Apparently (based on the search I just did on my blog), it was June of 2011 (or earlier) when I first discovered Leo Babauta and his amazing blog zenhabits.com. At that time I wrote a post about a great home-simplifying technique that leads to a clean home and a decluttered soul. It’s magical that way.
This time I finally picked up Babauta’s book, THE POWER OF LESS, in which he gives tips for simplifying your days and thereby, your life. For me, the book was mostly poignant versions of task management philosophies I’ve been learning since re-entry to the full-time, outside-of-the-home day job gig. If you haven’t been reading zenhabits or taken a Franklin Covey course or read any blogs or articles by the minimalist movement, The Power of Less is life-changing. I’m not even kidding. If I can manage to apply some of the things in it that I’ve never been able to apply before, it will be life-changing for me. Here are some of those things, and my status toward them. (This should be fun.)
Single. Task. I love this one to the moon and back. I actually invented this one during the post-chemo year – invented it for myself anyway. I suddenly realized the last thing I wanted to do ever again, was multitask. Multitasking is the devil’s work. It’s more like nothing-task with a boatload of stress and chaos. Babauta uses this phrase, single task, several times in the book, and each time it was a brilliant light bulb. Pick a thing, and work on it until it’s done. That’s it. That’s the whole principle, and I adore it.
Choose three things for the day. Write them down at the beginning of the day – only three, and that includes your work day and your personal life. Here’s an example from a theoretical day in my own life: 1. Invent (or look up on the internet) a game for second graders to take to Jake’s Valentine’s Day party. 2. Finish such-and-such report at work. 3. Write a blog post. You see? Three things. Now, the truth is that you will of course get done more things than these, but these are the Most Important Things, and other things should take a back seat to them. If you don’t insist on that, the such-and-such report at work will almost definitely get carried over to the next day, and the Valentine’s Day party could begin with, “Jacks are wild. Everybody ante.”
Inbox to zero, Baby. I added the Baby. I love this one, too. Really, really love it. Make folders. They can say things like “Stuff I need to respond to when I have time” (if you’re crazypants and actually think you will do that), or “Accounts Info” and “Great Reading”. Then you put every email where it belongs. You act on it right away, put the info on your calendar, put the info on a task list, then tuck it in a folder or delete. Every. single. email. I’m right on top of this one. I’ve even taken the steps to cut down on the emails I receive by changing my Goodreads and Groupon updates to weekly and unsubscribing from the things I just never make use of.
Wake earlier in the morning. Even fifteen minutes earlier. And witness the wonder. If these bullet points made up my grade card, this one is P.E. when we learned how to keep score in bowling and I was, like, Why? And, I don’t do math in gym shorts. But I really, really like the idea of this one. The “even fifteen minutes” comes from another principle from the book – to start small and make your goals so easy at first that there’s no way you can’t accomplish it and stick to it. Once it becomes a habit, you can make it more challenging. Mornings are HARD for me. Especially the part where I actually have to get out of bed. Soft, warm, wonderful bed where it’s never snowing and my feet don’t hurt. I love bed. But I also love and fully believe Babauta’s advice that we should get up earlier in the morning than we have to, and we should have a routine in those moments – something we actually want to do. I would love to start my day with something I actually want to do. Unfortunately, getting out of bed is never one of those. I’ll work on this one. Or, at least, I’ll really think about it. Besides the doing-what-you-want-to thing, I know that getting up earlier makes the whole day feel more mine. At the end of an early-rising day, I always feel more accomplished.
If you find yourself stressed and chaotic all day long, I promise you this book has some great ideas for how to stop the madness. It’s so freeing to realize we have more control than we think over the busyness and rhythm of our lives. It begins with letting go. It continues by choosing what’s important and single-tasking the heck out of that goodness until it’s signed, sealed, delivered, and actually changing the world.