Most of us who work for someone else face the same pattern in our lives: we are asked to do more in the same amount of time. It’s partly the economy, partly the increase of ‘time saving’ devices, and partly the infiltration of electronic communication. The result: we work all of the time to stay in the same place.
I admit it: I’m a huge fan of multi-tasking. I think I work well, and efficiently, when I’ve got a couple of screens open, plus my hardcopy notebook, and a stack of reading material to pick up while waiting for a slow site to load.
At least, I used to think that. Less had been sitting in my review pile for a few months, so I picked it up.
Mr. Lesser brings it right home when he acknowledges the difficulty of the message he is trying to convey: “. . . doing less can actually be very hard. Too often we mistakenly believe that doing less makes us lazy and results in a lack of productivity.” It takes courage to say ‘no’ to doing more. Lesser acknowledges that, then goes on to point out that being busy can be a way to keep fear at bay.
Moreover, it is actually not possible for us to truly ‘multi-task’ the way most people define. We can only truly focus on one thing at a time, but by worrying about all the other things to do and shifting our attention from one task to another we feel as if we are accomplishing things, when we are just wasting time.
He makes an excellent distinction between being busy: living a fulfilling life in whatever manner that expresses for you and busyness: rushing from task to task, doubting ourselves and our abilities, worrying, and stressed out. As someone who routinely accomplishes what 2-3 other people do I appreciated that distinction. I know exactly when I am distracted by busyness and no longer just busy.
The idea behind Less is simple: slow down. Pay attention to one thing at a time and to your level of relaxation. Doing it is difficult, mostly because of the five enemies of doing less:
and Lesser offers many exercises and readings to help get used to doing less. For example, he discusses time and notes that it is an entirely theoretical construct. We can only ‘see’ the moment we are in, time is constantly flowing. By pausing and just being for a moment, relaxing with one’s breath, for example, we can step out of the flow of time and realize how much of a construct it is. In doing so, we realize how little it matters and can just stop stressing over ‘wasting’ or ‘lost’ time. If you are mindful in the moment and paying absolute attention (to the best of your ability) the time is not wasted.
Well-written, full of useful anecdotes, and relevant examples. And yes, you will accomplish more, and be happier while doing so.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Author: Marc Lesser
New World Library, 2009
pp. 172, $14.95
Interested in reading more? Several pieces from Mr. Lesser are posted over in our ‘Articles’ section.