"It's wonderful out here! You'll love the weather," I encouraged my brother and his family to move to the Ozarks. Three months after they settled in, their house was leveled in a tornado.
He and his wife and two kids were huddled in the basement as the storm lifted their house, stick by brick by copper pipe, right off the foundation. They lost everything. However, they survived without a scratch (and with the family's best story.) I don't want to diminish the tragedy of disasters that level people's homes and lives. Yet, there is a certain freedom that comes with having all the stuff removed, so that you can decide anew what belongs in your life... and what you are better off without. I thought about this as I read Arianna Huffington's new book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder.
Sometimes life hits you with a brick or a tornado. Sometimes it offers a feather. Eventually, you are going to get the message if your life is due for an overhaul. So many of my business clients struggle with too much to do and too little time. I do too. An overstuffed calendar and email inbox. Stacks of papers on the desk. A basic frustration that we are missing the boat with all this... stuff.
What if we just started over?
Motivated by rampant, chronic overwhelm, and inspired by Arianna Huffington, I offer these tips to make your life simpler.
1. Start with Zero.
Consider what (and who) you can just dump. Then, dump it (or them)... and see if the sky falls.
2. Delete everything in your email Inbox prior to May 1, 2014.
Even if you attempt to keep up with email on a daily basis, messages get lost or filtered or accidentally deleted. So, let's give each other a break and resend a communication if we haven't heard back, or let it go or pick up the phone. (Note: I apologize if I didn't respond to your email as a result of this current purge.)
3. Keep one calendar and one to-do list.
Ignore all previous missed appointments. Rip up your previous to-do lists, post its, reminders... and start a one, a new to-do list today.
4. Create a top projects list with no more than five projects on it.
As something is done, put another project on the list. Look to your to-do list for inspiration. Or, better yet, ask team members for ideas.
Stop hogging opportunities. Your team can help you fix everything. Ask them what you can do to streamline systems, serve customers and make more money. Then put their ideas on the top five and ask for volunteers.
6. Get caught up with your accounting as of the last day of last year.
Get current for 2014 as soon as possible. Make lump entries, good guesses... whatever it takes to get current. Work with your CPA and do what needs to be done to be fairly audit-proof. Then simplify the chart of accounts. Make it half as long. Use two divisions... big jobs and small jobs, for instance. Gain confidence by brushing up on your accounting terminology. Now, vow to stay current with data entry and review the balance sheet and P&L weekly, moving forward. This is one of the best overwhelm-reducing tips I've got because so many people create undue anxiety by wondering and worrying about the money.
7. Remember: It will get done, or it won't.
Every time I get wound up with stuff I have to do I realize it could all just blow away. My value as a human being won't diminish one jot. We are all infinitely valuable... but life will march on whether or not we get that powerpoint presentation done.
Consider that the important stuff tends not to be something that is written on a sticky-note and buried under a foot high stack of papers. Let it all go... and trust that the important things will present themselves as you move forward, unencumbered by past inadequacies. Start with zero, and notice how what you need to do will show up. Take Arianna's advice and meditate, or go for a walk or swing in a hammock. When your energy is relaxed and hopeful and grateful, you will find all manner of lovely ways to invest your time and energy.
After the tornado cleanup, I asked my brother, "Do you miss it? The stuff? Are you thinking about paring down? Do you really need all the crap you had accumulated?"
He replied, "You know, I like stuff. I'm going shopping."
So, there's that...
"There is nothing quite so complicated as simplicity." -- Charles Poore