Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chapter 3 - Choosing the Essential & Simplifying.

Sorry about the delay… busy weekend… here’s chapter 3.

“In this chapter, we’ll explore Principle 2, Choosing the Essential, and then Principle 3, Simplifying. Choosing the essential is the key to simplifying—you have to choose the essential before you simplify, or you’re just cutting things out without ensuring that you’re keeping the important things.”

The importance of the order of these two principles reminds me of writing a term paper with a page limit (say: 7 pages). If you’re at 8 ½ pages, you’ve got to lose ½ a page of material. Do you then just go through the paper randomly deleting sentences??? No! Certainly not. You read through the paper and remove that which is not essential.

The question is, “How do you know the essential?”

1. What are your values? (Values = What is important to you).
2. What are your goals? (What do you want to achieve in life, this year, this month, this week, etc?)?
3. What do you love?
4. What is important to you?

5. What has the biggest impact?

6. What has the most long-term impact?
7. Needs VS wants.
8. Eliminate the non-essential (this is going from what you know you don’t need and erasing that first, and continuing until you find what is essential).
9. Continual editing process. (Most of the time you don’t pare things all the way down to the essentials on the your first try. Take another look in a week or two and eliminate more things).

How to apply the Questions:
Asking questions concerning what is essential in the long & short terms is always helpful. The key is to actually take time (hours, days, or whatever is necessary) to stop and think from a broader perspective. Actually ask the above questions about each item. You’ll spend less time doing the non-essential and more time doing the things you love.

Areas to Apply the Questions:

1. Life commitments (reduce your nonessential commitments).
2. Yearly goals (pick 1 or 2 goals at the most).
3. Work projects and tasks.
4. Emails.
5. Finances—this one is a key to a solid future. You must determine what your financial priorities are, especially in respect to the Word of God, and then adjust your expenditures accordingly.
6. Clutter—eliminate clutter by starting with the needs VS wants question. You can eventually eliminate the junk and just keep the stuff you use and love.
7. Regular Review.

Principle 3 – Simplifying—eliminating the nonessential.
“Once you’ve identified the essential, the task of simplifying is theoretically easy—you just have to eliminate all the nonessential. However, in practice this isn’t always easy, although it does get less difficult the more you do it.
With your task list, you start by eliminating things that aren’t really important, delegating other tasks that can be done by coworkers, and finally postponing assignments that do not need to be done today.”

You MUST be committed to ONLY accepting a task that is “un-get-aroundable” or essential! Otherwise you are allowing other people to control your life and dictate your time.

May we all become better at choosing the essential and simplifying!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Power of Less - Chapter 2 – The Art of Setting Limits

I think I finally realize why I never feel caught up… I sat down today and made a “task list”, just trying to list all the things that I either want, or need, to accomplish (for either work, home, or myself)… I came up with THIRTY-FIVE tasks!!! Babauta noted that around 20 is average, but too many… ::gulp:: I guess that means that I REALLY need to learn and apply this book… good thing I’m trying! :-D Hope it helps ya’ll too! Now, on to chapter 2!

“Most of us lead lives filled with too much stuff, too much information, too many papers, too much to do, too much clutter. Unfortunately, our time and space is limited, and having too much of everything is like trying to cram a library into a single box: It can’t be done, it’s hard to enjoy the books, and sooner or later the box will break” (pg. 11).

What’s the problem? Living without limits!

I remember when I was younger (less than 10 yrs-old), when it was my birthday and I had birthday money (since all my family lived hrs away, I got that instead of presents), mom and dad would always require that $50 of it be used for new clothes, but after that was taken out, I was free to spend it on whatever I wanted.

I would almost always ask to go to the mall in Huntington, WV (lived in Paintsville, KY at the time) and would, in a few hours spend about $120… and usually end up coming home with a lot of stuff that I didn’t REALLY WANT, but I wanted to spend the money! No limitations = a bunch of stuff I didn’t need, nor did I really care about.

