Fewer Decisions Creates More Focus

What’s for lunch?

Should we go swimming this morning or play at home?

Red or green? Or blue or purple?

Decisions, big and small, can steal focus from your tasks and work.

I’ve noticed that the more routine we have, even in our loose schedule, the more we get done. When I know that I always have to leave the house at 9:30am to get to our Friday class, I get a few more tasks done in the morning. The laundry is put away, the drying racks folded down and put out of sight for the weekend and the breakfast dishes dealt with before we leave.

Penelope Trunk talked about the power of making fewer decisions in this post 4 Secrets of focused people. This quote she used from President Obama illustrates how having fewer decisions helps him focus.

“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.” – President Obama in this Vanity Fair article

 

Okay, I’m not president of the United States of America but the logic makes sense for my life too.

Having fewer decisions each day helps me get bigger things done. Meal planning gives me more focus for a dreaded task like making calls to our Canadian bank (I hate making phone calls!). Having a smaller wardrobe makes dressing for the day easy and gives me more focus and energy for things like helping my son create a bridge for his train table or getting a quick 1000 words out on my book in the early morning.

If you have a lot of opportunity for decisions in your life, try and eliminate some.

I caught a few of Design Mom’s back to school series on fall wardrobes for her kids. I’ll say her kids are far more fashionable than my son (err.. probably me too) but I loved seeing that they have fairly small wardrobes.

As a mother to six children I would guess that Gabriel benefits in many ways from the kids having smaller wardrobes. Fewer little people asking for help in the morning and it probably reduces the amount of laundry on the floor in bedrooms. Easier to get everyone clothed and out the door in the morning. More time for Gabriel’s writing and business.

Really like the idea of having photos of outfits for kids and adults. Helps you know what’s being used in your wardrobe and is a quick reference for getting dressed in the morning.

Eliminating small decisions gives you focus for the big ones.

I still haven’t bought anything for this new baby.

In all honesty I have gone by a shop window or two, or seen something online, and thought about buying something cute and oh so small. But I haven’t pulled the trigger. I have lots of time for those little things.

What I don’t have a lot of time for is making decisions about the birth, getting our son prepared and preparing myself. I went to my first prenatal yoga class on the weekend and loved it. It was nice to do something for just me and the new baby.

This second pregnancy has flown by and I often forget I’m pregnant, forget that we’ll have a new baby here in a few months and forget that I’ll be, hopefully, laboring again and nursing again. Those are some big tasks.

Instead of thinking about onesies and if we need a double stroller I’m focusing on the bigger pieces like birth, my health and preparing our family.

Have you eliminated some small or routine decisions in your life for more focus?

Using Habits To Simplify Your Life

Source: amzn.to via Rachel on Pinterest

 

My email Inbox used to be full of newsletters from online stores and companies. I got daily deal emails from three sources: one for kid’s stuff and two from big daily deal sites.

Invariably, I bought things I didn’t need. I’d never heard of a Brazilian Blow Out but when it came to me in a deal email I started thinking that I needed one. At one point I had over 20 pairs of babylegs… and no baby yet to wear them.

When we decided to get out of consumer and student loan debt I unsubscribed from all of the daily deal emails. If I didn’t know I needed it before I had ever heard of it, it probably wasn’t integral to my happiness.

I also changed my route home from the community centre. Instead of my usual walk through the streets with nice retail stores and beautiful window displays, I took the more direct path past a bank, a hair salon and more condominiums. As a result I bought fewer things. I was also more content with what we already had. No more pining for the outfit on a mannequin at a boutique or impulsively buying a set of handmade thank you cards when we already had some at home.

Changing my habits helped me get out of debt and made me more content with what I already had.

Here are two great reads on habits I’ve enjoyed recently. One to inspire you and you to give you a bit of a kick-in-the-pants.

 The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Props to my sister for this read. Ever wondered why you hit the snooze button most mornings instead of getting up for that run? Or why you can’t resist the sweets table in the coffee room every afternoon? Or stop yourself from going into a store with a big sale sign even though you have nothing to buy?

This book explores how we create habits and how we change them. The stories and evidence in the book are practical and applicable to everyday life. If you want to start a daily yoga practice or only check your email twice a day, this book can help you.

The other side to the book, the one my minimalist-wannabe self couldn’t get enough of, was the case studies on marketing tactics that use the power of habits to make you buy and consume. Want to know how Febreeze became a marketing success or why you’re likely to buy baby gear at Target even if you know you can get a better price elsewhere? This books shows how the Cue–>Routine–>Reward cycle is used to get you to Buy–>Buy–>Buy.

5 Habits We Left Behind (and Never Need to Pick Up Again) from Heather at Globetrotting Mama. This lawyer turned travel writer recently returned from a one year global adventure with her husband and two sons. Inspiring post about what they realized they could live without after a year on the road.

I used to spend a $100 in a trip to Shoppers Drug Mart because I was bored. I’m not proud of it but it’s true. When I left the salary behind I continued to buy things to beat boredom: Mall visits just because, those Costco trips to fill the freezer, 3 instead of one because something was “a deal.”

 Anyone else have a good book or article on habits? Anyone changed a habit to help them simplify?

Small Change Can Change The World

Source: flickr.com via Rachel on Pinterest

 

I’m pulling some popular posts from my archives this week and I have a new post up at Life Your Way: Why Simple Is So Much Work.

This post caused quite a splash when it was first published in November of 2010. A few radical minimalist writers took exception to it and there was a good debate in the comments section. You can read the original post here. Note: I have edited this post from its original version

A few weeks ago I met up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. As we hugged and greeted and caught up the subject of this little blog came up. A friend asked for more information and another friend replied, ‘she’s getting rid of everything she owns.’ I laughed it off.

