I’ve just spent the past two weeks in South Africa. I love South Africa, its people, its diversity, its beauty. But one thing that I am reminded of every time I visit is how life in Africa can be much simpler. Time moves more slowly and life takes on a different rhythm; the majority of African people have learnt to live with less. This is my goal and my current journey; to live life with more simplicity, to unburden myself and to eliminate the excess in all areas of my life.
In the first phase of my journey to become more productive. I sought ways to work faster, to do things in a more efficient manner. I never thought to rid myself of the excess, to eliminate the unnecessary or to minimize and simplify. Phase two of my journey is in progress and it’s focused on simplicity. I am actively trying to eliminate the excess in all areas of life which will create freedom from stress, complexity, and excess.
Here are the areas which I am currently working on:
We are constantly bombarded with information of all sorts from all realms of life, Modern life has been coined the “information age”. We have it at our fingertips, the phones which we carry in our pockets connect us to the answers of the Universe ( or rather will connect us when we find the answers). We can play a game, book a flight, call in dinner, buy a tree or anything else at the click of a button and all the information required to make those purchases lies in the palm of our hands. Fantastic yes, but overwhelming at times. One page or link leads to another and another. When is it enough information? When can we say stop?
- Reduce the number of newsletter and websites you subscribe to, only subscribe to websites you can’t live without. Rather than let the information come to you, go to find the information on your own time and terms.
- Consume less media. Rather than reading a daily newspaper or watching the daily news try reducing it to once a week catching the highlights. (This won’t be possible for everybody in every country but for those who can, consider it)
- Reduce the number of meetings you attend, try to get summaries or minutes instead. Only go when your presence is totally necessary
- Introduce one low tech day a week. A day where you don’t use the internet, email, or electronic device. If this is impossible try it for just a morning. It’s an amazing way to reduce distractions and create an environment for focus.
We all have too much stuff, too many clothes and shoes, CDs and DVDs. Excess goods tend to cause clutter and clutter is negative energy. Learning to live without too much stuff is a lesson everyone should learn early in life. Your things do not define you, who you are or who you intend to be.
Clean as you go
- Regularly de-clutter and donate or recycle your possessions you no longer use.
- Use the one in one out rule. Every time you make a purchase you must throw something out. This is a great habit for children to implement, it makes them aware of the value of the things they have and the things they want.
- Don’t go to shopping centers/malls unless you absolutely can’t buy something elsewhere. If you are in a mall you will always find something you think you need and most of the time you could actually live without it if you hadn’t seen it.
Working too hard or too long is usually counter productive. If you are constantly overwhelmed with work the next step is illness or burnout. You need to take steps to eliminate time wasting activities and reduce your workload where possible
- Schedule your work. This will show you what can physically get done in the time you are prepared to spend working daily. Remember when you say “yes” in work what are you saying “no’ to in your personal life. Is your family suffering because you have agreed to take on extra work?
- Take regular stretch breaks, if you can go for a short walk or get some fresh air this will be even better. Do a yoga pose or simply breathe deeply. This will prevent muscular and mental fatigue which will help you stay alert and focused for longer.
- “Only do what only you can do” I don’t know where this quote comes from but I love it. A regular reminder to delegate and outsource where possible. Don’t try to do everything yourself. If you work for a company and can delegate do so. If you are self employed only do what you are good at, use your strengths and let the experts in other areas do what they are good at. And if you have no control over your workload, do your work to the best of your ability with the highest quality so that you can be proud of what you achieve in a day. As Robin Sharma would say “Be the Bono of the Mail room”
- And of course the most important suggestion of all. Take it easy – life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
If you can reduce the noise and clutter in your life, and eliminate that which is unnecessary and excess you should be able to see through the woods to focus on what matters. In this way you will get more of the important work done in less time with less stress.
“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand…”
Henry David Thoreau
(Photo credit: field of grass and perfect sky via Shutterstock)
Ciara Conlon is a Personal Productivity Coach and author. Her mission is to help people achieve their best through working efficiently and being positive and present. “With Productivity and Positivity there is little you can’t achieve” Find out more about Ciara and sign up for her tips, articles and links at Productivity & Positivity