SLR 088: The 7 Deadly Sins and Simplicity

simplelifereboot.comDaily we stand against the tide, the relentless negative forces of human nature that work to bring us down.  The challenge to be better, and do better, is never ending, and ever present, in each of our lives.

How do the 7 deadly sins; wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, play against the simplicity lifestyle?  Does living with simplicity make it easier, or harder, to keep these hosts of misery at bay?

1. WRATH

The simplicity movement is all about ridding ourselves of life’s clutter to make room for that which matters most.  Whether that clutter comes in the form of debt, or a junk pile blocking access to the backyard, it’s all about zeroing in on those things that are getting in the way, the things that are keeping us from living the life we should be living.

When we proactively scan our environment for what needs to be removed, or what needs to change, we take control of the things we can control by engaging in an intentional editing process.

The Editing Process

Years ago, at a time when I owned and operated a couple of restaurants, I faced mounting insurance costs due to a funding crisis in our state’s worker’s compensation system.  Many businesses, including my own, had been thrown into a high risk insurance pool, causing costs to triple.  I decided to not let my frustration and “anger” keep me from doing what was within my control.  By focusing on the essentials and ridding our operations of lesser practices, we moved to a higher level of operation and received an award for having the best improved worker-safety record in the state.

Through the process, I learned that in order to move from “wrath” to a place where one can make needed changes, the following “get” steps are necessary:

1) “Get over” any sense of “unfairness” and focus all energy on the solution;
2) “Get creative” in developing strategies to achieve the desired result; and
3) “Get on” with taking needed action.

Humility is in order here, since nobody can control all circumstances.  But we can control the degree to which we take action to cause or prevent things from blocking access to our goals and a better life.

The 1st deadly sin, Wrath, is an emotion that is impossible to sustain when we accept responsibility for our actions.  Since anger most often arises from feeling a loss of personal control and power, taking action is the antidote, but only if we remain humble, and remember that there is a higher power than what we, alone, possess.

Action and Humility

When we combine acts of intentional living and personal humility, we are rewarded with a clearer perspective of purpose, which is to love and care for others.

Acting with intention, a cornerstone of the simplicity lifestyle, de-fangs the ugly wrath-monster that lurks inside us all.

2. GREED

The more we become focused on the essentials, the things that truly enrich our lives, the more we discover that the material acquisitions and status symbols we once chased after shrink in comparison to the more important things, like relationships.

As we practice intentional living, and move away from the need to acquire, we realize that it is our actions and relationships that define us, not the things we own.  It’s so true, that service, contentment and gratitude abound in relationships, not in stuff.

Greed and simplicity exist on opposite ends of the life-behaviors spectrum.  When we actively seek one, we adversely impact the other.

3. SLOTH

There are no lazy people pursuing the simplicity lifestyle. Simplicity requires intention, action, and follow-through.  Simplicity folks are not lounging back letting important work go undone.  If and when we lounge, it is not to avoid work, but to celebrate the work that has been done by enjoying a still moment, a quiet reflection, a shared meal, and a simple conversation.

4. PRIDE

Having suffered this particular deadly sin my entire life, I can tell you that having a high opinion of yourself can be damaging when it is not also coupled with a recognition of your deep personal flaws.
We human beings are laughably prideful.  I say laughably, because it becomes comical, in a tragic sense, to imagine an emotion that serves us less authentically, or causes more damage.

Over time we can become impressed with ourselves, so much so that we actually ignore reality.
When was the last time you changed your mind about something you once knew to be true?  Think about it – if everything we believe to be true is actually true, we would be truth machines, walking around absorbing the world in perfect order, with perfect memories, and perfect understanding.  Since none of us is perfect, then our perceptions must at some level be flawed.

But….

…it is interesting that when we make up our minds about something, not only do we establish our perceptions as permanent reality, we immediately begin setting up roadblocks to challenge any future change to those perceptions.  Our willingness to accept new evidence, and change our minds, diminishes over time. In fact, the longer we hold our beliefs, the less flexible we become.

