Minimal effort


Warning: Minimal effort is an advanced concept and may not be immediately graspable by those new to slowing down.

That four-letter word, work, has a way of getting in the way of leisure. Sometimes cruel circumstances of life have a habit of mucking up our plans to idle. Our options narrow, and there is nothing for it but to roll up our sleeves, put our shoulders to the wheel, knuckle down, put our best foot forward, our noses to the grindstone, grit our teeth and get on with it. And if you’ve tried this, you’ll know it’s an unpleasant and difficult position in which to get things done.

Sadly, these days, getting things done is all the rage. However, we believe that slowing down and thinking through what you’re going to do will reap rewards.

Over the past few centuries, our wise members have been pondering the nature of effort. On the whole, we don’t like it. We recognize that some effort is necessary. Yet we think effort should be minimal. The Institute’s position on the matter has caused some people to get the wrong end of the stick. Lazy is one word that comes up. Others call us procrastinators, and they say that as if it’s a bad thing. Anti-crastinators are always busy doing things. They write books on how to get more things done in less time. But what are they going to do with the time they save? This is never addressed.

Procrastination, as you know, is an art. It takes practice to savor life’s pleasures. How much kinder and gentler our world would be if more people would simply not do so much. History would have been so different if Genghis Khan, Stalin, and Napoleon had just not bothered to get so much done. World domination (we hear) is tiring.

Getting things done might all be well and good, but which things do you want to get done? Are you sure? That is a question that needs thinking about.

Most of us like to take our time about coming to a decision. Some of us like to sit in the bathtub for a few days, others like a nice lie down. But all of us need peace and quiet to come to the realization of what’s not worth bothering about. Taking things off your list (if you have one) is a good object of thought. Remember, “Never do today, what you can put off until tomorrow.”

There are those busy fanatics who think lots of effort is a good thing. This is clearly nonsense. Here is where minimum effort comes in. If you can achieve the same result with a lot of effort or minimum effort, which would you choose?

Consider the beginning swimmer splashing about using up lots of energy, getting nowhere. Yet the accomplished swimmer uses minimum effort. She glides though the water with ease.


You see, minimal effort is a scientific principle. We’re not a bunch of half-baked, hammock-swinging crackpots. We have history and physics on our side. Thales of Miletus (624 BC-546 BC) was an early minimal effortist. And Albert Einstein (also a member of the Institute of Not Doing Much) did some serious musing on the idea of conservation of energy. But you don’t need to bother with all that complicated mathematics.

You’ve probably mastered minimal effort. If you learned to drive a stick shift you’ll know what we mean. At first, you grind the gears. The car lurches erratically. But in time, you get the hang of it. No longer do you grip the steering wheel with white knuckles. You’ve achieved minimal effort.

Minimal effort is a worthy aspiration. Lie down and think about it.