When Doing Less Is More

“Let’s talk about why you haven’t been coming to the gym.”

This week I met with my new personal trainer. My first personal trainer was fired (not my fault), and my second trainer was kind of a drill sergeant who I stopped seeing when I got overwhelmed with work.

My new trainer convinced me to come into the gym and get started again…or maybe my too-tight jeans convinced me.

Anyhoo, I was sitting in gym office with her while she typed my stats into the computer. She was a very petite young lady with a super long brown ponytail. Although she was tiny, she looked like she was strong enough to pick me up and break me over her knee.

I explained that I had been a no-show at the gym for a while because I’m incredibly stressed from my day job. And let’s just say I don’t handle stress well.

“What do you do when you feel stressed?” she asked.

“I eat.”

Her eyes almost doubled in size, and she stared blankly at me for a minute. Apparently, that wasn’t the answer she was hoping for.

“Oooh…kaaay….” She turned back to the computer and furiously typed something. Next she had me hop onto the scale to get my weight and body fat.

“Did you know you’re at 34% body fat???” I was sure this poor girl was going to faint from shock. A large red poster above the scale helpfully informed me that 34% body fat was squarely in the obese category.

As I put my shoes back on, my trainer grilled me on why my job was stressing me out. I explained how I started working from home last year after moving across the country, my workload doubled, I had 4 business trips so far this year, and I deal with some unpleasant people who make my job harder than it needs to be.

At this point, I was feeling like a complete loser. I wanted to go home and cry into my pillow while devouring a bag of Twizzlers.

But then she said something I didn’t expect.

“Is there any way you could do less?”

I felt something shift inside me.

“Well…I…I have to work…” I stammered.

“What about just working part time?”

This time it was more than a shift. It was like I was being cracked open.

Do you ever get freaked out because someone said exactly what you’ve been thinking, only you haven’t told anyone, and then you get paranoid and wonder if some people can read minds?

I think I mumbled something about responsibility and paying bills.

“But what about your health?” She seemed truly concerned. I wondered how many other women she’d seen give up on themselves.

I also wondered why my other trainers hadn’t asked me about my life outside the gym.

My personal trainer had just become my secret life coach/therapist.

She noticed that I have stress oozing out of my pores.

  • I’m tired of looking over my 25-item work to-do list (no joking, I counted) and feeling defeated every day when I can only check off 4 items.
  • I’m tired of my annoying coworker who sends off snarky emails to a dozen people about how she thinks I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • I’m tired of dealing with people who think their time is more important than mine.
  • I’m tired of being told that I have new responsibilities without being included in the discussion about whether I even have time to take on new tasks.
  • I’m tired of being so tired at the end of the day that I have no energy for the things that make me truly happy.

Why do I feel like I have to get everything done by the end of the day? Why don’t I complain when people dump stuff on me when I’m already behind schedule? Why did I put my work email on my phone?

I’m freakin’ tired, and I want to do less!

I’ve spent this week mulling over the idea of doing less and what that would mean.

  • I could review my tasks with my manager and perhaps get some of them reassigned.
  • I could stop checking my emails as they come in and only respond to them at the end of the day (if they haven’t worked themselves out).
  • I could choose 3 items from my to-do list every day to focus on and ignore the big list.
  • I could ask to work part time. (This is the scariest idea…but also the one that thrills me the most.)

I’m glad my new trainer gave me a wakeup call. I’m not sure where I’m heading yet, but something’s got to change. My health depends on it. Man, my LIFE depends on it!

And I hadn’t considered that doing less could feel like…more.

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  1. Kate@stillroomtogrow on January 22, 2013 at 7:08 am

    I do get overwhelmed and so I started lowering my expectations about what i was going to accomplish for the day and suddenly i was getting more done and feeling satisfied instead of like a failure.

    • Sage Grayson on January 22, 2013 at 7:22 am

      Yep, that happens to me too. 🙂 I have a master to-do list that has dozens of things on it, but each day I only pick 3 or 4 things to work on. At least then I feel like I’m making progress! Trying to do it all just makes people stressed out.

  2. Brittany on May 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    wow! How crazy that she “read your mind.” I hope you figure out what works best for you! I like the idea of not immediately responding to emails. That sounds so freeing.

    • Sage on May 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

      I know! Just because someone sends me an email that might be important to them, doesn’t mean it’s more important than all my other priorities. Waiting a few hours to respond to non-urgent emails has really freed up my time. I’m not leaving them hanging, and I’m not getting stress out either.

      Still figuring out how I can do less at my day job. I’ll keep everyone updated on my blog.

  3. Megan Gann on May 9, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    This is such a good post. I wish I could send it out to everyone ever because I think this sort of thing all the time. I get a lot done, but it never seems like enough. I boggle at how people juggle college, kids, and a full time job. If I get weighed down in one area it tips the whole thing out of balance. I’ve learned to start delegating responsibility. The hubs and I now share laundry duty. Some nights, I just don’t stress if there’s enough X or Y in our diet, I try again the next night.

    I think we get so caught up in the demands of work that we forget life and health in the process. I think more quality, less quantity applies in this situation.

    • Sage on May 9, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      Your comment just made my day. 🙂 Please feel free to share/tweet this post.

      I read a lot of blogs where people are like “I’m perfect! My life is perfect! Everything’s perfect!” But my life is BUSY and STRESSFUL! I don’t think faking that it’s not would help anyone and it’s not helping me. I don’t know how other people do it either.

