The Do Less to Do More Paradox

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As humans, we are voracious. A byproduct of our constantly buzzing minds is an insatiable appetite for more. We are rarely satisfied, and there always seems to be something else that must be done.

As we’ve conditioned ourselves to overload our to-do list, unproductive time can feel tortuous. Personally speaking, periods of idleness can feel more anxious than restorative.

But valuing our time doesn’t mean we must constantly be on the go. Nor, does it mean we shouldn’t set aside time to relax, absent of work.

I have found that the most effective way to achieve a happy medium of peace-of-mind and productivity is maximizing efficiency during work while protecting our free time. This balance allows us to complete tasks efficiently while ensuring we can spend time completely removed from those tasks where we often find new insights.

One thing is certain: it takes a lot less time to do a lot more in today’s age. Find solace in the fact that what we can do now would be considered magic to our ancestors. Next time, you’re waiting for an email response, think of how petty it is compared to awaiting a reply via letter carrier on horseback. But to deny these advantages or to shrug off our current capabilities denies what it means to be human and discounts the efforts of our forebears.

It’s incumbent upon us to leverage the advantages of our time. That requires filtering out less important activities while focusing on those acts that enrich our lives. As we sharpen our focus and lock in what’s truly important, the unimportant and irrelevant activities in our lives should take a back seat. The processes by which we develop priorities–checklists, pros and cons lists, or instinctive gut feelings–is far less important than fostering discretion towards what activities we elect to engage in during this age of rapidity and digitization. It’s an interesting paradox, but we must be selective and invariably do less unfulfilling activities so that we may do more of what drives us.

This fact alone can be unsettling, as trying to stay active all day can seem draining. But when we immerse ourselves in the activities that matter and reach the psychological state of flow, we find that our appetite for activity is healthy and often stronger than it was before.

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