The more gadgets we invent to simplify our lives, the more complicated it gets. Since busy people beget crowded heads, here are ten suggestions for decongesting the space between your ears.
- Live with a sense of purpose and urgency. Since time is a finite commodity, stay aware of how it passes: you waste it, spend it, invest it, or cherish it. Waste and spend less. Invest and cherish more. Smarter choices produce better results.
- Build a fence between work and home. When you’re at work, work your butt off. The moment you leave, enter a different universe: your real life. Do not blur the two. Work is work and life is life and as my good friend Bob Spooner likes to say, “This ain’t no dress rehearsal.” Our jobs are what we do to pay the bills, our lives are what we do with the rest of the money. Live a full life rich with passion.
- Watch less TV. According to the Nielsen Company, the average person watches the boob tube 34 hours per week. Consider yourself above average? Then watch less. To reinforce why this matters, keep a journal of the commercials you are forced to watch during one day’s viewing. List the ads and log the time. Multiply your number by 365. Then grimace. Each hour of commercial TV features 14 minutes of non-selected (by the viewer) advertisements, which means the average viewer watches eight hours of forced commercials each week — more than 400 hours per year! Feel free to grimace again.
- Instead of wasting time watching excess television, redirect that time into hobbies and choices of fulfilling interest. When we re-channel time we know is wasted into things we really enjoy, two great things happen: we get more done and we feel better.
- Downsize “stuff.” Several years ago I gave a speech about Stuff. To underscore the point, I researched the number of storage facilities in the town I was speaking and calculated capacity. Since I often work in San Francisco near Chinatown, I often walk by the shops and think, “The world has more stuff than it will ever possibly need.” De-cluttering not only makes things look nicer, a simplified space is easier to clean.
- Use technology — do not let it enslave your behaviors. Limiting on-line social time (or taking a hiatus from it) teaches us a valuable lesson: A whole lot of quality time is instantly available for things that matter more.
- Cut the tethering tentacles of your cell phone. Create private time by turning it off, leaving it on your desk, or in your glove compartment. Free yourself from being captive to gadgets. If you are addicted to it — and a growing number are — carve out two hours a day where you are separated from it. Want to know how bad it is? Padded lamp posts were installed in parts of London to help prevent texting injuries.
- When you eliminate one time-waster from life, replace it with something more valuable — not another time-waster. Taking something dumb from our left pocket and stuffing a dumber one in our right gains zilch.
- Do not oversubscribe to obligations. While the world is full of busy people, it’s short on productive ones. Extensive behavioral research on the subject of “multitasking” draws an ominous conclusion: Multitaskers accomplish less than those who methodically undertake one chore at a time. Starting, stopping, restarting, redoing — all have wasted time tied to reconnections. Highly productive people focus on linear progress. Do what they do: Work uninterrupted from start to finish and you will produce better work quicker. The big concern to behavioralists — and managers and business leaders, for that matter — is managing the perception of the multi-taskers, who justify their actions in order to feed their stimulus addiction. The best thing to do? Create a calendar that’s filled only to the extent that whatever earns the right to be on it is done to the very best of your ability.
- Remember the Dalai Lama’s secret to happiness: “Do more, want less.” By doing more for others, we feel better about ourselves, so our self-esteem grows. By being grateful for what we have and not stewing about what we don’t, we all arrive at a common conclusion: We already have more than most people in the world can even fathom.
Life is wonderful but time is short. Commit to yourself and take full advantage.
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