Why I’m Over the Hustle (aka Why Less is More for Me Right Now)

With the start of every new year comes a lot of talk about all the ways we hope to set new goals, reach new heights, and basically do more…better, stronger, and faster.  But I’ve got to be honest: I hit a wall this past winter, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one after reading articles like this, this, and this about millennial burnout. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about personal growth and development, and totally believe that we can always be more intentional, create better habits, and learn something new. But after continuously seeing a lot of articles floating around the web about how to hustle harder as a young professional, I felt tired.  

Probably not unlike many of you reading this, I tend to stretch myself thin by committing to lots of interesting projects, hobbies, events, etc.  A little over six months ago, I turned thirty, moved across the country, started a new job, and slowly began making California home.  Meanwhile, I was attempting to grow this side business by hustling during any free time I had. Needless to say, things were a bit hectic. I wasn’t sleeping well and just kept hanging on until the holidays when I could finally get some rest.  Well, the holidays came and went with lots of shopping, travel, and parties. Not exactly the peaceful downtime my introverted self was hoping for.

I lacked any energy to be productive, so I stopped hustling and read a few books, one of them being Essentialism by Greg McKeown. This book spoke to me and helped opened my eyes: I didn’t need to hustle, I needed more joy. I needed to simplify and figure out the fewer, better things in my life that give me energy, fulfillment, and happiness.

McKeown writes, “Our whole society has become consumed by the undisciplined pursuit of more. The only way to overcome this problem is to change the way we think—adopt the mindset of only doing the things that are essential—and do it now.”  Essentialism is about focusing on and accomplishing the vital few things that really matter. So how do we determine what’s essential and what’s not?

I began to ask myself a few important questions:

What can I get rid of?

Some people find it helpful to do an exercise like the Wheel of Life Assessment, examining your level of satisfaction and range of expression in various areas of your life.

In doing this exercise, it was clear to me that I wanted to spend a lot less time looking at screens. Between the TV, phone, iPad, laptop, and desktop, it’s hard to find a space in my home free of screens. Much of my screen time was unproductive and not rejuvenating in any way. McKeown writes, “It’s not about eschewing e-mail or disconnecting from the Web or living like a hermit. That would be backwards movement. It is about applying the principles of ‘less but better’ to how we live our lives now and in the future.” This made me realize that if I spent fewer, intentional hours in front a screen, I could be more productive.

The other big thing I decided it was time to let go of was the tenant that I needed to do it all, and do it all at once.  Essentialism is about giving yourself permission to let go of the “shoulds” you are telling yourself. 

How can I say no?

McKeown also writes, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.” Anything that I’ve waivered on in the last two months, I’ve said no to.  This includes everything from social invitations to offers at work to join new projects.  Saying no gets easier with practice, but I think ultimately is about how you set boundaries.  I found this podcast with Jess Lively & Brené Brown to be a great inspiration on this topic.

What do I want to keep?

I thought about what I actually want my wheel of life to look like.  What would my ideal day or week look like? I set up systems to make the less enjoyable, but still critical tasks easier and more efficient so that I could begin to make space for the things that were missing: designing, adventuring, and thinking.

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Changing my mindset from simply hustling for the sake of hustling to being deliberate about creating space for things like rest, play, sleep, and reflection has been a game-changer.  I’ve regained the energy to accomplish important things, and that feels good. As McKeown explains, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.” So, what’s essential to you? Eliminate the rest and see how your time and energy shifts!