Doing Less


Having things to accomplish is, by far, what distracts me the most from being fully present with my son. After many years of wanting a child, I feel ridiculous when I’m more worried about doing the dishes or editing or exercising than I am about just being with my son. How could I love him so much, have suffered so desperately for not having him, and now so often just take him for granted?

“Sorry, I’ll be right there, I have to finish typing this.”

“Sorry, let me finish these next yoga poses and I’ll be there.”

This is how things are. These are the things that I value. This is the modern world that we live in.

Before, it might be that the only things we had to do to feel fulfilled was to be part of our families and our larger community. I believe this largely was the case. In the past, finding a calling was reserved for the select few who were going to be buddhas or shamans; only in recent history, has the idea of finding something to be taken hold, and even more recently for women. Taking care of the household was also having a social life was also participating in the economy, for most of our evolutionary past.

Now we have compartmentalized to such a degree that we cannot recognize most job titles, and taking care of our physical bodies is often done in a specialized building with help from a company we give lots of money to in order to be able to use their facilities.

I am not damnig this. Modern life has its ups and downs. Everything has opportunity costs. We die less of polio and gym memberships cost $99/month. Our partners are away from us a huge chunk of the day, but we have computers. We have delicious, fresh food, and can sustain billions on the planet, but our breast milk needs supplementation earlier.

I would rather live now than at any other time.

And even if I wouldn’t, here I would be. So I accept that. I accept that there are many different small plates that I’m spinning, skillfully or unskillfully, that some of them may drop, and that sometimes, I pay attention to something other than my son even though no one else is here to pay attention to him.

With this in mind, instead of feeling guilty about feeling guilty, I do two things. Try to cope with it on two levels.

First, accept that I do value doing other things. That we don’t live in communities, and that my brain is trained to want to do a lot more than connect with a baby. If Jean Leidloff is correct, my brain was never made to do that. Still, I feel guilty. I feel guilty and that is fine with me.

Second, I try to carve out ways to be more productive so that I can be fully present with him when I want to be. So that my mind isn’t wondering elsewhere each time I look into his eyes.

In the book Less Doing, Ari Meisel talks about ways to free up more of your time. It is in a similar vein to Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Work Week. He gives a lot of practical tips that are largely for people who are entrepreneurs, but I believe the lessons can be fully applied to mothers.

Morning Rituals

This gets your day started right. I do The Miracle Morning everyday. I wake up before my son, and do the SAVERS. Silence, affirmations, visualizations, exercise, reading, scribing (writing). I highly recommend this way of starting off your day. My routine takes about an hour and a half, but some people do 2 minutes of each, or 5 minutes of each. The author, Hal Elrod, suggests flipping on the light, brushing your teeth (I just pop in a piece of gum. My toothpaste is fennel, which lacks the “WAKE UP” property of mint), and drinking a whole bottle of water the minute you wake up. Then get started with your SAVERS.

If you don’t want to dedicate yourself to this much of routine, the author of Less Doing says he does meditation or prayer and then journaling.

What, as a homemaker, is particularly useful about journaling is to write down what you have to get done. That, and gratitude. Once a week, write down all the things you have to accomplish that week. Split those tasks up, and write which you will get done each morning. Writing your goals makes you 42% more likely to accomplish them. I suggest using the SMART acronym to set your goals.




Optimize, automate, and outsource.

This is how you OAO cooking.

Optimize: I do batch prep. At the beginning of the week, I slice up onions and mince garlic. Any other food that will be used and can be processed like this can be done, too. Shred cabbage for a braised dish or slice potatoes for a gratin.

Automate: I have a food processor, and a slow cooker. These are pretty invaluable time savers, especially if you cook somewhat elaborately.

Outsource: Use a grocery delivery service to cut down on your shopping time, if that is economically feasible for you.

Other people outsource more of this and just use a meal planning service. That’s a great way to handle it if you have the money for it and enjoy the services they have to offer.

The last piece of advice from the book I want to leave you with is to set upper and lower limits for yourself.

For me, anytime I write, I set a timer for 20 minutes. That’s how much I have to write for each day. Then I can say: what’s done is finished. This is an upper limit.

For cleaning, set a timer for yourself. Don’t spend all day doing it. It forces you to work more quickly. An hours work will spread out to three if you give it to yourself.

A lower limit is like this: I will have 0 toys for my son until he is 3 months. From 3-6 months, I will only purchase him two toys. This reduces clutter in the house.

You can track how much time you’ve spent on what matters most to you (likely your children), and how much time you’ve spent doing other things. You can be happy with those numbers. You can get things done, and not feel guilty.


Journal Questions:

  1. What is one limit I can set on my time each day?
  2. What is one task I need to optimize, automate, or outsource, because I hate it?


  1. Start a morning ritual, however small


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