Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Power of Less

I recently finished reading "The Power of Less" by Leo Babauta. I had picked it up because I thought it was about reducing the things in your life and that is something I have been "studying" lately. Turns out it's a book about putting limits on yourself and what you do with your time, energy, and focus.

The author argues that we (you know, that collective ubiquitous "we") are too busy. Technology has given us so many things to do and so many ways to do them, that we think we can do it all, and do it all very well. He states that we actually are doing a lot of things not so very well, at all. We are easily distracted and the time and effort it takes us to switch gears to a new activity causes us to be weak and inefficient in those tasks. Essentially, multi-tasking is a myth.

So his solution is to limit what we take on and teach ourselves to focus on completing only one task at a time. The idea is to pare down our goals to only those things that are essential and focus on one project at a time. While his premise focuses on the "business/work world", I was able to think of ways to apply his ideas to the "home world". The author suggests we can actually get more accomplished and do it better, more effectively and completely, than if we try to focus on several things at once.

Interestingly, the sermon on Sunday morning had some insights into limitations in reference to the narrow gate verses the broad gate, mentioned in Matthew 7. My pathway, as a christian on the narrow way, is not wide enough for me take on all the extra "stuff" I think I need. Several things came to mind as a result of connecting "The Power of Less" ideas with the sermon. If I eliminate many of the non-essential distractions, I can focus more on what is essential.

Reading and studying God's word gives me insight into what really is essential verses what only feels essential. So I have made that my first singular task. It seems like the right place to start. I have begun setting my alarm clock for fifteen minutes earlier than normal so that I have at least that much potentially uninterrupted time for prayer and Bible reading. (I say potentially because the second day I did this, I was interrupted by a goat giving birth!) My plan is to eventually increase that to a full thirty minutes by next month.

I have also set myself other small task-oriented goals for my day. While I still like my routine that we implemented from Large Family Logistics, I am thinking that little goals within some of those routines could be motivating. Things like: completing a certain number of sewing projects, decluttering a pre-defined space, folding/ironing a specific number of items, reading a set number of pages or chapters, etc. The idea is that I will eliminate all (or as many as possible) distractions and focus on that activity until the goal is reached.

One of the demands on my time is already in the works of being eliminated, as it has been deemed "non-essential". A few weeks ago I stepped down as an adult fair advisor for our local 4-H fair association. The girls have some obligations on the fair association board that they need to fulfill, but once they are completed, we will be eliminating that commitment from our schedules. We'll still be involved with 4-H, but mainly only on the local club level. This will free up about five hours per month and a large amount of stress! Other activities that we take part in are in the process of being evaluated for their "essential-ness" within our lives.

I am currently reading a book called "The Power of Half", which is about how one family reduced their lives to half of what they had and increased their charitable donations. It's a pretty inspiring story so far.
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