7 Specific Ways to Do Less and Net More (Part IV of the doing less series)

Doing less does not mean being lazy, being a schlub, not being a contributing member of society, or living a small life.

I have a hypothesis. It came to me about 6 months ago. I’m now in the process of gathering evidence to support it, doing experiments in my own life to see if it’s true.

Here it is:

twitter_standingDoing less nets more. (Tweet it)


This is not a conversation about balance sheets and bottom lines. This is a conversation about living a life of depth and breadth. This is not about making more money or getting more done. This is about homing in on what’s important. This is about making space for the unexpected. This is about actually being here for your life.

This is about making a life, not just a living.

So far in this doing less series, I’ve shared 8 signs you’re addicted to busyness, how to find space to do less in your life, and my 11 rules for sane living

Today it is time to explore what doing less actually looks (and feels) like.

What does doing less actually mean?

True confession: the idea of being still makes me twitch. But when I’m willing to be still in spite of the twitching, I hear things and feel things that I couldn’t hear or feel if I were constantly doing.

twitter_standingStillness accesses a realm of being that is not available to us when we’re doing. (Tweet it)

True confession number two: I’m quite remedial at this.

I’m sharing my process around this with you, though, because a) that’s just how I roll (thank you, Gemini moon – must communicate everything!) and b) I know I’m not the only person who wants to grow in the area of doing less and being more.

I’ve made a list of the ways I’m doing less these days. I’d love to hear your specific examples in the comments below.

It feels a bit ridiculous to need to make a list of ways to do less. But I’m a beginner at this. So I made a list. I’m posting this one up in my office to remind me to step away frequently. Perhaps you’d like to do the same.

Specific Ways to Do Less

Sitting with uncomfortable feelings: When I notice I’m feeling sad, angry, confused, depressed, irritated, anxious, or anything else uncomfortable, I practice sitting and feeling instead of doing something to distract myself. What does this actually mean? It means sitting down, closing my eyes, breathing into the feeling, and becoming curious about what that feeling actually feels like. Where do I feel it in my body? What is the sensation exactly? What message does it have for me? (Thank you, Barbara Stanny, for this exercise.)

Staring out the window: This one is pretty much what it sounds like. I take a break from what I’m doing and stare out the window for a while without doing anything else.

Drinking a cup of tea without doing anything else: I’ve recently switched from coffee to hot water with lemon and cayenne in the morning. (I still really miss coffee. I may go back. Not sure yet.) Some days I see what it feels like to sit and slowly drink the whole cup without reading, checking my phone, or doing anything else.

Simply sitting while waiting for appointments or for people to arrive: Instead of pulling out my phone or catching up on Star Tracks in People magazine, I’ve been exploring what it’s like to simply sit and wait in waiting rooms. Waiting rooms are for waiting. I’ve gotten curious about what waiting feels like.

Putting the phone on airplane mode: I try to put my phone on airplane mode by 9 pm and not take it off until 10 am or after. Some days this happens, some days it doesn’t. But I love the space it creates when it does happen. Some days I completely forget to turn it back into communication mode until lunch time or later. I remind myself that there are no blogger or vitamin emergencies and no one really needs to get ahold of me in real time.

Deciding not to rush: This requires resetting my habits and leaving earlier than I think I need to. Allowing myself more time than I think I’ll need to arrive somewhere or do a task feels really loving and spacious. To someone who’s been chronically five minutes late in the past, this one is a habit that’s tough to break—but worth it. Ask yourself: what payoff am I getting from rushing? Often we find we’re addicted to the rushing because it helps us avoid actually being with ourselves in the spaciousness of enough time.

Asking myself: Does this really need to be done? Does it need to be done by me? Whenever something comes across my plate, I use these questions. If the answer is no and no, I pass.

twitter_standingYou are not more valuable because you do more. (Tweet it)


Your life will be lived more in the spaces between doing. Create more of those spaces and you’ll have more life to live.

Now over to you:

What are your specific ways of doing less? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!



  • Great post. Doing less in my world means sitting still and listening to what’s going on around me: birds chirping, the dishwasher running, my dog’s tail wagging. The sounds need not be poetic; just everyday stuff. Listening helps me focus on my connection to the world, which helps me feel a part of it. It also forces me to quiet the rambling chatter in my head, which is always useful.

  • Meredith

    Lovely! Recently I took a job that was only three days per week and the other four days I had off. I thought, “Man! This time off would be great if I had more money!”. Big and wild emotions came up during my off days and I was forced to reconcile them – it’s been wonderful (and painful and scary, too)! Now, I am working nearly full-time and though I love having more to “do” with my time, those weeks of deep introspection were so helpful. Doing less can be hard, but beneficial in many ways!

