How to do less and live more
March 18, 2013
How can you make room for your well-being when there aren’t enough hours (or coffee) in the ever-exhausting day? We’ve been asking ourselves this question for decades. This isn’t breaking news. We all know that our lives are overbooked, and it seems to be getting worse. But lately I’ve been wondering if we’re busier than we really need to be. Are we creating extra work and obligations for ourselves by thinking we’re more essential than we actually are? The answer to the last question might bruise your ego. But sometimes your body and spirit need you more than your laptop, friends and even family.
Today I’m going to share a recent experience that inspired me to create more work/life balance. Then I’ll give you tips to help you make more time for yourself.
Ready for my big ah-ha?
I finally took time off, and no one needed me.
For years, I had dreamed about taking a vacation with my husband, but something else always trumped our plans: doctor visits, speaking engagements, manuscript deadlines, web launches, renovations and one emergency after another. Finally, even though the week landed in the middle of a crucial time for my company, we booked the tickets.
Of course I was nervous about what would happen in my absence. But did the world explode? NO. My team actually thrived more without me. Ouch and AWESOME! They made deeper bonds with each other, had time to check off old to-do’s and wrapped up a big project with ease. By the end of the week, they were proud of their work and couldn’t wait to share their shine with me. And while I felt proud too, I also felt off balance to learn that my chronic indispensability was part fantasy.
If I’m not as important as I previously imagined, can I make more space for me? Absolutely!
Your participation isn’t always life-and-death. Your colleagues can run that meeting without you, your 7-year-old can make that peanut butter and jelly sandwich on his own (and yes, even clean up the mess!). When we separate fact from fiction, we find a treasure trove of time sitting right under our noses. There will always be ten more emails to read and endless demands on our time. We’re scared to power up, and we’re scared to power down. Life is messy. Work is messy. Accept the mess, but then do something about it.
Tips to work less and live more.
- Disappoint people. When you bite off only what you can chew, you’re going to disappoint people. Guess what? Not your problem. You’re not doing anything wrong. Here’s an idea: Make peace with guilt. Guilt is a poisonous illusion. Many languages don’t even have a word for guilt. Sure, we all feel it. But we also get to decide if we’re going to let guilt bring us down or not. Acknowledge the feelings, and then give yourself permission to let them go.
- Keep emails and meetings short. Just because someone sends you a long, chatty email doesn’t mean you need to respond in the same lengthy fashion. When my life got busier, my inbox became a town of its own. With so many technologies in our lives, the etiquette is ever-changing. Establishing a clean and brisk style of communicating may cause unease at first, but people will get on board and even be grateful. The same holds true for meetings. While we can still be friendly and build relationships, we don’t need to waste too many hours circling the wagons to nowhere. Meet smart. Live more. A restorative yoga class is waiting.
- Hit delete. OK, this is hard for me to admit. Sometimes I just delete emails. Yup, I don’t answer. I use an away message to let people know that I’m focused on other things, and they may not hear back from me. Clearly this doesn’t work in every situation. Use common sense–you can’t delete messages from your aging granny or boss, but the low hanging fruit doesn’t always need to be picked, especially when it comes in mass email form. Go ahead, put up a message for a week and see what happens. Next, I dare you to just press delete.
- Let them judge. You can’t please everyone. When you’re too focused on living up to other people’s standards, you aren’t spending enough time raising your own. Some people may whisper, complain and judge. But for the most part, it’s all in your head. People care less about your actions than you think. Why? They have their own problems! However, when you do get the stink eye, it’s because folks are jealous of the gutsy risks you take. They’re too scared to look in the mirror and take action. Thicken your gorgeous skin, and move on.
- You don’t need to fix people. I constantly offer to fix people who don’t ask to be fixed! Part of healing or being successful is self-reliance. No one handed me the keys to the kingdom, I had to blaze my own trail. And while I truly love helping people, it’s not my job to save everyone, especially when folks have their own plans and agendas. Plus, it can also be annoying!
- Trust. Trust is a core currency of any relationship. Sometimes our need to control and micromanage everything erodes our confidence in ourselves and others. The truth: People are much more capable than we think. A hearty dose of trust is often what’s needed to unlock the magic. Go ahead, have faith.
- You can’t give it all. For me, creative benders are essential. I become a laser-focused writing machine, and I thrive during those periods. But those jags aren’t sustainable. I can’t give every task equal priority and time. Sometimes I can do less than perfect. It’s not lazy. It’s realistic. Especially because my expectations are high (too high at times!). Occasionally, doing less is more than enough.
- You can’t have it all. You can still be ambitious, run your own business, heal your body and be a nurturing and committed lover and parent — just not 100 percent of the time. We have to make choices and sacrifices. And even if we could have it all, why would we want it? ALL takes a lot of additional work. And of course, are we ever satisfied? We weren’t put on this planet to grind like ever-cranking engines that only stop when they seize. Heart attack city!
- You are worthy just sitting still. This is a big one for me! I’m still learning how to be more present. When I am, I hear my body’s subtle messages before they get too loud. In music and art, the beauty comes not only from the notes and the lines, but from the spaces between them. Doing nothing is sometimes the best investment in your life and your health.
This blog post is not about lowering your standards or shrinking from life. You matter. You are important. The world would be far less awesome without you. And, believe it or not, it will still keep spinning even if you step back and nurture yourself.
Now I really want to hear from you.
Did this post resonate? What are your thoughts? Please share your tips — we ALL need them.
Peace & roomier days,