What would your life be like if you had enough time and energy to do what matters to you most? Kate Northrup investigates the answer to this question in her new book, “Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms.”
The mother of two, is a 2-time bestselling author and entrepreneur who helps ambitious and motivated women and mothers who are prone to burnt-out in the process of pursing their passions and lighting up the world. Now that burn-out is classified as a legitimate medical diagnosis, by the World Health Organization International Classification of Diseases, perhaps we should be taking a real look at our workload, our priorities, health and families. We at Mama Glow recently sat down with Kate to talk about her career, her personal experiences that inspired her to write “Do Less”, and how she is able to wear so many hats at one time.
Read on for the full interview.
Mama Glow : You’re an entrepreneur, a wife, a mother of two daughters, a community leader. How do you make space to do it all?
Kate Northrup:I don’t make space to do it all. I only make space to do the things that really matter. My house isn’t perfect. I don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I don’t exercise every day. I don’t garden. I very rarely shop. Many days I don’t do my hair and makeup. In order to fit the things that really matter into our lives, we have to be willing to not do it all and just do a few things well.
MG: You recently wrote a new book, a #1 new release on Amazon called DO LESS. What in your life experience inspired you to write this particular book? And why now?
KN: My first pregnancy was also when this book began gestating. I was beyond exhausted and I needed to rest way more than I’d ever experienced in my life. I cut my work hours about in half by necessity, not choice. However, we had a baby on the way and my husband and I work for ourselves so we didn’t have any paid parental leave to lean back on. We needed to get the same financial results with me working half the amount of time. Then after my daughter came I struggled with postpartum anxiety and insomnia, she didn’t sleep through the night until she was 20 months old, she had severe eczema that caused her to wake frequently from scratching herself so hard, and we only had 10 hours of childcare a week that first year.
Yet, when we sat down around her first birthday we realized we’d made the same amount of money we had in previous years when we’d worked twice as much. So I realized, if we could get the same results with half the amount of hours put in by accident, what would happen if we tried to do that on purpose? Do Less became my research and practice of this philosophy and I’m happy to report that it’s been working for me and the thousands of women who’ve been practicing it with me!
MG: Women are constantly being pushed to achieve and extend themselves beyond their limits. What is the invitation of DO LESS?
KN:The invitation of Do Less is to listen to the wisdom of our bodies and our intuition to guide our schedules. Lao Tzu said, “Nature never rushes, yet everything gets done.” Our working world asks us to work as though we don’t have bodies, but we’ve forgotten that our bodies are our surest source of energy and wisdom. When we let our bodies guide our work, we get more done in less time, and more importantly, we don’t burn out and our creativity goes through the roof. Working in this way has helped me and the women I work with honor our seasons and cycles with our work instead of pushing through and making ourselves sick and miserable.
MG: Historically white women of a certain class or stature have been afforded the ability to take time for themselves, to offload our outsource their “duties” or “responsibilities” as a result of the underlying support system of people of color; who are often taking time away from their own families to make it possible for their employers to do less. How do you address this privilege gap so the concept is accessible to all women?
KN: This is such an important question. When I decided to write Do Less, I knew I wanted it to be accessible to all women. Not all women have the same resources or the ability to spend money to hire or get help. Obviously there’s an intersection of race and class that this question addresses and in the book I made sure that the tools and resources would be accessible to all of the women who end up with the book in their hands. Since then, I’ve received such valuable feedback from readers that has added to this important conversation.
As an example of one of the practices/premises that illustrates accessibility in the book, I share an exercise that involves paying attention to your own unique cyclical energy (in concert with your menstrual cycle and/or the moon) to gather information about ourselves. While a woman may not be able to make immediate changes to how she’s spending her time and energy, we all can listen to our body as a source of wisdom, strength, creativity, and energy is available for all of us because we all have a body. It’s a great equalizer and it’s a great source of power for women.
One woman interviewed me and said she was pleasantly surprised that she loved the book because she assumed that it would have been written through a privileged lens and that the suggestions would only apply to women of a certain class but when she read it, she realized her mother, who was a single mother working three jobs, could have applied the lessons in the book. Another woman at one of my events shared that, as a Black woman, she was inspired by the Do Less conversation to revise the belief that she needs to always work twice as hard. I’m not saying this is how everyone should respond to the book. But I am sharing that this is how some have responded to the book.
