zen habits : breathe

Get Less Done: Stop Being Productive and Enjoy Yourself

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

There’s too much emphasis these days on productivity, on hyperefficiency, on squeezing the most production out of every last minute.

People have forgotten how to relax. How to be lazy. How to enjoy life.

Try this: read some of the best books, magazines and blogs on productivity, and see how many will tell you how to get the most out of the time you spend waiting, how to maximize your energy, how to make use of your commute time, how to make every meeting more effective, how to get more out of your workday, how to crank out more widgets.

People are working longer hours, constantly checking their inboxes, constantly focused on Getting More Done.

But to what end?

Are we producing more in order to make more money for corporations? Or to make more money for ourselves? Or just to hold on to our jobs — jobs we might not like anyway?

It’s possible we’re trying to get more done because we love doing it — and if that’s the case, that’s wonderful. But even then, working long hours and neglecting the rest of life isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes it’s good to Get Less Done, to relax, to breathe.

Let’s take a brief look at how to do that.

The Beauty of Getting Less Done
While working long hours and cranking out a lot of widgets is one way to go, another is to work on important things, to create amazing things, and then to relax.

I’m not saying you should surf the web all day, or take naps all afternoon … but why not? Why not enjoy a lovely nap? Why not take a long lunch and then a siesta? Why not enjoy a good book?

I get people who ask me all the time, “What should I do on those days when I can’t seem to be productive?”

My answer: “Enjoy it!”

Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but an obsession with productivity is unhealthy. When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax. Let go of the need to be hyperefficient. Stop feeling guilty about enjoying yourself.

But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever? Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax, and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier. And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation. Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love, when you get excited.

It’s how I work every day. I work on lots of projects, on things I really care about, with people I enjoy working with. (See my guide to becoming self-employed if you’d like to do the same.)

How to Relax
It’s funny that I’d even need a section on this topic — how to relax. It seems like it should be something we all know how to do. After all, aren’t we constantly searching for ways to be less lazy? And doesn’t it logically follow that we already know how to be lazy?

It’s possible you already have mastered the art of relaxing. And if so, congratulations. You are a Get Less Done master. All you need now, perhaps, is to let go of the guilt you might feel, and enjoy this relaxation.

But for those of you who have forgotten how to relax, you’re going to have a tougher time. Here’s a hint: don’t stress out about it. If you don’t know how to relax, it’s OK. Breathe. Take it slowly. One step at a time.

Some steps:

Step by step, learn to relax. Learn that productivity isn’t everything. Creating is great, but you don’t need to fill every second with work. When you do work, get excited, pour yourself into it, work on important, high-impact tasks … and then relax.


Post suggested by Noemi.

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Read more about simple productivity, focus and getting great things done in my book, The Power of Less.



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