Do less stuff

Published by Lori Pickert on July 28, 2012 at 03:31 PM

This will be anathema to the multitudes who worship at the altars of Motivation and its close relation, Productivity. Indeed, when I meet with ambitious young entrepreneurs, I am invariably asked, “How can I get more done in fewer hours? What can I do to jump-start my creativity? How can I keep my edge?”

Here are the three answers I can offer: 1. You can’t. 2. Stop trying so hard — if it feels like work, something’s wrong. 3. Do less stuff. — How to Get Creative: Stop Trying


Comment by Lori Pickert on July 28, 2012 at 03:41 PM

“List your commitments, and pick one to eliminate today. It’s a simple matter of making a call or sending an email explaining that you can’t do the commitment. Trust me, they’ll find a way to live without you. You’ll start to free up time for what’s more important to you.” — Leo, Simplify


Comment by Heather on July 28, 2012 at 06:43 PM

This is so very accurate in our family. Too many commitments or distractions detract from the whole. It has taken me a long time to realize this as I come from the altar of overcommitment and guilt for not being "busy."

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 29, 2012 at 02:41 PM

guilt for not being "busy"


this is what we should discuss — why so many of us feel guilty if we’re *not* busy, if our schedules *aren’t* overloaded. why has a stuffed schedule become a sign of successful parenting?!

Comment by Jennifer on July 29, 2012 at 02:06 PM

On one hand, yes. An interesting book on this is Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne. And I've found that living in the UK (away from the American pride in busy-ness) has helped greatly to simplify, to strip away things I don't want to prioritize.

On the other hand, skills are different. Learning a new skill often involves pushing through a "hump" of I-don't-feel-like-it, after the excitement of starting the new skill and before it starts to come together. At least that's what I've found; daily practice helps to push through the hump and into the pleasure of building a skill.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 29, 2012 at 02:34 PM


on the *other* other hand ;o) doing less stuff could make it possible for you to focus on one important thing to give it that extra practice and skill-building.

in the article, jason was answering the question “how do i keep my edge?” with “do less stuff” — i’m going to interpret that to mean that if you stop distracting yourself with all the things you *could* do, you can really dig into that thing that means the most to you.

i think it’s great that you point out that busy-ness is a cultural issue. my family does not suffer from busy-ness — at all. haha. we are the ones who are chided by others for not joining more activities or attending every social event we’re invited to. i think we’re culturally closer to .. three-toed sloths. ;o)

Comment by Jennifer on July 29, 2012 at 03:27 PM

Yes. I suppose I'm addressing a different question in that. It was a reaction (as opposed to a response!) to the "if it feels like work, something's wrong." I guess I've found that with lots of things I've wanted to learn, I have to push myself over the odd hump to get to the place of really enjoying it. When I was younger I used to let myself get stalled out from things I wanted to learn by the hump; then I read something CS Lewis wrote (in Screwtape Letters, I think) about it and it clicked -- sometimes you have to push through to get to something you want.

Which does involve prioritizing by not "distracting yourself with all the things you *could* do," of course!

I remember reading somewhere (and I can't for the life of me remember where) that much unhappiness is caused by letting the thing you really want be ousted by the thing you want at the moment.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 29, 2012 at 08:52 PM

YES. well, you know i am a champion for work. i hate that “work” has become a bad word. i think work is a crucial part of a happy life — finding a purpose, finding your own meaningful work. and to achieve anything you have to be willing to stick with it and do the hard stuff — which i think proj-based hs’ing helps children learn.

> "if it feels like work, something's wrong."

the other thing this makes me think of is something i’ve written about before — that children who come up through the traditional system (as well as all perfectionists) end up thinking they should stick with things that come easily. because there’s no benefit in doing anything that’s hard. which is a terrible way to live. we can’t deny ourselves the pleasure of things that are difficult or that don’t come easily. and most things worth having require great effort.


i meant to say before — i’m going to check out the book you recommended, simplicity parenting. :)

re: where you read the quote, wherever you read it, i bet it’s on pinterest now. ;o)

Comment by charmaine on July 29, 2012 at 08:42 PM

I def believe in the benefits of doing less! ;)

Though I also took issue with the quite Jennifer commented on - that if something is hard, then something's wrong. There are all sorts of reasons why something might feel hard - it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't be doing it! It reminds me of these quotes about writing:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Ernest Hemingway

or the "I don't like writing, but I like having written" quote - not sure who that comes from...

Anyhow, I think if something is always hard or miserable for you, then it's worth thinking about why, but that just because something is hard, doesn't mean it's not worth doing... :)

Comment by charmaine on July 29, 2012 at 08:44 PM

Hmmmm rereading the quote... he says if something feels like work, which I read to mean hard or miserable, but maybe it means something else to him... and he also says 'something's wrong', which I read to mean don't do it, but I guess it could also just mean to rethink, reexamine, try it a different way, etc.... hmmmmm....

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 29, 2012 at 08:56 PM


remember, he’s saying that expressly in answer to the question, “What can I do to jump-start my creativity?” (and he answers: “Stop trying so hard — if it feels like work, something’s wrong.”) so it’s not a blanket statement about everything in the world that feels like work. :)

and i do think that creativity is something born out of playfulness, relaxation, and “flow.” someone who sits down and tries to force it is probably going to fail.

but i agree with both of you — i would NOT agree with a blanket statement “if it feels like work...” because hard work feels like work and should not be avoided, if you’re working hard for something worthwhile. :)

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