The need to do less is clear.
Those of us for whom “production = personal value” are compelled to be busy not necessarily by the inherent good in the thing we do, but by the fear of a perceived disvalue arising from our inactivity. Driven by a need for approval, by a lust for attention, by an insatiable interest in everything, or by a deeply ingrained ethic equating godliness and hard work, we apply ourselves to excel, or at least do more than the next guy.
So, for those of us so driven, the need to do less is clear. But the issue is not simply that we are doing too much. It may be that we are doing too much of the wrong thing and not enough of the right thing.
I’m a huge fan of (New College of Florida alum!) David Allen‘s Getting Things Done. (My first introduction to this came through this article.) More than anything else, Allen’s common sense approach to work flow and modern life has enabled me to keep whatever grip I have on my fractured life. I commend it highly.
Allen’s principle thesis is that we can reduce stress by getting all that clamors for our attention out of our heads and into some kind of orderly system. He’s right. Even though his promise of ‘stress-free productivity’ may seem an illusion, it is true that there is value in systematizing all of those competing commitments creating an undefined noise in our heads.
When we systematize all of our commitments, and carve away the fantastic which we know we’ll never accomplish (it’s too late for me to learn Greek well enough to read it without helps, you know), we begin to see two things clearly. First, we begin to see all that we are not getting done, which is a traumatic revelation. And secondly, we see that among those items on the list of tasks not being accomplished are some very, very important things. That can be very jarring.
The reality is that we may not need to simply do LESS in our lives, but OTHER. We may need to reorder what we do, striking from our plates some commitments which overly drain us or otherwise keep us from the important things. Allen commends making such assessments, and the end/beginning of the year is a good time to do so.
I labor (interesting choice of words) then to do less in order to find simplicity, and to do other, because it is important.