When to Simplify And How Less Really Can Be More
If you’ve been following along this month, you’ll know that I am running a five-part series to help you get traction on what’s most important to you in the new year. This is because studies show that by the end of January almost half of those who’ve made New Year’s Resolutions will have already given up on them. Not to mention that many of the goal-setting processes we’re taught to use in our businesses and organizations are not terribly effective. And I want you to be successful at achieving your most important goals in the new year!
This series will give you a different approach. It’s designed to help you set a solid foundation with actionable steps to achieve your most important goals.
These steps are powerful whether you’ve got big changes to make or your work and your life are pretty good and you’re ready to take it up a notch.
The five steps I’ve shared with you over the course of this month enable you to connect the dots between your dreams, ambitions and vision and your daily actions, habits and beliefs. They give you a solid foundation and clarity of vision along with the follow-through that’s key to bringing your dreams to fruition.
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Why Less Really Is More
A friend and colleague asked me the other day how I do it all. In fact, she stated it. “I don’t know how you do it all. I just don’t have the energy you have.”
My answer was that I don’t do it all. Not even close. Learning when to say yes and when to say no, even to people, events and opportunities that are really interesting, takes clarity and practice. It’s still a daily practice for me but one that can and has been life-changing.
After over two decades of working as a strategic consultant and project manager, I believe there is a myth in the worlds of time management and project management that if we’re just more organized or work faster or harder, we can get it all done. And while it’s true that being more organized and working smarter can help us achieve our goals more easily, the reality is that we all have a certain amount of energy and time each day. Much of our success – and our enjoyment of that success – comes down to managing the energy and resources we have so that we’re spending it on what’s most important to us. This is where meaning and fulfillment come from.
Simplifying your work and your life in an intentional way leads to more focus – and more traction – on what matters most. Having less stress, fewer commitments, and even less physical clutter in your home or workspace gives you the freedom to be more present with those people, opportunities and things that matter most.
How can you be less busy so that you are more productive? How can you engage more fully in each moment and enjoy yourself more?
Once you’ve completed the first three steps, you’re ready to look at where you can streamline and simplify. This is where you commit to managing your own finite resources in a way that supports more day-to-day enjoyment and success. For most of us, having fewer commitments to worry about and less stuff to take care of means more time to focus on what matters most.
STEP FOUR: Simplify
Even if we’re working at our best – well-rested, creative, productive – we’re also human. This means we must manage our own energy – including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual resources.
The reality is that for many of us, the way we are working is not working very well.
Often we’re surprised by the challenges that come along with our own success. As our business grows or we’re promoted, as we commit to relationships or a bigger home or to starting a family, things can quickly become much more complex than before. We can find our success taking a toll on our relationships, our time and even our own energy and health.
Many of us are working longer hours, spending more time outside work on digital devices or social media, and taking less time to renew, reflect, or prioritize. This can leave us tired, overwhelmed and not as engaged or alive as we deserve to be.
Not only is this not sustainable, it’s not very fun or effective. We are humans after all, not robots. And as humans, we’re at our best when we regularly move between work, play and rest.
When we expend a certain amount of energy, we need to refuel. When we do this regularly, we’ll be more engaged in our days and our lives and we’ll perform better. We’ll also feel more positive, which means we’re more likely to achieve our goals, have more impact and enjoy the journey of life more.
We understand this about our cars. If the tank is low on gas, we know that we need to pull over and refuel. And intellectually, most of us get that this also applies to ourselves. But it can be challenging to translate this our day-to-day lives – especially when we’ve not been in the habit of doing so.
When you’re juggling running a business, managing a team, leading an organization while trying to make time for family, for fitness, for some fun… where does rest and refuel fit in?
How to Renew and Refuel
When we don’t take the time to renew and refuel, research shows that we make poorer decisions (and take longer to make them), we’re shorter with those we care about, and our creativity, health and overall engagement suffers.
For most of us, this means that in order to show up at our best, we need some regular combination of:
- Taking time off each day, week and month
- Taking breaks throughout our day
- Committing to 7-8 hours of sleep at night
- Getting regular physical activity and exercise
- Eating more healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables
- Eating fewer sweets, pre-packaged and processed foods
- Drinking more water
- Drinking less caffeine or alcohol
- Finding time for fun and laughter
- Taking time to relax
In order to do this, we need to be more intentional about what’s most important… what people, what work, what causes, what commitments are worth your precious time and energy? It means clearly deciding what you’re not going to do as well as what you’re going to do. This goes for us individually, it applies to our businesses and, for those of you in an organization, it applies to the teams and projects you manage.
Start to Simplify
This isn’t necessarily easy or straightforward. In fact, this can be the most challenging of the five steps. But it gets easier and can become second nature with practice.
As you begin, start small. Consider one step you can take to clear and to simplify in each of the following areas:
- Home: Schedule time for a cleanse of your living space: clear out, donate or sell the things you don’t need or want anymore. Keep those items that are either useful or bring you joy.
- Work: Simplify your workday by saying no to the things that don’t support you, your business or organization’s top priorities for the year. While this can take some adjustments over time, Step One: Be Strategic, Step Two: Be Specific, Step Three: Be Steady in this series will help. Doing this will free up time for you to focus on – and get more traction with – what is most important.
- Social: Similarly, free up your social and family time by considering your intentions. Occasionally this may mean saying no to an exciting invitation to do something fun because you know how important it is to be at your daughter’s piano recital and your children are a priority. Yet if you’re overcommitted, it’s more likely to add to your sense of overwhelm and your heart won’t really be in it.
- Mental: Have a practice to help clear our your mental clutter each day. You might take a moment each evening to list the things you need to do that you didn’t finish so they aren’t weighing on your mind. I like to move anything I scheduled on my calendar that I didn’t complete to the next day I have space for it. That way I know important commitments won’t get dropped. I also use a variation of the Bullet Journal.
As you begin to simplify, it may help to consider a simple question Timothy Ferris uses to make decisions. He suggests that once you’ve reached a level of success and you begin to see more and more opportunities coming your way, what can drown you is the “kinda cool” stuff. Ask yourself “Is this a hell yeah?” And if the answer isn’t yes, don’t do it.
Start by intending to focus on what’s most important, to free up your time for those things that are a “hell yeah” – whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a trip or the focused work that will multiply your business revenues if you stay with it.
Simplifying can and does lead to more room for what matters most. We don’t need to have it all to be happy. But most of us do need more time and space for those people, opportunities and things that are most important to us. When we simplify, we make room to invest our whole heart into those most important things.
Step Four can be the most challenging of all. But remember that you don’t need to do this all at once. In fact, you’ll be most successful if you don’t try to. Start with one area such as your workday or your social calendar and identify a few changes you can make.
- What are you willing to say no to in order to say yes to your most important commitments?
- What is on your “not-to-do” list?
- What commitments can you let go of that are no longer helpful or healthy for you, your business or your career?
- Where in your life can you simplify this year?
I hope these steps help you to achieve more of what’s most important to you in the year ahead – while enjoying yourself more.
Remember that when you are on the threshold of making changes, it can be supportive to talk about your thoughts, goals and feelings with a trusted friend, family member, colleague, or even with a skilled professional who can help you make sense of what is going on – as well as what steps are most effective to help you achieve what you’ve set out to.
If you are looking for professional guidance, I am here to help. Contact me to learn more or complete this form to see if you qualify for a complimentary strategy session.
You can also learn more about me, read more blog posts, download free tips to create a business and a life you love, or check out the stories of people who have worked with me.