This is the getting things done philosophy of Leo Babauta. I have found it to be a fantastic way to move forward in a massive way. This goes against my perfectionist, do-a-million-things-at-once, ADD nature and so it was very hard for me to accomplish. But if you can pull it off, it’s life changing. Recently, I found myself slipping back into some of my old habits and spinning my wheels and so I decided to refocus on a philosophy that works very well for me.
Give this a chance. Try it for a month and I think you will be shocked at the results. However, if you are going to truly give it a chance to work, you have to commit to it. You can’t intellectually accept it and do something different in practice. You might as well not bother in that case.
Identify the Essential – Step 1
- List of all the areas that you consider essential in your work and life. You can do one list for work and a separate list for your personal life if you wish.
- If you make the categories so broad as to include everything, you would be cheating and undercutting your own success. Things like “Spend quality time with my spouse” is a category that is about right. “Work on Personal Development” might be another. “Focus on only two projects at work” might be another. The narrower and more defined each category, the more success you will have. Otherwise you are just watering down the impact. “Be happy” is way too broad. It says nothing about how you are going to be happy.
- Now cut that list down to a maximum of six combined for both work and your personal life. Ideally get to four, but if you must you may keep six. This might be hard but just do it. Everything in your life can’t be essential. Suspend your disbelief and give it a chance to work and you will be amazed at the results.
Eliminate the Rest – Step 2
You can’t eliminate all the other stuff can you? Oh yes you can, and it is an incredibly freeing experience when you do it. Leo expands on ways to do this in his book the Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life.
- If you want to accomplish the essential, you simply must eliminate the rest. It’s a simple step to take intellectually because you cannot accomplish the essential until you eliminate the rest.
- You need to make a very important decision in your life. Sit down and ask yourself the following question. Am I going to do what is important and essential in my life or am I going to continue to water down my potential fantastic life with the trivial and the less important? I’m not suggesting that some things that didn’t make your list aren’t at some level important. But by your own definition they are less important or they would have made your list. Make a choice. You are 100% accountable.
- A common tactic to help with this is to ask yourself the following question all day long every day. At this point in time, out of everything I could be doing, is this the very most important one to be working on? If the answer to that question is no, then why are you doing it? When I started using this method, it was a shocking and eye-opening experience. I realized how habits had taken me away from what is important and into the trivial. I think you will have the same experience.
Some Other Tactics for Eliminating the Non-Essential
- If any particular task does not progress one of your essential goals it should be eliminated.
- Start gradually as this will be a major behavioral change in your life.
- Conduct periodic reviews (daily or weekly) of all your tasks and commitments. Eliminate any new items added that do not progress your essential goals. Continue the gradual elimination of prior tasks until you completely eliminate all non-essential activity.
- Every day before you do anything else identify your most important tasks (MITs), your big rocks, or whatever else you call them. I find that 1 to 3 items works best for me but your specific situation might be different. Don’t list more than 4 or 5. These must be aligned with the areas of your life you identified as essential. Doing MITs that are aligned with explicitly identified essential activities is the best way I have ever found to make massive progress in life.
- Each day before you start reading email and end up chasing rabbits or any other typical daily chaos, complete your 1 to 3 MIT’s.
- Say no. Unless you stop taking on commitments you will never succeed at escaping the rat race or living a happy life. Another person’s want or desire is not a commitment on your time or your life.
- Start now.
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