… still trying to do less 🌀

Sunday, January 19, 2020

In the weeks leading up to Christmas I felt like I was constantly out of breath—even when I was sitting down, drinking a cup of tea. I wasn’t “stressed” per se … although some might argue that this is exactly what being stressed is; feeling like you’re still “on”, although you’re actually ~ relaxing ~. I always felt like I just had to take a really deep breath …, but couldn’t.

I wanted this to change in the new year. Why in the new year, why not now or any time? I can make changes any time, of course. I don’t have to wait for a new year, for Monday, for “the right moment”—there’s no time like the present. But the start of a new year, just like the end of summer, gives me this feeling of a fresh start. It’s like a wave and riding it makes changing things up easier for me.

So when the end of December rolled around, I hit pause, reflected on 2019 and thought about what I wanted the next year to be all about and mainly, how I wanted to feel in 2020. Unsurprisingly, less out of breath.

First of all, I had a look at all the things I do on a regular day, in a regular week. I made a list of every single task, no matter how random and small or big and important. Then I examined the list and questioned every item: “Is this actually important? Do I have to do that? Is it really necessary?“
There are of course things you can’t just stop doing, like going to work (duh) or taking out the trash or cleaning your teeth. But how much time do we spend each day on stuff that’s neither useful nor nurturing? Or that isn’t really necessary, but you’re doing it anyway because being busy and “productive” just makes you feel good?

I’m talking about “we” and “you” a lot, because I hope I’m not alone with all this. (Or am I?)

I LOVE the feeling of getting things done and ticking them off my list. So when I’m seemingly done with everything and could just relax for a bit, I think of more stuff I could do and go and do that. Like a hamster in a wheel. I’m never quite there, there’s always something else to do.
Linking our output to our self-worth, or more generally to what and how we feel about ourselves and our experience, is very common, but extremely unhealthy.
By questioning all of the tasks on my list, I tried to find out where I did much more than was actually necessary and where I made myself busy in order to feel accomplished.
There’s this big group of tasks I call “stuff maintenance”. Tasks that you only have to do because you own ~ things ~ like clothes (you have to wash them, dry them, iron them, fold them, put them away) or a fancy coffeemaker (clean, refill water, refill beans, descale, repeat). I asked myself then, if owning less clothes for example, would lead to not having to do so much laundry. (Yes, it does.) Another round of Marie Kondo-ing my closet helped with that.

A quick excursion on the laundry topic: Doing laundry gives me a weird sense of control and achievement. The before and after of “dirty clothes” and “clean, nice smelling clothes” feels like a victory in itself. And you don’t even have to do anything (or so it seems) because the washing machine does it for you. The empty laundry basket also gives me this inbox-zero-feeling of having successfully wrestled down and killed the dragon, of being “in control”. (Which is an illusion.)
Realizing all that helps me to step back and out of the hamster wheel btw.

Another thing in terms of “stuff maintenance”: An untidy or messy desk really stresses me out. Having to organize and clean my desk everyday is time-consuming and annoying. The less stuff I have on my desk, the less I have to organize and put back in its place, surprisingly enough. So now I only keep the bare essentials on my desk. (A very Marie-Kondo-ish approach, again.)

I know that these might seem like very small things—a decluttered desk and an empty wardrobe, really?—but it actually slows my life down and frees up a lot of time I’d usually spend on “maintaining my stuff”.

But what’s actually even bigger and way more stressful than just ~ too much stuff ~ is the already mentioned need to be busy all the freaking time.

I thrive off of having crossed everything of my to-do-list in the end of a busy day. Being a productive and diligent person might seem desirable, especially when you’re more the procrastinating type, but feeling like you’ve “wasted” your Sunday, when you only read half a book, ran 5k, organized your bookshelf, cooked dinner, did the dishes, and had a bath, is the other side of that coin. “I didn’t really do anything today“, is what I usually tell myself after those days.

What I’m trying to say in this stream-of-consciousness-brain-dump kind of way, is that I want TO DO LESS. And I want to feel good about myself despite the fact of having done less.

My main problems are that I a) LOVE a good project and that I am b) VERY GOOD at thinking them up. So whenever I spot a two hour window in my calendar, let’s say on a Saturday afternoon, I have this super energetic mini-me in my brain that goes ”TWO HOURS? WE COULD DO ALL THE THINGS!“. That always puts me in a bit of a predicament, because the things my super energetic mini-me comes up with, are most of the time creative and fun and I really want to do all of them. But at the same time, I really could use some rest. Like, the proper “lazy” lounging around, binging a series on Netflix or reading for hours kind of rest.

Now, I know that there’re people out there who’re working three jobs, taking care of children or a family member, who’re like „Rest? Who is she? We’ve never met.” I get that. I’m fortunate to even have a two hour window of free time in my Saturday. But what I’m trying to say is—I’m not really good at “using” said time and allowing myself to do ~ nothing ~.

As we all know, New Year’s Resolutions are crap. But as I’ve already said in the beginning—that was a very long time ago, I know—I like to reflect on the past year and think of a focus and set intentions for the year ahead.
In 2020, I’m trying to prioritize rest and sleep and make time for deliberate dilly-dallying, if you will.
I’ll also try to consciously pick my projects instead of churning them out one after the other just because I can, and because being busy and productive makes me feel good. I’m going to focus on being unproductive.

some tools that are helping me…

01 I used the “Project Love Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020 journal to reflect on the last year and work out a focus and some goals for the new year. The questions and journal prompts really helped me to get to the bottom of what is important to me. I started working with it in the end of November, but it’s not too late if you want to get one for yourself now. (Not sponsored, no PR sample, bought the journal myself and just really like it.)

02 On December 31st, I activated the down-time-thingy on my iPhone. I set it so my iPhone (or pretty much every single app apart from google maps and the weather app) are locked/disabled between 7pm and 9am. I’m still sticking with the time limit and I haven’t made “exceptions” or came up with any excuses to use my phone anyway “just this once”. I’m actually looking forward to 7pm every day, as if it meant the end of a work-day or end of school. I leave my phone in another room and go about my evening without any social media or googling-rabbit-holes. It’s been fantastic so far—less screen-time slows my life down and frees up time I can use to read, journal, paint, do yoga etc.—I highly recommend it.

03 Yoga! Oh, how I love Yoga! Like every January, Adriene is doing her 30-days-of-Yoga program and it is the best. I’m looking forward to my time on the mat every single day and starting the new year with the 30-day-program helps me to keep up a daily Yoga practice throughout the rest of the year as well.
“The breath always comes first”, is what Adriene likes to remind us about during the practice. And it is so true. Our breath is such a powerful tool.
I often find myself holding my breath when I am anxious or stressed, which is a bit like lighting a cigarette in a hay barn during a very hot and dry summer. Whenever I manage to remind myself of coming back to my breath, something inside of me (most of the time behind my temples and in my shoulders) loosens and I feel better instantly.

All of this is one big thought that doesn’t really have a beginning or an end. I don’t have a one-fits-all solution that I can present you with. I’m just trying my best, that’s all we can do anyway.
And of course, first and foremost, I’m trying to do less.

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