I’ve had some recent major changes to my routine which combined with some interesting reading has me almost constantly questioning why I am doing what I am doing. Is it the most important thing right now? The reading has included Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris (yes I know I am apparently one of the few people who admits to not having read it), and Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantankis, (those that read TFHWW will know why). All have combined to make me look and think hard about the way I go about doing things on a daily basis.
Fear not that I am going to go completely philosophical here dear readers. But I would like you to keep in mind that having external forces blow up your plan can be an opportunity to reboot your approach. The experience of having major changes comes with negatives to be sure, but they also come with positives that initially were not and may not be immediately apparent.
A big question I asked was one about my ability to be at my very best eight hours a day, five or six days a week. Actually I know the answer. I am not able to be at my optimum performance level every single moment. I know that on an intellectual level but in practice was trying to be ‘productive’, ‘additive’ or whatever stupid adjective you can think of yourself. There’s so much to do and learn that everyone knows it’s impossible to do everything, do it well, and do it on a constant basis. So why do I, and so many people keep trying?
I’ve phased in and out of being an effective minimalist. Being a sometime jazz pianist I know about minimalism in the sense that the best pianists can play a million notes, and play them amazingly fast, but the amazing thing about them is that they all know what notes not to play. One of the reasons I’ve always loved Hemingway is the sparseness of his prose. Doing things less isn’t the point, it’s doing the things that are essential and doing them well – that’s an ideal to which I aspire.
The first thing I have been working on during this renewed effort (which will be a battle to last the rest of my life) is email. That may seem banal but email is by far my most used communication tool and I was using it like a walkie-talkie. There were far too many hours staring at a screen when I could have been thinking. That’s right thinking. Too much ‘work’ and not enough thinking mistakenly gave me the impression that I was communicating and staying on top of things. In actuality I was becoming more disconnected the more that I tried to stay e-connected.
The result is that I am making more calls, trying to see and spend time seeing and meeting with people, while at the same time answering fewer emails. Also I am answering those emails more thoughtfully if not less immediately.
My search for my own inner minimalist goes far beyond email and even social media. In truth, the conscious effort to overthrow my routine and get out of the mind-numbing sameness was spurred by outside events. I can’t admit that it was a blessing in disguise but I am resolved to use the jolt as positive as opposed to negative energy.
Do you agree that most often less is more?