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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?

An Easy Exercise to Help You From Drowning in Lists

In just a few days my bud and business partner Terri Trespicio and I will be headed to the Speak to Sell conference with Lisa Sasevich in Florida. Whoo hoo – can’t wait for some sun! It’s been a long winter.

After the conference my husband and I are heading to Miami for a few days of vacation and a chance for us to check out for a little bit! (Plus to celebrate our wedding anniversary – 9 years!)

As exciting as this all is, it means I’ve got several lists going all at once.

  • Lists for the conference
  • Lists for my vacation (altho I’ll still be working)
  • Lists for everything I have to catch up on before I go

I feel a bit like I’m drowning in lists.

It’s times like these that I have to step away from my usual tactic of just getting things done and zoom out a bit. – Otherwise I get too wrapped up in the small stuff and lose sight of the bigger picture.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to do a workshop training with Ali Brown. She’s an amazing coach for entrepreneurs and she interviewed me for her podcast “Glambition Radio” about my book “Listful Thinking” a while back.

One of the things she taught in this creativity workshop was how to shift your focus. And it involved buying magazines! (My guilty pleasure!)

The idea is to go to a store and get yourself a magazine you would never normally read, which for me could be on something like golf or surfing or the National Geographic. But for you it could be anything that you wouldn’t consider yourself to be interested in.

Now when you read that magazine you have to be a completely objective outsider. The actual content is not that important to you so you can focus on the way they get their message across.  How do they engage with their readers.

So how does this help your list making efforts?

It can give you loads of idea for your own creative output and how you actually get things done. Can you be more creative about the way that you outsource? But also – stepping outside of our usual routine (it’s scary, I know) can actually spark great ideas and allow you to get more done. It will actually make you more productive and help utilize parts of your brain that might have been a bit sleepy til now.

They say you can travel all around world, but you can never escape yourself. Well that’s not strictly true. The magazine exercise allows you to take a break from your own mind and usual way of thinking and take a vacation in someone else’s hobby for a bit – and who knows what you might take away!

Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Listful Thinking Translated Into French

When I first started this blog I never imagined that I’d reach list makers all over the world. When I wrote my book, Listful Thinking it happened! It’s so great to see how list making translates into every language. And it’s happened again – Listful Thinking is now coming out in French! Or “La Magie Des Lists” as they call it.

Given my huge obsession with Paris it only seems right that my book will finally have its place there. Listful Thinking is also available in Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Arabic, Korean and Japanese.

If you are a new French reader just joining us, Bonjour! I hope you find the magic in list making too.

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

When Too Much Productivity is Bad

When it comes to productivity, I believe it’s important to find what works for you. There is no ultimate one size fits all solution. In fact just because something works for you, doesn’t mean it works all the time. What  you find helpful at work, might be too involved or overly complex for your family at home.

Everything in moderation, as the Greeks would say.

There are many examples I can think of where a good productivity practice can be pushed too far and become unhelpful.

Being too early – This sounds a like a good thing, but this is an absolute pet peeve of mine. In fact it’s gets a special mention in my course Lights Camera Expert, because I know how much producers dislike it when guests are early. There’s nothing wrong with being 5 minutes early to give yourself some time to settle, but I’ve had interviewees show up  over a hour early for a segment. As a producer we have our day factored in down to the minute so when someone shows up early it throws my whole schedule off. I know early arrivers will often say they are happy to wait, but it still creates a frantic energy and makes me feel like I’m trying to play catch up and then have to figure out what to do with you for all that time!   Read more