“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone.”
~Lin Yutang

There are some of us who live in overdrive. We may set a goal of slowing down, of taking time, of easing away from always pushing forward, but we often still find ourselves moving at a warp speed or unable to walk away from any and every task in front of us. And while there are many people who think this overdrive is often, if not always, a good thing, I’ve come to realize that there is a noble art of going at a slightly more leisurely pace and of leaving things undone.

I’ve watched clients rush through tasks and conversations, eager to cross one more thing off their seemingly endless to-do list. I’ve witnessed people jumping into conversations or situations, when taking a pause and letting things be for a while would have been more productive. I’ve noticed that doing more quicker doesn’t always yield the best result.

In our always-on, 24-7 society, where we unfortunately sometimes judge ourselves and others by the number of things we accomplish and the lack of free time on our calendar, it can be hard to not do something. We are often rewarded – at least in our own minds – for getting it done and getting it done now. But research is showing more and more that our brains (and bodies) work better when we’re not in constant overdrive and when we do take pauses and time for nothing.

Research is showing that we can be more Thoughtful – and therefore more effective and productive – when we intentionally choose what we’ll do and what we’ll walk away from. We can lead better – and live better – when we spend time where it needs to be spent and recognize what doesn’t need to happen (or doesn’t need to happen by us).

It can be scary – terrifying in fact – to choose not to do something, especially as we worry what others will think when they notice we’ve left something undone. We can stress over whether we’re letting go of the right things or too many things. But any way you look at it, it is a leadership skill (and a necessary one at that) to Thoughtfully choose what we will and won’t do. What we’ll take care of ourselves, what we’ll leave for others or delegate to someone, and what we’ll simply leave undone.

It may be a noble art to get things done, but it is a nobler art to leave things – the right things – undone, and a challenge and opportunity to figure out what those are and to get better and better at walking away.

When have you left something undone and how has that worked out for you?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For help in deciding what to do and what to leave undone, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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