On one of my recent morning walks, I tuned into the Hidden Brain podcast hosted by Shankar Vedantam. The title “Do Less” caught my attention. The antithesis of how most of us operate. Just had a meeting reschedule? Great! Already filling that slot with another call. Feeling good about crossing something off your to do list while adding three more items. Sound familiar?
The human drive to invent new things has led to pathbreaking achievements in medicine, science and society. But our desire for innovation can keep us from seeing one of the most powerful paths to progress: subtraction. In the book, Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, Leidy Klotz says sometimes the best way forward involves removing, streamlining and simplifying things.
So, how can we do less to accomplish more? Here are a few tips to try:
• “No, but.” From avoiding projects that aren’t a great fit to preventing burnout, sometimes you just have to say no to things. Try cushioning a “no” with a “but.” For example, “I’d really love to help, but I just don’t have the time right now with everything else going on. Can we check back in X months and I’ll see if I can lend a hand?”
• Prioritize. List your most essential job each day and set aside other tasks for another day. This allows you to stay focused and accomplish what you need each day without getting buried in extra things.
• Progress, not perfection. Relieve stress by focusing on what you can control. The situation may not turn out exactly how you planned, but as long as you take steps towards your end goal, you’re still succeeding.
• Recharge. Schedule quick breaks throughout your day to increase productivity. Helpful suggestions: meditate, read, nap, walk. Not so helpful ideas: social media, emails, planning what you are going to do next.
• Ask for help. Too many tasks and not enough time? Ask a family member to help with chores, delegate work tasks to a coworker, try a food delivery service instead of cooking dinner.
I challenge you to subtract something from your list or your day. Do less to make a positive change in your life.