What if you planned to do less instead of pushing yourself to accomplish more?

Amid all this talk about resolutions and making changes, I’ve been thinking about an article I read on Wondermind on doing less in 2024. The Washington Post had a similar article about giving your brain a rest. I tend to push myself daily and I work hard, but I’ve been trying to give myself a break lately. I’ve read/listened to a couple of books which have helped with that, Four Thousand Weeks, Time Management for Mortals, which I highly recommend, and How to Keep House While Drowning, for which I’m not the target market (it’s more for people who are struggling) but it helped me go easier on myself with daily tasks. Author KC Davis makes the point that care tasks, like doing laundry and the dishes, are morally neutral and that we can do what we can without guilt or shame. I’m including excerpts from the two articles I mentioned below as they both contain good tips.

Audit how you spend your time
Basically, before you can figure out where to cut back, you have to know what your current time and energy output is, says clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, PhD. Logging a typical week in a journal or time-tracking app would give you a very detailed report, but even a day or two could give you some valuable insight. Be sure to keep an eye on everything from meetings and dates to doomscrolling and Tinder-swiping, but don’t stress about getting literally everything unless that’s really important to you. Getting a sense of the big picture is enough here.

From there, assess whether the things you put your time into are doing much for you… Then, see if there are opps to make easy cuts.

Do less
According to Dr. Howes, many people are “over-functioning” at work in ways that go unnoticed and unrewarded, so maybe doing less is just the work perk you need in your life…

Outside of work, we can quiet quit our relationships, domestic responsibilities, heck, even our hobbies by just lowering our expectations and easing up a little.

Say no
Protecting your time by setting boundaries or limiting your availability, whether that’s turning off notifications or blocking off windows of time to dedicate to specific responsibilities or people can help you do less too. But all of that requires using the word No.

Stop multitasking
when we evoke multitasking in the name of productivity, we’re usually talking about what experts call task-switching, or going back and forth between multiple things, which our brains are way less good at. – From Wondermind

Track where your time goes.
Headlee noted that many people don’t really know where their time goes. She advises clients to take notes every half-hour jotting down what they’ve been doing. After a week or two, clear patterns will emerge. “It’s one of the most powerful exercises because when people realize where their time is really going, it can completely change their priorities,”

Take tech breaks.
Shut down laptops and phones to give yourself a tech break.

Practice “micro” pauses:
Microbreaks have been shown to boost vigor and reduce fatigue. Take three deep breaths before you start a Zoom meeting. Do a breathing exercise at stoplights.

Rethink long workdays.
Research suggests that we get less productive and creative when we work long hours. Research from Iceland found that workers who clocked 35 to 36 hours a week were equally or more productive and had improved well-being compared with working more than 40 hours per week. – From The Washington Post

[From Wondermind and The Washington Post]

The best thing I learned from the book Four Thousand Weeks is that doing unpleasant tasks undistracted and mindfully is actually easier. I’ve tried to lean into this and just do the thing, but it’s not a simple transition. How to Keep House recommends setting a timer and starting a task for a few minutes and stopping if it’s still too hard for you. Both of those books are about accomplishing more with less effort and not feeling guilty about it. Doing a half job is usually fine.

Last fall I uninstalled a terribly addictive match 3 game on my phone that I was playing whenever I had downtime. (Actually I uninstalled it daily, kept playing it, and then asked support to delete all my progress, which took them a week.) It is very likely that I now spend two or more hours a day on Twitter in the browser on my phone since I uninstalled the app. I would like to be able to just sit and watch a show without being distracted. I installed a blocking app on my phone, which worked somewhat but I just kept deactivating it. I’m thinking of getting a timed lockbox and using it to help curb my phone addiction. First though, as both WaPo and Wondermind recommend, I need to audit how I spend my time.

Also I wanted to mention that I’ve been using grocery pickup and occasionally delivery services instead of shopping in the store. That single change made a big difference and I’m hoping to find more shortcuts like that this year.

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26 Responses to “What if you planned to do less instead of pushing yourself to accomplish more?”

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  1. Cee says:

    I just had the same thought last December – I aspire to cut back on so many things because I realised that what’s keeping me so stressed is the lack of time I have. I have a 40 minute commute each way, daily, and I’m always running late, which in turn stresses me out and obliterates my good mood. So I decided to cut back on activities after work – only doctors appointments (when needed) and gym sessions.
    I hope this change frees up my time on the week, I’m struggling to upkeep my apartment.

    I get why this is so difficult to change – I need more free time and at the same time I’m looking into MBAs.

  2. Becks1 says:

    Two things that I do that help me feel more productive around the house:

    I time myself doing really unpleasant tasks. And when I say “really unpleasant” I mean the stuff that I hate – namely emptying the dishwasher, loading it, and folding laundry. Those are things I just hate hate HATE doing. so I started timing myself as a way to motivate myself to do it – like it takes me 4 minutes to empty the dishwasher. It’s not hard. I can do it while heating up my lunch in the microwave. and once I started thinking of it that way it became a lot easier for me to do it because I know in my head that it’s going to take me less than 5 minutes and then its done.