There is one small sidebar in the book about hiring people in our businesses (like a graphic designer or customer service support) and in our personal lives but the rest of the 231 pages are new ways we can approach work that don’t cost anything and are important shifts in mindset and beliefs so that our entire society can heal it’s belief that more work, and certain kinds of work, makes us more valuable.
Also, I do think you raise an interesting and important point when it comes to duties and responsibilities. How do we define that for ourselves and for others? I believe as women it’s important to redefine what our duties and responsibilities really are for ourselves within our families and society in general and that’s an incredibly important intersectional issue.
MG: In the book you speak to women about charting their cycles for health and productivity. What is one of the shifts you observed after focusing on observance of the lunar cycles in your life and in your work?
KN: One of the biggest shifts I noticed from charting the lunar cycle and my menstrual cycle is how much more access I have to my intuition at menstruation and the new moon. Now that I’m paying attention and honoring the pause and rest time, I get these really powerful downloads of content, ideas, and insights during this time of the month that I used to miss because I was so focused on doing things all the time! Now, my journal is ready and I create space to hear my highest self. She never guides me wrong.
MG: Doing less also means discerning what it is you actually “do” and how you do it. Many of the women who are aspiring to follow your guidance are addicted to male work patterns and achievement. In the book how do you help them discern what to do and how to do it well?
KN: Yes! We’ve been taught how to work by men. It’s critical that we learn how to work as ourselves with our own unique dance between the masculine and the feminine. What I recommend is that women track their energy throughout the month in concert with the moon or their menstrual cycle (or both) so that they can determine their own predictable, cyclical rhythm and so that they can know when to rest, when to start projects, when to be out their in the world getting eyes on their work, and when to bring things to completion. Our cycles are the perfect guide for this and when we focus on the right things at the right time it’s like our creativity gets rocket fuel!
MG: Asking for help is challenging for so many of us, you’ve devoted 2 sections to receiving help and asking for help. Why was it important for you to go to such great lengths to call out the difference and provide tools for both? How do you Kate, ask for help?
KN: We’ve been programmed to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. A strong woman knows that her value isn’t based on what she can accomplish alone so asking for help becomes less challenging when we’re no longer sourcing our worth from our ability to “get it all done.”
The reason I separated them into two different categories is because there’s a lot of help offered to us that we reject because of our pride and I want women to stop doing that because all it leads to is exhaustion and crankiness. We need one another. We all crave a sense of belonging and connection. Receiving help is one of the surest ways to feel that sense of belonging that we crave as humans. Plus, when we become open to receiving, more is given to us.
Asking for help, on the other hand, is a little bit of a different skill set (and I do say skill set on purpose because we can practice and improve in this area) in that we first need to identify where we need the help and then get good at asking. I give the tip to ask early, often, and kindly so that we get in the habit of asking for help as a way of life rather than something we only do when we’re having a meltdown.
A growth-edge for me when it comes to asking for help is when I’m having trouble emotionally. I don’t have as much trouble asking for logistical help like for a friend to bring a dish to a party or for my mom to come help with the kids, but when it comes to emotional support, that’s harder for me. So I’m practicing calling a friend when I’m upset and asking for the space to simply share what’s going on. It’s uncomfortable, but I do it because I know it brings me closer with my friends and because it lets them know that they can lean on me, too.
MG: You’re on book tour now! Can you share with us some of your self-care practices that keep you fortified?
KN: Yes! Sleep is always #1 for me. With two small children (a 3.5 year-old and a 1 year-old) I don’t always get as much sleep as I’d like (though going to bed by 9:30 is a priority for me since I don’t know when they’re going to wake up in the morning) so when I’m on the road I make sure to sleep when I can. I nap rather than going to back-to-back meetings. I leave evening events early to go to bed. And I exercise and walk outdoors so that my body gets the movement and air that she needs. I also always build in space to spend time with people I love in the different cities I’m visiting because being with my nearest and dearest is always good for my soul and my energy.
Learn more about Kate Northrup and get your copy of her new book: