A few years back, I took a yoga class from noted yoga teacher Judith Lasater. She was kind, warm, and funny, everything you’d hope for in a yoga teacher. And, of course, she was wise. Here’s something that Judith said that has stuck with me:
“Do 10% less. It’ll change your life.”
WHAT?!? What sort of crazy talk was that, telling people to do less? At the time, it was like hearing someone say “Black is really white.” or “Up is really down”. We were at this yoga conference to improve ourselves. How could we improve ourselves by doing less? Isn’t the goal to do as much as possible during your waking hours?
Maybe. Maybe not.
We’re busy people, right? We’re moms who need Peeling Off the Ceiling ™ because we’re going crazy trying to get it all done. We already don’t have enough hours in the day to do all of the things we need to do. How is doing 10% less going to solve that problem? It’s completely counter-intuitive!
Yep, it is. But here’s the great thing about counter-intuitive stuff: It’s what you go to when the “intuitive” stuff isn’t working.
If you’re like me, you keep a running to-do list. It might be on paper, it might be on your computer or it might just be in your head (bad idea, by the way, but that’s for a later post). But here’s the thing with to-do lists: when you’re a mom there’s always something to do. I have vague memories of B.K. Leslie (that’s Before Kids … not Burger King. Burger King Leslie is off eating cheeseburgers and has no time for you) having lots of free time on her hands. Once the kids show up: Feeding! Laundry! Grocery shopping! Laundry! Baths! Laundry! Pediatrician! And that’s just for the kid. (Outside of that you still have to get to the laundry.) You know when else I remember my number of to-dos taking a big jump? When we bought a house. Suddenly it wasn’t as easy as calling the building manager anymore. I was the building manager. It was up to me to get the lawn mowed, leaves rakes, walk shoveled, garbage out, etc. So many to-dos!
Are you with me so far? To-dos out our wazoos. The stress of having so many to-dos is a mommy staple. Mommy to-dos will always be there. There will always be dirty dishes. There will always be meals to plan. There will always be grocery shopping. There will always be laundry. You can do ‘em and they’ll just re-mess, re-fill, re-need again. It’s how the system works. (One of my favorite quotes: “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” – Phyllis Diller)
So, if that’s the way it is, why do you have to spin yourself into a frenzy trying to do them all at once? They’re not going to go away. You’re not going to get a medal for getting them all done in one day.
“But I can’t relax until it’s all done.” Oh, sister. I know you. I’ve been there. That statement is so powerful and so important and is going to have its own chapter in my book. That statement is why you’re here. That statement is the very cause of your stress. Listen to me: You can relax before it’s all done. You must relax before it’s all done.
Stop trying to do so much. It is wearing you out. It is keeping you from having that all-important rest and restoration time that is going to keep you healthy, happy, and sane. Choosing to do 10% less than you do right now is going to build a little bit of breathing room into your day that is going to make you happier and calmer. Guess what happens when you’re happier and calmer?
You become more productive.
While this is a topic I’ve spoken about regularly, this particular post was inspired by an article my husband recently shared with me titled Why We Have to Go Back to a 40-Hour Work Week to Keep Our Sanity. Here’s an excerpt:
“Adding more hours to the workday does not correlate one-to-one with higher productivity. Working overtime is unsustainable in anything but the very short term. And working a lot of overtime creates a level of burnout that sets in far sooner, is far more acute, and requires much more to fix than most bosses or workers think it does.”
I hope you’ll read the article. It does a very good job of explaining that study after study has shown that “overtime” does not increase productivity. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.
You see? That was good stuff, right? So, here’s the deal: This doesn’t just apply to people turning out widgets on an assembly line, or programmers typing out code for a software company. It applies to all of us, moms included. You can try to cram more and more things into a day in the hopes that you’ll get them all “done”, but in reality what you will do is increase your fatigue, reduce your productivity, and increase your likelihood of error and injury. But if you consciously choose to do 10% less in the course of a day, you will find increased calm and, paradoxically, increased productivity. Mind-blowing, innit?
Do you keep a daily “to-do” list? What is your method? If you chose to “do 10% less”, how would you do it? Please chime in in the comment box below.