Do Less

Sometimes playing cards is the break we need

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I’ve been playing a lot of iPhone solitaire lately, to zone out. It gives my brain just enough to do that my thoughts can safely wander without distracting me into productive action.  One vexing hand that I had a couple of weeks ago… I kept playing it over and over again – maybe 10 times – and getting stuck.

Also recently, I spent a few weeks turning down appealing personal and professional opportunities, because my physical energy was unusually low. My friend Ken kept telling me to do only what is essential. So I tried to focus on that decision criteria before agreeing to anything.

Then, when I was in the midst of repeatedly playing that tough hand of solitaire, I realized that my solitaire app has an Undo button on it.  If only life had one of those!

In retrospect, I saw it would have been better not to move the 3 of Clubs onto the available 4 of Diamonds. So I used Undo to back my way to just before that point. When I started moving the hand forward again, I had to keep reminding myself not to move that 3 of Clubs, even though it seemed to fit perfectly, because I knew that path would lead me to a dead end.

Once I remembered to hold that one card to the side, I solved the puzzle right away. And that gave me an Aha! The secret to thriving may be *not* using every good opportunity that you have. It’s okay to opt out. It’s okay to rest. It’s okay to do only what’s essential!

Even if an opportunity arises that feels like a good fit, or sounds like fun, or will likely be lucrative, it’s ok to hold it aside.  It’s ok to say, “No, thank you” or “Not right now”, and just wait. See what happens next. Another opportunity, one that works just as well or better, may come around later to yield an optimal solution.

Since this Aha! I’ve been thinking a lot more often: Do I really want to take this next opportunity?  Or do I want to preserve the time for myself and my spaciousness?

My favorite podcast is Smartless with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and they talk a lot about the creative process. I highly recommend it. On a recent episode one of them shared the best advice he ever received: If you’re asked to do something that’s a few months in the future, before you say “Yes”, pretend for a moment that opportunity will happen this afternoon or tomorrow. Ask yourself “Do I want to go? Or do I wish I had said “No”?” If you’re not excited to do that far-off opportunity tomorrow, you’re not going to be excited to do it in a few months. I thought that was such a valuable perspective, and it dovetails perfectly with my solitaire lesson.

Do less, my hypercompetent friends. Let’s do less together.

Have you learned any good lessons from playing games, zoning out, or listening to podcasts?  Do tell! I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Prefer audio? – LISTEN HERE


  1. Debra Woog

    Oooh thanks! Will check out this resource.

  2. Su-Yen Kuhn

    One of my favorite (meditation & more) teachers is Emily Fletcher who wrote “Do Less Accomplish More” and spoke at Google and many other places about it. I highly recommend it!