Doing more, doing less: Different approaches with one thing in common

Tracy wrote recently about the virtues of doing less.

It’s okay to scale back when things get busy, she says. Certainly, it’s a strategy that’s worked well for Tracy.

But other than times of family crisis, it’s not my preferred strategy. Moderation doesn’t come easy to me. Friends, you can start laughing at any time.

See here and here.

I am not, in many ways, a moderate person. If I want something in my life then I really want it. And if I don’t, I really don’t.Certainly this is true for exercise. I’d find it hard to maintain a three times a week, 30 min, gym experience. Much harder than what I do now. Really.

Now there’s a lot I don’t do. I talked about that when I wrote about my challenges with scheduling here.

Other people watch TV or do jigsaw puzzles, I suppose. Often the people who ask, ‘How on earth do you do all that?’ have regular commitments to non active past times I don’t share. No doubt they do more housework and have beautiful gardens. They might even iron shirts and send birthday cards.

But the stuff I do, I do a lot.

Here’s two examples: writing and exercise.

In both cases I typically take on more than I can handle. If I have a slogan it’s not “do less” it’s more like “plan 10, do 8, and don’t feel too bad about the balls that get dropped.”

There are currently 17 writing commitments on my schedule between now and next January. The first crunch is between now and February break. I’ve got a paper to revise, a book review to write, two book chapters to write with Tracy, and an encyclopedia entry to finish. Phew.

But the thing is, it’s all work I’m excited about. I’m looking forward to getting going on all of these projects.

Sometimes people wonder why academics work so hard. I have tenure after all. I don’t punch a clock but still I work long hours. What’s different it’s that these are tasks I’ve chosen to take on, for the most part. If I chose to not do any of it, declined all writing invitations, I’d get a bad performance evaluation, I suppose. (You can read more about the entrepreneurial work culture of academics here.)

Anyway, I’m much the same way with fitness. I tend to schedule two workouts a day most days of the week, knowing full well I won’t fit them all in. Often I manage eight but I don’t feel bad when I miss. I’ve got a super busy work and home life and it’s okay not to do everything. I need maximum flexibility. Sometimes I have back up workouts at hand.

So while Tracy likes the “do less” plan, I like to have more on the go. But where we agree is in the “no guilt” part of our plan.

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