How can we make it easier to do what matters most?
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
How can we make it easier to do what matters most?
Making essential work fun, simplifying tasks and our space, and envisioning what "done" looks like can make it easier to do what matters most, according to the author.
You may have heard of the big rocks metaphor. You have big rocks, small rocks, and sand. You are charged with getting them all into one jar completely. The big rocks represent the essentials parts of your life... family, health, relationships, etc. The smaller rocks are also essential but are less important (when considering the jar's entire contents) such as career. The sand is a metaphor for the non-essential tasks that take up space in your life.
By putting in the big rocks first, then the small rocks, the sand can fill in the space. If you add in the sand first, then the small rocks, the big rocks won't fit in. The metaphors causes you to think about your own big rocks and how you can focus on them first.
But what if you are doing your best to fit the big rocks in, but it's not enough? You are happy with your life but exhausted? Making progress but too weary to enjoy life? He was faced with the complication of too many big rocks, and needed a way to make it easier to do what matters most.
In Effortless, he teach you about the Effortless State, the Effortless Actions, and the Effortless Results.
Effortless State: clear your head and your heart
Effortless Actions: how to simplify the process
Effortless Results: how to do something once for multiple results
Make Essential Work Fun
Essential activities are often thought of as separate from enjoyable. Work hard, then play hard. Before this book was even published, I asked "how can we make this more fun?" when charging my kids with picking up their toys. It was always an arduous task to get my kids to pick up after themselves, and I had to drag them through it. Or just do it myself so it was done. We added music and a freeze dance. We take turns freezing the music, which means you have to freeze in place while cleaning up, and my kids laugh and we get the essential work done... easier. Closer to effortless. I reconnected to the memory of making that change in the tidy up parts of our day after reading this book.
Three areas of my home that have been decluttered and reduced time and time again are paper, cleaning, and kids gear. My minimalism journey has led us to live with less in most areas of our home. Three areas came to mind as I was reading Effortless.
Before minimalism, I often said, "I can't do that right now" to my children or "that's too much information" to my husband trying to get me to remember to do something or know something. The competition for mental space in my head used to be fierce and learning how to focus intentionally on my own big rocks took time. Looking back now, I am far more relaxed and less stressed now.
Simplify the Space
I talk about these three areas in this video, and discuss how we can make it easier to do what matters most.
Watch this video.
To accomplish simplifying the space for these three areas in our home, I started by asking myself:
What does "done" look like?
What did I want to be able to do when it came down to paper? I wanted it to be easy to put away our long-term keep papers, pay bills, shred items, keep track of forms and paperwork for sports and music lessons. I needed to centralize my related paper clutter stuff, and to eliminate some steps. I talk about this in the video, too.
More recently, I visualized what "Healthy Erica" looks like at the end of the summer. What does "done" look like after I've made changes for my health? 100 walks came to mind, and I knew I couldn't limit it by recording time or distance. I just needed to be able to walk. You can follow along on my 100 walks on YouTube. I've already dropped 2 sizes, so I'm excited.
My takeaways from this book:
Be selective about what you name as essential in your life.
We naturally want to do what matters most.
Motivation is a limited resource.
You can be fully present in the moment - it takes practice.
Ask, and ask again, is there an easier way?
Forget the thought: trivial things are easy and important things are hard.
Let go of the inherent distrust of easy.
Fire guilt, and hire gratitude.
Identify the minimum steps for completion by eliminating the unnecessary steps.
Give yourself permission to fail to figure out success.
How to Make a Small Change
When I think about how to make a change, I need something solid. A definitive answer. An actionable answer. When you start to think about how you can make things easier for you, fill in this blank: I choose to make this easier by: _____________.
When I say "I choose to make this easier by" and complete the sentence with something actionable, then I can make small changes that make a big difference. For example:
I choose to put the dishes directly into the dishwasher after breakfast. I've now made it easier on myself later.
I choose to fill my closet with clothes that fit my current size. I've now made it easier to get ready in the mornings.
I choose to let go of that box of blankets no one ever uses. I've now reduced clutter and made my life a little easier. Less to clean, wash, and take care of for... well, no one.
Small changes can begin to make big differences in your life. Decluttering catapulted me into minimalism. Greg McKeown talks about the Effortless Inversion. Change the point of view and open your mind to a new way of doing things. A quote from Francine Jay (Miss Minimalist) during the first few months of decluttering had flipped the switch for me. The Effortless Inversion principle (two years before Greg's book!) had worked.
“Decluttering is infinitely easier when you think of it as deciding what to keep, rather than deciding what to throw away.” - Francine Jay
Putting it into my own actionable words, my new minimalist mantra became:
Decide what to keep. Ask why. Let go of the rest.
Decluttering was now productive and easier, not effortless at that time. But it led me to an effortless state in minimalism regarding stuff. I had started intentionally holding onto what mattered most, and quickly started getting rid of what didn't matter. It was like putting on a pair of glasses after being unable to focus.
These days, we are applying the Effortless Inversion to our sentimental items. We had collected 25 large Rubbermaid bins through the years of things we deemed too attached to our hearts and memories to let go of at those times. Over the last few months, we've reduced that down to 4 remaining bins. Most was trash having spent decades sitting in bins (mold, unidentifiable growth, damage) but we are keeping a few things.
Our philosophy for sentimental nowadays is to feature it in our lives. It doesn't belong in a basement storage box. It may not need to be framed or hung on a wall, but maybe resting on a shelf among our books. In fact, our everyday dishes were once my parent's good china set used on holidays throughout my childhood.
We are currently finding ways to feature family heirlooms and sentimental items in our home. Decluttering can be hard. You carry emotions like guilt and regret about letting go of it, but you also carrying anxiety about having it. Studies have shown that keeping a cluttered home can lead to anxiety. Messes can cause stress. Disorganization and clutter can have a cumulative affect on our brains, according to this psychologist. If you feel anxiety about stuff all over the place in your house, then clutter bothers you. It's added stress.
I'm trying to find a balance between "littering" our home with sentimental items while still displaying them in my own minimalist way. Minimalism is a journey and I'm learning with each step I take towards living with less.
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