How many times do you hear yourself say “I have so much to do!”, or “I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done”? Or when someone you haven’t seen in a while asks how you are and you reply, “I’m great, I have so much on right now/I’m so busy/I hardly have time to stop!”
We boast about being too busy
We live in a culture where we celebrate being busy. Where being too busy to stop, relax, have time with family, friends, ourselves is applauded. Where we seem to compete on being busy. I’m so busy I work ten hours a day and I commute three hours day is received with sympathy and awe. Wow, you ARE busy. Congratulations, you win the busy award! And it isn’t enough to be busy with work. No no! we have to be busy out of work too. Whether its taking kids to out of school activities, cleaning our houses, going on courses, fitting in all our hobbies so that we have rest from work, whatever it is we are compelled to fill our time with as much activity as possible.
I am not immune to this epidemic of busy. I am doing an MA, writing this blog, organising my wedding which involves making nearly everything apart from the dress, I have a pile of books as high as my sofa that I want to read and am a VP in a stressful organisation, surely just doing one of those things should be enough? And where do I find the time to see friends and family?
Humans thrive on accolade
The problem is, we thrive on acknowledgement and accolade. We do things so that we hear the words, well done. We want reward. I am not ashamed to say that I get a thrill when one of you lovely readers comments on a post, or when someone shares it on social media. My efforts are rewarded. I am thrilled when I get a good mark on an essay for my MA and recognition at work is about the only thing that keeps me going in the job.
Sympathy will do too
And it is not just accolade we crave. Even when people are sympathetic to our cause, that counts as acknowledgement. It’s as though through our hectic lifestyles we are proving our worth whether we receive congratulations or empathy.
The price of being too busy is stress
But with this desire for acknowledgement comes a heavy price. Apart from the fact that it is clearly addictive (I have no scientific proof for that other than the examples above and observations of those around me), the route to receiving the reward is fraught with danger. Our health takes a hit when we push ourselves too hard. Stress is a key contributor to the world’s number one killer, heart disease. Stress is no longer used in order to trigger us into action to catch the next meal, it has become endemic within our everyday lives. Being stressed is a sign we are doing well. Actually no. Stress is a sign we are not coping and should stop. Smiling is a sign we are doing well. Relaxing is a sign we are doing well.
Let’s change what we are rewarded for
I’d like to change the reward system in our culture. We should be congratulating people on having less to do in their lives. When I ask how someone is I want to hear the words “I’m great, I have hardly anything stressful in my life right now.” Or “I’m wonderful thanks, I’ve done nothing all day.”
So here are my reasons why we should celebrate doing less
Doing less gives us time to breathe.
Breathing is the antidote to stress. I am not advocating not working in this article, and therefore a degree of stress is unfortunately potentially inevitable for some people. And in many jobs, stress may be essential. But the act of finding space in our lives enables us to cope with that stress in a healthy manner so we can use it to our advantage rather than become so run down we can barely get out of bed in the morning to face the day when we need to be at our prime. There are plenty of articles on the benefits of conscious breathing and how this helps reduce stress. By doing less, you allow yourself the space to take the time you need to breathe consciously more often.
Doing less can make us more productive
This seems like an incongruity, how can doing less improve our productivity? Surely, we should do more more more to get more done? In fact the reverse is true. By doing too much we often end up multi-tasking and this means we are less-focused on any one specific thing and are more likely to make mistakes. Taking breaks, working fewer hours and giving ourselves space actually makes us more productive and the work we get done will be of a higher quality because we have focused on it and not the other 100 things we think we need to get done at the same time!
Doing less means we have more energy
When we push too hard, we deplete our energy levels. We don’t just need a good night’s sleep to be able to be effective. We need to reduce the amount of stuff we focus on throughout the day. Giving ourselves space can and does increase our energy levels.
Doing less means we have more space to BE with our loved ones
This should be reason enough to do less. We run through life trying to achieve, and for many simply trying to earn enough to pay bills. But think about this. When you are on your deathbed will you be surrounded by your loved ones, or will they be off trying to achieve, following your example? Will you have wonderful memories filled with love, or filled with things you purchased to appease your family? It is not just you that needs acknowledgement and attention. The people you love need your love and your attention.
Doing less allows creativity to flow
Have you ever had the best idea just as you are falling asleep? Or while you are out for a walk with no other thoughts in your mind? Think. How often have you come up with the best idea while forcing yourself to come up with a solution to whatever is challenging you? Try it. When you are stuck with what to do in a particular situation, perhaps you can’t come up with a solution that is desperately needed for a pressing problem. Stop. Go for a walk. Do not think about it. Let your brain do less, give it space to work its magic…
There are plenty more reasons why doing less is good for us, hopefully these five will be enough to get you thinking about doing a bit less, perhaps boasting about that instead of how much you have and congratulating others on having less in their lives too.
I promise to start doing less and boasting about it. Hope you will join me!
The opinions in this post are my own and based on my own experiences. In future posts I will share HOW we can do less in our lives…
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