I'm a big advocate of simplifying. When we simplify we're able to better relax, reaping far more benefits than from pushing through and living in this always-on universe. Our thoughts become clearer, we can physically accomplish more and we come to the table with a renewed sense of purpose. Sounds pretty good, right?
But even though the benefits of simplifying can't be argued, over and over I hear from people whose stress levels, commitments and work expectations are off the charts. They recognize that it's time to simplify but can't or won't. I'm definitely sometimes guilty of this mindset.
And it's no surprise why more and more people feel this way. We're constantly tethered to our mobile phones, checking email, exchanging texts and keeping on top of whatever meeting, call or other commitment is coming next. It's the opposite of simplification. Even if it's now become commonplace, this level of connectivity is stressful, relentless and contributes to the mental and emotional overload we feel more often than not--and we need a break from the constant communications.
So what to do when you can't simplify but know you need to? Start small. I focus on what I've dubbed my "0.07 commitment." When I'm too busy and too overwhelmed to even consider taking a breath, I focus on dedicating just 0.07% of my day to simplifying. Sound do-able? It is--0.07% of your day is just one minute.
For maximum impact, pick time right before you're most productive period--before work starts, before a big meeting or before the kids wake up for the day, let's say. Set aside one uninterrupted minute and jot down when you're going to check email. Maybe it's every hour, every two or, even, after 30 minutes. Maybe it's when you arrive at work, before lunch and before you leave. Think about your schedule, your commitments and what's realistic.
Next, write down a specific time frame you'll dedicate to personal online activities--reading blogs, downloading new books, browsing your favorite ecommerce sites, or anything else you enjoy. The rest of the day, commit yourself to being online for work or necessary tasks only--and, if you don't need to be, turn it off entirely.
Simple enough, right? Even so, you'll likely have a big reaction to this exercise. Maybe you feel overwhelmed--what if an email comes in during an "off" window? Or maybe this activity feels too minor to be high impact--you're still accomplishing everything you need to in a given day, after all. But it's an incredibly powerful and incredibly meaningful first step in simplifying. What's more, by writing it down you're more likely to stick to it, making this simplification even easier--it's simplification simplified.
Once you've mastered the 0.07% commitment, move on to some other simple simplification exercises. Switch off email when you're online but working on something non-email related. Hearing the ding or seeing your inbox tick up, up, up is distracting and unnecessarily stressful, even if it feels totally normal. Don't believe me? Try it. Not only will you likely get your task done that much faster, but you'll feel less pressure and less stress while tackling it.
Granted, some people may truly not be able to switch things off. Perhaps your job truly entails 24/7 access or during a certain period it's essential you be on constantly--if that's the case, then you'll need to pick more realistic goals. Maybe it's flipping email off during your commute home, layering in more frequent windows to check in or, simply, turning the sound and other alerts off so you don't feel constantly inundated. Even a few "off" moments can help simplify your day-to-day and leave you feeling more relaxed.
So the big question--can YOU commit 0.07% of your day to simplifying and, equally importantly, can you follow through on the steps you outline during this 60-second simplification? I have and I do almost every single day. It's become a go-to for me, especially during high-stakes, high pressure moments in time. I take a breath, take a minute--literally--and outline how I'll simplify this one very specific aspect of my life. Often the rest follows. I feel less stressed, more relaxed and much less under the gun as I work through my commitments and general day-to-day. It takes a minute, but the results create a positive ripple that impacts the next 24 hours. Try it for yourself. Commit 0.07% of tomorrow to simplifying and see where it takes you. Chances are, you'll be surprised with the results.