Category Archives: Less is More: Living Minimally and Simply

When we consciously choose to live with less, designing our lives around simplicity, minimalism, and intention, we learn, paradoxically, that less is more.

Why I am Choosing to Email Slowly

I am by choice a slow emailer, and it often takes me a week or two to respond to messages.

Sometimes longer.

I think to myself, You do not really want me to be a fast emailer.

Why do you want me to email quickly?

Do you want me to sit at my desk, furiously batting away at the stream of messages, hitting zero on a game that never ends, wasting my time on little pieces of messages that might add up to little, when I could be making work that matters?

You do not want your doctor messaging you back in between the moments while she’s performing surgery.

There are exceptions, of course.

But far fewer than we think there are.

Just because it feels good does not make it necessary.

Emailing quickly makes us feel good (dopamine, what a drug!), but it also lets us avoid, just a little longer, the more pressing matters of our lives.

We are not obligated to respond to messages.

(Even though Cialdini’s reciprocity research suggests that we feel an obligation to do so.)

Too much email (or rapid-fire response times) can reduce our capacity in other areas.

A good friend of mine put his internet out from 8pm in the evenings until 3pm in the afternoons. He found he was getting crushing periods of anxiety and fatigue around mid-morning and mid-afternoon. After testing everything he could, he finally eliminated his morning email routine.

His energy cleared up. His focus returned. He started churning out articles and essays and writing his third book.

We are always training each other in how to respond and what to expect.

The danger of a fast email is that it trains the recipient in believing they can always grab your attention quickly, immediately. And when that happens, they’ll default to sending you more email, because you respond fast, and quickly. (And often, in my case, diligently.)

It does not always feel good to be a slow emailer. Sometimes I feel the things that people feel: guilt, shame, worry, insecurity. But then I realize when I email quickly, these feelings don’t necessarily go away. Instead, they multiple, and I miss out on other things that are more important to me.

Two questions to guide you in your own inquiry:

  • Is this necessary?
  • Is it truly urgent?

And a few more questions, if you’d like to go deeper:

  • How do I feel before, during, and after?
  • Am I aware of when I start and stop emailing?
  • What happens when I set a schedule for myself instead of checking randomly?

There’s a meditation teacher, Pema Chödron, who is heard to have a policy about speaking and teaching events that I recently heard (I have not confirmed this, but I like the idea of the anecdote): 

“If you need a response faster than it takes to reply by slow mail, then I am not for you.” 

Social Media Summer Sabbatical

I’m taking a short break from social media this summer (from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). I’m on pause through the month of July and already enjoying it immensely. My plan is to take a social media sabbatical for a month. Why I decided to do it: I’ve collected a bad habit of reading and scrolling—theRead the article

12 Unusual Things to Clean, Organize, and Sort — To Let Go of The Past & Prepare For the New

A few months ago, I started cleaning out unusual things. One bright Saturday morning, I woke to spent the day obsessively cleaning. Not frantically, and not hyperactively. But I did move steadily from one thing to the next, surprising myself with how much I could clean and how much these small, little things were callingRead the article

Why quitting is perfectly okay.

It’s always the same story for me: I start a project, a class, an idea, or a story. I eagerly rush in, align my pencils, lay out my notebooks, and make delirious plans in my calendar. That first day, ideas and dreams pour out of me. Then four days pass. I waver, tired. My calendarRead the article

Packing light: how we traveled for 3 weeks across Europe (and got on stage!) with only small backpacks.

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s carrying an over-packed wheely suitcase through crowded subways and city streets up four flights of stairs after a long day of traveling. Between being cramped in an overnight flight across the Atlantic, negotiating the limited quarters of overhead bin space, and standing sleepy-eyed at the baggage claim carousel, I’m shakingRead the article

Why is Moving So Hard? The Struggle to Lighten Up, Give Up, Let Go

“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris. Everything changes. I just emptied an apartment full of furniture, things, stories, and stuff. I carried couches, desks, and pieces of furniture up and down (and up and down) many flights of stairs across hillyRead the article

Why Are Stories so Important?

The world is overcrowded with information. We’re wired to tell stories because it’s how we make sense of the world around us. Stories let us distill large, complex ideas and important messages into sticky, memorable pieces that we can carry forward with us in our minds. In the absence of a person or a phenomenon,Read the article

A Little Note on Letting Go

Clear your plate. Let go of things that don’t serve you. That don’t inspire you. Give up things that aren’t working. Release. Let out a deep sigh. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. Take a shower. Dunk in a waterfall. Wash it clean, letting water drip down around you, pour over your head. Feel the world rinse you off, like aRead the article

The Celebration Jar: An Alternative to Meaningless Gift-Giving

I splurged and went shopping recently. Like, real shopping–whatever “real” means. (Isn’t the act of spending a day inside of a privately-owned mall slightly strange?) I did things I hadn’t done in years. Wandered through big-box stores, large crowds, jingly Santa Clauses, screaming children, and wafting Cinnabon flavorings fuming into the crowded halls to makeRead the article

Winter workshop: cultivating gratitude, opening to grace. Begins December 1. Join us.

Crack. That moment, when your heart swells in open with thanks. When a stranger sends you a smile and a whisper. The unexpected brush of a hand against yours.  The warmth of the subway air after a walk through frozen city streets. A free coffee from the barista. When a taxi driver waves you forward andRead the article