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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

21 Reasons Why We Complicate Life

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21 Reasons Why We Complicate Life

These days, many people live stressful, complicated, hurried lives — going and going and going and sometimes getting nowhere. I’ve been there too, with so much to do with seemingly little time to do it. Trying to be in control and rushing from people to places to projects with good intentions to get it all done.

If you’re one of these many people, even if it’s just every now and then, you should know that there are a few ways we actually make life harder on ourselves. The reverse of this is also true. Undoing our stress can be the path to really living life right.

Perhaps the thing we need the most isn’t more things to do, but a thorough cleaning of our mental, emotional, and physical to-do lists. When you’re doing so much in a day that you can’t remember anything you did and you don’t feel any better or more fulfilled having done it, then you are simply too busy and your life is too full and complicated.

Why complicate life?

Here are 21 ways we complicate life and how we can stop.

1. We Procrastinate

Projects pile up, certain tasks are constantly at the top of our to-do list, emails and text messages go unanswered, and people want our attention.

Nothing can clutter our minds more than things that go undone. When we don’t do the things we should at the times we know we should do them, we get overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed often leads to projects never being completed because we feel like we will never catch up.

Procrastination is complication. Our life will love us forever if we start doing things now.

Learn How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators.

2. We Worry

Worry is the mother of a complicated life. The more we worry, the more problems don’t get resolved.

Many times, we aren’t even facing real problems, just issues we’ve concocted in our minds. Yet we still worry. Worrying robs us of our joy, steals our peace of mind, and ruins our lives.

A problem is no greater than the power you give it. The energy we spend on our problems can be energy well-spent on finding solutions.

Here’s How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques.

3. We Wait

The perfect time never seems to be now, so we wait for it. The dream seems unattainable now, so we wait for a better time. The work seems too hard now, so we wait for it to get lighter. We wait and wait and wait… We end up waiting all our lives for things we have the time, talent, money, and power to reach for right now.

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Waiting is fine when you are not in control, but waiting for opportunities when it is in your power to create them is not beneficial.

If you’re looking for the perfect time to do what you’ve always wanted, here’s the answer for you.

4. We Do More Than We Should

We say yes to everyone and everything. The idea of commitment means everything; overcommitment puts a smile on everyone else’s face but yours.

It’s enticing to fill every minute of every day with meeting people, working on projects, and going places. But you have to ask yourself, is it necessary?

Give yourself space — lots and lots of space. Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No. Think. Plan. Do what you should and leave the rest alone.

5. We Accept Too Many Interruptions

When we are always busy, we have very little time for interruptions. When we get unfairly interrupted, we respond negatively.

Interruptions should be kept to a minimum — if it isn’t an emergency, don’t give your time to it. You will always be crazy busy if you allow people to stick their heads in your door every ten minutes with meaningless objectives and projects they can handle themselves.

Shift your focus from dealing with interruptions and being distracted to things that really need your attention. Learn How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus.

6. We Seek Approval and Affirmation From Others

This is often done unconsciously. But let’s be honest, most of what we do, we want people to like. The more people don’t like it, the busier we are refining and revamping it. This causes stress. In fact, The Desire to Be Liked Will End You up Feeling More Rejected.

One of the hardest things you will ever do is try to please people. It’s hard because you’ll never succeed. It’s a game — a futile, empty one at that. The goal is to like what you do, love what you do, think your own thoughts, create the life you want to live, and never mind if anyone approves or affirms you in it.

Don’t be afraid to love the path you’re walking on and the life you’re living — every step, every minute.

7. We’re Not Really Productive

Busyness and productivity are on opposite ends of the spectrum — if you’re busy, more than likely you’re not as productive as you could be. If you’re productive, odds are you’re not so head-under-the-desk busy that you can’t see anything else.

Busyness will exhaust you and complicate your life. Take a breather. Allow yourself to step back, analyze what you’re doing, and select the things that are most important and that will yield the most results.

Find out the 11 Differences Between Busy People And Productive People and choose to be productive.

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8. We Aim for Control

When we try to control more than we should, we don’t enjoy the journey or the destination.

Control is not the goal in life, connection is. Connection with others and with yourself. You will quickly get tired, frustrated, and bored with life if you are intent on controlling everything in your life.

Learn to let things go. Give your heart and mind a break from making all the decisions, being involved in every detail, and trying to steer in all directions at once. It’s not worth it. Take a break. Let go of some of your high expectations.

Here’s How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control.

