The Power of Less
Focusing on the essential produces the most results for the least efforts. If you try to tackle everything that grabs your attention, you’ll constantly find yourself stressed, overwhelmed and burned out. Simplicity is the art of focusing only on what’s essential to your goals and your personal satisfaction and ignoring the rest.
You must set limits, they don’t set themselves.
The essence of prioritizing is deciding not to do something. Without limits, we mistakenly assume that everything is important and also assume that we will be able to do whatever is necessary to get everything done. If we don’t set limits we tend to waste time and energy working beyond the point of Diminishing Returns.
Parkinson’s Law states that, “work expands to fill the time allotted.” That’s why it’s easy to work until you collapse, surf the internet endlessly and spend too much money on things that don’t really matter.
Focus on only one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth. Our brains are only capable of truly paying attention to one thing at a time. When we think we are multitasking, all we’re really doing is rapidly switching the focus of our attention from one task to the next. Every time your focus shifts, it takes your mind a while to load the information it needs to operate effectively.
Limit your active goals and projects to no more than 3-4 at a time. It preserves your focus and attention, allowing you to actually accomplish your most important objectives quickly and move on to next.
Establish 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) everyday and do these before working on anything else. Try to finish these MITs as quickly as possible. Once you accomplish your MITs, the rest of the day is a bonus.
Batch similar tasks together to preserve your focus. Every time you switch the object of your focus, you lose a great deal of productivity – the immoral Cognitive Switching Penalty. To avoid the penalty, it pays to find ways to switch your focus less often. Batching is the practice of grouping similar tasks together, then tackling them all at once. Errands or daily chores are best to batch. Eg. Checking emails once or twice instead of checking every 5 minutes. Or how productive would it be to drive to the grocery store every time you want to buy a single item? Putting what you need on a list, then buying everything at once is clearly more efficient. Doing multiple errands at once, like going to the post office right before you go grocery shopping is even better.
Installing positive habits is easiest when you start small, then build on your early success. Installing habits takes willpower and willpower is very limited resource. For best results, focus only on installing or changing one habit at a time and start with small increments. Even the smallest win motivates you more than the slightest failure. Whatever you do focus on ONE (and only one) habit at a time. Practice that until it becomes second nature requiring no thought or willpower to do everyday.
Consciously minimize your active commitments and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to new ones. The truth is your time, attention and energy are limited. When you overwhelm yourself with commitments, you’re shortchanging the most important activities that will contribute the most to your productivity, satisfaction and success. You’re also shortchanging the less important commitments since they’re competing with all of the other critically important projects in your world.
Slow down, pay attention and enjoy the process. Looking back on life, one of the most common regrets people express at the end of their lives is that it all went too quickly, and they didn’t focus enough on what was clearly the most important – family, friends, important contributions and enjoying the small moments of life.
When all is said and done, no one really cares how many zeros you have in your bank balance, what your job title is, or how many followers you have on Twitter. Recent research indicates that memorable experiences do impact your happiness and life satisfaction, so it pays to focus on ways to create memorable experiences. Slowing down and mindfully enjoying your daily experience of life is simple, effective and free.