Doing As Little As Possible Each Day

For as long as I can remember I have been a person of to-do lists. I kept meticulous organizers throughout my academic career, carefully detailing all that I needed to accomplish. And since then I have continued to bombard myself with myriad lists kept in my Google calendar, the Keep app, sticky notes on my desktop, you name it.

Then it all started to feel overwhelming.

The problem, I realized, had less to do with the lists and more to do with what I expected of myself each day. I have a penchant for underestimating how much time a task will really take and so continually loaded up my daily to-do lists, expecting that I would be able to get everything done in a single day.

Of course, I rarely could, and that lead to disappointment and overwhelm.

Naturally, in this day and age, I tried various to-do list methods and listened to productivity lectures.

But then I realized that a lot of the productivity lessons we learn are meant to help us organize our time efficiently so that we can do more.

Do more. Do more.

More. More. More.

So somewhere in the past few weeks I found myself thinking, “What the heck am I doing? I’m stressing myself out every day with these long lists of tasks that I can’t complete.”

Contrary to popular opinion, I really believe that there’s only so much a person can do in one day.

So I’ve resolved to do as little as possible.

This doesn’t mean I don’t do anything. Only that I now focus on one to two primary tasks each day. I usually set one main task for the morning and one main task for after lunch. For example, this morning I worked on a short story I’d like to self-publish on Amazon soon, and in the afternoon I spent a few hours researching for a potential article I’d like to pitch to a magazine. Both tasks got the time they deserved. And I’m actually surprised at just how much I was able to research in the afternoon. Other days, I have been able to work on a third or fourth task aswell.

I realized long ago that multi-tasking was destroying my brain and my capacity to focus. Only recently did I realize that the solution was to simply do less.

I know what you might be thinking: Andrea, some of us don’t have that luxury, our bosses demand so much from us. And I understand. I’ve certainly been there. I can only suggest that you speak with your superior about your workload. One of my best friends recently had to take a stress leave from work because his workload was so insane. Afterwards he discussed how to lighten his load with his boss, who was open to finding a solution. Hopefully your boss too will be open to that discussion. Many companies, I think, are starting to realize that overwork is detrimental to the bottom line.

As a freelancer, I do now have the luxury of determining my days. It’s essential that I be able focus on what I’m doing and allot the proper time to each task, otherwise my brain quickly starts to feel frazzled.

And to be honest, I’m actually more productive this way because I’m completing tasks consistently at a steady pace.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed too, see if you can do less each day. It runs totally counter to our hectic lives and this productivity age we’re living in, but I promise it’s worth it. With a clear, focused mind, you’ll be able to accomplish your tasks one by one at a steady pace, rather than racing through life trying to get everything done all the time. With that method, I found it took me weeks, even months to complete certain goals and tasks, because I’d only work on them for a short time each day as I tried to cross everything off my list.

So I say, give it a go. Your brain will thank you.

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