The Art of Not Getting It Done
My commitment to not living busy means a lot of stuff doesn’t get done in my world.
My inbox has year old emails patiently waiting for my attention; my voice mail gets played once a month when the mood hits; and the garden is sporting almost as many unintended plants (aka “weeds”) as intended ones.
But I’m all caught up on Big Bang Theory reruns (just discovered that delight this summer!), my Pinterest boards are looking mighty fine these days, and I haven’t missed a weekly lunch with dad more than once this year.
In many circles, that’s considered an irresponsible way of living, because we’re supposed to work hard first to earn the right to relax, right?
The problem with that plan isn’t just that the hard work never ends and the relaxing never happens, but also that it isn’t a very fulfilling way of life. At least, not for me.
I wouldn’t suggest that we all eat dessert first or skip work to catch a matinee with the kids, but for anyone who recognizes that fun and enjoyment are further down on their priority list than they prefer, I wanted to share two tips for getting comfortable with not getting things done:
- get clear about what really matters to you (so in that sense, you are taking care of the “business” that you care about)
- and know that practice makes perfect.
I’ll elaborate …
Once I honestly began honoring my core value of “Enjoyment,” I discovered that 30 minutes of watching the cat sleep in my lap is more rewarding to me than cleaning house or checking email. I learned that diving into another showing of Moonstruck is more satisfying than networking at local events, and that laughing at damn-you-autocorrect posts adds more happiness to my day than catching up on laundry.
Letting joy lead me through the day showed me that the world doesn’t come to a halt when I focus on having a good time, and that it ‘s actually a shortcut to the purpose of everything I want anyway – which is just to feel better.
Perfecting the Practice
Some people may be able to make dramatic changes in their “busy” habits overnight, but I found it was more realistic for me to take the slow poke approach. That’s where you start with replacing just ten minutes or so a day of a “responsible” activity with some sort of goofing off.
Over time, as you learn to trust that incorporating more enjoyment in life actually works really well, then ten minutes eventually grows to an hour, an hour turns into a couple, and pretty soon you have a whole way of life oriented toward what you love rather than following the rules that don’t serve you.
Whether you’re down with releasing all your tolerations in your daily schedule or not, I think it’s worth remembering this:
When the world wants more from you than you care to deliver, know that overextending yourself doesn’t do anyone any favors.
If you’re stressed out, you’re not doing your best work and you’re not creating anything with positive energy in it.
You – and everyone else affected – really are better off chilling out and only engaging the “business” of life when you feel like it.
And if you never feel like it – well, I can’t imagine a better thing to eliminate from your life to-do list.
When I’m tempted to believe something is important and has to get handled asap even though I’m not keen on it, I ask myself, “What matters?” That simple question prods me to recall that my priority isn’t to get it done, but rather to enjoy myself. And if I can’t enjoy myself as I get it done, then enjoyment trumps done.
Deliver what you feel good about, and let go of the rest. It really is okay to let yourself have more fun with life!
Update: as inspired by this post, Matt & Phil invited me to their show to discuss this topic. Catch our “Wise Man Does Nothing” recording here.