Doing less more deeply

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Spending more time on the things that really matter makes sense, writes life coach Jan Aitken.

Jan Aitken
Jan Aitken
In my last ramblings I reflected on the thoughts and writings of Oliver Burkeman and his book 4000 weeks, the approximate length of a human life in Western society. I made the comment that life could hold more meaning for us if we stopped skimming across the top of it, cramming in as much as we could and slowed down a little.

Slowing down would mean we could do less more deeply, be less time pressured and give ourselves a bit of a mental and physical reprieve. A wise soul asked me what doing less more deeply would look like? Fair question I thought, and so I’ve been thinking!

One of the first things that came to mind was that some people flourish with lives filled to the brim, they are energised by trying tons of different things, by meeting lots of people, by living life at speed. Others feel more satisfied with a slower life and fewer demands placed on them. What it really boils down to is, no one life shoe fits all, so it’s important to find the speed of life and the "amount" of life that works for you.

It’s a little like the difference between travellers who love the trip that takes them to many cities/towns for a few hours or maybe an overnight, whereas others prefer several nights or longer at each stop so they can explore their environs in more depth.

When talking about doing less more deeply I’m talking about the things we do with the "spare" time we have after our work/home/family responsibilities are filled. The amount of spare time we have will depend a bit on our age and stage of life. Some stages allow us more discretionary time and others not so much!

For me, I am definitely a "do less more deeply" type. So, what does that really mean? Quite likely there are as many definitions as there are people you ask. However, conversations I had with others threw up a couple of common themes, literally do less and/or really dig deep into what you’ve chosen to do.


Remember the quote "If you don’t have time for the things that matter, then stop doing the things that don’t". Take a moment to think about what really matters to you and what you wouldn’t miss if you never did it again? What hobbies and pastimes have you previously enjoyed or enjoy now? What gives you a feeling of excitement, joy, peace (or whatever you are looking for) when you think about it? What did you enjoy filling in your time with as a kid?

These are all clues as to what is important to us and what might be fulfilling things to spend our precious spare time on.

When we live in a fast paced, ever changing world where certainty isn’t a given any more, it’s good to have some things that fill your tank rather than emptying it. Having something to do that allows you to really get in the flow and be totally absorbed can be both energising and restful, mentally and physically.

So, what do you really want to spend your precious spare time doing?

If you have a list of things and you’re looking to slow down then narrow the list to a couple of activities to focus on for the next few months. You can come back to the other things at a later date.

Put aside time in your diary every week to do what you’ve chosen and stick to it.

Go more deeply by spending more time on fewer things. Go more deeply by researching your chosen pastime, talk to others with the same interests, join a group.

Understand your hobby, read about it, watch documentaries on it, really immerse yourself in it. Somethings we choose might remain interests for the rest of our lives and others may come and go after we have given them a shot.

Weeding out the things we wouldn’t miss and focusing on what energises us makes good sense to me. For me, slowing the pace of life down a little and developing a more mindful approach to what I choose to do sounds very appealing and more rewarding that trying to split my energy in endless different ways, ending up being run ragged.

As Kevin Ngo (author and motivational speaker) says:

"If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a LOT of time dealing with a life you DON’T want."

Take some time, think about what you do want and then do it.

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

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