Many days I wonder how we ever got this busy…this overwhelmed….this frazzled in our lives. We are doing more, but feel we are achieving less. We work a lot, but never feel “caught up”. We continue to strive for more yet find little joy in what we do have.
In a 2013 Harvard Business Review citing a survey done by the Center for Creative Leadership of executives, managers and professionals (EMP) found that the average American professional is putting in, on average 72 hours per week. It would be my observation that this number is unlikely to have improved in the last 6 years, in fact it may have increased.
Yet with all that busyness, I rarely meet folks who are expending that effort for something they really feel matters. Instead many appear to be running this hard and this long out of a sense of obligation or fear or just because we are not sure how to stop the madness.
What if your work life was simpler, less complex? What if your effort at work was focused on the critically important things? What if you had more time for what really matters outside of work? What if we stopped being time “victims” and began to reclaim our lives, our calendars, and our time?
Battling complexity and busyness is something I know all too well. Luckily I recognized the toll that my unending drive to do more, be more, have more was taking on my health, my relationships and my well-being. I’ve spent focused effort in the past 10 years to lead a saner life. To integrate meaningful work into the broader tapestry of my life. To eliminate nonvalue-added work. To focus on what is most important. To offer high value to my clients. And to honor all aspects of my life with time and attention and focus.
While I’m not anywhere near perfect, I have made considerable progress in the last ten years. Enough so that in addition to publishing my second book in 2019 and running two businesses – I had time for six weeks of vacation and another three weeks to support friends and family when they needed it. I don’t feel frazzled and I seldom feel overwhelmed. I do feel calm, centered. I am doing what is most important to me.
At a conceptual level, I’ve done that by cleaning up my messes – those things that drain my time, energy and focus. I’ve done this by eliminating the extraneous. I do this daily by focusing on what is most important and letting go of what is not. I’ve made progress by subtraction rather than addition.
Concepts are fine – but not very practical. So rather than regale you with high sounding ideas and generalities that get to be cliché, I’m going to share, over the next 10 weeks, 10 Steps to Simplifying Your Work Life.
In those 10 steps I’m going to challenge you to reduce unnecessary complexity in your work life. To get super focused and then to strip out of your life those things that rob you of energy, time, well-being.
Here is how the Simplify Your Work Life Challenge will work:
I’ll share a new simplification challenge every Thursday between January 2nd and March 5th (for a total of 10). For each, I’ll provide 2 simple actions that enable you to make visible progress in two to three hours. I’ll also provide resources I’ve personally found helpful in my simplification journey related to that topic. And I’ll challenge you to spend 2 to 3 hours on one (or both) of the actions.
The idea is to commit a few hours to simplify one part of your work life. We both know that in reality it will take more than two hours to truly complete each step. And we both know that there will always be more that remains to be done.
But the key here is that you’ve gotten a start and have some momentum. I’ve found that simplifying is like peeling off layers of “stuff” – each time you go deeper and deeper until you reach a point of perfect simplicity: where unnecessary complexity is gone and you feel balanced and in control of your work life.
The steps are in a very specific order: from easier to harder and from starting with the physical and moving inward. Step One gets you to a fast start with visible progress. ….and Step Two is a MUST DO for the remainder of the process to work.
I’ve chosen the word “step” very carefully – because even though I’ll share a step a week, I encourage you to set your own pace. Some steps might take only a few days, others might take months or even a lifetime! And remember that entropy will creep in – so even when you’ve made good progress, you’ll need to hit refresh time and time again!
During the Simplify Your Work Life Challenge, we’ll share progress via the LinkedIn Group: 10 Steps to Simplify Work. I encourage you to post your progress, ask questions and share tips that work for you. You’ll be able to review the 10 steps through this group or by going to my blog posts at Evergreen Leadership at any time, even when the challenge has ended!
My hope is that for you, over time, seeking simplicity will become a habit, as it has been for me. I hope you find clarity and focus. I hope that you increase your ability to work on the things that really matter to you – and that you have time and energy to spend on the other things in your life that are so important!