The Law of Least Effort or Why Rest is Productive

Self portrait on the green couch, shot with iphone 4S

A Jedi mind trick for the rest averse

I’m terrible at resting. I am in a near constant state of anxiety about getting it all done, falling behind, missing out… The endless treadmill of not enoughness is always nipping at my heels. And I suffer for it. But I’ve found a clever way into rest, a Jedi mind trick of sorts. A way to convince myself that rest is productive, which it totally is.

First I had to appeal to my value of efficiency. I am a fan of expending the least amount of energy possible for each task, maximizing output in the process. If I go out on errands for example, I’ll go to several stores in the vicinity. Train ride into the city? A perfect opportunity to get my reading or journal writing done. Do I sound annoying? or familiar? or annoying because it’s so familiar?

At best, I am ambitious and energetic and feel passionate about life. There is so much to create! to enjoy! to see! and my penchant for efficiency is really about freeing me up for the fun stuff. I have a fairly sane work schedule, usually compressing my full time job into a part time work week and spending the rest of my time with my family, seeing friends, exercising, whatever it is that’s important to me. At worst, I don’t know when to stop. I haven’t cultivated a gentle voice inside that says, It’s okay. You’ve done enough for today.

The Law of Least Effort

The first time I heard about the law of least effort was in Deepak Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success He argues that it’s not about applying more effort, but about applying the right effort at the right time. In other words, it’s not that more effort equals more results but that right effort equals right results. It is also about creative flow. When we rest we are more easily able to access new ideas and insights, to see solutions and solve problems with deeper clarity and calm.

For example, when looking for a life partner, some people cast a wide net, figuring that the more bars they go to, the more dates they go on, the more they put themselves out there, the better. This might work for some, but when I was looking for a partner, this method exhausted me, discouraged me and drained my energy (I never enjoyed bars and clubs) I chose instead to follow my intuition, only go out on dates that really excited me, and trust that one day I would be in the frozen food aisle when Mr. Right came strolling along.

This is all to say that rest and creative flow are connected. That you can actually do less, and achieve more.

Rest and Creativity

How many great ideas have you had in the shower? or on a long walk? Clarity often comes when we give ourselves space to rest, space to breathe, room to allow our heads to be a in a different mindset.

Rest provides a powerful connection to our truest voice, our creative flow and our deepest wisdom. The practice of conscious rest is a type of clearing, a way to make space for new thoughts and dreams, a space for clarity and insight to find us, a place to get present and relish the blessings in our lives.

If our goal is to live our lives in flow, it pays to stop and take a sabbath or a breath in our week and allow that space. Wayne Muller calls the sabbath “a sanctuary in time.” No matter how you choose to create a sabbath, whether it is a no screen day, a morning hike, or a simple candlelit meal with friends, know that you are honoring the quiet in you, the listening that is necessary to live in the flow of life, to practice right effort.

Creating a sanctuary in time is a gift we give ourselves and our families. It does not take away from the ways we work hard to serve the people we love, but instead honors the conscious way we want to be with them.

Dream Lab

If the idea of cultivating a practice of rest (and play and kindness) appeals to you, please join us for this summer’s Dream Lab! We will be exploring the themes of rest, play and kindness all summer in fun and easy ways. It will be easy to keep up (promise!) because we have designed the course with the intention of making space for more rest and joy in our lives.

The summer Dream Lab begins June 18th!




  1. Posted May 24, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    Beautiful. :) I have a hard time finding rest…Particularly working full time, being pregnant and a mom of a toddler. For me I think it’s about truly appreciating the rest I DO have, being mindful in it, instead of thinking about the 50 million other things I have to do.

  2. Posted May 24, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I feel like this post was exactly what I needed to hear today. I’m definitely in this mindset lately where I feel like if I just keep DOING, I’ll find the results I want. (It’s clearly not going according to plan.) I love this idea of putting in the RIGHT amount of effort, instead of LOTS of effort. Definitely going to apply this today. Thank you!

  3. Andrea
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink


    You get a free pass on everything right now!
    and for the next several years…

    And yes! I think about this too. When I am in the lying down pose at the end of a yoga class and how DELICIOUS those last couple of minutes feel, I see how surrendering to rest completely, even for five minutes is powerful.

  4. Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I can not wait for Dream Lab to start. Once again, your offering is exactly what I need at exactly the right time. I went to a two day workshop with Brene’ Brown last weekend, and she was going over the guideposts for wholehearted living from The Gifts of Imperfection, and for the most part, I was happy to review and see how well I’m doing…until she gets to “cultivating rest and play and letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol.” I am still struggling with this. There is just so much I want to do, and I don’t stop going, don’t make time for significant rest or self-care, until I get to the point where I collapse or get sick. It’s gone past annoying or irritating or difficult, I am realizing this is as serious as addiction is for someone else, and I have to slow down, to figure this out, or I am going to completely burn out. And once again, I have no idea how to thank you, turn into a sloppy puddle when I think about the support and inspiration, the compassionate vision you’ve offered, over and over again.

  5. Posted May 24, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I think all my good ideas have come on a walk or in the woods or by the ocean. Well, or during journaling – when I am full-up on soul-full nourishment. Must remember this. I have this mind-set too, only often, minus the day job, you can’t really tell because I am being efficient and busy inside my head. (And not in a useful way, I must admit.)

    Also, I like your method for finding Mr. Right. I am going to remember it :)

  6. Posted May 29, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Two years ago when I participated in Summer Dream Lab…I had a glorious summer. It was as if the course permitted me to have the summer I had dreamed of. When a friend heard me laughing from across the room one day, she commented to a the group she was standing with…that course that Beth is taking on play really must be working…she’s laughing all the time! And at the golden end of that summer my closest soul friend quietly thanked me for being so restful, so full of joy… “You have been Summer to me.” she said. Thank you once again Andrea for facilitating our abilities to allow the things we most dream of…to happen in our lives!
    I’m in again!

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] A blog post that brings me to tears of gratitude and recognition, exactly what I need to hear, and I wonder once again “how will I ever thank her?” […]

  2. By Tribe love : 05.25.12 | Roots of She on May 25, 2012 at 7:30 am

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