    Also, I tried to give up coffee and did so for a few months. I went back because I just love coffee! It makes me happy and visiting my favorite baristas is a spiritual hug. Now, I just savor one cup in the morning and drink water the rest of the day.

  • After starting a kale chip company, I was thrust into left brain/masculine energy full force to get it off the ground. It wasn’t until the recent planetary shift that I realized I needed a better balance, and wished to honor my songwriting once again. So for me, doing less means- everyday no matter what I sit down at the piano with a cup of tea, clear my mind, open the channel, and write. I used to associate structure with killing my creativity, but just the opposite. The structure is just a lovely foundation for my creativity to soar.

  • Gudrun

    Dear Kate, I want to thank you for this series on doing less. I always have a to do list that is much longer than is realistic to fit into the day. The idea of having “nothing to do” stresses me beyond belief, as does the thought of all the things I want to do but can’t get to. :P I KNOW that I need to practice stillness and listening.

    So thank you for the tips. I think I will especially try drinking my tea and/or coffee while staring out the window (no way am I doing hot water with lemon and cayenne, sorry!).

    Also being with feelings. My sister is very very sick and she is in a time zone 9 hours different from mine. It is overwhelmingly and frustrating. And one of the things I have been inspired to do because of your “do less” blog series is to cut back on the amount of stuff I am trying to fit into my day, which included a number of spiritual practices. I have cut back to 2 practices: a daily yoga practice and a chakra cleanse meditation – but am doing these religiously. Other than that I am trying to cut myself some slack and not demand so incredibly much of myself. I need to have time to feel and remember and yes, escape in this painful time. It reminds me being pregnant and nursing. You don’t seem to be doing anything, but the state itself is demanding a lot of your energy and so you need a lot of rest. That is how grieving, dreading, worrying and reaching out but not being able to connect is affecting me. It takes an awful lot of energy.

    So thank you for the encouragement to do less.
    love Gudrun

    • Kate

      Oh Gundrun – thank you for your comment. I love that you’re cutting yourself some slack on your spiritual practices too. Those can so often turn into just another thing to do when they’re intent is to nourish us. And it’s so profound about what you said in regards to the grieving process. So much going on below the surface even if it doesn’t look like we’re doing much from the outside. Blessings.

  • Thanks Kate – I love your list! It’s really potent!

    I’m an artist and writer, and run an arthouse B+B in an Italian medieval quarter. I’ve been slowly bringing the idea of The Simple Life into the core of my business over the past 5 yrs.

    For me, doing less is at the heart of living simply and creatively; in order to be creative, we need an empty space to work in.

    It’s essential to clear out the clutter, in order to get to that empty space. So my day always involves some kind of cleaning and tidying.

    Once a space is clear in my house, I can start to have the clear space in my head – and in this way can do less! I think it’s so easy to get caught up in all the details, and ‘I have to do this, this, this, then this’, ad infinitum, when all around us is disorder.

    Getting back to the basics like washing dishes, sweeping floors, putting my files in order on the laptop, this brings me back to a solid containing structure for my other work – allows me to let go and just be, rather than doing doing doing!


    Thanks again – I’m working through your fabulous book: slowly making profound progress – it’s a joy!

    Clare x

    PS I wrote a blog about cleaning, here: http://claregalloway.com/2014/10/31/cleanliness-is-next-to-happiness/ <3

  • Catherine

    Meditating, going for bike rides, playing with my cats, painting…simply enjoying the now. But I also go into modes where I have things to do and I do them at high speed just because i miss the rush of being over booked and busy. I pretend I am very, very busy for 2 hours and then I let go.

  • This came to me at a perfect time. Thanks so much. I’ve been overwhelmed with a businessIm trying to grow, and concerns about a couple of my loved ones. The last few days I have been doing almost nothing but cleaning my space, and walking. I know I need that

  • This is another keeper of a blog post, Kate! “You are not more valuable because you do more.” I think we might need to tattoo this somewhere so we don’t forget. (Ouch!)

    I recently gave up my television so that I would use my non-doing spaces for something other than watching tv. It is much harder and easier than I thought it would be. Harder because the drive to fill the empty spaces between doing with noise/distraction is far stronger in me than I anticipated. And easier because I am already rejoining in the silence and space that have instantly appeared in my life.

  • Dan Sullivan of The Strategic Coach says everyday should be one and only one kind of day. So there is a work day where you only work on things that make you money. There is a buffer day were you work on all the other stuff in your business ( After you have delegated or outsourced as much of this as possible. And most important there are free days were no work, no reading about work no work calls, texts, emails are allowed.

  • My favorite way of doing less is Saturday mornings – no alarm clock, just a natural wake up; followed by a cup of my favorite tea and staring out the window. My Husband has learned to leave me alone in that time, which is good because I never heard him then any way :) Just peaceful day dreamy bliss!!!

