Do less

March 2018

Focus on the things that matter, less on the things that don't.


Snapper Rocks, Queensland Australia

Our culture is obsessed with performance. We measure everything; wealth, popularity, status. This takes a toll on our quality of life and self-esteem. We optimize our day around how to squeeze more out of the hours we have. The things we can measure have become more important than the things that matter. We focus our efforts on external success but forget entirely about personal mastery.

We treat life like a giant to-do list, one thing to be checked off at a time so that we can move on to the next thing. Being busy is seen as a badge of honor, it’s an old friend that we keep around because we know them well, not because they bring us happiness. The number one cause of stress is not having enough time to get it all done.

Instead of focusing on checking the box, focus more on doing less. I thought if I stopped staying on top of all the things, the world would crumble around me but this was not the case. My performance didn’t go down, I actually did better work as I had more headspace to focus. I found more time in my day for the things that mattered to me; yoga, my fiancee, photography and side projects.

Find the time to reflect and let the noise of the to-do list be silent for a moment, stop the mental chatter. Once you do, you will realize you are not as important as you think, things won’t come crashing down if you don’t get it all done. Instead, focus on the things that matter to you and prioritize your time accordingly. Learn to be ruthless with your time, you need to guard your time well as it’s a non-renewable resource.

Some things I learned by doing less:

  • Focus on the big picture. You don’t need to know what you are doing just why you are doing it. Create a values framework that you want to live by and set long-term goals.
  • Learn to prioritize and follow through. What are your top 3 things you want to accomplish this week? How do these fit into your long-term goals? Share this list to help hold yourself accountable.
  • Create a “Won’t do list.” Take responsibility and say no to the things that don’t matter. Take accomplishment in saying no to things as this provides clarity and focus.
  • Ask for help. Try not to over-commit yourself but if you do don’t be afraid to ask for help. Build a strong support network around you. If you help others, it usually comes back around.
  • Progress over perfection. Focus on what the definition of done is and move on when you’ve achieved it. Don’t let perfection stand in the way of progress.
  • Recognize when it is entertainment. Consciously think about how you spend your time. Are the things you are doing providing you value? Entertainment is fine, just acknowledge it for what it is.

What are you willing to let go of? Society believes that your worth is proportional to what you have achieved in life, that is not the case. Am I defined by what I have achieved, or is it just a little part of my life? Rewrite what success means to you.

“To live is enough.”

— Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

My success is not based on my wealth, fame, or career but instead based on the love and kindness that I bring into the world, the relationships I have with others, and myself.

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