Less is more. So they say, yet we don’t really learn. We pile on more than we can handle. I did it to myself today with work. I had this grand vision that I could get all this stuff done, and probably only got about two thirds of it done. Why do we do it?
One of the biggest reasons we don’t is because we sometimes are not great at reducing the noise around us, we complicate our opportunity to focus on the essentials of the work we want to achieve, and fail to keep it simple.
“Keep it simple,” is not a mantra we’ve not heard before. It’s not new. In fact, I’d venture we’ve heard it many times over in our lives. It was a reminder meant to teach us to get back to the essence of our goals and our creativity. To focus on what’s most important before piling anything else on top of it. I think this quote from Henry David Thoreau really puts it into context:
It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he firsts frees the equation of all encumbrances and reduces it to is simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots are.
How incredible it would be if we could practice our work we did in school like we did with fractions. Getting the work to its lowest common denominator and then moving from there with our work. Using the example of fractions as we looked at the work before us, have we carved it down to its lowest possible form and then moved to next?
Simplicity as an art has been referenced in history for years in many different areas of our lives from theology, health, psychology, and art. Living with less has been described and adopted by many as a path to freedom. Eat less. Watch TV less. Frown less. Being Kondo-ed (Marie Kondo) is a real thing as she teaches us less is really how you find joy. Looking at something and asking a very honest question on whether it brings you joy or not is simple even in its execution. If that answer is no, why keep it in your life?
We only have so much energy and day to accomplish everything we want. If we keep trying to do everything, we will often come up with nothing. We also will arrive in a place that we are less clear about what we even want. We have to be better at ignoring what the modern world tells us is important and focus inwardly on what our heart and mind truly believe is important. Another quote moment that really sets this up:
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. – Steven Covey
Simplifying helps keep us from being scatterbrained in our approaches to be creative, hit our goals, and get the most from our day. It keeps us really focused on what’s most important. It’s also one of the hardest skills to master and keep fresh.
Lets take something easy to put essentialism practices into play. If you came home from work today and saw your house is on fire and the fireman as you approach him tells you he’s able to go back into the house and save three things, what would those three things be?
Reduce the noise around you, get to the lowest common element of the work you want to achieve, and make sure nothing robs you of the best time to accomplish the work you want to achieve. It’s said 20% of your actions yield 80% of the outcome that you need to achieve your goals and creative best output. Consider for a moment what activities will create the best outcome and let nothing take you away or distract you from those actions. Stop piling. Get more with less so you can experience more of these moments you crave.
It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials. – Bruce Lee