By Cortney Holles

It’s April and little green shoots are popping out of the earth, reminding us about the cycles of growth and renewal as life emerges each spring season.  I love to notice and savor these changes as the season unfolds.  But in higher education, this time of year often comes with some tension, a kind of post-spring break malaise as the demands of the final weeks begin to close in and our calendars fill up with celebrations and final pushes for grades and deadlines for projects. There is simply so much to do.

Embracing the Art of Doing Less

In these times of overwhelm, our instinct is often to push harder, to do more. Yet, counterintuitively, it’s often the art of doing less that can provide the greatest relief. It is hard for most of us to allow ourselves to consider doing less when the answer seems to be more, more, more. Sometimes, simply sitting with a white board or a blank screen can help you prioritize tasks into what is truly meaningful in your life.  Consider what tasks are taking more time or energy than you can afford to give. By trimming away the excess, you create space for clarity and effectiveness in what you choose, and some of these strategies can help:

  1. Time Blocking: Allocate specific time slots for different tasks, ensuring dedicated periods for focused work, teaching preparation, and personal time.  I recently listened to Ed Mylett on the Jay Shetty podcast and loved his concept of compacting his days to get the most out of each moment and commitment.
  2. Saying No: Learn to discern between what is essential and what can be delegated or declined. Saying no to non-essential commitments frees up valuable time and energy.
  3. Streamlining Processes: Identify inefficiencies in your workflows and seek ways to streamline them. Whether it’s automating repetitive tasks or reorganizing your workspace for better productivity, small changes can yield significant results.

Planning for Pleasure: Cultivating Moments of Joy

Even when we prioritize and make efforts to do less to nurture our needs, we still have work to do and can infuse motivation into our efforts by planning ahead for the moments we most desire and taking good care of our bodies and brains along the way.

  1. Mindful Breaks: Integrate short breaks (give yourself just 5 minutes! Even 1 minute!) into your day to recharge and reset. Use these moments to engage in activities that bring you joy, whether it’s singing or dancing to a favorite song, taking a walk in nature, practicing mindfulness, or indulging in a favorite hobby.
  2. Prioritizing Self-Care: Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine. Whether it’s getting enough sleep, nourishing your body with healthy food, or engaging in regular exercise, prioritize activities that replenish your energy and vitality.
  3. Planning Something to Look Forward To: Anticipation can be a powerful antidote to overwhelm. Schedule time for activities or experiences that bring you pleasure, whether it’s a weekend getaway, a leisurely afternoon with loved ones, or simply indulging in a favorite book or film.  From simple to complex or deep, there are many ways to lift your spirits now by committing to future joy.

I hope these ideas spark some plans for future joy in your life and that you find ways to nurture yourself as demands on your time and energy keep knocking at the door.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on navigating overwhelm and what works for you.  Reach out to us or share with your friends and colleagues if you can.

Discussion questions

  • How you can nourish your seeds and renew yourself this month?
  • What are you planning for your future joy? What do you look forward to?
  • What is one way you can do less in order to feel more present, rested, or recharged?