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.