There’s endless research on the benefits of slowing down and embracing a quiet life. Simplicity leads to less stress, better sleep, improved mood, increased creativity, and more. While “slowing down” is a nice idea, in theory, it can be difficult to achieve in our high-stress, high-pressure world. And additionally, for those of us who naturally identify as Type A, these aspirational goals can feel even more unattainable.
So what is “Type A”? While I personally think most personality types are a spectrum more than a concrete label, Type A people tend to be defined by their work performance, productivity, competitiveness, and more high-strung nature. We love a checklist and live for a spreadsheet; we don’t have hobbies, we have side hustles. It’s hard for us to relax, as a lack of productivity feels like wasted potential and we can often fall into what I call “toxic productivity”. As a Type A person, I’ve found a few tactics that help me embrace simplicity when my brain is screaming at me to stay plugged in and productive.
1. Find a reason to get outside.
Finding a way to “push” yourself to do something uncomfortable based on what you already enjoy will keep you going back out of desire instead of obligation.
Depending on your location, nature is not always easy to come by. However, for those of us who have a hard time divesting our attention from our social media feeds and to-do lists, nature can do wonders. Before I started making conscious efforts to simplify my life, the concept of “getting away” into nature felt like a huge waste of time to me. I’m deeply pragmatic and felt like the outdoors had nothing to offer me besides spotty cell reception and a wasted afternoon. But there are deeply therapeutic benefits to being outside.
When we struggle to maintain perspective, nature exists as a gentle reminder that the world has functioned for millennia without our efforts and will continue to function long after we are gone. Earth is bigger than our problems and does not need our stress to keep turning. As biologist Rachel Carson puts it, “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
I have a confession to make, however, which is that I have had to proactively find reasons to go outside. Again, my toxic pragmatism keeps me from doing things without a “purpose,” so I meet myself halfway. Geocaching, drone photography, and rock painting are ways I motivate myself to get outside. Finding a way to “push” yourself to do something uncomfortable based on what you already enjoy will keep you going back out of desire instead of obligation.
2. Stop trying to buy your way to a more organized life.
Life is hectic and fast-paced and stressful, and you can’t organize yourself out of the clutter.
We Type As love a good product. We love the idea that our problems can be solved with the perfect paper planner, the most Instagrammable closet organization system, the highest-rated to-do list app. But after many years of trying to lower my stress (and buying many, many aspirational products aimed at helping me live more simply), the one thing I’ve found that actually helps is: nothing. There’s no book or ideology that replicates the therapeutic power of owning only what is essential.
Because the truth is, life is hectic and fast-paced and stressful, and you can’t organize yourself out of the clutter. This applies to both physical and mental clutter. When you surround yourself with unnecessary stuff, it owns you more than you own it. “Minimalism” can be a loaded word for some people, but for me, it’s been a several-year journey of reducing the items, obligations, and people in my life that don’t add value. That’s it. There’s no subscription service or e-book that will teach you how to make this happen. It’s internal, emotional work.
3. Get to the root of your productivity obsession.
Many of us just need frequent reminders that the sum of our character and time on earth is not calculated in hours worked or deadlines achieved.
One of the major turning points in my journey towards living more simply as a Type A person is to address the why. Why am I high-strung, why is relaxing so hard? How am I expected to slow down when your worth feels defined by your productivity? Through therapy and self-reflection, I came to realize that I held such impossible standards for myself not out of a desire to be the best, but out of a crippling fear of failure. I don’t want to think of myself as a loser; I don’t want to be surpassed by my peers. But comparing my journey to others kept me constantly spinning out, tired, irritable, and insecure. I valued productivity because I felt like it was all I had to offer the world.
While I have made significant progress towards simplifying my life through embracing nature, decreasing the clutter and noise in my life, and living more intentionally, the thing that tends to help me the most is surrounding myself with people and media that remind me to constantly shift my value system. One mantra that I recite to myself almost daily is “time enjoyed is never wasted.” Many of us just need frequent reminders that the sum of our character and time on earth is not calculated in hours worked or deadlines achieved. Hard work has its time and place, but it is not the only reason we’re here.
Kate Sortino is a freelance writer currently living in Anchorage, Alaska. She spends her free time reading, drinking coffee, and working a million hours a week to save up to travel for a year. You can see more about her adventures here. She is always cold.
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