In Praise of Limits

By Leo Babauta

We live in a world of abundance, often to the point of excess: we can buy anything anytime, consume as much of the Internet as we want, eat anything all the time, work as much as our bodies will allow.

With so much available, it can become overwhelming, unhealthy, unbalanced.

I’d like to propose a few limits.

Instead of unlimited time online and on the phone, what if you limited yourself to two hours a day, not including time spent on work tasks? You’d now have space in your life for other things: exercise, reading, meditation, cooking healthy food, cuddling with loved ones.

Instead of working from the minute you wake up until you’re going to bed, what if you only worked six hours a day? Or four hours? That would be dependent on what kind of job you have, of course, but in this hypothetical situation, you’d probably use that limited time better, with more focus, and get your important tasks done first. And you’d be better rested and therefore have better focus and energy when you did work.

Instead of eating as much as you can, what if you only ate during certain predefined times? For example, if you only ate between 12-1 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., you’d probably eat less. Or what if you only could eat whole foods, nothing pre-prepared or with sugar, white flour, or weird chemical names? You’d eat less and your health would improve.

Instead of being able to buy things all the time, what if you could only buy things (other than groceries and toiletries) on the 1st of every month? You’d probably buy less, and your debt would decrease and savings and investments would increase.

What if you could only do 3 tasks a day (besides responding to emails)? You’d pick the important tasks.

What if you could only sit for a total of two hours a day? You’d move around more, do some work standing up, drop some of your back problems, and lose some weight.

These limits, of course, are only arbitrary. It would take some experimenting to figure out what would work best for you. But you can see in these examples that limits can be powerful, because they force us to choose, to focus, to go from excess to healthy moderation.