9. We Hold on to Birds That Need to Fly

You can’t untangle your life if you’re unwilling to let go of some things and some people. What you had five years ago may not be what you need now. The people who walked your journey with you one year ago may not be the same people who need to walk with you today.

Drop a load off of your life by not holding on too tightly. If you do, you’ll be disappointed and always wondering why? how? when? what?

Accept differences. Embrace change. Give yourself permission to let go so you can have room to grab the next opportunity that comes your way.

10. We Participate in Drama

Drama is one of the bedrocks to a complicated and unpleasant life. Indulging in the drama of other people and giving your own drama free rein will cause you to be more stressed out and depressed than you ever thought possible.

There are people who feed off drama and don’t think they’ve had a good day until they’ve been involved in some trite situation that makes someone else look bad. Quit judging, start loving. Choose to see the good in others and help them bring it out.

11. We Take One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

In other words, we hesitate. We wonder if we should, we start, and then we stop. We see possibilities, we move forward, we encounter a roadblock, and then we quit. Wouldn’t you rather take a risk and see that it didn’t work out than not take the risk at all?

Life is full of opportunities and possibilities if we simply open our minds, eyes, and hearts to them. Persevere and believe that whatever you want, you will get. Keep your head up and don’t succumb to the voice of failure.

12. We Complain

We stress ourselves out when we find things to grumble about and nothing to be grateful for.

Complaining almost always changes nothing. When we focus on the next thing — the next pay raise, the next promotion, the next degree, the bigger house, the better car, another spouse, another friend — we neglect all the things that are before us and the people that are around us.

Stopping to breathe is part of the wonderful process of simplifying your life. We should be happy and thankful for who we are and for what we have right now.

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Always thinking of times in the past and in the future robs us of the joy of living in the present. Don’t waste your mental energy with ungrateful thoughts.

13. We Don’t Set Boundaries

No, everything is not a priority. No, everyone does not need your attention.

Yes, the world will roll right on if you go on a vacation, take a nap, or watch the sun set.

Boundaries influence who you are, what you believe, and where you stand in the grand scheme of everything else. Set, embrace, and respect boundaries. It’s not a sign of weakness if you can’t handle something; it’s an opportunity for your boundaries to show strength.

When we set boundaries, we show respect to our health, our time, our energy, and our life. When we decide when to say yes and when to say no, we take control of our lives. If you respect your own boundaries, other people will respect them as well.

Here’s How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries.

14. We Compare Ourselves to Others

Don’t compare your movie to someone else’s script.

Or don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20. You are entitled to embrace your life just the way it is, make the changes you know you can make, and walk your own path to success.

Nobody is obligated to write your life for you. Comparing yourself to someone else will set you up for failure. You wonder why so many people don’t succeed? Because they are way too busy trying to be like someone else, get what someone else has, look like someone else, and act like someone else.

Don’t worry about them; focus on you.

15. We Aren’t Honest

Dishonesty is a fast-track route to depression and heartbreak. You have to tell the truth to yourself and to others. You have to assess your life and your priorities openly and straightforwardly.

Choose to believe the truth and reject lies. Lies complicate life. If we truly love ourselves, we will tell ourselves the truth. If we love others, we will tell them the truth. Not only do we speak the truth, but we must be truthful in our actions and our attitudes.

16. We Don’t Forgive

Holding on to hurt feelings, bitterness, pent-up frustration, and emotions of hate and anger only makes situations worse. You are actively hurting your own wellbeing and mindset.

The freedom is when you release these emotions from your life and intentionally forgive yourself and those who’ve hurt you — even if they don’t ask for it, appreciate it, or deserve it. These feelings are as real to you throughout your life as you allow them to be. So let them go for your own sake.

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This guide can help you: How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide)

17. We Focus on Ourselves Instead of Others

We live in a very self-centered world. So many of us are only concerned about ourselves — what we want, what we like, what we can buy, how we can get ahead, how much money we can make, where we can go, what we can eat, and so on.

However, when we focus on ourselves only, we miss out on greater joys and blessings. Involvement with yourself all of the time can only confuse your life. Learn to reach out. Give. Serve. Love.

18. We Don’t Nurture Our Relationships

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, a lone wolf or a people person, you can’t survive without relationships. We were created at our cores to be social beings (or social animals, if you prefer).

The happiest people in the world have meaningful, honest, and deep relationships. I didn’t say you have to be close friends with everybody you meet. However, there are people in your life who know you, you know them, and you have a deep sense of connection and camaraderie — these are the relationships you need to spend time on, love, and nurture.

When we’re around those we really care about and who really care about us, we experience an emotional high that involves honesty, interdependence, sacrifice, and commitment that is strong and abiding.

