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How to stop having the life sucked out of you


By Kelly Exeter

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Back in the day, my favourite word in the world was “YES”.

Not only do I like to be helpful, I also can’t bear to let an opportunity pass by. So for anything that was asked of me, my only criteria for whether I should say yes was “Can I do it?”

Not “Should I do it” or “Do I really want to do this” or “Is this taking me in my ideal life direction?” Nope, if something was within my capabilities, I would do it.

Naturally, this is no way to live life. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should and the price of saying yes to everything is that it leaves little time in your life for the things that you truly love to do. Let’s face it; life is too short to spend time doing a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make your heart sing.

Saying no is hard though, especially when you’re that person. The one everyone knows can be relied on to lend a hand whenever it is needed. That person who is willing to give anything a go.

So what can you do?

Well you need to start by identifying your passions – the things you would do all day every day if you had all the time in the world at your disposal. For me, my passions are my family, writing, reading and design. These are the things I wish I had more free time for.

The next step is to identify the stuff that sucks the life out of you. It might be that you’re maintaining a toxic friendship or serving on a committee that just does your head in. Or maybe you’re doing work that is a little soul destroying.

This last one was the situation I found myself in about a year ago and it is especially true for many creative people who start businesses. They end up spending so much time caught up in the minutiae of running of their business that they don’t get to do all the fun stuff – the creating.

The solution? Well it can be a long process but you need to start somewhere.

Identify one soul-destroying thing that takes up a lot of time and figure out a way to eliminate it from your life. In the case of the toxic friend, you simply don’t see them anymore. If running your business is sucking the life out of you, determine the things you hate that someone else can be doing (like say, the bookkeeping!)

Don’t try to change everything at once but over time, as you eliminate the things that drain your energy, you can also run any new requests and opportunities through a different filter. For me, “Can I do this?” has been replaced by “is this in line with your stated passions?” If the answer is no, then that is my response too.

On the surface this may seem a little selfish but obviously it’s not. We’re no good to the people around us if we’re unhappy, and there’s no faster path to unhappiness and resentment than doing ‘stuff’ we feel we should be doing rather than the stuff we’d like to be doing. And we don’t have to stop helping people either; we just need to help in a way we enjoy. For someone like me, I’d be better off designing a club newsletter than I would be serving on the committee. For someone else, it might be the reverse.

Whatever way you decide to go, it pays to remember that ‘true passions flourish in clear air’. I wonder how many of us are in the position where we desperately need to create some clear air in our lives.

Do you have an energy suck in your life at the moment? Is there a passion you could feed by getting rid of just one commitment?

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Kelly Exeter - to view all of Kelly's blog post click here

Kelly Exeter is a blogger, designer and writer who has contributed to Marie Claire, Mamamia and The Hoopla. She believes that a busy life need not be a stressful life and enjoys the challenges of being mother, wife and person while juggling three businesses and several creative pursuits. She blogs about this and more at A Life Less Frantic.


  • Great article Kelly so very true. Sometimes though it can take a lot of planning and you need to have long term goals. My dream of following my passion started back in 2010 when I realised that I was stressed beyond belief and knew something had to give. I made a four year plan which I am now half way through and although sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps back I know that I am over half way there.

    • Kelly Exeter

      That’s brilliant Jodi. It’s unfortunate that it is such a slow process – but that’s just reality. And two steps forward one step back is still heading forward. I know that feeling SO well!

  • I had a dramatic realisation late last year as I was juggling the kids, work, my family, study and my friends and then serving as the secretary on the P&C at my daughters school. Why was I writing minutes for meetings that didn’t add a thing to my life, that gave me chest pains, that made me want to cry? Volunteers are the saviours of society but I figured I was more use somewhere else, so I handed in my notice and every third tuesday of the month I eat a big fat piece of cake and focus on doing stuff I want to do (instead of talking about handstand bans)

    • Me and committee meetings of any shape or kind have never ever gone well together – they just do my head in. I too feel so grateful to volunteers the world over, but shall restrict my volunteering to things that I like doing. Win win!

  • Jane Copeland

    I have been trying to create some “clean air” ever since giving birth to Elliott at year ago. Since then I’ve tried to focus my efforts around things I’m passionate about. Actually doing this was more difficult that I thought it would be. I’ve had to have been comitted to making it happen. I love this sentence – “Can I do this?” has been replaced by “is this in line with your stated passions?” If the answer is no, then that is my response too. What a great suggestion, I am going to try and do this moving forward. Also I love ‘true passions flourish in clear air’… so, so true.

    • Thanks so much Jane 🙂

      And it IS really hard to achieve that clean air because we’re kind of fighting that bit of us that is hard wired for sacrifice and putting everyone else first. But slowly slowly has been my motto and slowly slowly I am getting there!

  • How many times do I think… Kelly and I live parallel lives? REGULARLY!

    I’ve sold myself too cheaply, saying yes, to be helpful and then not being able to do the things I am really passionate about. I’ve begun to accept that I am good enough, I have nothing to prove to anyone by putting too much on my plate. I’m the controller of my free time, how cheap do I want to let my free time to do the things I love and be with the people I love, go for? I think women on the whole need to ensure they have reserved enough for them to be the women they are meant to be, not crushed and lifeless because life itself has been sucked out of them, often at their own doing. We need to work smarter not harder!

    • Bless you my lovely friend, it’s an honour to live a parallel life with you! And what’s with that whole need to prove ourselves and show just how much we can take on!! Totally agree that all we achieve is selling ourselves short 🙂

  • I can really relate to this Kelly, and was having a similar conversation with my sister-in-law just a few days back.
    She was telling me how much she loves working in admin – a concept that is so completely foreign to me!!
    Me, I’m absolutely surrounded by piles of paperwork from hubby’s business, and while I ‘can’ do the accounts, I’m terrible at the admin & filing side of things. And all I really want to be doing is working on my blog and bookshop, because I love it SO much.
    Like so many women, I’m torn between the have-to-do’s (those things that keep the family fed and clothed!), the should-do’s, the can-do’s, and the love-to-do’s.
    Clean air?? Sounds so good. For me, I know that will come when I find someone who loves admin as much as my sister-in-law does – and a bookkeeper too! – and start getting a whole lot more energized doing what I love. Thanks for the reminder!

    • One thing at a time Brigid! Trust me, I was you a year and a bit ago 🙂

  • Lakshmi Singh

    I just said “No” to something after thinking about the points you made in this article Kelly! If it wasn’t for this article, I probably would have said Yes and drowned in the self-imposed pile of work!

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