      “More quality, less quantity” is exactly what I need right now (good advice!). I’m ashamed that I can’t keep up at work, and now I’m ashamed at what work stress has done to my body. I think doing less would make me heallthier and probably a better employee too.

      • Megan Gann on May 14, 2012 at 10:11 pm

        Absolutely! I think you’re totally doing the right thing. =)

  4. xvavaveganx on May 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Wow, it definitely looks like you found yourself a keeper with this trainer! It’s funny, last week my trainer also said something to me that kind of made me stop in my tracks. He told me to stop overthinking things because it is making me sick. And he was absolutely right. It’s crazy how they drop these bombs while simultaneously kicking your ass!

    I’m so sorry that you have so much work related stress and a really rude, obnoxious coworker. I can relate to you in this way too. It seems like you and your trainer were really able to get to the root of the problem and like you have been able to start identifying possible solutions. Working part time sounds so ideal but I am in total agreement that it is scary. But being sick and tired and stressed is scary too.

    Please keep us updated 🙂 And thank you for this post. This is a really important topic and I think you’ll be helping a lot of people by discussing it 🙂

    • Sage on May 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm

      I know! My new trainer seems awesome. I’m meeting with her again tomorrow. I’m excited that she’s interested in what’s going on in my life.

      I will definitely keep you updated. I can’t continue at this pace or else I’ll have a mental breakdown. I think I’m scared of losing the income…but I’m losing my health right now. I need to ask myself what’s most important.

  5. Molly on May 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Wow, Sage, it sounds like this personal trainer is awesome! They really should take a holistic approach to training because after all, your lifestyle does affect your health.

    I’m sorry you have such a stressful job and shame on that co-worker who sends out those emails. What is this, high school again? So immature of her. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to go to your boss and talk about your work load. I check with my staff on a regular basis to make sure they’re not overwhelmed, then adjust things if they are. Nobody should be that stressed from their job, IMO.

    I hope that you can change things so that it reduces your stress. Keep us updated!

    • Sage on May 9, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      She seems really amazing and much more in tune with the big picture, not just what’s happening at the gym.

      I know, this one coworker is just like a high school mean girl. I think she’s mad that I was able to keep my job and work remotely after the move. The corporate office back in Chicago isn’t very flexible when it comes to working from home.

      I’ll keep you updated! I don’t want to go crazy with stress. Then I’d have to rename my blog Sweet and Sage and Insane. 🙁

  6. Shybiker on May 9, 2012 at 8:12 am

    I’m glad your new trainer is examining the root causes of your current situation. Acknowledging them is the first step. Considering changes to improve things is the second step. You are apparently there. Now you just need to weigh your priorities and reach a decision. In doing that, my advice is — don’t shortchange your health. We are fragile creatures and I’ve seen many people deteriorate and even die from bad choices. Stress is horribly corrosive — it’s taken a decade off of my life and ruined many years. Don’t make my mistake and remain mired in misery. Good luck, Sage.

    • Sage on May 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      I’ve been in complete denial about how my packed schedule and busy days are affecting my health. I’m going to take some time to get clear about what I really want out of life (and heading to an early grave ain’t it!).

      Thanks for the encouragement, Ally. 🙂

  7. Cara on May 9, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Sage, this post totally hit home with me this week. It’s always funny when someone who doesn’t know you can so plainly see what’s causing you stress. I know the email tip of only checking it every once in awhile (I try every 60-75 minutes at work) helps me stay focused and calm. I also make a week to-do list plus one every day and give myself time to re-evaluate it at the end of everyday. You should go part-time if you can, and work on a self-help book!

    • Sage on May 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      I must have a neon sign above my head: “Totally Stressed!” I always expected to have a busy, super important, corporate job but now that I’ve done it for a while, it’s not syncing up with how I want live my life.

      I am writing a book! That’s funny, several people have asked me if I’m writing a book. I’m working on a book now plus some other bite-sized resources. Now, if only I could work on my blog full-time…

  8. Jennifer Delle Fave on May 9, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Oh Sage! I hope that you listen to this awesome (yet scary!) woman and take charge of your health! I think with Wayne Dyer and your inner strength, you will find the balance you need! I know first hand how awkward it is to step back from a paycheck…the the judgment of others begin! And how my husband and I really started doing a lot better and we focus on what matters to us most. It causes tons of concern to others, but at the end of the day, we’re happy, healthy, and that’s all that truly matters. Americans work such crazy hours, it’s impossible to do it all. I hope you can de-stress and maybe try to do some yoga? That’s my goal today is to focus on yoga…and I’d like to zen out with some meditation (even though there are a billion things to get done.) *Hugs*

    • Sage on May 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Aw, thanks for the hug, Jenn. I’ve never been this busy and stressed at work before–but I spent my 20s working to climb the corporate ladder and get here! But honestly, doing so much is really wearing me down.

      I love reading your blog. You make me think about what’s really important in life and what would make me happy. I need to meditate more and get some clarity.

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  9. Callie - Coffee and Cardigans on May 9, 2012 at 6:43 am

    This was so wonderful to read… Because it applies to my life so very much right now. Being stressed by the size of your to-do list, the amount of emails in your inbox, etc., isn’t a good thing. But I continue to do it to myself each day. It’s hard to find time for the things I enjoy doing for fun – like going for jogs or blogging. This might have just been my wake-up call. So thank you, Sage!

    • Sage on May 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      You’re welcome, Callie. Thanks for the tweets and mentioning me on your blog. I’m so grateful to have supportive readers like you! 🙂