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Do More or Do Less? A Modern Conundrum

Cycling Home from Norway

One of my qualities that I value most is my motivation. I like the fact that I am driven to do things like maintain this website and do all the stuff that fills its pages. As such, I frequently try to cram as much as possible into my days.

Some examples include:

  • Having a ticksheet on my fridge to track how much exercise I do.
  • Treating the dishwasher’s alarm as a challenge.
  • A period of my life in which I didn’t walk more than 50 yards because running was quicker.
  • The fact that I read political commentary on my phone when faced with more than two minute’s walking and no other stimulation (e.g. going to the supermarket) or more than thirty seconds standing (e.g. in a queue at the supermarket).
  • Frequently finding myself balancing on one leg during conversation because I know it will strengthen my ankles.

This brings me satisfaction because it feels like I am making the most of my time, using every spare second for something productive. (N.B. I am not claiming to be an efficiency super hero. I have plenty of lazy elements and I procrastinate like everyone else. The point is that I try to fill every moment and that I value doing so).

“Use your time”, is my wife’s motto for life and I get where she’s coming from. This is one part of me: the part that wants to use my time and always be doing something.

There is another part of me, however, that sees all of this rushing around and cramming things in, and thinks chillll… What’s the hurry? Enjoy the moment. Don’t bury yourself in a smart phone. Take in your surroundings.

I think the basic idea behind this philosophy is quality not quantity. It ties in with Bhuddist Mindfulness (on which I recently attended a course) and an increasing interest in “minimalism” (see this blog, this blog and this blog for examples). I like this stuff too. I like the idea of focusing on the present rather than dwelling on the past or always aiming for the future.

So there is a tension. I want to do more, be more and achieve more with my life. But I also want to be satisfied with how I am now and appreciate today.

How are these two things reconciled?

You could argue that you just need to strike a balance between the two. But that seems unsatisfactory. A compromise where neither desire is sated.

This is a conundrum to which I have yet to find a satisfactory answer. My current ethos is to keep cramming while I’m “young”, taking a mindful moment once in a while, with the aim of shifting the focus to a more measured mindful way of life as I grow older. Or, in other words, keeping busy and burying the issue until a later date.

What do you think? Do you cram as much into life as possible? Or do you prefer to take things as they come and appreciate them for what they are? Add your comments below.

Laura and Tim Moss are currently cycling 10,000 miles around the world. They are raising money for JDRF Diabetes Research and proudly supported by Lyon Equipment.

About The Author

Tim has supported over 100 expeditions across all seven continents. He has climbed new mountains, crossed a desert and is currently cycling around the world. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society London and a Guinness World Record. He aims to encourage more people to live adventurously.

Number of Entries : 587

Comments (2)

  • Ross Collicutt

    I struggle with the same questions Tim. Most weekends are packed with as many things as possible and then time outside of the day job during the week taking care of life and preparing for the weekends. If I’m not skiing or sailing then I’m hiking, mountain biking or kayaking. I try and do as much as I can with PureOutside, my website writing and taking photos and videos for it, not to mention the maintenance and feature upgrades that are constantly happening.

    Whenever I slow down or stop, it feels good but there’s still that nagging feeling of missing something. I could be hiking right now is what I’d be feeling sleeping in on a saturday morning. Then I think, well, I could be but should I be?

  • Matt

    Hey Tim, Good article. Syncs very much with my thoughts at the moment. Life is about living. Sometimes we are driven so that it means making the most of every moment, every opportunity. But sometimes, equally, that means just… living. I have been taking it easier on the adventuring front (apart from forthcoming stint in Mog..err!) I think partly I felt like I needed to prove something to myself that I could do all the things I leapt into and also to fill my time. I mean I enjoyed that pure adventuring phase but sometimes there is a time to lean back, think and also, not think. No surprise, perhaps, that my latest phase involves yoga, reading about Buddhism and just chilling a bit more.


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