“Too much” dilutes our power and effectiveness. “Limitless is the pitcher who pitches nine innings every three days, throwing as many pitches as he can, as hard as he can. Soon he’s too tired to pitch very hard, if at all. The real power is when that same pitcher comes in for one inning every three days and can mow down the batters every time” (pg. 12).


• It simplifies things.

• It focuses you.
• It focuses on what’s important.
• It help you achieve.
• It shows others that your time is important. [When we try to take on everything that comes our way, the people around us get the message that their time is more important than ours, that we’ll say yes to whatever requests they have.]

• It makes you more effective. [Less busy work, more important work = Less spinning wheels & more impact!]


Every area in your life where you feel overwhelmed or that you’d like to improve. [Warning: Don’t attempt to revamp your life all at once! This is a recipe for disaster.]

Where should you start? Ideas for things to limit: emails, blogs you read (all of them except this one ;-P), time spent reading stuff, watching videos, looking at pictures, et. al. on the internet, playing games on the computer [spider solitaire anybody???], reading books, and the list continues on. [remember, only ONE LIMIT AT A TIME! “Focus on one limit at a time until it become routine, and you’re comfortable with the limit” (14).]


“When you first set a limit on something, it’ll be a fairly arbitrary number, as it will take some time to see what works for you.... Base your limitation on your experience with that type of activity and based on what you think your ideal is.... Let’s say you normally check email ten to fifteen times a day… [but] you’re spending most of your day in email… you might choose from a range of 1 to 5” (pg. 15) For instance, twice, once in the morning and once in the evening.

Use the first week as a test. After the first week only decrease it if it hurting your necessary communication with others in some appreciable way. But if you think you can increase it, then try doing so.

After this becomes a habit, you can proceed to the next area.

“Setting limits for anything else will work the same way: (1) Analyze your current usage levels and pick a lower limit based on your ideal. (2) Test the limit for a week, and then analyze if its working. (3) Adjust as necessary and test that for about a week. (4) Continue to adjust until you find the right level and until you make it a habit” (pg. 16).

After learning to set limits, you can maximize your utilization of those limits by choosing the essential and then simplifying [More on this tomorrow].

From what I mentioned at the beginning, I obviously need to work on limitations… so I hope you and I both are successful as we seek to limit things in our lives that cause us to be less effective! God Bless! - Aaron

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Power of Less - Chapter 1 - "Why Less is Powerful"

Have you ever known someone who was very effective at something, was very productive, and yet continued to fill their lives so full of things to do that they were still effective as they could have been? And maybe sometimes even not effective at all?
Or do you know someone with the mindset that if they do enough things, then maybe they will eventually be successful at one of them?

These mindsets really are not powerful, effective, nor productive. A high volume schedule = short term thinking, whereas focusing on a lower volume will pay off in the long term. Now, there is recognition that comes along with “high volume workers,” but they are never as effective at what they do as they could be because they attempt to do more than they are truly able to accomplish.

If you are like me, your problem is probably not that you WANT to do more, but that you lack the necessary self-control to keep from volunteering for EVERYTHING! :-) This is me… if someone mentions something that needs doing, or an idea that they are looking for someone to take on, likelihood is, I’m their voluntary “Lab Rat.”

The first two principles are introduced now:
Principle 1: By setting limitations, we must choose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations.”
Principle 2: By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources. Always choose the essential to maximize your time and energy.

The whole of this material is summed up in these two principles.
How do we accomplish what is most beneficial to our lives—what will make it possible for us to grow and develop as a person—we do it by following these two principles. [the next section is straight from the book - AJC]

How can you determine which tasks have the most impact? There are generally two good ways of doing this.

1. Examine your task list. Take a look at everything on your list and ask yourself the following questions about each one:
Will this have an impact that will last beyond this week or this month?
How will it change my job, my career, my life?
How will this further a long-term goal of mine?
How important is that goal?
From these answers, you can determine which items will have the most impact over the long term. While this sounds like a tedious process, it actually gets very easy with practice, and son you’ll be able to do it in just a few minutes.

