Why Doing Less Can Bring You More
Ever have a vacation where you struggled to to stop being productive? To stop thinking in terms of what you must see, must do, must eat, must purchase?
I know lots of people who have tried this and ended up with a migraine or horrible flu upon reaching their hotel room. And then, despite all the stuff they planned to do on holiday, they just lay in bed being miserable.
And many of them report it was exactly what they needed permission to do. Nothing.
Vacations or job lay-offs seem to be the only opportunities we allow ourselves to just do nothing. (Well, the job lay-off thing may actually be an unintentional way we make ourselves step off the hamster wheel. But the effect is the same.)
We consciously notice our actions — or in some cases, non-action.
“We collect data, things, people, ideas, profound experiences, never penetrating any of them… But there are other times. There are times when we stop. We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.” — James Carroll
When we are no longer busy doing, our mind chatter gets very loud. This is scary for a lot of people, because some of us have really poor self-images, and what we hear from ourselves makes us cringe. Negative self-talk may be the number one reason that people keep so busy!
Do you hear, “if you just sit there you’ll get fat and have a heart attack like your uncle.” Or “your mom would be so disappointed if she saw the state of your house.” “The neighbors will give you a hard time if… “ “Don’t let your teammates down, just do a little extra work this weekend to catch up to everyone else, slacker.” It’s an endless stream of not-good-enough comments.
What would be better is if we could tune into the voice that said, “Nice work, your yard is so green and everything is so lush! Lucky you. Time to sit back and enjoy a little nap/book/drink!” or “The kids are in such a good mood this morning, it’s fun being silly with them — we can clean up later.”
But the best voices might just say, “Wow, look at how fast those clouds are moving.” Or “Oh, the grass smells really nice when the sun warms it up a bit.” “Man, the birds are loud this time of day. Wonder what that particularly high-pitched one looks like…!”
A lot of people report that being present in the moment decreases their stress levels dramatically. It de-escalates anxiety (and the chemicals in our bodies that produce tense muscles which lead to headaches, neck aches, and back aches) and slows our heart rate.
Now a days, it’s often referred to as “mindfulness”.
Slowly but surely, the idea of mindfulness is beginning to land. What’s funny is that it’s actually NOT about having a mind-full. It’s about giving your mind a chance to be less full! But we aren’t quite ready as a society to talk about being mind-less. (That’s as bad as saying ego-less.)
In truth — it’s about just Be-ing.
And it’s ironic that we can’t even communicate the concept without adding “ing” to the word — making it an action!
In a mastermind group I started almost 2 years ago, a theme that comes back for us, as a group of entrepreneurs and independents, is the practice of just “being”. For us it seems to be the act of taking a deep breath, putting down the “to do” list, and taking 15 minutes to sit in the sun like a cat.
What is consistently reported out later is that we are:
- more productive
- more focused
This is consistent with the research on mindfulness practices everywhere. Isn’t this what we all want? So why is it so hard to do?
Well, besides all the negative self-talk, there’s the fact that we’ve made being “do-ers” a habit. We practice being busy. The perfect example is the idea of multi-tasking. We’ve elevated busy to the status of doing several things at one time is a good thing. It’s to be applauded. (But that’s another blog post — one where I talk about the pitfalls of not being fully concentrated and focused.)
So, what we all really want is to practice doing less and being more. Sounds good.
First step, be aware of the fact that you have a choice.
You can choose to stop what you are doing. Relax your mind and your muscles.
You can tell those negative voices in your head, the self-judgmental ones especially, to be quiet now.
You can focus on the sensations you notice in this moment. The air, the temperature, the tastes, the smells, the sounds.
Then practice just noticing yourself noticing. Like you are watching yourself on hidden camera (do catch those negative voices if they come back ready to comment on anything).
Don’t think about how much time it’s taking, but instead focus on the quality of time you are taking. (Quality and quantity have no correlation here.) If you can be fully immersed in the moment, those inner voices will get quieter and softer too.
And you’ll have done it. Nothing.
It’s that simple.
Make it a regular practice in your day and you’ll notice it’s a habit now, like looking both ways before you cross the street. You’ll regularly choose to just be — because it feels good, and makes you more relaxed.
Some people like to schedule it in their calendar, calling it, “Strategic session” if they must. Others set an alarm on their watches or phones. Some even link it to a sight or a sound — like seeing the color yellow or hearing birds chirp.
Experiment, have fun with it. What happens? What makes it work for you?
Ultimately, the results will most likely be a more clear, focused, balanced approach to whatever task you have in front of you. And a better state of existence over all.
Reach out – let me know if you are keen to play in the Alps with us! Or - just dive in and apply!