I want that! In a media fuelled world of buy buy buy, we collect our prizes and proudly show them off. But….. it can be exhausting. Overwhelmed by all the “stuff”, trying to keep track of it, dig out from under it. So the ideas of Simplicity in Life are gaining momentum for good reason. How can we streamline, get rid of distractions, unload the baggage to free up mental, emotional and spiritual room for things that matter?
What is Simplicity?
There are many different takes on this idea of Simplicity. Most are about how to declutter things and organize stuff – which is great and perfectly sensible and oh so liberating! And I also see lessons here for personal leadership and advancing your career and life goals (See Simplicity Part Two).
Fundamentally, Simplicity is an art, not a science. It is going to be different for every one of us but there are a few common ideas and tried-and-true tactics for success. So lets start with the external, controllable environment.
“Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated” – Confucius
First, start with the environment: your external world. Ask yourself “What do I really need, what is essential”? If you have a lot of stuff around, face it, it is distracting. That stuff on your desk that you might get to “one day”, the travel brochure you keep meaning to look at, the books backlogged on your shelf. Every time you look at these things you will lose your train of thought as your brain jumps to “oh yeah… “ then have to get back into the groove after multiple mini mental interruptions. This is a real productivity drain. And in a business environment, your colleagues will make all kinds of assumptions about you based on the degree of mess or order you have on display. Where to start?
Put everything in one spot, like your desk or bed. Start going through it and put it where it belongs:
(i) immediate access, essential to getting my near term commitments done; put it neatly where you can easily retrieve it. Hint: if you haven’t used it in a year, you really don’t need it nearby.
(ii) required in future, non-essential to immediate needs; either goes into reference (e.g. a filing system or labelled storage bin) or the garbage/recycle bin. Hint: If it has sentimental value or you are SURE it’s a collectors item, you can still put it safely out of sight.
Like the slogan says, “JUST DO IT!”. The payback for this investment in time is immense. For great ideas on how to set up good systems and think through what you need, I highly recommend David Allen’s ¨Getting Things Done. It’s been a business best seller for years for good reason.