Self-Help Myths: The Power Of Less
It seems that simplifying your life is the big personal-growth trend right now, pushed by sites like Zen Habits. Personal productivity has had it’s day in the spotlight, now it’s the turn of simplifying, streamlining, identifying the essential, or whatever you want to call it. Goodbye David Allen and say hello Leo Babauta (or maybe not). We’ve gone from focusing on being super-efficient to being super-effective, almost like a bunch of fashionistas going from black to grey… and back again. However, simplifying your life isn’t, ironically, as simple as you might think. Consider the following problems with it:
The first problem with simplifying in general is that people automatically assume it’s about cutting out activities and getting rid of the low value interests in your life. Far from it, in fact. As I discussed last week, you have to consider the cumulative effect of stopping doing a particular activity for the sake of simplifying your life. What seems trivial now, may prove to be of high value in the future. All that time I spend on Twitter and Friendfeed might seem wasted considering the handful of visitors I get from it every week, but those people over time become the ones who comment the most and share ideas with me. Over a year, that’s invaluable
The second problem with simplifying your life is how far to take it. Let’s take the 80/20 rule as an example here because it really sums up the whole principle of simplifying, even if people don’t always refer directly to it. When you first start to 80/20 your life the results are pretty obvious. You identify the 20% of clothes you wear 80% of the time and suitably store or throw out the rest. You pinpoint the 20% of hobbies that give you the most satisfaction and opt to stop pursuing any others. Sounds simple enough, right?
But then what? Do you 80/20 to infinity (and beyond)? Do you simplify and simplify till all you’re left with is the one most important project, the one set of clothes you wear the most, the one customer that gives you the most profit and the one best friend you spend your time with? I’ll let you guys answer that one…