Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP
We are constantly bombarded with messages to “buy more, do more, and be more.” Life has become overwhelming for many. We feel we need to look younger, become richer, feel happier, work quicker, be thinner, drive harder, run farther, think bigger, dress trendier, eat healthier, walk taller, drive safer, go faster, live bigger…and the list goes on. It’s exhausting to think about and even more wearying to act out. My cure for craziness—while also focusing on continuing to learn and grow in life—is choosing to live more simply. Now, this concept is simple, no doubt; but certainly not easy—which is why I chose to focus on it this month.
Living simply means cutting out the many trivial and unimportant things you do, so you have more quality time for passions, family, friends, and yourself. It means slowing down and getting rid of the clutter, so you can choose to live a more balanced, healthier, and fulfilling life. It is about being present and living in the moment in a meaningful way.
To live a simpler life—while I continue to target ways in which I can enrich my career and personal aspirations—I choose to apply four key strategies using the acronym, “G.R.O.W.” which includes:
G – Goal-setting
R – Reduce
O – Organize
W – Work
The first component of “G.R.O.W.” includes “goal-setting.” When speaking to groups, I often ask those in the audience to raise their hands if they have a list of goals for the year. Next, I ask them to keep their hands in the air if they wrote those annual goals down and refer to them at least on a monthly basis. It is amazing how many hands go down. Developing a plan and setting goals is a powerful process. It helps you choose where you want to go in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you need to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also quickly spot the distractions that would otherwise lure you off course. By setting clearly defined goals, you can take pride in seeing forward progress and achieving them.
To live a more simple, present and meaningful life, the second component of “G.R.O.W.” is to “reduce” the volume of activities I am involved in. This could mean the number of groups, projects, commitments, or things I am expected to participate in—whether I volunteer for them or graciously have them appointed. Additionally, living simply also means cutting back on the number of tasks I am juggling at any given time.
I am amazed when I hear people proudly verbalize how they can multitask so well. Is this even possible? Can we communicate on the telephone and write an email at the same time? We physically can, but are we doing justice to either activity? Instead of calling this multitasking, I like to refer to it as shift-tasking. We rapidly shift from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively. I’ve seen numerous research studies on the negative effects of multitasking, and some show that productivity drops as much as 40 percent. When I think I’m doing myself a favor by multitasking, I remind myself to think again. Instead of doing two or three things mediocre, I’d rather be focused and excel at one.
“Organize” is the third component of “G.R.O.W.” which illustrates that the more organized our stuff is, the more productive we will be. If I have a messy desk, I can’t seem to concentrate. When I need to regain organizational control, I block off a chunk of time and that is the task I focus on, whether it is for thirty minutes or two hours. A friend told me she read an article, which stated that people generally spend about one year of their life looking for lost things. Imagine if that statistic is true. Purposefully enhance your organizational skills in as many aspects of your life as possible. Whether it is organizing email folders, your wallet, a pantry, a large closet, or an entire basement; the more organized you keep yourself and your belongings, the less you will have to re-organize and the more productive you will be.
The final component of the “G.R.O.W.” acronym for living a simpler, more balanced and fulfilling life is to “work.” Anything worth doing takes strong discipline, dedication and sweat equity—also known as work. Hard work requires us to be present in the here and now, and to focus our efforts on what we are currently doing. And when you look at high achievers, for example, working hard is not an option…it’s their default. And if you happen to be one of the best at what do you, your work probably feels like play. That’s one of the keys to being successful. Find something you love to do, that you’re good at, and that you can get paid for. That’s true success in my eyes.
Living a happy, successful and meaningful life is a conscious choice. Choose to let go of the craziness and instead focus on continuing to G.R.O.W. by living more simply.