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The Case for Becoming A Minimalist

Since my book Listful Thinking has been published in 12  different languages I have been able to connect with list makers across the globe. In particular I often receive messages from people in China and Japan who want to talk about their love of lists.

It’s become clear to me that while  we may have different approaches and styles, being more productive without overworking ourselves is a common human goal. In fact, in my search for a more minimalist lifestyle, I have often been inspired by ideas from the other side of the world.

As you may know I am a huge fan of Marie Kondo, who brings a simplicity to clearing clutter. She has you ask a simple question as you hold items from you home in your hand, “Does it spark joy?” It makes you really think about the stuff you  choose to keep, not just in your closets, but in your life in general.

I’m not the only one who has been inspired by eastern minimalism. Raymond Tang felt overwhelmed by his fast paced technology driven lifestyle and sought change elsewhere. He was inspired by the classic poems of by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. These poems are thousands of years old, but as Raymond explains in his TED talk they offer advice that we can embrace today.

Lao Tzu encouraged people to act more like water, which fills the shape of its container. t doesn’t fight against the obstacle in anyway. In the same way, all of us can be more open to opportunities and rather then force ourselves to be a certain version of success, we can just go with the flow.

It’s easier said than done, of course and I struggle with this on a daily basis. I really like order and structure and when I’m in a chaotic situation it makes me anxious. But I’m trying to be more open to chance and circumstance.

Minimalism is big  in Japan as well, where  young people are trying to own fewer and fewer things. Inspired by traditional Zen Buddhism, they have reduced the amount of physical things in their life to free up time spent cleaning or decluttering to be used elsewhere. When explaining the difference between Eastern and Western styles one person said, “In the west, making a space complete means placing something there. But with tea ceremonies, or Zen, things are left incomplete on purpose to let the person’s imagination make that space complete.”

In that same article one Japanese man explained that he only four pairs of pants, three shirts and four pairs of socks. If that makes you nervous, it shouldn’t! There’s something really freeing about having less stuff.

When you think about you probably use the same clothes over and over again anyway. So why are you holding onto it?

Join Me For a Popup Productivity Power Hour

We’re just a few days away from spring – it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your productivity style!

What’s working and what could use a little help?

Maybe you hit the ground running when the New Year started and now you’re losing steam on your projects.

Or perhaps you have a list of new things you want to do but haven’t gotten to yet. (Like your book, or your laundry?)

And what about your email? Maybe that’s overwhelming you again?

One of the best ways I’ve found to keep motivated and productive is to get a little accountability nudge!

So I’m thrilled to offer a “Popup Productivity Power Hour” just for you!

On this group video call I’ll laser coach you on whatever productivity woe is getting in your way of being more efficient. Plus you’ll get to meet fellow list lovers and bounce ideas off each other.

Many of you have done this kind of accountability coaching with me in the past and I’ve been told it’s one of your favorite things that I’ve offered.

So I’m doing it again! Read more

Talking Lists With Peter Shankman

Anyone who’s a follower of productivity and organizational tools knows that the productivity world has it’s own celebrities, like Marie Kondo and Julie Morgenstern (who wrote the foreword for my book Listful Thinking btw). The entrepreneurial world is not that different, there are the big hitters like Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey. There are a select few that are known in both worlds and overlap! One of whom is Peter Shankman.

I’ve written about Peter before on the blog  on how to be productive when you have ADHD, which is a personal issue that he has overcome. I quickly discovered that many of the tools he suggest are similar to some of my classic productivity tips. They’re just extra effective for people with ADHD.

As a a public relations and marketing expert Peter has also been an inspiration to me as an entrepreneur.  It’s why I joined his online mastermind group Shankminds, which has been especially helpful since I left my day job as a TV producer to branch out on my own.

He recently wrote a book called “Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain,” and I’m quoted in it! Yay!

Check out this on-camera interview Peter and I did together talking about lists and his new book!

In the video I discuss:

  • How to use lists to stay organized
  • Finding what works for you so you can stay productive

Why You Should Never Schedule Anything at the Top of the Hour

As you probably know, a top productivity tip and regular habit of mine, is to write my to do list the night before. I consider it a roadmap for the following day. I don’t have to stick to that schedule exactly, but it gives me a path to follow.

Many of the highly-productive people I know do the same thing. However I’ve noticed they make one key mistake – they schedule tasks for the top of the hour. For example your to-do list might look something like:

  • 10am catch up on email
  • 11am call Donna

What’s wrong with that?

The problem is two fold.

First of all, as a total procrastinator I know all the tricks your mind will play on you in order to put things off. Scheduling things at the top of the hour is a classic one. Why? Because the second that clock ticks 10:01 and you haven’t checked your email, you start to think to yourself, “well now I’ve missed my opportunity! I’ll get to it in a minute”.  But then you never actually get back to that original task because your attention pulls you away.

The second issue is that when you schedule something for say 11am, people don’t actually start to get ready until 11am. I find that if I’ve scheduled a call with someone, if I make the call on time they often won’t answer, as they’re still going back to their desk or checking over their notes. The same is true of meetings. How many 2pm meetings actually start on time?

So what’s my solution?

I like to schedule appointments and tasks for 15 mins past the hour. This gives you 15 minute to prepare or get yourself set up for the time ahead. So if it’s a Skype call you’ve got time to login and check your audio is working at the top of the hour. If you’re scheduling a meeting these extra 15 minutes give people time to grab a cup of coffee or tea and get settled.

Go through your diary today and shake up your schedule! Be sure to let me know how it goes in the comments below.

Start UnBatching Your Tasks

Every three months I do an accountability call with the students  from my Listful Thinking Masterclass. We discuss the ways they’ve implemented the course into their day to day lives, and we also talk about their latest ventures in productivity.

Recently, one of my students explained how, after being inspired by a LinkedIn article, he has started avoiding social media on Tuesday. Why Tuesdays? He just picked it and now Tuesdays  are his most productive day.

I really like this idea. I often promote the idea of batching tasks together. So the same way you wouldn’t do laundry one sock at a time you shouldn’t pay bills for instance one by one. Instead batching them together weekly is a much more effective use of your time! But I think the same principle can be applied to ‘unbatching’. Putting together tasks that you’re not going to do! Read more