Making Waves by Doing Less: How to Focus on Your Passion

Making Waves by Doing Less: How to Focus on Your Passion | When I first got started in education, I tried to do ALL THE THINGS. But eventually, I learned that this was making everything I did mediocre. When I learned how to do less, but better, amazing things started happening.

Making Waves by Doing Less

This post is an adaption of an Ignite talk I did at Riding the Wave Manitoba.  I wanted to figure out what the most important message was that I could get across in five minutes and I realized that it wasn’t the importance of makerspaces or why we need to bring creativity back or why we should be sharing on social media.  All of those things are awesome, but I realized that what’s most near and dear to my heart now is giving people permission to do less, and to make the things they do better.  To ditch the things that don’t bring you joy and pour yourself into your passions.  Because I’m finding that everything else seems to work itself out by doing less.

Ditch the things that don't bring you joy and pour yourself into your passions Click To Tweet

Why Burnout Happens to New Teachers

When I first started as the media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School in 2010, I inherited a lot of things.  I inherited the programs that the media specialist before me ran.  I inherited the collection that she never weeded since she couldn’t bear to get rid of books.  I inherited the little tasks and duties she had acquired, like maintaining the copying machines, putting together school award applications and such.  As I gradually started to find my place at the school and make the library my own, I started to have more responsibilities added on.  Committees that I was “voluntold” for.  Offices in different organizations that I did because someone asked me to.  Some of these things aligned with my passions.  Many of them I just did because I felt like I was supposed to, or I was afraid of letting people down.

Before I knew it, I was stressed out, overwhelmed, and getting sick all the time.  I hated my job and hated the responsibilities I had taken on.  I couldn’t find the time to dream up new ideas, collaborate meaningfully with my teachers or keep up with the latest teen literature.  I was burning out.

Do we really NEED to be on all those committees?

Gradually, I started cutting back on the unnecessary responsibilities.  Those committees carried on just fine.  When I would get asked to do something new, I would take time before I answered to consider if it was really something I wanted to take on.  Soon, I had created enough space in my life to find what my passions really were.  I started learning about the Maker Movement and dove in deep.  When I first brought out K’nex and saw how my students lit up when they were allowed to be creative in my library, I knew that I had found what I needed to be doing.

"Less, but better" Dieter Rams

Why we need to do “less, but better”

There is a misconception in the world that we need to be awesome at ALL the THINGS.  But this is a lie.  The more we take on, the lower the quality of what we create becomes.  We need to learn to delegate, take on less, and do the things that we choose to do amazingly.  I recently read the book Essentialism, and so many things in that book spoke to my heart.  The author frequently quotes the designer Dieter Rams, who is famous for his philosophy of “Less, but better”.  Rams realized that he could create better products by striping away everything that was unnecessary and focusing on making the best possible products for his consumers.  We cannot do all the things and do them well – we can all benefit by doing less and doing those things better.

"Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Discard the rest." ~Marie Kondo

What makes your heart sing?

Another book I recently read was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  While this book focuses more on decluttering your home, a great deal of Kondo’s philosophy can apply to other aspects of life as well.  Her ideology focuses on what to keep rather than what to discard.  She tells us to “Only keep those things that speak to your heart.  Discard the rest.”  She frequently refers to discovering whether or not something “sparks joy” in our lives.  I have my own version of this – when a new opportunity comes into my life, I ask myself if this is something that makes my heart sing.  Maybe I’m being asked to be on a committee, or attend an event for school, or take on a new responsibility.  If it’s not something that gets me excited, I turn it down.  Now of course, we can’t turn down absolutely every responsibility we don’t like, but we can find ways to minimize the time spent on things that don’t bring us joy.

Let your joy and passion be contagious

I realize that all of this might sound somewhat selfish and idealist to some of you.  This idea that we should never do anything that we don’t like and should just work on our passion projects all day.  But what I have learned is that passion is contagious.  If we focus on the things that we are passionate about, it makes us happier people and that rubs off on those around us.  If we try to do everything, we end up offering an exhausted, worn-out version of ourselves to those around us.  I challenge you today to start doing less but better in your life.  If we waste our time on projects and responsibilities that we don’t have a passion for, we aren’t giving our students our best selves.  And that’s something we cannot accept.