The art of leaving things undone as a working mum


I love that feeling when things get done.  I’ve ticked off the things on my to-do-list.  My house is tidy and organised.  And I know I’m not alone because as humans we’re wired for it. That hit of dopamine we get when we achieve and complete things is part of our evolutionary wiring to help us to strive and achieve.  It can give us that warm and uplifted feeling of accomplishment.

But that feeling can feel illusive at the moment.  How do you get things done when you’re simultaneously mothering and working?  

The truth is that you can’t do all the things, even if you want to.  And this can leave you feeling like you’re failing. Hands up if you’ve been conditioned to believe your sense of worth is linked to your productivity and achievement…..I’m sitting with both hands up here! How about you?

It can leave you feeling like you want that dopamine hit and you can get anxious and frustrated if you’re not getting it. Your normal response might be to dig deep and try harder.  But both you and I know that this isn’t sustainable at the moment – the one thing you don’t need to add to your plate is burnout.

What if the answer was doing less?  I know, I know – my brain wants to resist doing less too!  

The Chinese inventor Lin Yutang captured the power of doing less in this quote:

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

So there’s actually a noble art of leaving things undone.  The noble art is eliminating the non-essentials. But how do you eliminate stuff when it all feels important and all feels like it needs to be done now?

For me the answer lies in listening less to my head and more to my body. My head is where my knowledge sits and also my ‘try harder’ driver, which wants me to do all things and do them now! My body is where my wisdom sits and she knows the truth about what’s really important.

What could you leave undone at the moment?  What would your wisdom tell you to not do?  

Have a go at leaving things undone and lean into the reassurance that it’s a noble art, not a sign of failure.

I’d love to hear what you’re leaving undone and how that feels for you.

P.S.  If you want some more ideas on how to do less check out my podcast episode Do Less – how to have enough time and energy for what matters most with Kate Northrup 


We’re genuine, like-minded women, just like you!

We’re a community, reinventing how we combine work and motherhood without sacrificing our sanity and wellbeing.


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