    Thanks for this series Kate. It has been fabulous connecting with others about wanting more from life while being less busy.

  • Hi Kate!

    What a fun post. Thank you for the reminder. Here is a portion of my latest Blog, reflecting on the stillness of observation.

    “My home has turned into a Romper Room for two seven week old kittens.

    Names of the week are: Ellie Mae and Frida. Instead of writing my Blog, vacuuming, putting together the 2015 Budget, shoveling, heading to the Co-Op with my shopping list (it includes catnip toys,) answering emails, and sorting out the rest of my lengthy To Do List, I am watching the kittens wrestle and race around from room to room. As of yesterday, I set the alarm for 20 minutes since I found myself mesmerized for hours, as the wee ones, explored, got lost ‘round the corner, re-discovered the litterbox and food dishes, ate up the house plants, scrambled into and around Clifford The Big Red Dog, otherwise known as Tyrus (my 100# mixed breed,) and startled one another constantly.”

    for more: http://www.paulahillempath.com/blog

    Thank you, thank you!

  • Emie

    Love this post!
    Okay I’m just gonna say it : You have the cutest face ever! I discovered you not a long time ago on youtube (awesomeness fest) and because of your presence (and what you had to say of course) I am completely hooked! Thank you for your wonderful work.

    Dancing is the best way for me to be in the present moment. Sometimes I close my eyes and identify every instrument I can hear.
    I am french so sorry if the sentences are a little weird :)

  • Maria Brown

    Doing less to me is sitting in a chair drinking tea and meditating on all the blessings in my life. ..
    My children
    My husband
    My family and friends, the timely phone call of encouragement when I needs it. A smile that warned my day. A bird in front of my window singing a song. A gentle tender touch. A nice breeze on a cool day. The small things that we often over look.

    Thanks !

  • This series has come at the absolute perfect time for me! Thank you for sharing your journey because it feels like it’s mirroring mine right now (and probably a LOT of your other readers’ too.) The past few months, I’ve been ALL about doing less to create more. (Maybe there’s some Universal shift going on, trying to slow us all down a bit?) The book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less has become almost a spiritual textbook for me.

    The biggest way I’ve been consciously doing less lately is saying “No” to everything that doesn’t rank a 9 out of 10 in my life right now. I want to strip away everything I feel “meh” about so I can focus in on the things that are most important to me. Plus, it opens up SO much space for amazing new opportunities and ideas to show up.

    Doing less can be SO scary, especially when I have my own business and I always feel a pang of guilt or fear about taking time away from growing my business. I appreciate you compiling and sharing “evidence” to support this belief that less nets more — it’s giving me courage to just “be” more often.

    And now, to take a guilt-free afternoon nap :)

  • Heather

    This past Saturday,my husband and I celebrated our very first “Plan Nothing Saturday!” Our teenage children were baffled! We didn’t plan anything and only did what we wanted. It was so energizing. We went out to lunch, watched football and went to visit a friend’s new dig.

    This week has been amazing for me–all because of Plan Nothing Saturday!

    Less can make more! You are so right!!

  • Please email me the first half of this series. Would love to read it.

  • Thank you Kate :) I love and can appreciate the “twitchy” feeling around being quiet. I too have found that any emotion that is uncomfortable for me, quietly sitting with it is remarkable how it allows me to resolve it naturally and in that moment instead of hiding it for it to come out at a later time which is usually much less constructive!I have also found that being “40 something” :) has brought with it permission to slow down, and allowed time to just be. Thank you for your insight as always I thoroughly enjoy the reading :-)

  • padma

    Since about six month I have subscribed to your e-mails and read each one very attentively and feel very focused while reading them, hoping that I might implement some of the inspirations received, but never had anything to share on the blog because in spite of all my set intentions, as soon as I get up from my chair I am back on my rush rounds of un-ending chores until I am so tired that I fall asleep without being able to brush my teeth even sometimes, without changing my clothes most of the days. When I wake up I have a moment of bliss listening to the birds outside, brush my teeth, wash my face, stretch a bit, have a coffee, but then again I get caught up in too many tasks, which I could delegate, but will they do this properly? Better I do it myself! Sometimes I get angry because my staff doesn’t follow my instructions… but really I am angry with myself because it’s me, who has not trained them. When a free moment comes I check my mails, reply all urgent ones and then read your’s and wonder how come… whole day I forgot… once again!

  • Thanks for the reminder to be still. When I feel stressed, overwhelmed, or can feel some uncomfortable emotions going on inside of me, I escape to the bathtub! I love just laying there with the water running, my eyes closed and just get in tune with what’s going on in my mind and my body. While the water is running, I feel like I can talk to God, say out loud things I am grateful for to boost my energy level, and even forgive out loud. So therapeutic!
    Thanks Kate!

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