“By managing energy more skillfully, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably.”
More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.
Yesterday morning as the week started, I woke up with a mental list of emails that I needed to send out. When lunch time rolled around, and I still had not worked through my list of emails, I was somewhat startled. It’s taking me this long to do something that in the past wouldn’t even have registered on my list of thing to do?
Looking back at my morning, I wasn’t too surprised: after each message that I typed, I was tired, and needed a break. (On the plus side, I was giving myself these breaks.) While I recently installed Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my computer and have taken it for a couple of test drives, I still haven’t started using it on a regular basis.
A couple of months ago my good friend, fellow blogger, and Show Us Your Hands! co-director Lene Andersen gave me a great tip, in response to some comments I had made about how I always feel rushed when I leave the house. She told me to give myself “ridiculous” amounts of time to get ready whenever I needed to go out (and we’re not talking a matter of minutes, but of hours).
So right after yesterday’s lunch, I found myself preparing my shoulder bag by gathering all of the things I needed in one corner of my bedroom. I was starting to get ready, even though my physical therapy appointment was still three hours away. This ended up being a smart move on my part, because half an hour before I was scheduled to leave, my body started to shut down. Luckily, my shoulder bag was completely prepared with wallet, keys, cell phone, emergency meds, natural stress relievers, Nexus 7 tablet, and the list goes on an on. All I had to do was figure out how I to get my body from my house to my physical therapist’s office.
While I sat in the back of the taxi cab on the way to my PT session, I started to think about not only my day up to that point, but also about all of my days over the previous few weeks. I’ve noticed–how could I not?–that what I am able to do on any given day continues to decrease. Doing some of the simplest tasks takes twice as long as they once used to. Leaving the house requires a level of planning just below that which is required to have a U.S. President visit a local bookstore. Not only have I had to double the amount of time it takes to do something, I’ve also had to double the amount of time that is required to recover from doing something.
And no matter what thoughts I have in my mind, no matter the optimistic attitude that I continue to maintain during the roughest times, deep down inside, this truth sometimes feel like it is eating away at the essence of the person who I am.
Having admitted as much to myself–while still sitting in the back of the taxi (which is actually the location of some of my biggest breakthroughs)–I also told myself that it was okay to accept these feelings, but that I also needed to counter them…because if I didn’t, the weight of these emotions, of doing “less,” would become too much to bear.
So I started my search for the silver lining. What good could I possibly find from such a situation? I am typing less. I am leaving the house less. I am cooking in the kitchen less. I am even reading less, as the fatigue often seems to take over every time I lay down with a book. Less. Less. Less.
Then it hit me, as I thought not about the quantity of the things that I am doing, but about the quality of the things that I am doing.
Yes, I am doing less. But the “less” that I am now doing has so much more meaning that the “more” that I once used to be able to do. Every email counts, whether related to personal stuff, RA Guy, or Show Us Your Hands! counts. Every day’s exercise session–even though they may sometimes last no more than five or ten minutes–count, and I know as much because these stretches have already done wonders for my shoulders and my back. Every trip outside of my house counts, especially since I am usually going to see a doctor or my physical therapist. Every meal that I make, even though they are less frequent than ever before, counts, because I am doing what I love.
Everything that I am doing counts.
And what matters the most is not how much (or how little) I am doing. What matters the most is how I am doing it.
And I am realizing that when I really, truly love every tiny little aspect of what I am doing, all day long, that I am actually in a place that is so far ahead of what I was forced to leave behind.
Once the taxi stopped in front of my physical therapist’s office, I stepped out. I was in more pain than ever, and I had just accepted a whole new level of “limitations” that have entered my life, but I was smiling.
Most importantly, I was happy.
Because there is a beauty to be found in doing less…and I had just found it!
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!