We’re taking our last load of items for donation today. Last load for a while anyways. When I look around I like what I see and what I see is not a bare home. Lots of DVDs on the shelf still after selling about a third of our collection. A small book collection, mostly Chris’s. Framed wedding photos, a few of me in my athlete days, a couple of us traveling in France and Italy. Two, instead of four, wine crates with about 20 bottles of B.C. wine. A china cabinet, couch, love seat, ottoman, side table. A few lamps. We’re still sitting at a table for dinner. I haven’t gone so far as to say all meals will be eaten on the floor.

For the hardcore I’m not minimalist, I’ve just cleaned house. I’m fine with that. The living with 100 things movement is interesting, shocking and news worthy. The deciding to live a life with a lot less stuff isn’t nearly as sexy or easy to define. But I would argue my version of minimalism, minimalism for the masses, is much more accessible, attainable and has the possibility of changing a lot more of lives.

We’re not all going to sell our possessions and live in South America out of a backpack while earning a small income from an online business. That is a great dream for some but the reality is that most First Worlders won’t do that. They don’t want to.

Location independence and living with just 100 things isn’t for everyone.

For the rest of us living with less needs to be more attainable, accessible and understandable. The leap of logic from two cars, a 2500 sq ft home and loads of stuff to leaving it all behind is a huge one. Too huge for most people.

If you want to change the world advocate for change that everyone can get behind.

Instead of encouraging 10,000 people to live with 95% less why not encourage 300 million people to live with 20% less. Show the masses that with more thought at the register, less shopping as a hobby, more time with family, fewer rooms to clean and upkeep and collect clutter in a smaller home, they can all live a better life.

A more engaged life.

A life with less stress, debt, fast food and waste.

A better life through small change.

Getting Over The Want

Shopping

I’m putting up some popular post from my archives this week.

Today: getting over the want. This was one of two posts on the subject of getting over the want of more and better things. You can find Part 2 here. This is such an important concept and habit to make once you’ve decluttered your home. Why did it get that way and how will you keep yourself from going to Target for butter and leaving with a half dozen outfits for fall?

The bad news: all that work you put into getting rid of things in your home can be for naught. If you don’t halt the invasion of unnecessary items you’ll be back to stuffed closets and cluttered surfaces in no time.

The good news: you can beat this.

There are many ways to combat stuff. Right now I’m looking at the basics: why do we want it and how can we tame the want.

Because, make no mistake, I have a sparse closet but when I see the well dressed women of my ‘hood I notice what they’re wearing. I see the beautiful hand bags and boots and the perfect jeans. And I think about how I would feel in very expensive denim.

So how do you escape the want vortex? How do you resist the call and false promises of new and more?

Read More

Thinner, Richer, Smarter: The Magic Bullet

Source: amzn.to via Rachel on Pinterest

 

If you’re new to the idea of minimalism or stumbled upon this site while searching for a method for deciding what shoes to keep (1. you have to be able to walk one mile in them and 2. you have to have worn them in the last year) you probably haven’t read the wave of minimalist writers and bloggers that appeared in 2008 to 2010.

These were the people I was inspired by. They gave most of their possessions away and built small paperless online businesses that they ran from a beach in a developing nation. Their income was derived from sharing one secret: how they built a passive income business so they could live on the cheap and out of a backpack without a care in the world or a house plant to water.

Everyone wanted in.

I wanted in.

How could I do this? How could we, Chris and Henry and I, live in a hut on a beach in Thailand with just an Ergo baby carrier, a few cloth diapers and our swim suits? How could we do it and get out of debt and all our obligations?

We could read books all day, study Muay-Thai fighting and write novels. We’d eat nothing but fish, rice and local fruit and be super lean to go along with our awesome tans. Our passive income would grow and we’d pay off all our debt and wouldn’t have a care in the world.

We’d be thinner, richer and smarter.

It sounded really good.

Then I started reading more from these writers and bloggers. I even bought a few of their e-books and read those too.

Something didn’t add up. All of them had a passive income low-cost location independent lifestyle based around selling the same idea: selling books about creating your own passive income lifestyle by writing books. A vision of an Ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail, came to mind.

As Katy and I decluttered like mad in the fall of 2010 I stopped reading the bloggers who were touting passive income and location independence, and their e-books that showed you how to do it. I realized I didn’t want to live on a beach. I liked my life. I liked it even better without all the clutter.

After purging my home, ending the spending and cutting bills I realized there was no magic bullet for the modern ailments of stress, debt and that extra 20 pounds.

You don’t have to take a course or buy a product. You just have to change your mind. – Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

No book or class or person can do it for you. You can buy the Nutri-System package or hire someone to organize your garage but YOU have to do the work. There might be a catalyst or inspiration but it’s up to you to make the change.

Simplifying has given me a lot but I can’t say it’s made me richer, thinner or smarter. Simplifying has been a trigger for change but I still had to do the work.

I still HAVE to do the work.

I have to debate purchases instead of impulsively opening my wallet for the latest shiny gadget that’s caught my eye.

I have to resist that slice of homemade cake. Or not.

I have to put away my laptop in the evening and not watch another episode of Damages on Netflix (so good!) to read a few more pages of Shantaram, a novel I have been doling out pages to myself from for over a year (beautiful writing).

If there is a magic bullet it won’t come in the form of a book or a course or anything that arrives with a receipt or money back guarantee. It’s not a blog post or a slogan on a t-shirt.

If there is a magic bullet you already have it. It’s waiting patiently for you. It’s always been there for you even if you buried it under years of shopping to feel good or using the guest bedroom to store all the stuff you never use but are afraid to let go of.

You’re the magic bullet.

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