Other than the little blurbs I’ve written about kids books or summer reading ideas, I haven’t really done book reviews here on the blog. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert of anything, but I think I might start sharing books here and there. Nothing too intense and (hopefully) nothing that reads like a book report, but just a way to share something I’ve enjoyed that you might enjoy too.
I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately with some of the things on my plate. I’ve recently started some new responsibilities at church that I’ve never done before, Michael’s back at school, and we’ve been sorting through lots of decisions for Sophie and Milo. On top of that, we’re trying to figure out what we want to do about our living arrangements after Michael graduates in a few months. Do we keep renting where we are as we save for a home? Do we rent somewhere else if that’s where we want to end up and keep our eyes out for a great home?
I was stressed to the point that I was having a hard time sleeping, so I decided things needed to change. I knew I needed to simplify my commitments, simplify our routine, even simplify my workflow with things around the house and on the blog. Something needed to be different.
I read a copy of The Power of Less from the library a few weeks ago, and it was amazing. The author, Leo Babauta, is the blogger behind Zen Habits, which I’ve read off and on for years. I’d somehow missed this book along the way. He’s a master of simplifying and a powerful writer of simple words. Even in the introduction, I was hooked:
“For many people these days, work is a constant stream of e-mails of news and requests, of phone calls and instant messages, of papers and notes and files. The day starts with an in-box full of e-mails, and ends with an in-box just as full, and each e-mail represents a request for information not for actions that we don’t have time of fulfill. We are drinking from a fire hose of information, with no idea of how to reduce the flow.
It’s stressful and wasteful. And if we stop to think about it, it’s not how we want to spend our lives.”
Bam. Something clicked for me, and I realized that I was feeling so behind and overwhelmed because I was swimming (drowning) in a sea of information and requests and commitments that I really, truly didn’t have time to keep up with. I’d let some of my better organizational habits go. I was trying to accomplish too many things of lesser importance and somehow still not making progress on the things that do matter most to me. I was wasting precious time and energy trying to multitask while doing everything, meaning nothing was getting my full, real attention. No wonder I felt so stressed.
His book centers around six principles that help you increase productivity while simplifying your life:
- Set Limitations
- Choose the Essential
- Create Habits
- Start Small
They sound simple, and they are. But he breaks them down with such practical examples, you see what an impact each one can have.
I’m such a goal-driven person, this sort of thing really speaks to me. Since reading the book, I’ve been working on a few things. First, I cut down on a few nonessential commitments (which is VERY hard for me. I hate feeling like I’m letting anyone down). Second, I took up the practice of establishing my three most important tasks for the day and making those a priority. Third, I started getting up earlier again (so hard in the winter). There are so many other ideas I plan on implementing, but I’m trying to take things a step at a time.
I’m certainly not stress-cured, but I’m sleeping again. I can focus when it’s time to get something done, whether that’s to haggle with an insurance company or write a blog post. I even have time to browse Pinterest a little every day. I’m making time for a daily ritual (like ginger + lemon “tea”). And things are getting a little better.
I think I can say with surety that I won’t be selling our belongings and living in a tiny house any time soon. But I’ve been a fan of simplifying for most of my life, and I know that I feel most peaceful, content, and effective when things are in order, and my priorities are in the right place. So, the simplifying bug has carried me to projects with my kids’ toys, my wardrobe, and the little bits of clutter and paperwork I’ve let accumulate. I’m making progress in my quest for peace.
It. feels. good.
It was a great (easy, short) read. I highly recommend it if you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or out of balance. It’s perfect for identifying your big (maybe intimidating) goals and getting to work on them. It’s even good for anyone working or looking to streamline their projects.
Other great books about habits, goals, and simplifying:
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
- The Happiness Project+ Happier at Home, by Gretchin Rubin
- Coming soon: Better Than Before, by Gretchin Rubin (I’m SO excited for this book)