the fo­rum

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Deirdre Macken macken.deirdre@gmail.com

CHANCES are, you haven’t done much lately. It’s that time of the year when there’s not much to do, tele­vi­sion is not worth watch­ing and, if the new year res­o­lu­tions are go­ing OK, you’re not eat­ing or drink­ing as much. So, how does less feel? This is the pe­riod for less in the same way that Christ­mas is the pe­riod for more. The time for less comes af­ter the wrap­ping pa­per has been stashed, the sales ta­bles have been trashed and the rel­a­tives have left with a few more sto­ries to hold against you next year. Un­her­alded, it creeps up with ex­haus­tion and stays for the cricket. Like ci­cada thrum, we no­tice it only when we switch off ev­ery­thing else. Maybe it can be this way all the time. Do­ing less is rarely a res­o­lu­tion. It’s not on any wall at the gym; you won’t find it in too many re­li­gious texts; and it’s def­i­nitely not writ­ten in your per­for­mance con­tract. Nike is not about to change its slo­gan to Just Don’t Do It. But that doesn’t mean it’s not pos­si­ble.

Ever since Sa­muel John­son wrote The Idler about 250 years ago, there have been trea­tises on the art of do­ing less and not all the au­thors have been sacked — al­though a French slacker, Corinne Maier, was dis­ci­plined for her book, Hello Lazi­ness. The lat­est ex­plo­ration of idle­ness is Au­topi­lot: The Art and Sci­ence of Do­ing Noth­ing by An­drew Smart. His take is that busy­ness de­prives us of those ‘‘ Ah ha’’ mo­ments that oc­cur when we sit un­der the ap­ple trees and watch the ap­ples fall. Be­ing too busy dumbs us down, even though we may feel sharper.

It might be a lit­tle late for new res­o­lu­tions but, if you’re in a bare­foot frame of mind, the kids are amus­ing them­selves and the ci­cadas are drown­ing out other thoughts, you could give it a go. Here’s where you might start.

Do less par­ent­ing. Turn off the he­li­copter blades, turf out the tiger mum and let your kids jump on the bub­ble wrap from a height. You don’t have to be your child’s sun­rise and sun­set. In fact, if you give them a bit of space, they will sur­vive the trip, learn from their mis­takes and may dis­cover who they are.

Do less shop­ping. This is easy af­ter Christ­mas but the fru­gal­ity can con­tinue. If you don’t con­sume as much, you don’t have to store it, fi­nance it, clean it, in­sure it, learn how to use it, make ex­cuses for it, hide it from your part­ner or de­velop a re­la­tion­ship with it that you re­ally didn’t need.

Do less com­mu­ni­cat­ing. Face­book doesn’t need your eye­balls, Twit­ter will still scroll with­out your com­ments, the Nige­rian prince will still be ask­ing you for money next week and, if you miss a TV pro­gram, you can al­ways down­load it/iView it/ask friends what hap­pened. Step back from the screen and smell the roses. Just take a few deep breaths and get a screen-free life.

Do less eat­ing and drink­ing. This may be on the agenda any­way but, be­sides sav­ing your waist­line and liver func­tion, eat­ing less gives your body a break. That’s how the 5:2 diet works. Eat­ing less food — way less food — for two days a week gives your body a hol­i­day from di­gest­ing du­ties. And, like you, it ap­pre­ci­ates the break.

Do less judg­ing. Hey, that’s my res­o­lu­tion but you may as well try it.

Do less work. This is a tough one but it’s pos­si­ble to work smarter and work less. But you have to con­vince the boss it’s a good idea, and the au­thor of Au­topi­lot has a few tips. If you’re ac­cused of lazi­ness you just re­tort, ‘‘ I’m let­ting the hub of my de­fault mode net­work os­cil­late so I can fig­ure what I want to do with my life.’’ If that doesn’t shut them up, you can quote the au­thor’s claim that busy­ness ‘‘ de­stroys cre­ativ­ity, self-knowl­edge, emo­tional well­be­ing, your abil­ity to be so­cial — and it can dam­age your car­dio­vas­cu­lar health’’. Then run.

Just do less. Do less, not be­cause it’s easy but be­cause you’re choosy. Do­ing less is not about idle­ness, it’s about pre­pared­ness. It al­lows cre­ativ­ity to come into your life, it gives sci­en­tists their ‘‘ Ah ha’’ mo­ments, it helps par­ents fig­ure out what’s im­por­tant and gives colum­nists ideas for mid-sum­mer col­umns.

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