The Fine Art of Doing Less

Katherine Cork's picture
By Katherine Cork on June 7, 2019

Your life is probably hectic. We all juggle an enormous number of competing priorities, from time with family and friends to commitments at work and school.

Not to mention trying to fit in time for exercise, meal planning and a good night’s sleep.

Sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day for everything that "needs" to get done.

So what would you say if someone suggested that you spend some time doing less?

We are human beings, not human doings.

According to Katie Hundley, L.P.C., with Carilion Clinic’s Employee Assistance Program, slowing down and doing less can actually improve how effective you are.
“In our fast-paced world, it can be so easy to buy into the idea that you need to over-function and do more and more with the time that you have,” she says. “It’s almost revolutionary to remember that you are more than what you do—we are human beings, not human doings.”
It might seem easier said than done, so here are some tips from Katie to help you step back from multitasking:

young girl in casual summer clothes relaxing in backyard indicating staycation
Saying "no" to social and travel commitments gives you more time to relax and recharge at home.

Take Inventory
Think about the overall pace of your life: Is it working for you? Are the number of things on your plate making you feel frustrated, irritable or overwhelmed?

The commitments you make and the expectations you place on yourself can create a tornado of feelings that, if left unchecked, can keep you from having fulfilling relationships and cause burnout.

Remind yourself (and even write it down!) that if you don’t do everything—or do it perfectly—things will still be ok.

Do One Thing
What would it be like to just drink your cup of coffee without also scrolling through social media, driving to work or getting the kids' days going at the same time? Give it a try. Notice the coffee's temperature, notice how the cup feels in your hands, notice the taste.

Take the opportunity to stop multitasking every once in a while and do just one thing at a time, if only for a minute.

Create a “To Not Do” List 
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, create a list of the things you’re not going to do right now.

Your list can include small tasks, such as postponing the laundry when you are in the middle of a major project at work.

closeup of man's hands multitasking with disposable coffee cup, cellphone, breakfast sandwich and laptop
Single-tasking allows you to really savor every experience, from large projects to drinking your morning coffee.

And it can include larger decisions, like declining a social commitment or staying home instead of traveling this weekend.

Prioritize Yourself
There might be a hundred things to do right now, and some of them must be done. But when possible, pausing the to-do list may be more important than working extra hours or cleaning the kitchen.

Rest and time for play are critical to our overall wellness. Give yourself permission to prioritize yourself, and remember you can always return to the to-do list.

It can be easy to believe that we should be doing many things at once to keep up with everything that needs to get done.

Taking time to slow down, saying "No" to extra commitments and quieting the self-critical voice that tells you you should be doing more can create a great amount of relief in your life.

You may just find yourself more refreshed and energized!