How To Do Less


By Carolyn Shields

Lately I've been joining the choir of people that lament how little time there is in a day. Like everyone, there's always so much to do and not enough hours. We try and find solutions, and mine oftentimes fall into one of either two camps: just stay up later or get up earlier, neither of which ever work. The bottom line is, my approach has been unrealistic.

Sometimes I get back from work at ten pm and falling asleep with the intention to wake up early to pray just isn't realistic for me. Nor is staying up after a busy day to edit my book, call the family, sketch, answer emails...whatever it is. We get disappointed fast, aggravated at ourselves, and frustrated when we hit these walls.

So here's a few pieces of advice I've learned that I had to remind my own self of this morning:

Integration Is Key

My old boss mentioned this in a staff meeting but it's stuck with me like a tattoo. Too often we try to balance our lives between school work, social life, prayer, and so on, when really, balance isn't what we should be shooting for necessarily. Rather, integrate what you can into your daily rhythm and stop compartmentalizing your life.

Weed the Garden

Another token of wisdom that a friend passed on is that as we attempt to do more, oftentimes we must do less. He gave me the analogy of a garden. If we want to plant new fruits, sprout new ideas, cultivate something beautiful, we have to weed in order to make space. Something's gotta be cut out. Instead of checking your social media first thing in the morning and at night, maybe morning prayer can become more realistic if you cut out technology in the morning and replace that time and space with reflection. For me, it's unrealistic to wake up a half hour earlier to pray, but by weeding out these wasteful minutes I can replace them with something more intrinsically good without having to find additional time to do so.

Forming Habits

Lastly, one of my coworkers posed the question, "How do you form a habit? How do you convince yourself to brush your teeth when you wake up? To shower each day? Or make breakfast? You don't. You just do it." And I thought, shoot. Because yeah, sometimes that's the mindset we need to adopt when we're trying to savor our precious minutes. We know we should be doing more of this and less of that, so do as Nike does: just do it. If your heart is craving creation or art, make it happen. If you know your soul needs more prayer and silence and reflection, just do so. Are you consuming too much social media? Woman, just cut it out. We know things pile up fast and we hate the avalanche that follows. Sometimes it's by saying no that we have the freedom to say yes.

As we go on to simplify and slow down, be patient and gentle with yourself. As Saint Francis de Sales said, "When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them but bend them with gentleness and time."