Our attitudes and perceptions could be described as a wagon wheel that has slipped into a rut.  Once there, it fits comfortably into its little niche, and turns happily along.   It takes significantly less effort to stay with the usual, than to try out new, bumpy ground.

But the problem with staying in the rut is that we are more likely to become complacent, smug, and self-satisfied.  We convince ourselves that what we know, and who we are, is accurate, made so by perfectly formed knowledge.  When presented with evidence to the contrary, it is not our own perceptions we question, but the validity of the source of the new evidence.

Even when we are clearly shown the better route, a route that gets us closer to the truth, it is too late for the prideful.  The prideful would rather reject a new and better approach than alter the long-established dogma they have embraced.

Simplicity Challenges the Norm

The simplicity philosophy caused me to rethink everything, but what first led me to even consider simplicity as an alternative to my long-established norm ?

Quite simply, my wagon wheel began crashing up against the rut wall enough times to make me finally question whether the rut was indeed a good fit.  The point is, once I was willing to drive out of the rut, what became clear to me was that the rut had kept me complacent way too long.

Once out of the rut, however, I began looking at the assumptions I had held over time.  My most fundamental beliefs about God were not shaken, but believing I had all the answers about life definitely were.

Simplicity celebrates life not within the context of the things we accumulate, which are temporary, but within the context of the relationships we foster, which last forever.

Simplicity does not kill pride, but it does dampen its harmful effects.  Recognition that we fall short, that we don’t deserve everything we might fancy, and that we will have to let go of things at times, is a humbling but affirming process.

5. LUST

Lust occurs when we allow our baser impulses to go unchecked.

Simplicity forces us to acknowledge our fallen nature, and to come face-to-face with urges that no amount of engine power, lipstick or home decor can paper over.

Each of us choose every day whether we practice habits that lead to a positive life, or habits that lead to a degradation of our life.  In the case of lust, relationships are damaged if not destroyed.

Lust relies upon imagination; the fantasy our mind creates of a pleasure we desire. Lust snowballs as we entertain the fantasy over time.  If we entertain the fantasy long enough, what we imagine we desire transforms into some form of action that is taken.  When we act on our lust, we relinquish self-control and enslave ourselves to our baser instincts.

The pleasure we experience from acting on lust is at best temporary.  In contrast, the damage done is likely permanent. Furthermore, we weaken the very self-control “muscle” that we need to overcome the other deadly sins.

In contrast to lust, simplicity helps us focus on activities that strengthen us  and reinforces the foundation upon which our moral selves flourish.

Lust and the Effect of Simplicity

1) Simplicity makes us re-evaluate the things that make us content;
2) Simplicity enables us to rethink what we desire;
3) Simplicity causes our desires to come into alignment with reality;
4) Simplicity makes us want to be less self-centered, and more charitable to others; and
5) Simplicity encourages us to deal with the true problems of life.

The simplicity lifestyle is more complimentary to our higher selves, as we become tempered by a deeper contemplation of what gives life meaning. (See e.g.:  The 4 Zones of Intention)

6. ENVY

It has been shown that the excitement we feel as we anticipate acquiring something we desire is much more intense than the satisfaction we feel after having acquired it.  In other words, once we have acquired the thing we desire, the increase in our happiness quotient is negligible.  We feel more pleasure from the anticipation, than from the acquisition, itself.

Perhaps the trick is to understand the impulse, and to overcome it by remaining focused on our long term goal.  Maybe you want to be out of debt, or to pay off a mortgage, to have funds to travel, to embark on a creative or educational endeavor; or to generously assist family members.

By focusing on the important things we want to accomplish, envy takes a back seat.

5 ways in which simplicity kills envy:

1)  When people are valued above things;
2)  When you are less likely to feel you are missing something you desire;
3)  When you are responsible for what you own;
4)  When you are not responsible for what others own; and
5)  When you value peace and contentment above fleeting acquisitions.

Having what we need in life is better than wanting what we do not have for all the wrong reasons.

7. GLUTTONY

There is no deadly sin that more represents the opposite of simplicity than gluttony.
Gluttony occurs when we consume beyond satiation, with little regard for the amount we are consuming or why we are consuming it.

