price in tiredness the next day.
  • We choose quantity over quality in our food and find ourselves fatter and hungrier than ever.
  • One glass of wine leads to another – and another and another.
  • And, of course, hours can disappear into social media binges which end only when we’re exhausted,  ratty and cross with ourselves for getting so little done.

Limits – like so many things which actually lead to happiness but are bad for consumer spending –  have become unfashionable.   We’ve been led to believe that limits are a curb on our possibilities, our choices, our very freedom.

But we can use limits to set us free – from work, debt, low energy, poor health, stress – to enjoy more time, money, joy, life.

Need some inspiration to get started?  Right this way.

Limit your spending

Set a monthly budget that allows you to save a regular amount – however small – and stick to it at all costs.   Challenge yourself to get what you need and do what you want for less.   Discover the joy of feeling in control of your money and knowing that you have more than enough for your needs.

Then, once you’ve got the savings habit, learn how to invest for far greater returns and earlier retirement.

It’s your money and your future financial security – put yourself in charge.

Limit the claims on your attention

Only read your mail and e-mail when you have the time to deal with it.

Challenge yourself to deal with each piece of mail one time only.   Scan it, and if it makes your heart leap or you have to act on it, then act on it – straight away.  If you don’t want, or have, to act then bin it, or unsubscribe from it, then and there.

Don’t save anything to consider later.  Don’t write half a reply and promise to reply more fully another time.   You are just adding to your to do list.  Just do it.

Limit your to dos

To mis-quote Bill Gates, we underestimate how much we can do in a year, and overestimate how much we can do in a day.   Pick just three things to achieve in any day and do them.   Repeat.

It all adds up and it builds your confidence in getting things done.  And the other things will still be there in the morning.

Limit your space, limit your stuff

You may not need a bigger house or more storage space, and all that that costs you.  You may just need less stuff, smaller stuff, stackable stuff, fold away stuff.

Stuff expands to fill the space available.  Limit the space, limit the stuff.  More inspiration here.

Limit the time it takes

Remember how productive you are at work right before you go on holiday?

Experiment with time limits and deadlines.  See how quickly you can get something done.  Let go of the need for it to be perfect and feel how good it feels to get it off your plate.

Or see if you can leave the office at the same time each day and still get your work done.

Then use the spare time for something fun.  Or better still, schedule the fun in first, then make your work fit around it.

Limit the distractions

Before you go online or pick up your phone, ask yourself why you are you doing it. To research something?  Make contact with friends?  Surf for inspiration and, if so, for what?

Do the task you intended to do.  Set a time limit for idle surfing or researching.  Then close your browser down or put your phone away.

Resist the temptation to keep checking in.  If anything’s critical, someone will ring you.  Anything else can wait until you have the time and energy to deal with it.

Limit what’s going in your mouth

If you can’t stop grazing and picking, then set limits on when you eat.  Go back to old fashioned mealtimes and only eat then.  Plan your meals so that you fill up on good quality, sustaining food then don’t eat until the next meal.

For those of us lucky enough to have more than enough to eat, there are worse things in the world than feeling a bit hungry.

Limit what’s going on in your head

When something pops into your head, treat it like email.  If it’s important and urgent, action it straight away.  If it’s important but not urgent, action it or write it down.

Anything else – worries, ruminations, criticisms, judgments, frustrations, imaginary conversations – let it go and get back to what you were meant to be doing.   More on all that here.

Like water, our time, money, attention and health are life-giving, precious resources.  We can waste them and be limited by their lack.  Or we can choose and use limits to serve us and set ourselves free.

What life-giving limits do you use – and what new ones could give you more?

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