How Doing Less Gives Us More

In the very first post of the Mindful Monday series we talked a bit about minimalism and how you can use it to introduce meaning into your life. The focus that week was on identifying objects or things that no longer brought you value or somehow got in the way of living your life. The end result was a handful of things that could be minimized based solely on what they did for your experience day-to-day. But what about the less-tangible things? What about experiences that don’t bring us value?

We can use the same methodology to identify the non-value-added experiences that we go through and work to minimize or reduce them in the same way. Take a look back here if you need a refresher! Essentially, go into this week with all your plans in-tact. Don’t make any changes except for checking in with yourself and asking how you feel about what you’re doing.

Just like before, I want you to start with the obvious. What are the top experiences in your week that you wish you could have avoided? Anything come up that you wish you weren’t doing?

That’s so easy! Cleaning the house, doing my taxes, that hour I got caught talking to my nosy neighbor, 6am cross fit class, going to work…

If your list is loonngg, you’ll want to take another look. Make sure you aren’t confusing non-value-added experiences with just lack of motivation. Chances are you really hate that cross fit class at 5am when you’re waking up, maybe you hate it even more at 5:30am when you’re driving there, and at 6:05am you really wish you were still in bed instead of doing muscle-ups. But how do you feel at 7:00am when it’s all done? If you’re on top of the world and happy you made it again, take it off the list.

There’s probably a few more complaints lodged in there, but certainly we can’t get rid of all of those, right? Wrong. Let’s work some magic on some non-value added activities.

Did cleaning your home make the non-value added list? Take a look around – how many things do you have to dust or clean off that you haven’t used recently? Is there anything that you haven’t even touched since you last cleaned it? Extra candles you never light or books you don’t read? How about the mid-century record player that you love the look of but have no idea how it works? What about your 3rd bathroom?

Start assessing what you value more: the look/vibe/space or the time you’d gain in life if you never had to bother with it again. Depending on your answer, it might be time to reduce, or even downsize. (PS – I used to think downsizing was crazy, until I did it. I don’t fancy myself someone who could live in one of those tiny homes, but I’m certainly closer than I thought. It’s amazing to have only the space you need and be able to focus on making that space the best it can be. Plus, who wants to clean 3 toilets all the time?).

How about talking with your nosy neighbor (or insert other social activity)? Certain social commitments, planned or not, can absolutely be a pain point. Sometimes there’s nothing we love and need more than an awesome time catching up with friends. But sometimes we just need to say no.

If you find your calendar overflowing with activities that you volunteered for but are feeling less than positive about some of them, start saying no. Be choosy about what you do with your time and who you spend your time with.

Every little thing you say “no” to opens up time and opportunity for something you want to say “yes” to. Start living into that feeling and start taking action.

Wait, you forgot about taxes! There’s really nothing for me to tell you here. If you want that time (and sanity) back because numbers are your worst enemy, then you should keep better records during the year or outsource the work.

Something we tend to forget when it comes to experiences is that we always have options. It’s all too often I hear “I had to do abc” or “I should be doing xyz.” Certainly, there are some things that we just have to do in life (i.e.: taxes), but we still have total control over how we decide to approach those must-do activities. Keep questioning what you’re doing and if you’re feeling less than optimal about it: assess your options and make a change!

Assessing the rest

While we just crossed off some of the big-ticket items (complaints), there’s likely still a lot left in your life that you haven’t assessed yet. For example, if you spend all your time convinced you’re happy with what you’re doing yet still feel physically exhausted, emotionally depleted, or just like there isn’t enough time to do everything, then you still have more work left.

Analyzing experiences is a bit tougher than analyzing objects because we’re more likely to be tricked into our feelings around certain things based on our life conditioning. This can make assessing how we spend our time difficult. For instance, the question of “How often do I use the record player?” yields a pretty objective answer. Same for “Do I like the way it looks even though I don’t use it?” Chances are you only need to ask a few questions to really assess whether or not an object brings you value.

Experiences are a whole other ball game, especially experiences we think we like. It makes sense that we would spend our time doing things because we want to do them, but that’s not always the case. The overall feeling of “not having enough time” is a huge red flag that you need to re-evaluate what you’re doing and how much of it is bringing meaning. Also, how much meaning is it bringing? Which activities can you say “no” to, even if just in the short term, so you can have more time doing what brings you the most value? For example:

  • The company party you should go to versus having dinner at home with your little ones

  • Attending the volunteer project that meets every Saturday that you adore versus taking a trip to visit your parents out of state

  • Grabbing drinks for the third night in a row with your friends versus sitting on the couch and reading/journaling/whatever makes your brain happy

What’s important to note is the answers to these are different for everyone and there isn’t any one right choice. What might be right for you today might not be right for you next week. Check in with yourself routinely and learn that it’s okay to say no.

After you eliminate all the obvious things (or at least a good chunk of them) and start making better choices in real-time, you’ll find yourself with more time to spend on the things you enjoy the most. Use that time wisely, make sure you’re reinvesting it into what you determine to be a priority instead of just reshuffling it to something else, like watching TV. Unless of course, watching TV is your priority!

After all, the less we have to do, the more we can focus on what’s important.

Have a great week!

Did you enjoy this article or did it bring you value? I’d love to hear from you! Sign up below with your email to be able to comment on the article and provide feedback (promise you won’t be signed up for any spam)! I’d love to hear your story if you tried this for the first time or have tried in the past and how it worked out for you.