Forget the to-do list: You need a 'do more' and 'do less' list

worried girl waiting
Public Domain MaxPixel

If you're sick and tired of feeling busy all the time, start here.

"How was your summer?" I keep hearing this question from friends who haven't seen me for the past two months, and I don't know how to reply because I'm afraid to admit the truth. The summer was busy -- insanely busy, in fact -- busy to the point that my husband said he couldn't wait for school to start again so life can slow down a bit.

This is not how I intended for the summer to go, nor am I proud of it. I feel embarrassed at having embodied the very description that I dislike hearing from other people. "Busyness" is an insidious cultural trend that everyone seems to complain about, but then does little to combat. Somehow I, too, fell into its trap this summer, but now I am ready to fight back, using a "do more" and "do less" list.

The idea comes from Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar. One of readers, Janice, suggested taking two sheets of paper and listing exactly what you want to do more of and less of. Brainstorm to make a big, thorough list, but then spend some time thinking about it in detail. Of those, pick three that really resonate with you and are most easily achievable. Focus on these for three months, then reassess. Choose new goals every quarter.

Here's what my initial list looks like; I still need to pare it down.

DO MORE:

- Reading books: I didn't read a single book in August. That is horrifying. Start putting in at least a half hour daily.
- Sleeping: Get 8 hours per night.
- Playing music: Dust off my fiddle and keep practicing guitar.
- Prepping food in large batches: I want to reduce dinner prep stress.
- Scheduling work posts in advance and following a weekly topic pattern

DO LESS:

- Checking social media and texting: It's shocking how many pointless conversations I have, while not engaging with the people who are physically present.
- Cleaning: Because, really, who cares?
- Planning social events with people I don't love: My new rule is that I have to really like people if I'm going to give up an evening for them. (I recently perused an amusing satire called "The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck" by Sarah Knight and it's got me all fired up about this topic.)
- Saying 'yes' automatically, just because I like an idea or want to be nice. Instead, I will implement the "Heck Yeah!" filter, which Vanessa Van Edwards describes in the Huffington Post:

"Write, 'It’s either HECK YEAH! or No' on a Post-it note next to your computer. When responding to emails, taking calls and making your to-do lists, run everything through the Heck Yeah filter. Don’t do anything that doesn’t pass."

Now, go and make your own list. Think long and hard about what you want more and less of in your own life, and write it down. As Trent Hamm suggests, put as much as you can on the 'do less' list, since this frees up room in your life for the 'more' elements.

The start of a new school year is the best time to establish a routine that is healthy, fulfilling, and productive, and one that you can look back on with pride. Put your list up on the wall and review it daily to hold yourself accountable. Let's see where we all are in three months' time.

Forget the to-do list: You need a 'do more' and 'do less' list
If you're sick and tired of feeling busy all the time, start here.

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