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Sometimes you need the obvious

Carlotta Cerri

I finally read The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta. It had been sitting in my iBooks library forever, but every time I started reading it I always felt let down by “its obviousness”—typical of self-help books. “Of course I need to live in the present, stress less, focus more on meaningful things, set less goals at a time and tackle them one by one… I don’t need a book to tell me that!”.And it’s true. I personally didn’t, as I already knew these things—then whether I acted on them or not is a different story. But it’s also true that there’s always a lesson to learn. In anything you do, read, see or hear.

When I started the book with the only goal of wanting to know what it really had to teach me, I could finally read past my prejudice and I actually learnt something from it. And applied it to my life.

Break big tasks into small ones. Less than a month ago, my to-do list looked like this: “Write blog post about this or that”, “Declutter my computer”, “Spring cleaning” etc. Sometimes they would stay in my list for weeks or months, until I could find enough time to get down to them.

Now, I break those tasks into smaller ones, that can be accomplished in an hour or less: “Research material for blog post”, “Watch this video/read that article”, “Write outline for blog post”, “Clear desktop” “Get Inbox to zero” (I usually keep my Inbox quite clean), “Organise that wardrobe/cupboard” etc. They stay in my list for a couple days or no longer than a week.

The simple act of checking off many tasks each day makes me feel so much more productive.

Single-task and disconnect when you work. Basically, “when you eat, just eat.” Well, that’s actually the only thing I don’t do as I always have lunch by myself and enjoy watching a TED talk or a TV show.

As for everything else, I’m done multi-tasking. Now, while preparing my classes, I don’t reply to incoming emails or SMSs, I don’t answer phone calls, I don’t watch TV shows with the corner of my eye nor do I run back and forth to the kitchen to make my lunch. I do one thing at the time. And it makes all the difference.

Right now, while writing this blog post, my iPhone and iPad are in Airplane Mode and my Mail is closed. Feels good.

Motivation comes and goes, so never skip two days in a row. When I commit to something, I always start very motivated, but eventually that lazy day comes across and I break down. I don’t go to a dance class, I eat a whole package of cookies or I don’t meet a personal project deadline.

And there it is—the feeling that everything is ruined forever and I might just as well forget about my commitments. Sounds extreme? It does, but unfortunately it’s exactly what happens. Probably because some commitments feel so hard that I subconsciously want to find an excuse to fail—even if I feel bad afterwards.

This mantra—never skip two days in a row—reminds me that it’s OK to miss one day when the motivation goes away. Just don’t miss the second one. It makes everything so much easier and somehow it feels like there’s no point in missing even that one day. Why? Because it’s no longer an excuse to fail my commitments.

Truth be told, the main lesson for me was not written in the book: always give the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes even the most obvious things have to be heard or read in order to make a difference in your life.

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