Life Experiment #5: Do Less

mornig green tea

I’d pretty much made up my mind to call off my 2012 Life Exper­i­ments exper­i­ment start­ing this month. I’d already aborted Life Exper­i­ment #3 (tak­ing a photo a day dur­ing March) after less than a week, and more and more, I’d been feel­ing that I needed to prune my to-do list, rather than adding to it.

And then, it hit me: That could be the focus of this month’s Life Exper­i­ment. And so it will be. For me, this month is going to be all about doing less.

But first, I want to take a moment to appre­ci­ate how hugely much I accom­plished dur­ing the month that just ended. All too often, I tend to ask myself: What have you done for me lately? I also have a default answer: Not nearly enough.

In fact, that’s rarely if ever true, and it cer­tainly wasn’t true in April. And because things tend to feel more real if I write them down, that’s what I’m going to do. So here it is, my per­sonal selec­tive account of What Got Done in April:

  • Researched and wrote a 3,000-word fea­ture story for Psy­chol­ogy Today (now slated for the magazine’s Octo­ber issue)
  • Wrote and deliv­ered a 30-minute talk—“Inside the Down­turn: Thoughts on the Psy­cho­log­i­cal Costs of Longterm Unemployment”—to our Regional Employ­ment Board.
  • Signed on to write a monthly column—“Notes from Plan B Nation”—for Entre­pre­neur Media’s (first instal­la­tion forth­com­ing this month)
  • Com­pleted 2011 taxes (thanks Tur­b­o­tax!), sorted out health insur­ance issues, and wran­gled a sick cat (thanks Wendy and Susan!)
  • Applied for jobs and con­ferred with edi­tors about future free­lance projects, includ­ing an upcom­ing book review assign­ment for the Chicago Tri­bune.
  • Guest posted on The 52 Weeks
  • Fin­ished up co-facilitating See­ing Their Voices, a work­shop for fos­ter kids that will cul­mi­nate in a photo and writ­ing exhibit at the state­house this June.

I also did purely fun stuff: A South Face Farm Sug­ar­house out­ing with the Bask­inettes. Lots of cof­fee dates. Movies. Two lovely seders and an Easter hike with friends.

Does that seem like a lot to you? It seems like a lot to me—especially since I’m not nat­u­rally inclined to multi-tasking. When left to my own devices, I’ll always go deep rather than wide. But there are times—this past month, for example—when that’s sim­ply not possible.

And here, I have to give a shout-out to bread­crumbs and bas­ket weav­ing, aka Life Exper­i­ment #4, which helped me more than I could ever have imag­ined it would. Metaphors have tremen­dous, if often unrec­og­nized, power. I could say a lot more on this sub­ject, and at some point I will. But for now, I’m going to stop. Or rather: I’m going to start doing less.

© 2012, amy gut­man. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Life Experiment #5: Do Less

  1. Wow, Amy, I haven’t checked in with you for a while. I felt a bit inun­dated myself. There’s a lot going on in that head of yours. I’m lik­ing the sound of doing less.…translation: ease up on your­self and let cer­tain things just fall in your path­way. We take on a lot and then when we can’t always get it done, we beat our­selves up. My busi­ness part­ner and I are upgrad­ing our web site and we were just say­ing let’s not take on more work unless we know we can fit it into our sched­ules time wise or assign to some­one else. Let us know how you make out and we ‘ll do the same. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the thoughts! You know, over the years, I’ve got­ten pretty good at not beat­ing myself up–I keep a to do list but it’s a run­ning one, more a way of keep­ing track of things than assign­ing myself tasks to accom­plish by X time. That said, what I hadn’t really noticed until recently, was a more sub­tle way that my goals were under­min­ing con­tent­ment: a quiet but per­va­sive sense of drudgery. That’s what I’ve been focus­ing the spot­light on lately, working/playing with. Again, thanks so much for read­ing & com­ment­ing! Much appre­ci­ated.
      amy gut­man recently posted…You can’t find the answer if you don’t know the questionMy Profile

  2. Absolutely, Katie! Excel­lent ques­tion (& likely fod­der for an upcom­ing post). At least start­ing out, I’m not giv­ing myself clear-cut goals but rather sim­ply keep­ing a ques­tion­ing frame of mind: Do I really want/ need to do this? Is it a pri­or­ity? Is there a way to do it dif­fer­ently that would be less stressful/time con­sum­ing? And so on. Also using last month’s bread­crumbs and bas­ket weav­ing metaphors, which have been really help­ful to me.

    Big hugs on your last day–and what fol­lows. Let me know how things go–transitions are funny times so be sure to give your­self a chance to ride out the ini­tial waves before mak­ing any big decisions/drawing any con­clu­sions.
    amy gut­man recently posted…I’m back. Here’s why I was gone.My Profile

  3. Wow Amy! You really ARE a do-er! So, what IS your plan for doing less. I ask this for per­sonal rea­sons as well; my last day of work is this Thurs­day. For many rea­sons, it is time for me to be at home full time, but I am already think­ing of all the things I SHOULD do with all the time I’ll have. I need to take a big breath and try to cen­ter and sur­ren­der to what my Higher Power thinks I need to do. At least, that’s how I see it. But how to DO that?

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