The consuming occurs for the sake of the consumption itself, not to achieve anything more than the feeling of “taking in” or “using” the thing that we desire.

STAND AGAINST THE TIDE

The 7 deadly sins are a form of self-idolatry, an ageless warning against the narcissism of the time.

Simplicity does not make me, or anyone else, immune from human failing.  I believe it does, however, change our focus, from needing more to needing less, to being truly grateful and content.

Simplicity makes it more likely that we will draw upon the deep well of life and find satisfaction in owning fewer things while giving more of ourselves away.

The Good News….

You can stop being controlled by negative things.  Assert yourself in a positive manner.  Do not look back and wish things had been different.  Do not regret what you cannot change, but also, do not let another day go by without making  changes you know you need to make.  Regretting and bemoaning the past is a waste of precious time.  Do not wallow in what you cannot change, but act on your future today.

Develop a plan, and take action now!   Your life depends upon it!

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This post was first published on SimpleLifeReboot.com.

SLR 087: The “Perspective” Benefit

Simple Life Reboot

Butchart Gardens Victoria, B.C.

Sheryl and I recently took a trip to Victoria, B.C., to wipe the cobwebs off our dashboard GPS map, and to fulfill one of the original intentions of our embracing simplicity almost two years ago, now.

For those who are not familiar with our story, it was that first trip down the California coastline back in May of 2013, that spurred the changes in our lives, the selling of our over-sized home, the elimination of 85 percent of our belongings, and the start of this blog, Simple Life Reboot, which has allowed us to share our decision, and our journey, with all of you.  (See, The Trip That Changed Everything)

The recent trip to Victoria included many of the same aspects of the California trip, minus the life-changing revelations.  Hanging out in Victoria did not bring about a sudden awareness that something needed to be changed in our lives, but rather helped confirm the changes that we’ve made, the simplicity lifestyle we have embraced, has been working.

The Necessary Ingredient

But there seems to be a specific ingredient that must be present in the extended trips we take (more than 3 days) for the full “perspective” benefit to be realized.  See if you can identify the common ingredient from the list below.

1)  Travel unfamiliar territory

2)  Stay overnight in an unfamiliar place

3)  Speak with many unfamiliar people

4)  See many unfamiliar things

5)  Hear many unfamiliar voices

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with returning to that familiar place that acts as a balm to your soul;  that cabin on the beach, that meandering river through the forest, or mountain trail that slips behind the waterfall.  Return there…and be soothed.  (see, Deep Living in a Shallow World)

But if you are in the mood for something new, experiencing unfamiliar territory does not so much soothe, as it informs.  It forces the brain to recalculate.  The internal map of ourselves automatically compares what it is presently experiencing to what it has just left behind.  The positive or negative aspect of the new experience is not so much the key ingredient, but that the experience is unfamiliar.

Certainly, traveling away from home for a time can be beneficial whether the destination is familiar or not, but for Sheryl and I, going someplace new is like being let out on recess, whereas the cabin on the beach feels more like God giving you a hug.

A Refreshed View of Your Life

If you desire to gain a refreshed view of your life, travel someplace unfamiliar for an extended stay, a place where all the blanks are not already filled in.  The brain will be forced to pay attention, and by being in the moment, attentive to your surroundings, you will re-discover the significance of the path from whence you came – aka “perspective”.

 

 

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

SLR 078: Are You “in Control”? Try the Clutter Experiment!

Simple Life Reboot“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

When Sheryl and I moved from our large colonial home to smaller accommodations next door, we found ourselves faced with the necessity of reducing our possessions.  After a couple of moving sales and multiple trips to charities, we had sold or given away about 85% of our belongings.

What we did not expect from the process was the resulting feeling of self-determination and liberation.  But why?  What was it about the stuff we had accumulated around us, that over time, had begun to hold us captive?

SENSE OF CONTROL?

According to psychologists, excessive clutter can be caused by or can cause flawed thinking.

Clutter can also be a symptom of seeking to control our environment.  Having more stuff sometimes gives us the false sense of having more options so as to have greater control over future events.

