5 Minimalist Skills To Simplify Your Life – As taught by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits
Life is simple?
How many of your friends have dropped their phone in the toilet?
Think about it.
What does that say about our society?
Are we so connected and so busy we can’t even take a second to use the bathroom?
Sure modern life is complicated. But what if it doesn’t have to be that way. What if we could learn to live more simply and with more joy?
I recently attended a webinar with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits about simplifying your day. First, he shared 11 obstacles to simplification
1. Underestimating Completion Time
2. Overestimating Capacity
3. The Ease of Yes
4. Misallocating Personal Resources
6. We Forget To Make Time for What’s Important
7. The Demands of Others
8. Wanting to Please Others
11. Small Task Mode
He explained how these 11 habits can get us of track and keep us stressed out. Then went on to explain a short set of skills we can use to overcome them.
5 Minimalist Skills to Simplify Your Life
These 5 skills are the ways he discovered to living a simpler and more fulfilling life. And though none of them are secret or revolutionary there application can be.
Often we don’t pay close attention to how we spend our time. We move from one activity to the next responding to situations without considering the bigger picture. As soon as we get going the momentum of activity carries us away.
Leo defines consciousness as deciding ahead of time how you are going to live your life.
He says we need to continually ask, “Is this how I want to be spending my time?” Is this in line with my values?” And then assess the answer.
You can make this assessment at the beginning of each hour, each day, each week, then look again at the end of the day, and see how you did. The key to simplification is to make sure you have a system with reminders built in.
Making good choices about how we spend our time is a great start. But if we are not careful during the day, we can easily get off track. Many of the obstacles that Leo listed arise in the moment. And without mindfulness, we won’t be able to notice and avoid them.
He identified 4 things that we need to be especially mindful of: expectations, plans, goals, and energy levels. When we are mindful of these things we can start to make simple conscious choices about how to spend our time.
Leo defined limits as tools for consciousness. Setting limits creates cues for us to check in see what we are doing.
One way is to simply limit the number of things you have on your to do list. Another is to limit the amount of time you spend on work in a week or a day. Leo suggested setting working hours after which you shut off your phone and computer or to only do email in limited amounts of time.
Leo points out that when we first list our priorities we may have 10 or 15 items on our list. As we begin to use the tools we’ve already talked about we realize that there isn’t enough time to do all of them.
We can try, but Leo warns that when we say yes to everything you are really saying no to all of them.
If we underestimate time and over predict capacity, then we will be unable to do all of these things proficiently. And in the process, we will actually destroy our capacity to handle an even short list of items.
Stress and overwork will take their toll and lead to distraction or burnout.
So, Leo encourages us to shorten and simplify our list by ordering priorities and regularly eliminating the bottom item. We simply see what the least important and bow out by contacting those involved and excusing ourselves from that responsibility.
Every item we eliminate gives us more energy to focus on what is more important.
Negotiations have to do with expectations. Leo warns that expectations can significantly affect our ability to simplify our day.
But he doesn’t think that we can just wish away these expectations. Instead, he encourages us to renegotiate them.
First, we need to renegotiate our own expectations. There is nothing wrong with being driven and focused, but often we think we can do it all. Leo encourages us to focus on a few important tasks. If we have extra time we can always do more, but this assures that the important things get done first.
Next, you need to renegotiate expectations with everyone else. This could include your family, friends, or coworkers. If you explain what you are doing and why, you may find more support than you expect.
Like a Boss
Leo noted that many people fear renegotiating with their boss. We often view our bosses as inflexible. And are afraid that if we say we want to do less, our jobs may be at risk. So, Leo offered his personal experience of how he used this technique with his boss, back when he had one.
First, Leo would go in and say he thought all the things on his to do list were important. But that he knew couldn’t get them all done today. He asked to collaborate with his boss to make sure their priorities were in line for that day.
He would work with his boss to identify what was important and what he thought he could do that day. Once they came to an understanding he would go out and get to work.
If he got done with the list early, he would go back to his boss and talk with her about what else might be important to do.
This not only helped Leo manage his day better. But helped him communicate more clearly with his boss, which no doubt built some rapport between them.
What’s Really Important?
At the end of the webinar, Leo shared a lovely bit of wisdom. He reminds us that our expectations and ideals can cause a lot of anxiety in our lives. In truth, we don’t really know what is going to happen. The future is unexpected.
Leo reminded everyone that what’s really important is being happy right now. There is no way to know if all of your dreams will come true. But if you work at it, you can learn to be happy right now.
And whether your day is simple or complicated remembering this one thing can make a huge difference.
What tricks do you use to simplify your day?
Make a list of what you’d like to get done today.
Now eliminate the bottom item.
Set a time that you will you stop and take a break.
When you do take a break, reflect on 3 questions:
How’s it going?
What could I do better next time?
What did I totally rock at?
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