2. Start with your goals. If you start by identifying the things you really want to accomplish in the next year, you can plan your tasks so that you are doing things each day to further those goals along. Let’s say you have three long-term goals—each day, choose a task from your list that will move you closer to those goals. This will ensure that you are completing the tasks with the most impact, because they relate directly to a long-term goal.
…you can try a combination of both of the above methods, and in fact, I think that’s necessary. You can do your best to plan for your goals, but even the best of us has tasks outside of those goals that must be completed.

If a part of your life is overwhelming you, attempt to apply limitations to that part of your life.

Are you overburdened with emails? - Check email only 2x a day and only respond to 5 emails each time—result: You’ll be forced to be more effective, and only write important emails.

Have too many projects? – Limit yourself to 3.

Have too much stuff? – Limit yourself to 200 items. [note: if you limit the stuff that you own, you reduce the distractions that you have in your life, thereby allowing you to accomplish more with your time!]

We often learn how to better utilize our money and resources for the Lord when we really contemplate if what we spend our money on is actually ESSENTIAL?!
Honestly folks, can anyone say that it is ESSENTIAL to spend $50+ per month on television? And most of all, does this money actually help you accomplish ANY of your goals?

MAYBE, the reality is, that back in the 1800s, they didn't have more time and therefore life moved slower, maybe they just didn't waste a large chunk of their day vegetating in front of an electronic box?!?!? [okay, i'm off my soapbox for now]

Hope you find the principles here beneficial! More tomorrow!!!

Monday, July 13, 2009


I woke up, I went to work, I worked hard all day, I came home, I did more work, I went to bed and considered: “…what did I actually accomplish today???” Ever had a day like that? I know I have! Now, how do you overcome the problem of “spinning your wheels?” I hope my blog starting today can help you accomplish exactly that. God Bless! – Aaron.

After discussing it with Anna P., and brainstorming a little bit, I have decided to attempt a daily blog in correlation with a book that I am reading. The book is: The Power of Less – the fine art of limiting yourself to the essential… in business and in life. The author is: Leo Babauta. (websites: &
This book is intended to help people do with less (in volume) and yet be more productive and effective with what they have.

The concept is simple: if you’re doing a smaller number of things, then you can do all of those things more effectively and efficiently. The desire behind this is to be able to have less stress and build a better “me” through actually accomplishing the things that individuals want to accomplish (instead of 100 other things that they don’t care about).
So, for the next week or two, I am going to be shooting for a daily post dealing with the principles and concepts of this book… I hope you enjoy and give me some feedback on the content and structure of these posts!

“There has never before been an age in which we could get so much done so quickly. There also has never before been an age in which we were so overwhelmed with information and tasks, so overloaded with e-mails and things to read and watch, so stressed by the incredible demands of our lives” (Babauta, vii).

I don’t know how many of you have ever seen the movie Kate & Leopold ( There is a scene where they are discussing the difference between his life (in the 1800s) and life in NYC in the 2000s. He states that he misses the “pace of life.” We can all probably list 20 people who have mentioned to us with great nostalgia “I wish I lived back in ____ time when life was so much slower.” Yet, they continue at a breakneck speed in their own life thinking they have no choice because they live in the 21st Century! Yet Psalms states, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psa. 46:10). Therefore, we should strive to accomplish a pace of life that affords us the time to have a PEACE of LIFE.

I take a great deal of personal fault for the speed at which my life goes and the fact that I AM NEVER CAUGHT UP! Therefore, I am going to seek, starting today, to begin making a change. Maybe, through this blog series, you can begin to do the same (if you need to do such). Now, to conclude today’s blog, let me introduce some important concepts we will discuss more tomorrow:

How to Simplify:

1. Identify the Essential.

2. Eliminate the Rest.
6 Principles of Productivity:

1. Set Limits.
2. Choose the Essential.
3. Simplify.
4. Focus.
5. Create Habits.
6. Start Small.