19. We Live in the Past

What use is the past to you if not only to learn from it? We do things we shouldn’t, we don’t do things we should, and we do things we wish we hadn’t — it’s an unfortunate part of the process of growing up.

We’ve got the growing up part, but we don’t have the moving on part. This is what we need to get a hold of — the past is the past, learn from it, leave it, and move on. Sure, some of the things we did, the decisions we made, and the attitudes we had, we wish we could go back and do over. But we can’t — that’s the reality.

If we could change anything about the past, we wouldn’t be who we are today. So embrace your failures and mistakes, learn from them, laugh about them, and keep moving forward.

20. We Try to Cheat.

Skating through life and cutting corners has never helped anything or anybody. Doing what is right at all times should be your primary goal.

When we seek to do right and make appropriate decisions that are supported by knowledge, wisdom, and accurate information, we may make mistakes, but we never have to look over our shoulders or bog down our minds with why we didn’t do something a certain way.

Do the right thing at all times. Be honest. Be straightforward. If it’s bad, just say it. If it’s right, just do it. Nobody may ever know that you did the right thing, but you will know. You have a conscience and you are responsible for making sure that your conscience is free enough to speak to you.

21. We Avoid the Tough Stuff

So many people don’t like conflict. Any time an unfavorable situation arises, they immediately eject themselves from the conversation. Doing this is like the proverbial ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. The problem being avoided only gets bigger and bigger until it is confronted.

Are you willing to have uncomfortable conversations? Are you willing to deal with the tough stuff so the rest of your life can be better? Conflict that goes unaddressed in the present will only cause bigger problems in the future.

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Your ability to successfully and sanely manage your life will depend on the number of things (and people) you are willing to confront and how much tough stuff you’re willing to deal with.

More Tips for Living a Fulfilling Life

Featured photo credit: Wes Hicks via unsplash.com

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Daniella Whyte

Psychology Researcher

You Can If You Think You Can: 4 Ways to Build Self-Efficacy 21 Reasons Why We Complicate Life A Letter To My 50-Year-Old Self: On Grace and Getting Older Never Be the One Who Waits to Give Flowers 6 Questions That Help You Break Out of A Motivational Slump

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Last Updated on October 18, 2021

9 Practical Ways to Achieve Work Life Balance in a Busy World

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9 Practical Ways to Achieve Work Life Balance in a Busy World

When I worked in college housing, I found myself in a position that made me so uncomfortable, I had some big choices to make. I could continue to do things the way my supervisor wanted me to, or I could look for another job. In favor of more balance, I chose the latter.

This was a big choice for me. I was basically giving up a (rather) stable job that made me unhappy for the unknown.

And you know what? Focusing on balance was the right thing to do.

It was also the impetus that led me to FINALLY finish my book, Making ‘Work’ Work for You. I absolutely needed to take my work/life balance into consideration and make some drastic changes. I’ve done that. And I’ve found that this message is resonating out there in the world of higher education and many other fields.

I wanted to share some of the tips and hacks that I’ve developed and learned over the years. These are strategies I’ve used to make the work day more palatable and improve my attitude about balance.

1. Be Intentional on How You Schedule Your Time

You may have one of those jobs in which one could easily be in meetings for a full day, leaving very little time to actually get your work done. Staff meetings, senior management meetings, committee meetings, supervisory meetings (also called One-on-One’s), disciplinary meetings…this list goes on and on. Where’s the balance?

During my years as a Manager and Senior Manager, I was in meetings all the time and felt entirely too much pressure to stay late, work on the weekends, or god forbid you try to multi-task in those meetings! I’m blessed in my current position that I don’t have that problem – but I think a person can be much more intentional about time is scheduled during the work day.

In the first place, you know the saying, “if you don’t control your calendar, it will control you.” So control it (I have a great planner for that!). You need work time? Schedule it. Call it just that: WORK TIME.

I currently hold blocks of time as work-time and in the “location” section of Outlook, I write down what I want to get done during that section of time:

  • work on the science grant
  • clean up email box
  • web site changes
  • clean desk

And I try to do this at least one full week in advance so that I don’t get overwrought with meetings before I save time for me.

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However, don’t fill your entire calendar lest you get in trouble for not being available. I look at my recurring meetings first – which days are my busiest meeting days and which days are very open. I usually schedule a 2 to 3 hour block at a time, at least 2 to 3 times each week. My current supervisor actually really likes this strategy and has begun to try it for herself.