If you doubt this,  please consider:  How many of us have hung onto an inconvenient, unused item believing that “I might need this someday,” or “This might be worth something someday?”

According to Dr. Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., a healthy approach to letting go of unneeded items is to substitute the fearful thought with intentional action that might benefit another,  as “Somebody else could use this now, so I will give it away.”

What we discover is that retaining the unused item does not give us control or well-being, but rather hanging on to the item holds us in the grip of burden, regret, shame or fear.  In contrast,  letting go of an item to benefit another gives us a sense of  self-mastery,  greater control over our environment, and improved well-being.

If you want to find out if this is true for you,  please try the following experiment:

Clutter Experiment

1)  Start becoming aware of the things around you that do not add to your life.  These may be items you have not paid attention to or used in the past 3 months.

2)  Start placing these items in a box, one by one, as you become aware of them.

3)  Discover over time how many of the items you retrieve from the box to use.

4)  After some period of time, sell, donate or discard the items in the box you have not retrieved.

5)  Then,  please report what you discover to your loved ones, and/or to us here at Simple Life Reboot.

Note:  Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists) tackled this problem in reverse order.  He placed virtually every item in his apartment in boxes.  When he needed an item, he would retrieve it. Check out the moving TEDx talk to hear the full story.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

SLR 077: 7 Steps to Help a Loved One Embrace Change

Simple Life RebootOne of the most difficult questions we get is:

“What do I do when I want to make changes,  but my loved one does not?”

Whether the desired change is to rightsize, de-clutter, reduce activity  or financial overload or otherwise,  we generally encourage the inquiring party to make individual changes, and then wait patiently in the hope that demonstrated benefit will persuade the reluctant party to embrace mutual change at some point.

While we continue to recommend this approach,  we recognize that additional advice might be helpful, particularly when the “just-be-an-example” approach appears to be failing.

We have boiled our recommendations down to the following 7 points:

1. Maintain the relationship as the priority.  As a starting point, resolve that if a choice must be made,  your relationship with your loved one will always trump your desired life edits.  The greater purpose for the desired change should be to benefit the relationship.

2. Identify loved one’s pain.  Many of us become so accustomed to bearing a burden that we fail to recognize that such even exists.  Be sure to identify what pain your loved one is experiencing that your desired changes will relieve.  Resistance may be lessened if changes are understood to be a mutual solution,  as opposed to a life change that is simply your personal preference.

3. Do NOT pressure loved one.  Resist the urge to pressure (or nag) your loved one into making changes s/he is not ready to make. Making significant life changes and edits is complex and often involves deeper issues of security and identity.  Attempting to coerce or shame a loved one into letting go of cherished items and/or activities will be counterproductive at best.

4. Maximize individual changes. Implement as many individually-impactful changes as possible. Such increases the likelihood that there will be measurable,  persuasive benefits that can be observed over a period of time by the reluctant party.

5. Use “Season in Life” as context for change.  Provide a new perspective on desired edits.  Change might be easier if it is understood as a natural transition or transfer as opposed to  “loss” or “letting go”  of something.   Examples might include donating outgrown baby clothes or selling an oversized empty-nesters’ house to a growing family so that such property can again be used and enjoyed as intended.

6.  Propose a trial period or game approach. Consider proposing a limited, no-commitment trial period.  An example would be Courtney Carver’s 3 month fashion challenge, Project 333.  Other approaches include permanently editing items such as playing the Minimalist’s game for a month,  or trying Simple Life Together’s year long “Edit and Forget It” challenge.

7. Inspire and encourage.  Keep two words in mind when trying to help a loved one with change.  To “inspire” is  to breathe life into someone.  To “encourage”  is to imbue with courage.  Recognize and celebrate how momentous even small changes can be in you and your loved one’s life.  Commit to serve, inspire, encourage and be a source of hope for a better future.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

 

 

SLR 063: Reclaim Downsizing as a Powerful Tool for Positive Life Change

Simple Life RebootIt’ s time to reclaim downsizing as an empowering  practice.  For far too long,  downsizing has been understood to be a process of decline whereby individuals were forced to make undesirable lifestyle changes due to the loss of  employment, relationship or health.

