When You Can’t Do More, Do Less

When we lack satisfaction, it’s easy to want to overfill our schedules. We are taught that satisfaction is out there, in the real world, as soon as we satiate this desire for more, newer, better, busier the empty feeling will fade away. Eventually, we fill our plate to overflowing until it is literally impossible to pile on one more thing. Still, we want more. Bigger. Better. Busier.

While there is certainly joy to be gained from adding a flower to your balcony or the perfect new piece of clothing to your wardrobe, it’s unlikely that adding a new item or activity is going to really fill the niche you want it to fill.

If you are ungrateful for what you have, more things probably aren’t the answer.

This is far from a tried-and-true rule, and more of a general principle for life in the consumerist culture of the U.S. If you’re hungry, getting food will help; if you’re lacking relationships, building community will fulfill that need. There are some ways that more really is more. More often, though, it’s the busyness and over-fulness that leaves us feeling overwhelmed yet unsatisfied in the first place.

This past weekend, I found myself in that place again. Transitioning to new jobs and all the changes that come with an increased work load left me feeling like I could not possibly add one more thing. As intentional as I try to be about minimalism and slow living, I’d gotten caught up in a cyclone of business yet again. I loved all the things I was doing, and didn’t realize how quickly they piled up and sucked me in.

It’s time to prioritize again: relationships, work, and health. Plain and simple.

I needed to let some lesser things go so I don’t spend my days running on fumes. Trading in the full, hour-to-prepare breakfast for a smoothie or some berries and yogurt; trading the always-done laundry for full loads on days I work more hours; letting go of some fun but non-essential tasks; and last but not least, delegating better and letting go of the highest standards for the lowest priorities.

Sure, I could stress out about not bringing a nice breakfast pastry to the potluck… or I can throw some diced potatoes in a pan and have something ready to go with about 5 minutes of prep. I could worry about how my dog will feel with one less daily walk, or I can remind myself that he hates the cold weather anyway and gets plenty of exercise with the walks that are left. I can feel like an awful roommate for asking my roommate to handle a little extra housework, or I can be grateful that they’re happy to help when I’m extra busy with other things, especially when it means more time for us to watch some shows at the end of the day. I am prioritizing my health, my career, and my community, and things that aren’t really important to any of those three things can fall to the side for now.

If you’re feeling constantly not-enough and unsatisfied, and you can’t do any more than what you’re doing, try doing less.

Less worrying.

Less stressing.

Fewer tasks in the day.

Make a list each day (or week) that is achievable, and if you really need more, add a list of “extra” tasks that don’t absolutely need to be done by you but that you’d like to accomplish. Stop treating everything as a top priority to do at the highest standard, or you’ll be running on that mental treadmill forever – until you get off, or fall off.

Do a little less this week. Take the good and done over the perfect and postponed. Focus on what you have, instead of trying to have more.

When you can’t do more, do less.

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