If you are working for a company who schedules a great many meetings, you may need to speak with your supervisor regarding your need to schedule more work time; especially if those recurring meetings are frequent.

Give yourself a month to get used to the meeting schedule, and then you can approach your supervisor about options you have to delegate or remove some of those meetings from your calendar.

2. Deal with Additional Priorities and Opportunities

Working in higher education, I haven’t always had the luxury of getting to decide for myself what’s important. But in considering how you are spending your time, think about the extra things you take on in addition to your regular work.

I’m going to be the first person who tells you that getting involved outside of your job is super important – for the professional development, making friends, networking, etc. But you may have to limit that involvement or consider that it’s part of your free time instead of your work time. And make choices that sustain this.

I was very active in my professional association once I moved to California, and I carried that with me a great deal. I chose to have much of my social life connected through that organization…and I chose to be involved rather than going to a movie or doing other social things on the weekends. When I became a runner, I had to further alter some of these choices of how to spend my time outside of work – I saw fewer movies and was less involved in my professional association. And then, during times when my volunteer work was really busy, I just was not training for races.

But sometimes you really do need to make a choice between the extra work/responsibility and your home life. Saying “no” means that you can say “yes” more often.

“Instead of saying, ‘I don’t have time,’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority’ and see how that feels.” –Courtney Carver

Figure out what projects mean the most to you. Which extra responsibility will you enjoy the most? Which project will aid in the advancement of your career, or help you to work with someone new and influential? Really consider this before taking on a new project or committee. It’s better to do a couple things really well than have mediocre performance in a ton of things.

Of course…there’s always the “other duties as assigned” clause in many of our job descriptions. You know what I’m talking about, they’re usually at the very bottom of the page, that “catch all” which seemingly gives your supervisor or other managers the option to throw extra projects at you. This can be tricky to navigate, especially during times when you are short staffed and surviving budget cuts. Be honest with your supervisor if you feel overwhelmed. Remember that you must communicate with peers and committee members who are sharing the workload with you.

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It should also go without saying that you ask permission to take on professional association committee work before you volunteer. It’s a common courtesy. It gives your supervisor the chance to assist you with skill sets and/or connections that could assist in your new project or committee work. If they’ve been in your field for some time, they could even have great suggestions and recommendations for you.

3. Find Portals for Flexibility

If you have the luxury of a flexible work day, then you can make room for longer breaks. You can be creative with your lunch hour or come in later/leave earlier when you need to.

Do you have the ability to work from home now and then? Will your supervisor allow that? Are you lucky enough to have one of those gigs? Make sure you keep it in perspective and get your things done. Don’t take advantage or take for granted, because you might lose it!

The flip side of this is having no flexibility – zero, zilch, none. Your work day is rigid and you have meetings, meetings, meetings. That’s tough. You may need to build in buffers between your meetings. Don’t schedule back to back meetings. Start a meeting at 9am, and if it’s over at 10:30, don’t schedule another meeting until 11am.

Don’t go back to the office and work before the next meeting. Take a walk, get a cup of coffee, and breathe. Control your calendar, or it will control you.

4. Put Your Work Day into Perspective

You know what? It’s just work. It’s meaningful for you – you put your heart and soul into it. But it’s just work. If you can’t draw the line between where your job ends and you begin….that might be a problem.

The big thing for me was being able to realize that I was no longer going home angry. That was a beautiful thing. I took my work home – in an emotional manner – for such a long time. I would be so frustrated with the tough day and/or negative students and/or a rotten staff meeting…I’d internalized so much of it and it made me angry.

So I needed to draw that line and say, “I’m going home and I’m going to be me.” That’s it.

5. Find a Buffer

You may need a buffer from your work day into your home life. If you are a live-in professional, this can be difficult. I’m lucky to have figured this out for me in my current vocation.

For two years, I was a walking commuter and listened to podcasts on my walk to and from work. Currently, I commute by car but the travel time is about the same. I still listen to podcasts but have been on a mad audiobook phase for the past three months. Jen Sincero just rocks. This usually clears my mind from any daily funk and puts me in a lighter mood when I get home.

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Some of you may have very long commutes and so, time in traffic further complicates your transition time. Loud music may turn into road rage, so I recommend podcasts (again – I’m a big fan), audiobooks, comfortable/slow music. Even something that you are familiar with and can sing along. But any drive home can feature these things, and you really only need a few minutes to make it happen.

During that transition time (otherwise known as your commute home), let go of everything that happened at work that day. The work day is over. What are you looking forward to once you get there? Spouse or significant other? Family, kids? Dogs? Someone making an amazing dinner for you? A very nice glass of wine and a fire?