While the initial  impetus may be an involuntary loss,  “downsizing” itself,   if done mindfully,  is a positive.  In fact, if  done well, downsizing is one of the most powerful tools we have for making positive life changes.

Downsizing for New Life

The starting point is to recognize that downsizing is life-affirming.   The natural world is full of examples.  A mammal goes into a den to give birth.   A snake slithers through a small space to shed a dead skin.   A caterpillar forms a cocoon to transition into a butterfly.

In the human context,  positive  life changes often involve downsizing.    For example, many children start sharing a bedroom when a new brother or sister arrives.   A college student moves  into a dorm room to obtain an education.   A grandparent moves to a smaller home to be near the grandchildren.  Downsizing is not a punishment or a failing,  but rather an intentional accommodation for something or someone more important.

Downsizing to Focus on the Essentials

In a sports context,  an athlete wanting to advance to the next level will periodically limit his or her training to the sport’s fundamentals.  Focusing on the essentials permits the athlete to perfect skills.  Improvement from minor tweaks at the basic level are then multiplied in the more complex skills.

Strategic downsizing gives us a similar opportunity to revisit the most important elements of our lives.  It helps us sort the essential from the chaff.  It helps us to leverage that which provides the most benefit.

Downsizing for New Opportunities

For many,  the hurdle to downsizing is the reluctance to let go of possessions.  Perhaps the process is more palatable if we remember that we are editing items that detract from our new life.  Ancient Latin speakers had it right when they described such property as “impedimenta”,  which loosely translated,  means property which impedes one’s progress.

Opportunities abound for those willing to downsize.  Downsizing frees up time and resources. You can accept that dream urban  job if  you are willing to live in a smaller space.  You can dramatically improve your finances if you spend less on housing, utilities, repairs, and furnishings with the smaller space.  You can travel if you were not overwhelmed by a mortgage payment. You will have more time, resources and energy for family, fitness, entrepreneurial, creative and fun endeavors if  you decrease that spent on a larger space.

Instead of lamenting the sunk costs associated with letting go of the  “old”  in order to downsize,   we should focus on the incredible opportunities we will miss if we do not downsize.

The tool is as powerful and positive as we choose to make it.   Consider if downsizing makes sense for you.   Please share your thoughts in the Simple Life Reboot comments section.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

SLR 061: 6 Steps to a Simpler Life

Simple Life RebootMany of us come to a point in our lives when we sense that something is wrong.

We work harder and harder, and yet, never quite seem to achieve our desired lifestyle. Is the goalpost moving? Or, is some other dynamic at work?

For those of us seeking to edit the non-essentials from our lives so as to devote ourselves to the things that matter most, the journey to a simpler lifestyle can seem rather amorphous, if not foofoo, at times.  Such is tragic as there are few more worthy objectives in life.

1. Begin with the End in Mind

We often engage in activities without an end goal in mind. Such activities are fine and healthy, but will be, at best, recreational diversions or hobbies. In contrast, if we intend for our actions to facilitate lifestyle changes, we need intentionality.

The touchstone of intentionality is Stephen Covey’s principle, “begin with the end in mind“.  To employ this principle, we need to be able to describe the desired end state.

2. Carefully Define the Objective

The mistake most of us make is to launch into an endeavor without a clear picture of the goal. Such is much like trying to put together a complex jigsaw puzzle with only some of the pieces and no box top to guide us.

If the objective is a simpler, priority-driven life, one must carefully and comprehensively develop a personal definition of what such lifestyle entails. For example, for Dave and me, such a lifestyle includes:

  • Balanced work and family time;
  • Financial and physical resources to care for others;
  • Creative space; and
  • Adventure!

3. Consider Creative or Unconventional Approaches

When the objective is clearly defined, moving towards it becomes much easier. However, creativity and flexibility are still required. Achieving a simpler life is not simple, easy or quick.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s latest book, Think Like a Freak, encourages the exploration of unconventional approaches to achieve the desired objective. “To think like a freak”, Dubner says, “is to observe, define, deconstruct and re-contextualize the elements of a problem.”

