In our busy society, we are lead to believe that only by doing more, and more, and more, by pushing ourselves to the absolute limit, will we achieve “success.” The truth is, less is sometimes “more.” It can be better to do less – for our business, for our health, for our family, indeed our lives.
In her talk, Full Plate, Empty Life: How to Achieve More by Doing Less, Dr. Christine Carter discusses this myth that more is always better.
I like the idea Carter uses of the “minimum effective dose” – a principle that doctors use when prescribing medicine. We can apply this idea to many aspects of our lives. For instance, how much time do you spend checking and writing emails? What is the minimum amount of time you can devote to this and be effective?
Looking at my own email habits in this way, not to mention the amount of time I spend on social media, has proved to be very useful indeed.
This concept is very much in line with the Alexander Technique. One way you can think of the Alexander Technique, is that it is a process of subtraction – of subtracting unnecessary tension in everything we do, so we can function more efficiently. In effect we are boiling down the way we manage our bodies to the minimum effective amount of effort – or tension – we need to perform any movement or activity.
We can look at all our actions – our activities, our movements, even the way I move my finger to press a key on the keyboard – through this lens.
Can I do less?
I often encourage my students to play the “Can I do less?” game. The basic idea is that, whatever you are doing in the moment, to ask yourself, “Can I do less?” – the less being excess tension or effort. Can I hold my pen with less effort , perhaps grip it a little less forcefully, lessen the holding in my shoulder, or use less tension in my neck, for instance? Or can I read my book with less effort? Perhaps I notice that I’m furrowing my brow in concentration and holding the book rather tightly. Can I read effectively and lessen this tension? I hope so! I’ll be more comfortable, able to read for longer if necessary or desired, and I’ll be more open to take in the information. In all, I’ll be more effective, more productive, by doing less!
In what areas of your life could you do less? Where could you explore finding your minimum effective dose? Try playing the “Can I do less?” game yourself and see what you notice. Where are you using more effort and tension than is either necessary or effective? You’ll likely be surprised at how much! And, if you’re unsure how to let go of the excess tension you’re noticing, get in touch with me or any Alexander Technique teacher. We’ll be glad to show you how!
I’d love to get your feedback on this. Please leave a comment in the space below.