Doing “More with Less” Does Not Work!

I would like to flip the Do More with Less mentality to more a Reflect and Rest approach, which ironically allows us to do more with less in the longer run.

Today, A2 and I had a wonderful conversation when he asked me about the “use it or lose it” phrase, which he found to be very confusing. I explained that when someone was in charge of a small budget that rolled up into a big budget, the two levels had very differing priorities and it caused them to have to figure out how to manage things. Like, the people handling bigger budgets had to figure out how to spend money wisely overall and the people managing little budgets had to figure out how to address their own needs. He pointed out that the people managing the bigger budgets once upon a time managed smaller budgets, so at least they would understand the perspective of the people managing the smaller budgets. You’d like to think so, my son, you’d like to think so. I explained that everyone wants to do more with less; we talked about how if you don’t use the budget you said you were going to use, then the higher ups think that you don’t need the money, even though you may actually be saving it for something in the longer run.

On my walk home by myself, the thoughts about how our world keeps trying to do more with less: more work with less people, more projects with less money, more tasks with less time, etc. etc. We keep trying to ‘save’ our resources by doing more with less. But in the longer run, this obsession with efficiency has caused so much burnout and health issues that the cost of doing ‘more with less’ far outweighs the savings we make, which really just ends up being profit for the higher ups in a capitalistic world. (Sorry, my lefty socialist side is coming out.)

More isn’t just about short-term quantity, it is about long-term quality and sustainability.

For example, buying clothes or shoes. By buying cheaply made or trendy fashionable wearables, we are just ensuring that we have to keep buying. Buying more isn’t going to solve our problems… buying LESS but APPROPRIATE will. That may involve buying things that are a bit more expensive in the short-run but longer lasting, maybe classy and sturdier.

Another example is the way so many of us want to avoid confrontation, because it takes us off track and it’s pretty painful in the moment. However, by facing confrontation head on and slowly turning it into a conversation or a collaboration, we can create a better longer term solution for everyone. Saving more time by avoiding annoying issues isn’t going to solve our problems… spending the time to think about and addressing it can help us save a lot more time in the long run, even if it may feeling more painful in the short-run.

And when kids are taking standardized tests to ‘prove’ that they know what they need to know at a certain level, we are just encouraging them to study to do well on a test and then promptly forget about it. Instead, we need to take the time to get to know them, their strengths and areas of interest to help them build the skills they need and want to accomplish the goals they aspire to meet. Saving time through standardizing everything may help us measure things that we we need to understand from a big picture level, but misusing those test to measure our individual worth becomes counterproductive.

My final example I learned from the Life Decluttered Facebook group: If you have more stuff than you have space for it, you WILL have clutter. So that not only works from a physical perspective, but also from a mental perspective. When we are juggling more tasks than we can manage, we WILL have overwhelming stress. And the way to reduce clutter or stress is to have less and organize better. But it takes time to be able to develop the skills and the motivation to have less and organize better. We must regularly reflect and rest in order to do a few things:

  • Understand your issues
  • Remember your motivations
  • Get into a healthy headspace
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Get support!
  • Prioritize
  • Understand your resources (time, money, energy)
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Develop a plan and maybe a timeline
  • Start somewhere
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Evolve your plan as you learn from where you started
  • Celebrate the wins
  • Know that many things are not a “One and Done”, but an iterative (phase by phase, step by baby step) process
  • Be kind to yourself!!!!!!!!!

Did I mention that I finally started to learn what it means to be kind to myself?

People have always told me that I was a perfectionist and that I was too hard on myself. And I always responded with, uh, no, if I were a perfectionist, I would be doing much better, I would be more effective, I would be smarter, I would be getting more done, I wouldn’t be so lazy… PUH-LEEZ… I am NOT a perfectionist! But now I understand what a perfectionist is. It’s someone who won’t let go when their ideal isn’t met.

Being kind to myself means that I forgive myself when I didn’t do what I didn’t do. Being kind to myself means that if things take longer than I think they should, then they take longer. Being kind to myself means not labeling myself as stupid, forgetful, messy, a ‘bad’ mom, but rather… Oh! I don’t yet have a solid system or routine to make this happen smoothly… YET. So as a recovering perfectionist, instead of getting mad at myself that I haven’t yet gotten around to cleaning out our storage unit, I’m going to celebrate that I’ve gone through the house slowly but surely, learning and developing systems to help us do more with less. And… I’m going to give myself time to reflect and rest.

Won’t you join me on this journey? Less is more!

Published by Sherry Yuan Hunter

Sherry Yuan Hunter is a certified trauma recovery coach and certified parenting coach. Taiwan-born American-Canadian Chinese, married, working mother of two, Sherry identifies as a Sandwich Parent, Third Culture Kid, an untigering Mom, and Recovering Shouldaholic. Based in Toronto, Canada, Sherry has been working in student success programs at University of Toronto for 20 years, supporting students, young professionals, new managers, working moms, and new immigrants to success.

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