How to Clear Up Your Life: Is Less the New More?

Through the years, I’ve learned much about myself by journaling. There’s something about writing down our thoughts that helps make sense of the jumble of our minds. I recently wrote about how to keep learning in order to conquer fear, but I think there’s another angle to the story that I’d like to explore. What if, instead of constantly pushing to keep up-to-date with everything, we focused on doing less and less?

The Inevitable Power of Thoughts

One of my best friends is ridiculously optimistic. The word “positivity” should be tattooed on her forehead. Me, not so much — until I read Napoleon Hill’s Think Rich. Instead of having you read the entire book, I’ll summarize it for you in three words: thoughts are things.

The follow quote illustrates this beautifully:

When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is;
when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be,
we make him what he should be.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When I came across this quote, everything started to make sense. We’re not always ready for change, but the change itself is ready for us.

I dream of spending entire days doing what I love the most: writing. I dream of not having to touch email, Photoshop, or a pesky to-do list app. I dream of cradling two things: my laptop and my coffee mug. (I even have a pair of oversized, cozy writing pants reserved for such a wondrous occasion, but let’s keep that to ourselves.)

Oh, but then … do you know what happens when I actually spend a day like this — just writing?

I worry.
I check my phone and email.
I read the news.
I think about any tasks I might have forgotten.

Thoughts scroll through my mind incessantly: “Am I doing enough? Am I missing out on something?”

The Power of No

A few nights ago, there was an event in my hometown that I was invited to. You’d think a gathering of techies would be right up my alley, especially because I used to put this kind of event together myself, but I was completely torn about attending or not.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but I reflected, and decided to stay home. I called my husband and told him I decided to pass. When he asked why, this is what I told him:

“If I go, it would be because I’m afraid of missing out, not because my heart is telling me to be there.”

The same logic applies to my work.

I decided over six months ago that I want to focus on content, not technology. I’ve known it for months, but I haven’t fully put it into practice. Now that it’s time to simplify, I’ve used this same strategy to say no to lots of things lately.

  • I’m not taking on any more technology projects (except for family). My time needs to be free for writing — period.
  • Driving to and fro for meetings is no fun for anyone. If it can be said over the phone, why harm the environment driving everywhere? No more driving around unless it’s necessary.
  • If I want to spend all day writing, each evening is socially valuable. Many of those nights are my family’s, so who I share the rest with becomes crucial.

Success in life is proportional to how
much you’re willing to have awkward conversations.
— Sandy Barak

Saying no to events and requests will take awkward conversations, I promise you. It may feel weird, but the outcome will be well worth it.

Decisions: Compounding Interest

It’s no secret that I hate finance, so the concept of compounding interest sounds scarier than I really want it to. All you need to know is this:

Your decisions today will affect your decisions tomorrow.

Let me share some examples from my own life:

  • When I say no to some projects today, my life in three months will be much more serene and focused.
  • If I decide to focus my writing goal on 1,000 words per day, I will be a much better write in one year.
  • If I put aside time to truly connect with five friends, they will connect me with other amazing people (who are relevant to me) in good time.
  • If I prioritize time with my family each week, I’ll have a beautiful home life for years to come.
  • If I work out four mornings a week, it’ll only get easier and my body will only feel healthier over time.

These examples may sound simple to you, but they’re truly complex. It takes concentrated effort to reflect on:

  1. what you want in your life
  2. what you want to cut out
  3. what pain you will feel in the future if you don’t take action today.

What can you cut out of your life? If you don’t start today, how will you suffer in the future?

Bio: When Marcella Chamorro decided to quit her job to live every day as if it’s a vacation, she was invited to give a TEDx Talk on creating a lifestyle that is both meaningful and exciting (watch the video here). Now (as an author & entrepreneur based in Nicaragua), Marcella guides those who want to live their dreams at The Perpetual Vacation.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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