written by
Iain Smith

Less Is More

Wellbeing Productivity Communication 4 min read
Stop. Less Is More
Stop Doing Stuff

We all want a more peaceful, simpler fulfilled life. Yet too often we try to achieve this by doing more. In fact, the truth is that less is more. Really!

We always have new things to do. New ideas, fresh initiatives, updated policies, remodelled plans and so on.

These all arrive with frequent regularity and we think that the next thing we take action on will take us that bit nearer to the nirvana of satisfaction.

Yet instead of moving us forward and helping us progress, they actually sap us of our energy. It can be exhausting to always be:

  • learning a new processes
  • getting your head around a fresh concept
  • mastering a different technique

So you'll be pleased that instead of sharing a new idea, I'm writing about stuff you can stop doing. I'm going to prove that less is more.

Stop. Cease. Desist.

We all habitualise actions that use up our time, our physical reserves and our mental energy, and yet bring us no discernible benefit.

See if you recognise yourself doing any of these things

  • Laminating. Just stop it.
  • Interrupting a conversation with a real live person to answer a call from an unknown number.
  • Replying to an email with the single word "Thanks".
  • Squeezing the petrol pump in fits and starts to try to get the price exactly on a round number.
  • Rushing around madly, searching for the correct matching black sock when actually you've got other black ones that will do. No-one's checking!
  • Standing in a queue at the departure gate at the airport - your seats have been allocated.
  • Talking too much at your students, clients or colleagues. They've probably got it already. Ask a decent question to find out.
  • Buying heavy items at the supermarket. Use online shopping for the bulky stuff (tinned tomatoes, kitchen rolls etc).
  • Checking the news more than once a day. Ask yourself when it last affected your daily activities other than making you worry about things you have no control over.
  • Peeling vegetables - it takes time, creates waste and you lose all the fibre.
  • Over-explaining why you did or didn't do something to someone who really isn't interested that the reason you messed up is because of your dog/child/parent/car/lateness.
  • Thinking about calling someone, running through the conversation and then not making that call.
  • Going over a bullet point list like this and ensuring that there is a full stop at the end of every sentence. Does anyone really care?!

If this list seems a little random that's because it's a personal list. I'm guilty of all these things. Or was. I'm in recovery right now.

Death By A Thousand Cuts

I understand that no single one of these actions is a terrible thing. Not one of them on their own is going to drag you off the road to success. But together and over time, they can drain you. So tackle them one at a time and decide to do less.

Which items on your list can you stop doing immediately? Your list won't be exactly the same as mine but it will no doubt be similar.‚Äč

What's the worst that will happen if you stop doing any of them? Probably nothing. (That unknown phone call you're still tempted to take isn't from Richard Branson by the way - it's a cold call but you knew that already.)

Checking mobile phone
Less Is More

How can it be that less is more? If you do cut things out then what's the best thing that can happen?

Quite a lot funnily enough. When I've suggested this stoppage type of behaviour change to clients in the past they report that they feel more:

  • calm
  • at ease
  • observant
  • in control
  • aware
  • productive
  • happy

That's been my experience too. The changes are subtle but powerful, cost nothing and you have complete control over them. It really is a case of less is more.

Objections To Less Is More

What about not answering the phone when engaged with something else? I've noticed that for many people ignoring a ringing phone is almost impossible. Especially for those from an older generation. They feel it's rude to ignore the call.

They may well be right but these days, more times than not, an unknown caller will be just that, an unknown caller.

The decision is yours but if you always choose the unknown random caller, over and above the person or event in front of you, then that really is prioritising the wrong person.

It's true that less is more so have fun working out what you can stop doing to gain back time, energy and peace of mind.

Iain helps organisations get more done, in less time and reduce stress. He delivers inspiring training courses across the UK and abroad. You can contact him here.

He writes a weekly top tips newsletter that you can sign up for on this very page, or by visiting his website.

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