Focus on one of those things to think about while you let your work day go…and SMILE — even if you have to force yourself to smile. Because even just smiling will brighten your mood.

6. Unplug from Technology

Even as I’m writing this, I know good and well that I struggle with this myself. My husband and I have smart phones and tablets, and I often bring my work laptop home. So I myself am not the model of unplugging. Writing for The Bulletin, Sarah Comstock addresses the fact that technology has been a double-edged sword. Advances are helpful and convenient but “have placed an enormous burden of relentless pressure on people as expectations rise in parallel with the speed of technological progress.”

Computers and gadgets are suddenly able to do just about anything; as human beings, we need to recognize that we can’t do everything. Being able to get away from our devices and technology is paramount to finding work/life balance.

In the first place, the main reason we add our work email to our phones is for convenience and flexibility. Having that connection allows us to respond to certain requests maybe between meetings, or while otherwise occupied. It’s most certainly not meant to keep us from our families or friends or to occupy our down time. You pull out the laptop with the intention of doing some personal research or maybe you are checking your bank account, and the next thing you know you’re opening Outlook and responding to emails. Suddenly a 15-minute task turns into an hour, or two. Next, there’s the itching desire to “quickly check email” while you are at a restaurant with your significant other or friends and there you go again – you get caught up in an email chain of crap that clearly could wait until the next day.

Does any of this sound like you? It’s me too, much of the time. Some different strategies to consider include…

7. Do a “Detox” from Some of the Apps on Your Phone That Suck up Your Time

These apps could include social media, games, fitness, or sports viewing. Based on a challenge I learned about on the Rich Roll podcast, for the entire month of June 2015, I took all social media off my phone. I did not check in anywhere, I did not tweet or post on Facebook, there were no new Instagram shots in my feed.

That gave me some balance when spending time with family and friends – it was nice to just be with them and not otherwise occupied with distractions.

8. Tackle Your Cell Phone Stuff

Consider whether your employer requires you to have a department-issued cell phone; and if your institutional culture dictates that you have access to your email all the time. One of my previous institutions did require a department-issued phone with work email intact. I received compensation for this, but it was expected that email notifications be turned on and the focus be on staying up to date with all communication.

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Thankfully, that is not the current culture for me. I do have work email on my phone, but notifications are turned off; and, in fact, from time to time I think about removing work email from my phone because I’d just as soon not have to worry about it. But given that my boss has work email on her phone, I model that example. And our classified staff members are not required to have email on their phone.

If the culture of your institution or your department requires this – don’t be a rogue employee for the sake of balance. But consider other ways that you can insure that your work email doesn’t dominate your device. Are you able to turn off the work-related phone on the weekends or at night? Can you talk to your supervisor about expected response times?

No one can check email 24 hours a day and still expect to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the office. That is NOT work/life balance.

9. Set a Time You Spend on Checking Emails

Try to keep your email at the office from dominating your day. I’m doing the best I can to open, read, and respond/delete to my emails as soon as I get into Outlook, and then close the application until the end of the day. I try to be at “Inbox Zero” before I go home. This insures that I’m not wrongly multitasking during the work day (which, by the way, there is no such thing as multitasking) or spending too much unnecessary time on email when there are projects to complete.

A new strategy I’m employing is to not open my email until I return from my lunch break. This was something my current supervisor read about in an article, and I really love the reasoning behind it. When you start the day with email, you are letting others dictate your priorities rather than controlling these yourself. If the email truly is an emergency, that person will call you or come find you.

Hit up your main priorities in the morning, and then settle into the questions after you get some food. I’m enjoying the productivity of my morning and the peace of mind I feel because I’m not letting others dictate my work day.

Essential to unplugging and finding balance is the notion of separating. Don’t multitask your work and your life. Unless part of your job is posting to social media daily, leave all that stuff at home during the work day. Do you need Facebook and Twitter open on your computer while you try to write that report (or get your email to “Inbox Zero”)? In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport suggests “the overuse of social media unwittingly cripples our ability to success in the world of knowledge work.”

Social media is lots of fun, but in the office it’s just a diversion that’s keeping you from finishing your vital tasks. The sooner you get your stuff done, the sooner you get home.

If you must make a personal call, check in with your significant other, or connect with your family; you can do so by taking a quick break and making your call from the break room or outside.

The Bottom Line

You’re probably scratching your head by now because most of these tips seem SO easy. They are! You just need to make the commitment to yourself, make the effort, and then go for it. You can do this!

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Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

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