I have decided my theme for this year is SIMPLIFY. It sounds easy, but I have found it’s not! What it requires is:

  1. Clarity in my values, my vision
  2. Setting my goals to live by my values and achieve my vision
  3. Reviewing my calendar to see where I have allowed busyness to settle in – and decide “does this serve my values, vision and goals?”
  4. If yes, keep it. If no, remove it, or simply make it optional – who knew I could say no?!

The Internet is chockful of “self-help gurus” who swear by the effectiveness of their productivity hacks which literally require us to give it our all and then some. I’m sure you’ve come across some of these. They keep pushing the belief that overworking and spreading yourself thin equals productivity.

Many people have hopped on this productivity train and wear being busy like a badge of honor. Ironically, they do so much yet get so little done. It comes as no surprise that burnout continues to plague the workplace. In a recent Deloitte survey, 77% of professionals admitted having experienced burnout at their current job—a finding that contradicts the argument that achieving more, achieving success, is dependent on doing more.

Enter Essentialism

There will always be another project or task on our To Do List. However, by laser-focusing on the essential instead of the demanding, the distractions, the busyness, we create enough mental real estate to unlock our creative potential toward realizing our best self.

Essentialism upends the whole concept of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) into Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) on the trivial, non-essential stuff.

Instead, try this. Adopt a helicopter view of all the activities that sap your energy and time. Evaluate their impact in the grand scheme of things. Win back precious extra time by learning to say NO to the noise out there that distracts you from the pursuit of your goals. In a culture where notifications keep chiming on end, it is crucial to hoard your time against activities that take away from it without tangible returns. An amazingly simple NO = Turn off the dings!

The excess in our lives of noise, distractions, non-essential meetings, and more is the primary premise upon which Greg McKeown states his argument for ‘Less is better’ in his widely acclaimed book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. We can harness simplicity in our everyday lives to push us toward a more fulfilled life.

Review

List the activities that siphon your energy without replenishing it. Re-evaluate these activities and toss out those ones which drain you but serve little or no purpose.

What is the one area that sets your business apart from your competition? Are you proportionately allocating resources to magnify that area?

Are your employees being pulled in different directions, diluting the focus needed to produce their optimal best? Neuroscientists say multitasking depletes the brain’s energy reserves. Are there assignments you can remove from their workloads to maximize their concentration levels? If there are, remove them!

Make an inventory of your business processes. Are there extra steps that evolved over time that, upon review, you can simplify to improve service for your customers?

If we are conscious of applying our resources to bettering ourselves where we are most efficient, “we have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most,” as McKeown puts it.

What is essential?

At the heart of leveraging simplicity for optimal output is the ability to discern what is essential from what isn’t. Then making room to focus on the essential. It all boils down to asking the critical questions:

  • How important is this activity?
  • Does it generate results that align with my values and my goals?
  • What is the worst that could happen if I forgo this activity?
  • Does it match up to the gains of forgoing it?

Answer and prioritize accordingly.

Simplify

Adopting the path of simplicity saves you the frustration of pouring excess resources (your brain, time, money, people, and more) into an activity that yields little or no benefit. This does not suggest activities that produce little results be abandoned all together, but rather be pushed down the priority list in their order of value.

Almost a decade after his demise, Steve Jobs continues to have his handprints around many of the technological conveniences we enjoy today. Here is what he had to say about putting on blinders against the clutter that leads us away from our core essence:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Central to the idea of simplicity is deciding what your big “catapult goal” for the year is and spending as much time and resources at being even more successful there. Refuse to fall into the massive trap of overapplying yourself to the trivial many clothed as urgent that you lose sight of what is essential.

What’s Next?

What is your catapult goal this year? What is that one thing you’re going to focus on, prioritize, that will make a difference in your life, in your business? What are you willing to say yes to so that it is so big that it makes it that much easier to say no to the rest?

Simplify to the essential this year.