In the context of a simpler life, creative approaches come in all flavors and include tiny house living, minimalism and entrepreneurship.

4. Deconstruct the Elements Needed

The ancient Zen adage “When the student is ready, the teacher appears“, provides guidance on the next step. One can and should commit to a worthy goal even before knowing exactly how he or she will accomplish it.

Obstacles such as existing debt and the perceived need to project social status may seem like insurmountable barriers to a simpler lifestyle. However, if one is truly committed, one can find a way.

Necessary elements will likely include financial planning, redefining social status, and patience.  Seeking community with others simplifying their lives by connecting online and at meet-ups may be helpful. Reducing living space and number of possessions may also be of assistance.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. – Confucius

5. Reduce Distractions and Impediments

In order to achieve anything of significance, most of us will need to reduce distractions so as to focus on the essential.  Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck and jeans each day so that he did not spend time on clothing choice. Savvy dieters remove unhealthy food choices from their homes.  Authors write from a blank screen.

Be boring and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.

Gustave Flaubert

Each person’s distractions are unique to the person.  However, in the simple living context, reduction of common distractions include  limiting digital use and new purchases, and creating a quiet space.  Elements that impede progress without providing a greater corresponding benefit also need to be examined and edited as appropriate.

6. Maintain Sense of Purpose

Perhaps the most important element of the process is to never lose sight of why we seek a simpler life.  Is it to be there for our loved ones?   Is it to develop and share our creative gifts?  Is it to live a healthier and more fulfilling life?

Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

– Joshua Marine

Without meaning, the entire 6 step  framework for achieving the objective fails.  However, if we maintain our sense of purpose for seeking a simpler, priority-driven life, challenges can be overcome and lives can be changed.

Enjoy the journey!

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

SLR 059: The Incredible Transformative Power of Becoming a Human Guinea Pig

Simple Life RebootWhat is the best way to tackle a daunting task or behavioral change?   Many authorities emphasize the traditional approach of goal, structure, and feedback.  While helpful,  such approach lacks  the transformational jet fuel of adventure and experimentation.

Rediscover Adventure

Ask a young person why she tried chocolate on her broccoli. She may well answer  “to see how it would taste”.   While the objective of improving the taste of broccoli may  be important to her,  discovering something new is what excites her.  For her, there is no “failure” if the chocolate on broccoli is not to her taste. She simply moves on to the next combination.  This is the mindset of our greatest explorers.

When discovery,  rather than modality, is our focus,  the entire process becomes an adventure. We not only have permission to “fail”,   we expect hits and misses along the way and look forward to the next challenge.

The Power of the Experiment

Ordinary folks accomplish extraordinary things when they  experiment.  Pat Flynn, the highly successful entrepreneur and founder of  Smart Passive Income describes himself as the “crash test dummy of online business”.  A. J. Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy, spent two years chronicling his efforts to become what he described as “the healthiest person in the world”.  Tim Ferriss started a movement with his Experiments in Lifestyle Design and his 4 Hour series.

Leaving our comfort zone for a predetermined period of time to test a method for solving a problem or accomplishing a goal can be a life changing experience.  If we are willing to make ourselves human guinea pigs, we will not only learn what works best for us,  but what makes us tick as well.

Opportunities to Experiment

Imagine what you could accomplish if you were willing to undertake a worthy experiment?  The opportunities are endless. Would your life be different if you did not complain for 30 days?   What would happen if you went on a digital fast for 14 days?   Would anything change if you gave away one item every day for 30 days?  How many precious people could you call in  7 hours to tell them that you love them?

Experiment and Share With Others

Paradoxically, many of us benefit more from a regular Joe sharing his struggles than we do from the world’s most accomplished individual addressing the same topic.  Joe gives us hope.   If Joe can do it, we can too.

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We would love to hear about your personal experiments in the comments below.  Please share!

