“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Searching for the next Big Idea
I am in love with ideas. I am intrigued and fascinated by them. One of my Signature Strengths his Love Of Learning. I like to learn new things and new ways to do old things. I am constantly searching for shiny new ideas and new twists on old concepts.
One reason is that I, like many people, am basically lazy. I want to have and do and be various things — and I want to have and do and be them NOW with the least amount of effort. So I am regularly on the look out for the newest big idea that will get me what I want. I flit from this book to that audio CD seminar to the latest program of something or other.
“One powerful tool…utilized consistently”
But today, I read something that stopped me in mid-flit. It was in a book called The Power Of Inner Choice by Mary E. Allen. True to form … “Wow! A new idea!” … I had downloaded a copy of the book from somewhere at sometime, but I don’t remember any of those details. I stumbled across it last night in one of the folders on my PC and opened it up. When I logged on this afternoon, it was already opened at a page toward the end of the book.
And there I read: “. . . an individual only needs ONE simple tool in order for significant spiritual growth to occur. Select any one simple spiritual principle that resonates for you, and then apply it, without exception to every area of your life. . . . This wisdom applies universally — in spiritual development, in goal achievement, in personal growth, and in being fulfilled. Whatever the desired outcome, if one powerful tool is utilized consistently — without exception — over time — enormous results naturally follow.” [Allen]
That was the concept that grabbed my attention and commanded it to sit up straight — this idea of sticking with one thing over time, to give it an opportunity to become integrated in my thinking and thus my behavior. What better principle or tool to choose to practice this on than Simplifying? I could simplify Simplicity.
Where to Simplify
Simplifying one’s life reaches into all areas — work, home, finances, relationships, hobbies, spaces, time, electronics, gadgets, etc. and etc. I suggest you and I select one area or one practice and stick with it until we’ve mastered the practice and simplified that area. Then, and only then, move to another area or begin implementing another practice.
How to Simplify
Here is a list — by no means definitive — that will give us a good starting place.
Use a simplified approach to simplifying. According to Leo Babauta, author of The Power Of Less, there are only 2 steps needed for simplifying anything. 1) Identify what’s most important to you. 2) Eliminate everything else.
Most Important Task. Start your day by listing your 3 most important tasks for the day. These are the three things you most want or need to accomplish today. They are tasks that have the most positive consequences, or negative consequences if they are not done. Of course you’ll do more than 3 things in a day, but do all you can to be sure that the 3 most important tasks for the day are completed first.
The 3 Questions. This is a way to help plan your day. At the beginning of the day, ask and answer these 3 questions:
What is important about today?
What must get done today?
What is important about the future?
Eliminate. Instead of mindlessly performing a task or chore the same way you’ve always done it, pay attention. Are there steps you can combine to streamline the process? Are there steps that you don’t need to do anymore? Maybe they were important at one time, but over time they’ve lost their meaning or importance? Then consider this: Do you even need to perform this task or chore any more? Can the entire task be eliminated?
Do what is necessary and no more. Realize that not everything has to be 100%. Many things are fine at 95%, 90% or even 80%. Understand and use the law of diminishing returns. Will it be worth the extra time it takes to get that last 5 – 10% perfect? Don’t spend time doing things that nobody values. (If you don’t know — ask.)
Can The Clutter. The average American spends 16 – 30 minutes per day looking for lost or misplaced articles. Have a home for everything and keep things in their homes. Develop or adopt a simple filing system and use it. Cancel subscriptions to magazines and catalogs you no longer use. Get on a Do Not Mail list. Keep tools close to where you use them. If you use specific tools in more than one place, keep duplicates close to each area they are needed.
Play the Zero Sum Game. Periodically, step back and look at everything you have to do. Ask yourself, “If I were to take this on today, knowing what I now know, would I still accept it?” Look at each of the roles you fulfill and ask the same question: “If I were to start this role today, knowing what I now know, would I still take it on?” If your answer to any commitment, obligation or role is “No. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t start this today”, then begin making plans immediately to hand it off or give it up or otherwise get out.
Use routines and habits. Use the power of habit and routine to simplify aspects of your life, particularly in the area of self-care. Create an energizing morning routine to get yourself up and moving. Create a relaxing evening routine to get yourself relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep. Set up other routines to help you complete daily or weekly tasks. Routines followed again and again over time become habit. Habits allow you to accomplish tasks with a minimum of effort and thought.
This is not a to-do list. Rather, it is meant to be an idea starter, a menu from which you select one or two things. The main thing is to pick one idea or concept and stick with it until you’ve mastered it and it becomes 2nd nature. “Select any one simple . . . principle that resonates for you, and then apply it, without exception to every area of your life.” That is the way to simplify simplicity. And that is a step toward embracing the Excelerated Life!
Excelerated simplicity — freeing yourself from unnecessary complexity — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life, a life of flourishing, of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Allen, Mary E. The Power Of Inner Choice. Fawnskin, CA: Personhood Press, 2005
Babauta, Leo. The Power Of Less. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2009