My motto for 2011 is simple: do less. By doing less, I’m hoping to accomplish more. No, it’s not an oxymoron. I try to do too much, so by cutting back on what I’m doing, both at work and at home, my goal is to do whatever task I’m working on more thoroughly, more mindfully, and more completely.
I’m a piler. I leave piles of stuff all over my house, much to the annoyance of my partner. I have piles at work, and each pile represents some project that I started, but haven’t quite finished. I have every intention of finishing each task, but then the phone rings, or an email with one of those lovely red exclamation points comes into my inbox, or a Dean needs a report. So I turn to the next task. And the next task.
My anxiety over what I am doing (or not doing) with my life has increased now that I am working full time and am not taking classes. I filled my time with volunteering to be an ESL conversation partner, joining book clubs, and catching up with old friends. Yet it never seemed like enough. I felt I needed to be more productive, more accomplished.
Piling activities onto my schedule was just as unfulfilling as piling up projects at work. I never went to the book club meetings, and never put away the piles of old mail or holiday wrappings that still clutter the house. Coworkers began picking up the phone to remind me I had yet to respond to their email.
That’s when I realized I needed to do less. No one but me was judging how full my calendar was, or how many projects I took on at work, as long as I got my work done. So how could I concentrate on one thing at a time, and give it my full attention without moving on to the next thing, the next task, the next project?
Doing less might mean working from one browser window instead of having 16 tabs open at once. It may mean a longer email response time, but at least I’ll know each email is being answered, not languishing as a half written draft in my outbox.
Doing less, to me, means more focus on the quality of my attention than on the accumulation of titles, degrees, projects, or checklists. I know doing less will not be easy, but giving a student my full attention and making sure their question is answered is much more important than how many tasks I check off my to-do list.
So while Mary and Meg are focusing on TENACITY and ADVENTURE this year, my 2011 intention is to DO LESS. Here’s to a rewarding 2011, no matter what your focus may be.
New Haven, Connecticut in the USA
Heather Alderfer is an Associate Registrar at the Yale Law School and a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus .