People used to snicker at Albert Einstein because he used the same bar of soap for washing and shaving. They didn’t realize that such simple habits were the great physicist’s way of eliminating clutter. Because he didn’t hamper himself with useless baggage, Einstein could turn his mind loose to roam through the mysteries of the universe.
Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed? Do so many chores harass you that you fail to enjoy any of the things you do? If you honestly want to simplify your life, you can do it more easily than you think, and reap great benefits.
To reduce your preoccupation with trivial things and activities, keep a list of all your activities – your job, your household chores, your recreational activities, your club or civic responsibilities – for an entire month. At the end of the month, rate each activity in terms of its importance: give the number 1 to important things, 2 to less important, 3 to unimportant.
Analyze the time and energy you gave to No. 3 activities. You’ll be surprised to find how demanding unimportant activity can be. To simplify living and reduce clutter, stop doing as many No. 3 things as you can.
The great art critic of Victorian England, John Ruskin, simplified his life in a way most of us wouldn’t dare too. When he received unwanted invitations or trivial letters, he replied by note:
Mr. J. Ruskin is about to begin a work of great importance. Therefore , he begs you to consider him dead for the next two months.”
Unimportant activity doesn’t merely steal your time and energy, it also robs you of peace of mind. The necessity of doing things you don’t really value adds greatly to life’s strain. Don’t, however, try to reduce your activities to things you just like” to do. Psychologists tell us that many people unconsciously become involved in useless tasks in order to put off necessary decisions and jobs they prefer not to tackle.
Never detour,” Henry Ford used to tell friends. Keep your eyes on the things that are important and can’t be sidestepped forever. Tackle those things even if they are hard – and you will accomplish your goal with the energy other persons use trying to dodge the inevitable.”
If you draw out your telephone conversations, turn on the television set when you have work to do, or become so involved in little things that you have no time for the big ones, you are indulging in the futile detours Henry Ford warned against. You will find yourself fretting and stewing rather than achieving worthwhile and rewarding goals.
Keep clear the distinction between busyness and business.
Now, let us assume you have successfully eliminated unimportant chores and have steeled yourself to tackle tough jobs with dispatch – what are you going to do with the spare time? Anything you choose, of course, but I would recommend nothing” to you.
The Scot essayist and historian, Thomas Carlyle, made it a rule to be absolutely silent for half an hour a day. Tagore, a great Indian poet, said that every day a man should wash his soul in silence.” Carlyle was less poetic, but equally emphatic. Silence,” he said, “is the element in which great things fashion themselves.”
Creative silence, a determination to face real work promptly and elimination of the trivial – these techniques practiced by great men can also help you to simplify your life.