One Less Thing

+ To Do List clip board and pen Nov 12 9140773_sOn a trip back to the Midwest for a wedding, my brother-in-law Paul picked me up at Midway airport in Chicago at ten a.m. then drove me to his home, where we met up with his wife Ann. By eleven, she and I were dropping him off at the commuter train station and heading up the highway to meet my niece, Maureen, and her three children for lunch near their house. At the end of the day, another sister-in-law, Kathy, and her son Ben would be coming for dinner at Paul and Ann’s. My visit to my in-laws was off to a typical Kessenich busy-start, with places to go, people to see, things to do.

After a delightful lunch with Maureen and the kids, Ann and I got in the car to do a few errands on our way back to her house. Soon, Ann’s cell phone rang; it was Maureen calling to suggest a couple of art exhibits in her town that Ann and I might enjoy. Ann offered to take me to the museums – a lovely idea inspired, no doubt, by the impulse to entertain the out-of-town guest. But, aware of having been up early that morning to get my flight, of Ann’s already full agenda, and of the many wedding activities facing both of us over the coming weekend, I turned to her and said, “Ann, let’s do one less thing today, instead of one more. Let’s not go to the exhibits, let’s just go home and have a little free time.” She didn’t take much convincing.

Now, I hadn’t gone to Chicago to rest and relax; I’d gone to spend time with family and go to the wedding. But, I knew the agenda for the visit would be a packed one, and that I would need to pace myself. Having a little breathing time that afternoon sounded great to me.

Even beyond family visits, busy agendas are a way of life for most of us, most of the time. All too often, I’m right in there with everyone who’s trying to fit in one more activity or project – rather than one less – into a day that usually starts out pretty full.

But, I’m also aware of wanting less constant activity in my life, of needing to have “breather” time. This could be thought of as a time management issue; I think of it as energy management. I’m experimenting with shaping my energy differently than I have in the past and am determined to manage my life so I’ll have less stress and more spaciousness.

So, I’m developing some strategies. One I’m trying is the suggestion I made to Ann – to do one less thing, to take out of the day’s plan an activity that is optional or postpone-able. It’s the opposite of the old adage, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” The revised saying might be “Let it wait until tomorrow, so you can do what’s important today!”

Doing one less thing is a particularly useful strategy for those of us who are list makers, who love the moment we complete something and can cross it off our list. I’ve realized that, in my desire to be done with something, I elect to do a task or an errand that doesn’t actually have to happen right then. Doing it then crowds the things I really want and need to get to that day. In order to break this stressful cycle, I’m looking more carefully at what can wait and discerning where I truly want and need to focus my attention.

Since I’m so fond of task lists, my second strategy turns list-making to my advantage. Some days, I put on my daily list a line item for Rest Time. The list-maker’s rule is that if it’s on the list, it’s supposed to get done, right? So, scheduling a rest makes it something I take seriously and follow through with. This rest can take the form of a nap, meditation, some pleasure reading, or just sitting still with a cup of tea. I might only have twenty minutes for it, but it is helpful and cultivates my intention to catch up to myself, rest my brain and body, and be present to my spirit’s desire for quiet and calm.

Now, at this point in a muse, I’d usually follow the compositional guideline of supporting my idea with three points, offering a third strategy for doing less. But today, I’m going to do one less thing, writing one less strategy and ending this muse early. Less for me to write, less for you to read!

I invite you, instead, to take a few minutes to do one less thing. Go rest, breathe deeply, take a nap, sit on your front step and look at the clouds. Use this time as a spacer moment in your day.

From this relaxed perspective, consider how you can do one less thing in your life each day. Consider establishing this practice before the approaching holidays are upon us. It only takes twenty-one days to develop a new habit, belief, or behavior – so there’s time to get it going. If applying one less thing could help a visit with my action-packed in-laws be more spacious and relaxed, it can affect the holidays too. One less thing…it’s worth a try.

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