Doing less of anything is not a philosophy I championed until becoming a mother. I certainly didn’t work myself to the bone, but I also didn’t see how pruning projects could help me make even more progress on the ones that mattered.
Four years ago I had a lot of energy, a lot of time, and a lot of ideas, so in addition to my work in philanthropy, I was always doing something more—like blogging and running a food activism website, among other things—and did it mostly on a whim, when I felt like it, and without looking at the big picture.
I got a lot done that way (like writing my first book, for one thing) but I wasn’t necessarily being smart about how I spent my time. Then I had one of those a-ha moments that Oprah likes to talk about (or talked about, when she was hosting her own show), and realized that in order to continue to write over the long-term, I needed a different strategy.
I’d been going it alone for a while, but then I learned about author and entrepreneur Kate Northrup. Her philosophies on life and business mirrored my inclinations, so I’ve been slowly fusing her strategies with some of my own, and it’s helped me design a sustainable writing life that’s supportive yet flexible. Kate just wrote a new book called Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms* (*affiliate link), and there are so many great experiments you can apply to writing! Here are some of the best takeaways, and how you can use them to impact your creative life in meaningful ways.
Experiment #1: Discover What Really Matters to You
“When you’re investing energy in things that don’t ultimately matter to you, life loses luster. You begin to wonder what’s wrong with you and if this is really it.” —Kate Northrup
Once I had a baby, it became very clear very quickly that I couldn’t keep up my former pace. This realization turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it forced me to discover what was most important when it came to my creative life. I have an exercise in Wild Words about this that involves a pad of sticky notes, an empty wall, and some trusting, rearranging, and clarifying. It’s hard to let go of things you want to be doing, but once you’re clear on only the essential priorities that’ll move you and your work forward, it’s so much easier to function.
Experiment #2: Make Sleep a Spiritual Practice
“Karen [Brody] says that yoga nidra, beyond helping you rest, accesses your subconscious mind and helps you step fully into your purpose and power. That makes sense because when we’re exhausted we’re just barely keeping it together, unable to find the energy to be powerful or purposeful, but when our tank is full we’re unstoppable.” —Kate Northrup
One of my motto’s these past couple of years has been “the body comes first.” There’s simply no way I can show up as the best version of myself when I’m not rested. Since discovering yoga nidra, I’ve been able to embody this practice even more. (And I was thrilled to see such a great shout out in Kate’s book!) Yoga nidra gives me the best of both worlds: deep, nourishing rest for my body, plus the opportunity to plant intentions deep in my subconscious to help inform how I operate in my day-to-day life. Basically, sleep is essential. When we’re rested, we can show up to all aspects in our life with more energy and enthusiasm.
Experiment #3: Ask for Help
“I can’t figure a way that we can be happy and healthy as working women without getting help. No matter which way I think about it, there’s just no way other than making sure we’re supported.” —Kate Northrup
If I’ve learned anything since my son was born, it’s that one of the most reliable ways to make progress in my writing life is to get help. When I was only a few weeks into writing Wild Words, I sat down with my husband and basically said there was no way I could finish it if we didn’t have a plan. So we brainstormed and figured out ways to accommodate the writing that needed to happen over the course of nine months. We need to reach out. We need to have conversations. We need to figure out how to make things easier. Practice this, and it’ll be a lot easier to make space for writing.