    The other thing I do is just set a timer for 15 minutes and straighten/clean. We have a small house with two dogs and four people so it gets messy really fast and then it feels overwhelming to clean, but if I take 15 minutes while the kids are showering at night to fold blankets, straighten the books, clear the table, etc, I end up feeling a lot better.

    And yes, I absolutely find when I put my phone down I am more productive, obviously. I charge it in the kitchen when I’m watching TV at night and then I either actually watch the show or I end up reading, which is better for me mentally. When I work, if I have my phone next to me I get too distracted (I literally just spent 10 minutes watching reels as I’m typing this…….) too easily and am less productive. So again I charge it in the kitchen and its just far enough away (one room over LOL) that I am more productive.

    And then finally…..I really am one of those people who just thinks “I do what I can and that’s enough.”

    • Bean says:

      I’m Gen X (the badass generation) and I have become aware that my attention span is now shite. When I was growing up I could spend all day reading a book, doing puzzles, etc. Now? I am always checking texts, emails, WhatsApp, news, etc. I have a hard time just focusing on the one thing, even if it’s enjoyable. I worry how all this screen time is changing our kids brains. My son’s attention span is ridiculously short and his only hobby/interest is video games.

      • Becks1 says:

        My attention span is also shite now. I think to a certain extent it always was (and I wonder if I have ADD that was just never diagnosed bc I did well in school) – but now I’ve noticed its gotten really bad and I do think its a product of screen time – internet in general and phone use specifically. I wonder a lot if I can retrain my brain to read a book without checking my phone every 3 pages or something.

      • StillDouchesOfCambridge says:

        GenX too and my attention span is also shite. I forget words to end sentences, i go to somewhere in the house to pickup something and forget what I was going. Classic. I blame tech and also the lack of human interaction. ( and probably age lol)

  3. missmerry says:


    I have a few suggestions as well:
    1. for sure slow down at work. if you’re feeling underappreciated and overworked, I find that even if i slow down a bit, my work doesn’t lose quality or value and nobody at work even notices I worked an hour or two less, i still get tons done without feeling burned out or underappreciated

    2. there is a company called “the heroes journal” that sells decks of “side quest” cards that have helped me when I feel stuck. They’re small things like “take a walk” , “clean something for 15 minutes”, etc.

    3. I also invested in Speks, which are basically a fidget toy. But they’re great for me to use while I watch a TV show (instead of scrolling my phone)

    • Mia says:

      My employer doesn’t appreciate hard workers. The lazy ones are treated like kings and queens. I have slowed wayyy down and feel much better.

      • Renee' says:

        Same here! It was a revelation. I realized none of my going the extra mile, out of my way or over achieving were getting me anywhere. I simply decided to do less during my workday. It has worked wonders! I still get the work done but stopped putting so much pressure on myself.

  4. salmonpuff says:

    I did this last year because I was super burned out — with work, with housekeeping, with raising children, with exercising, with everything. I didn’t do the time audit, but I did resolve to just back off of everything by like 10% and generally change how I approached life. Instead of seeing it as a game to be won, I wanted to just live it.

    Some of the things I did: hiring a housekeeping service, allowing myself to exercise 1 hour a day instead of 90 minutes, backing off my side gig and focusing on my main job, and establishing end-of-day relaxation rituals that were non-negotiable. I also spent less time on minor relationships, saving energy for my more cherished pals.

    All that led to me having a cleaner, more organized house and the mental space and energy to tackle some inner work that I’d been struggling with. I plan to keep some of my changes this year, but I know that I can bring back some of my old external goals now that I have more energy from my year of rest.

  5. RMS says:

    Nothing like a terminal illness to make you stop and reassess everything. Even now while I am in remission, everything gets weighed against ‘Does this (person, activity, trip, job) bring me stress or does this bring me joy? Will this (person, activity, trip, job) extend or foreshorten my life?’ Am I likely to do that magical thing that puts me into history books forever? Not likely, so let me choose how to spend my days in a way that, at the end, won’t leave me disappointed and wondering about things missed OR pissed off at all the crap I tried to do that, in the end, meant so little. I feel the weight of the expectations of my family in their desire for me to leave a legacy and I compare that against what I know deeply matters. We can make more of anything but Time, so guard that precious asset and spend it as wisely as you can…

    • BeanieBean says:

      Yes, yes, yes! I’ve come to this realization myself, having far less time in front of me than behind me. What is truly important? ❤️

  6. Flamingo says:

    I have found instead of overwhelming myself to do everything. I just focus on one thing. Whether it is work, cleaning or working out. Just do one thing well and be proud of that. Then tomorrow I can work on the next thing. Eventually everything gets done in its own time.

    When I try to do this this and that and this. My brain fries and I end up on the couch scrolling through tik tok for hours to avoid the world.

  7. BlueNailsBetty says:

    Something that is helping me is changing my phones colors to grayscale when I’m not working. I’m currently a rideshare driver and I need the colors when I’m driving but as soon as I complete a shift I change it to grayscale.