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

3 Pieces of Advice for My Younger Self

Simple Life RebootIf you are reading this and are over the age of 40, please stop.  Wait, on second thought, nix that. Whatever your age, please keep reading… but only for the purpose of ultimately sharing or implementing the simple lessons it has taken me nearly five decades to learn.

Now, as a disclaimer, this article is not about regrets or wistful “what-if’s”.  Rather, it is a candid sharing of some missteps made and opportunities missed. While I recognize these experiences have taught me precious lessons, they also made my journey, and that of those around me, a bit rougher than needed at times.  So, without further ado, 3 pieces of advice I would have liked to have shared with my younger self:

1.   Love People – Not Status or Things.  Spend more of your time and money on people than on entertainment, stuff and status.  For decades I considered myself too busy pursuing professional objectives to have appreciable time for family and friends. This resulted in casual acquaintances receiving more attention than friends, and networking trumping family time.  Growth in this area is ongoing.

2.   Admit It When You Don’t Know. Pride is crippling. Far too many times I pretended to understand, only to suffer the consequences later.  As an exchange student learning French, I pretended to understand directions.  As a result,  I ended up lost and afraid in a rural area.  I have also broken more things than I care to recall given my refusal to read the directions.

I have learned it is both humbling and liberating to confess lack of knowledge.  Now, however, instead of pretending, I  am happily learning new programs from 7 year olds on YouTube.  It’s amazing what we can learn if we simply admit we need help.

3.   Celebrate Modest Beginnings.  I have gone through numerous periods of embarrassment when learning something new.   Whether it was running,  my first trial or becoming a step-mom to four children,  I was so anxious to get to the next “level”  that I missed being able to appreciate the joy of new beginnings,  the encouragement of progress,  and the opportunity to not take myself so seriously.  All good and worthy things start modestly and should be celebrated.

Well,  this is the advice I would have given to my younger self.   I wonder if I would have listened….

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

Prioritize Tasks Using the Decision Matrix

RestaurantDo you manage urgency, or rather urgently manage, the events of your life?  Simple living is made possible when we  focus on the long term important issues so they do not become short-term critical emergencies due to lack of planning and execution.

In a former life, I was a restaurant owner.  In the heat of battle, called rush hour, each employee would be fully engaged to ensure the customer had an enjoyable visit.  But the urgency the employee experienced was manageable provided  the important prep work had been performed.  If, however, the prior shift had not refilled containers, restocked,  or had missed any one of a hundred separate items needing to be done, the next rush hour would deteriorate into  high-stress chaos, as workers found themselves empty handed and unable to serve as intended.

Consistency and reliability were key.  While careful prep work was neither glamorous nor seemingly important during calm times,  it became the chain that held the process together in times of stress.

The rhythm of life can be thrown off track when we encounter a broken link.  But with a little prior planning, and attention to detail, urgent chaos can be avoided and turned into seamless flow.  Exercising prior planning, within the appropriate time frame, means you are acting with intention, rather than reacting out of desperation.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous quote on the principle of decision-making, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”, was further developed by business thinker, Steven Covey, in his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Covey developed a decision-making matrix, to help us prioritize which things require our immediate attention, and marginalize that with lesser priority.

THE DECISION MATRIX

If a task is both Important and Urgent, it requires our immediate attention, and so Quadrant 1 gets first priority.  If a task is Important, not Urgent (Quadrant 2), it gets second priority.  If a task is Urgent, Not Important (Quadrant 3), it is urgent to someone else, but not important to us, and gets third priority status.  If a task is Not Important, Not Urgent (Quadrant 4), it has least priority, and generally should not be included on a daily planning list.

To take a lesson from my restaurant days, the more time we spend in Quadrant 2, taking care of the long term tasks, and preparing for the inevitable “rush hour”, the less time we will have to spend in Quadrant 1.  A simpler and more peaceful life depends on it.

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For further reading on this topic, we encourage you to check out Joshua Becker’s, “Minimalism, Blackberries, and the Tyranny of the Urgent“, and Michael Hyatt’s, “Is that Task Important or Merely Urgent?

