It’s been a difficult lesson to learn, but it is slowly sinking in: less but better. Because I have only recently recognized that I have perhaps pushed myself to the brink vainly trying—despite what I told myself—to do it all. And if I’m trying to do it all, I’m not able to (when I’m honest with myself) bring the focus and attention necessary to each task.
Over the years, I’ve worked hard to make time for what’s important in my life. That has meant that I intentionally incorporated time for writing into my day. And that became especially important after the pandemic when I returned to a ‘regular’ nine-to-five job. I woke up around 3:30 am to write before heading to work. After registering for the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon and needing to get in training runs, my wake-up time moved ahead by an hour. I was packing more into my day, unable then to see the potential benefits of less but better.
For most of my adult life, I’ve struggled with sleep, rarely sleeping through the night or getting close to eight hours. And despite what I thought, I was trying to do it all: work, write, run/train, maintain an active presence on social media, and manage all the other life responsibilities we deal with on a daily basis. By the time I quit my previous job in June 2023, I was exhausted and broken. Was this the life I had imagined for myself?
I was genuinely surprised by the level of exhaustion that tackled me after leaving my old job. In my mind, I thought I had done a good job of managing life (of course, that wasn’t quite true). But as I started a new job at the end of August, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was, once again, slipping into my former routine. And if I let it continue, I’d end up exhausted, broken, and burned out…but only sooner. That was when I realized less but better.
In a sense, I’m working on recalibrating my life. Writing and running remain top priorities, but I’m trying to do them around a day job without burning out. I’m trying to better manage distractions and things that pull me away from my purpose. As I [again] step back from certain aspects of social media, I’m getting better at not thinking about what I may be missing out on. And I’m taking steps to improve my sleeping, including going to bed earlier.
Less but Better
I remind myself that sometimes we need to go slow to go fast. Less but better feeds into that way of thinking. When I focus on the vital few, I can give them the attention they deserve. As Greg McKeown wrote, “Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be more selective in what we choose to do.”1
I’m giving myself permission to say less but better, and act on it.
- McKeown, G. (2014, 2020). Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Random House, p. 25.