I want to share with you a book that I recently checked out from the library and I think you may enjoy. It’s partially responsible for my ongoing thoughts of downgrading my BlackBerry to a basic cell phone.
The 170-page hardcover edition is a fairly-quick read, though the first 40 pages are a bore and could be skipped if it wasn’t for the six principles of simple productivity that set the stage for the rest of the book:
1. Set limitations
2. Choose the essential
5. Create habits
6. Start small
With the introductory chapters out of the way, Chapter 9, for instance, is about simplifying time management by living in the moment and focusing on single tasks, not multitasking and not living by a calendar.
How can you do that? First, don’t schedule appointments. This will be a radical departure for many people, but it’s not a new idea and it’s worked for others. If someone requests an appointment, tell them that you don’t schedule appointments. Instead, ask them to call you a little before they’d like to meet to see if you can make it. If you’re free, take the meeting. I suggest keeping your meetings to a bare minimum if you want to get a lot of work done.
Now, there will be some things you’ll want to note on a calendar. These are events that you’d like to have on your calendar, but you don’t necessarily have to go to them. The calendar, then, serves as a way for you to see what your options are, but not as a tool to rule your life. I suggest not keeping too much on the calendar, though.
I’d like to live an appointment-free life, but I’m not there yet. I’m working on it. Prior to checking the book out of the library, I’d already put more items on my calendar than I planned to attend. I routinely RSVP to events via eventbrite.com and if I can make it, great; and if I can’t, I can’t. Life goes on. The takeaway here is his idea is easy to implement if you don’t let the calendar run your life.
Batch operations are the stuff I need to do more of, such as running all of your errands during a given time period every week, rather than throughout the week or being spontaneous about it. He argues phone calls should be made during a specific time period every day, and when you are working you should send incoming calls to voicemail.
I appreciate Leo’s advice on setting aside one or two periods a day to read and file email messages. Gwen Bell is amid downsizing her digital life, and that blog post of hers is the impetus for my hearing of the book. She turned me onto a Firefox bookmarklet that enables me to send emails without seeing my inbox. This way, I routinely send messages throughout the day but am forcing myself to check responses less and less often.
Chapter 15 is devoted to removing the clutter at work and home. In a step-by-step list, Leo suggests why and how your desk and drawers and shelves should be decluttered as a means of decluttering your life. With a single drawer, remove everything and put it in a pile and ruthlessly go through it, keeping what you need and tossing the rest.
Never re-sort, never skip a single piece of paper, never put a piece of paper back on the pile. Do what needs to be done with that paper, and then move on to the next in the pile. The options: trash it, delegate it, file it, do it, or put it on a list to do later. In that order of preference. If you can’t trash, delegate, or file it, then put it on a list of to-dos.