 

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Information Overload Now! 3 Proven Steps to Staying Current, Connected and Sane

Simple Life Reboot - Mr. Darcy as SAM

Mr. Darcy as SAM

It washes over us like a tsunami – an unmanageable wall of information. The greater our desire to be current, competitive and connected, the more likely we are to be paddling ourselves to exhaustion.  We prefer to drown than miss out on something important…

We need a lifeguard!

Fortunately,  we have “SAM”.  SAM not only rescues us from information overload, SAM would have us dominating the giant waves of print, audio, video and social media to come. SAM is none other than Sort, Archive, and Manage, and this  is how SAM saves the day:

STEP 1 – SORT INFORMATION INTO 3 TYPES UPON RECEIPT

1. Junk Information – Block. Use filters, junk mail tools, and unsubscribe features liberally. Turn off unneeded notifications and alarms. Don’t waste time reviewing and managing junk. Dump it.  Decline unknown friend and network requests and place unwanted advertisements, emails, clips, etc. in trash/recycling upon receipt.

If you’re not comfortable hitting delete, try mute features to reduce the stream of  incoming information. An example for Twitter would be Tweetbot;  a tool that permits you to mute selected accounts for a period of time.

Think of “blocking” as a protective assistant serving as a gatekeeper so that the V.I.P (you) can focus on important matters.

2. Potentially Valuable Information – Filter and Set Aside.  Front end filters limiting streams to quality sources are critical.  Nonetheless, the value of  information, even from authorities,  may be questionable. Potentially valuable information should be gathered and set aside until it becomes pertinent as described below in Step 2.

3. Important Information – Take or Schedule Action. Any information important for family commitments and work obligations should be acted upon or entered as an action item on the appropriate calendar. For example, a flyer on an event at your child’s school should be read and the details and deadlines entered on the family calendar. A pdf of the flyer could also be saved and linked to the calendar entry.

STEP 2 – ARCHIVE RETAINED INFORMATION

Regardless of initial format, digital management is my preferred approach for the safekeeping of retained information.  Text is processed to permit character recognition so that it can be easily retrieved at a later date.

Though there are many excellent archiving processes, mine is as follows:

  • Capture.  Paper documents are batched, scanned and saved into Evernote once per week using a desktop ScanSnap. Incoming digital media is saved directly into the archive (Evernote) on the day received.
  • Title.  Each item is given a descriptive title.  Potentially valuable information is given a “to be deleted on x date”  tag, often 2-3 years into the future. Valuable information is kept permanently.
  • Tag.  Each item is given a topical tag such as “de-cluttering “, “taxes”, “health”, “Evernote”, etc.  I prefer to tag by topic, rather than by source, as a variety of authorities on a given topic is most helpful at the time of processing.

STEP 3 – MANAGE CONSUMPTION

  • Just in Time. The best approach I have found to consuming information is the Just in Time method developed by Gregor Novak and his colleagues.  Rather than mindlessly reviewing information as it comes in,  I defer consumption until shortly before  I can put it to use.  This permits me to reduce the number of times I consider a piece of information. More importantly, it permits me to extract more value from it as I consume it in context.
  • Focus. For me, multitasking and scanning incoming  information not pertinent to the task at hand reduce my ability to assimilate in-depth information.  As referenced above,  I recommend employing tools to reduce interruptions and distractions for periods of focused work.
  • Avoid Digital Clutter. Digital clutter tends to bury important information and distract us from focused use.  I recommend regular review and deletion of unneeded information.  At a minimum,  annual review and deletion using the “to be deleted on x date”  tag described above will help identify stale information to be culled.
  • Consider Learning More.  There are superb resources available that address managing information in greater detail.  Brooks Duncan provides a wealth of information on going paperless at documentsnap.com.  For archiving and curating, read Joel Zaslofsky’s Experience Curating.   Learn more about Evernote with Daniel Gold’s Evernote; the Unofficial Guide… or Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials.   Also, please see our earlier post, A Simple Step You Must Take Now to Reduce Information Overload that addresses the value of identifying authorities in your areas of interest.

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Information overload is a challenge for most of us.  We would love to hear about  the methods and tools you have found to be helpful in the comments below.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com