Do Less, Listen to Yourself More

Ah, it’s that time of the year when many of us try to reinvent parts of ourselves. A noble cause indeed and one we often approach with great gusto until the realities of a busy life start to settle in, and we grow tired, weary, and begin to fizzle out a bit.

At least that’s the experience for many of us. Others are able to stick to it. At all cost. And bravo if that’s you. I have major respect for that.

The problem with many New Year’s resolutions is that they are extreme and often extremely in conflict with reality and our true natures. They also require us to do more without doing less of something else. I’m tired just typing that sentence. Something has got it give.

Leaning into Our True Nature

I am not a morning person. After years of beating myself up over this fact, I’ve come to accept it. Although, I feel like I should go back and apologize to every student in my 1st bell class as a high school ELA teacher. On second thought, my students were also bleary-eyed and half-awake too, so maybe I’m giving myself too much credit as far as being memorable in any way. But the point is: I don’t do my best work in the early morning hours. So, I’m not going to be the girl that’s going to jump out of bed at 5 AM for a workout. I’m also not going to write my blog posts at that time. No, at that time, I will be doing one thing and one thing only: sleeping.

Many of us have tried all of the tricks. Sleep in your workout clothes. Try going to bed earlier. Set your alarm clock on the opposite side of the room. But for those of us who are most energized in the afternoon or evening hours, there’s a chance that while we might make it happen some days, making it happen on most days can be a real struggle. I have not been able to force myself into a different morning routine, and I’m done trying. I workout every day AFTER work. My husband cannot understand why I don’t just eat that frog and get it over with first thing in my day. But for me, working out after a long work day is a ritual that allows me to focus on myself, expend (sometimes negative energy), and shake off the day, so I can be more present when I get home that night.

I realize that some of us have very difficult constraints to work around, and it may not be that simple.

Doing Less. So We Can Do More.

This leads me to a second habit hack. If we do more without doing less of something else, we are setting ourselves up for probable failure no matter how ambitious we may be. We are-after-all human. In order for me to make those personal training appointments after work, I have to leave work on time. Even when that meeting is running long or the work is not finished. Both of which are often true. I have had to say no to the notion that working insane hours is what makes me a good professional. I’ve had to learn that not all tasks or aspects of my work are equally important, so I’m not going to pressure myself to be equally stellar at all of the things all of the time. I learned this as a principal when it was literally impossible to do everything exceptionally. I decided that it was more important for me to walk through classrooms every day, greet kids at the door, talk with them at lunch, and play at recess than it was for me to agonize over perfectly executed paperwork. In fact, I’m still that way. As a Director of Teaching and Learning, I remain relentless focused on relationships. And sure, I do other work. But some of that other work happens on days like today, when I’m choosing to work while others enjoy their much deserved winter breaks.

My point is this – we can’t just keep doing more and expect our lives to change. Instead, we must decide what is worth our greatest time and energy and be relentless in our commitment to what matters most to us.

This is a leap of faith for many of us. Especially recovering achievers and perfectionists. Especially those of us who have tied our sense of productivity and accomplishment to our worth in such a way that doing less of anything makes us feel like we are less. To all the fellow enneagram 3’s out there, I’m hugging you in my heart. The struggle is real.

But you know what feels awesome? Finally deciding not to be awesome at everything. Because what happens is this: those things that we care about deeply, our strengths, the things that light us up on the inside, those things get better. Those things get stronger. We get stronger.

For me, it’s the people. It’s the relationships. It’s about loving, being with, growing, and leveraging the strengths of the people. I do this through walking the halls and thoughtfully planning meetings and learning experiences. I do this one conversation at a time. One person at a time.

I do my paperwork. I do my planning and strategizing. I do my job. I just worry less about “crushing” it in those other areas.

How might you do less, so you can do more of what lights you up in 2022?

How might you honor your true nature when setting a goal for 2022?

How might you keep yourself from burning out by doing something small with big consistency?

And if you don’t want to set a goal for January, don’t. You’ve been through a lot. Look at all you’ve overcome. You already have so much to be proud of. Your worth does not increase or decrease with your goals or performance. You are more than enough.

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