    I was absolutely shocked at the difference in my brain and interest level the first time I changed my phone colors to grayscale. It really drove home how colors were contributing to my phone addiction. Website/app designers work hard to get us addicted and color therapy is one of the ways they do that. Turn off the colors and you kill part of what makes the internet/apps so addictive.

    • Celebitchy says:

      This is such a great tip I will try this thank you!

    • Sass says:

      @Bluenailsbetty this is brilliant, thank you! I’m going to do this!

      Over the years I’ve noticed a personal shift away from social media, electronics etc. in general. I’ll be 40 this year, and ever since the pandemic – like many people – I’ve made big steps to prioritize my physical and mental health. Some of that includes proactive therapy, hiring a personal trainer, actually going to the doctor (all of them) and dentist, taking prolonged breaks from social media or leaving certain platforms altogether, and I don’t make or receive texts or calls after 7pm or before 7am unless it’s an emergency or it’s an immediate family member like my husband or child and they aren’t home so we have to communicate (phones allow for you to have a list of contacts who can get past the DND block). I say no to a lot of things where before I used to say yes. If I have a day off, like a random day off, I tell NOBODY. I just rest lol.

      I’ve started reading an older book called Successful Aging which is a close look at the MacArthur Foundation study on the subject and it’s been eye opening. I do have some goals for this year but I’m also not going to be upset if I don’t meet them. Just taking it a day at a time and doing some breathing exercises 🤣 I drink a gallon of water a day, eat a lot of whole grains, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, apples, spinach, chicken breast, take my vitamins, my meds for my chronic illness, and have a fairly involved skincare routine. Plus I’m in bed by 10 (usually earlier, closer to 9:30) because I get up at 5:15 to do yoga and lift weights. I would like to walk daily because I love it but my work makes that hard, as I work 7-5:30 M-F, but I’m getting in once a week at least which is nice, and I do dance cardio once a week and a treadmill walk once a week too. I don’t plan on always exercising a lot, in fact by this summer I plan to cut back. I’m also reading more books and writing again which I haven’t done in ten years. I’m also letting my clients know this summer that in our next contract cycle my hours are changing so if they need to seek my services elsewhere I get it but it’s time for me to work fewer hours. I have found the craving for a slower, simpler, quiet life really showed itself from 2020-2022 and I am really fighting the current to go all in again. With kids there are so many commitments and tight schedules and we don’t even do half of what most families do. I still want less hahahaha. Anyway that was a lot. Lol

    • Becks1 says:

      okay I need to try this. How do I do it?? Under settings? Someone talk me through this LOL.

    • BlueNailsBetty says:

      For Iphone:

      Display & Text
      (scroll down)
      Color Filters (click the button)
      Click color filters
      Click Grayscale

      I don’t know how to do it on Android. Google “grayscale on Android” and it should come up.

    • Dazed and Confused says:

      I don’t know if this can help anyone, but here are some of the ways I have limited the “importance” of my phone in my day to day life.

      My phone is on DND 24 hours a day. On my Android, I can set the do not disturb to exempt anyone in my favorites. I do that. The only people who can break through the DND are my family. If I know I need to get a call from someone, I will add them to my favorites and then remove them when that time period is past.

      Apps do not get to send me notifications. The only notifications I get on my phone are just icons in the top bar of the phone — and then only for email, texts, my car, and voicemail. The bubble badges, buzzes, and the rest of it stressed me out.

      I don’t have my work on my phone. I can check those things on my computer — and more importantly – on my computer when I am AT WORK. I am a teacher and I need the clear separation of work and home.

      The way I look at it – when I was younger, we accomplished all of the things without the constant connection. Everything doesn’t need to be instant. I am always telling my students that the phone is not the boss of me. And that’s how I treat it. It quiets one of the things that’s demanding attention all the time.

  8. Macky says:

    I overplan and then end up missing out. I burned myself out to the point I just do things now. No guilt. No worried about missing out. It has helped me. I never would’ve did this in my 20s. I was still learning. Now in my 30s, I have researched enough to be confident.

    But I miss the thrill of thinking
    my big break is around the corner.

  9. SarahCS says:

    I was forced to start doing this last year when I lived in a building site for several months while having planned some quieter time with work (I freelance) that didn’t materialise until the build was effectively over. Then I ground to a halt and have been trying to actively recover (think about what makes me feel better rather then vegetating and scrolling) ever since.

    Work is currently quieter than I would like it to be (from a financial viewpoint anyway) and I am trying to reframe that to focus on the positives while also not filling my days with busyness and scrolling.

    I have intermittently done ‘no tech Saturday’ for a few years where my phone is only for messaging, (necessary) email, and checking the weather. It helps. I love the greyscale idea, thanks @BlueNailsBetty, I’ll give that a try.

  10. Gyros says:

    OMG, those dogs and the cat. Beautiful!
    We can be so hard on ourselves trying to fill up every moment being productive. I try to just chill out and keep my mind blank. I’m never guilt-tripping myself for skipping meditation or daily exercise once or twice a week either.