My Three Most Important Things
One Goal is My Key
The minimalist beauty of the Haiku poetry form is attractive because the central thought, though it may be nuanced, is simple and easy to decipher and enjoy. Imagine transferring this simplicity to your lifestyle and countering the Illiad like push to expand our lives to fit in more and more activities, more and more things, more commitments, more goals, and on and on until we come to the point where we realize that we just cannot handle anything more and break down. Leo Babauta’s new book The Power of Less is a turn in the other direction.
Many other books of this type encourage and attempt to teach skills for handling an ever-increasing set of goals, projects, and tasks. These systems are complex in design and often involve myriad lists and charts and numerous steps of analysis and planning. Some people may thrive in this environment and truly enjoy taking on more commitments but there is always a twin pair of risks. The first is that the next task we take on might be the one that breaks us down. Second, these complex planning systems can consume our attention and become the focus themselves.
Babauta suggests a different approach: shedding distractions, simplifying and narrowing your focus in order to improve your life and increase your performance. His system is built around the notion of limiting yourself to only the most important things and ruthlessly treating everything else as a distraction to be avoided. As you read, you begin to realize how many things that you now see as necessary (the little chime announcing each incoming email) are really distractions that are keeping you from accomplishing the things that you deem most important.
Consider your list of goals right now. You may have two or three or even more goals. If you’re the type who sets goals for yourself then you probably also divide your attention amongst these goals as you work toward their accomplishment. Leo suggests a different approach. Select the most important goal and devote all of your attention to attaining it. Your attention will be more focused, your stress reduced (because you won’t be trying to keep multiple plates spinning), and your motivation enhanced as you work toward the goal. When the first is finished – and only then – you start on the next. Simplifying in this fashion will not only improve your overall performance, you’ll find yourself happier as you discover that those things you once thought were crucial were really just distracting you from reaching your most important objectives.
Leo offers this approach up for consideration in many personal and professional areas in Less. Filing, email, and the Internet all threaten to overwhelm us if we let them. What if you only checked you email twice a day? What is the worse thing that would happen? How about unplugging from the Internet? How many times have projects become sidetracked by a quick troll through your favorites bookmarks that turns into an hour or two? In so many areas, Leo points out how many times we have become dissatisfied with ourselves because we have allowed the multitude of things demanding our attention to distract us from what we want to accomplish. Removing clutter from our life, home, and work allows us to focus on what is truly important and to find greater personal joy and satisfaction.
The Power of Less is the exact opposite of The Seven Habits… though both seek the same end, greater personal performance and achievement. If you’ve spent hours developing your mission and moving big rocks around and still find yourself unsatisfied, give Babauta’s ideas a try. Simplify, reduce, and de-clutter and you may just discover the one or two things that are most important to you buried beneath.
Leo’s blog – zenhabits.net