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How To Be More Successful While Doing Less

Decades are really useful for one thing at least – they encourage us to look more closely at how we spent the last 10 years and how we’d like to spend the next 10. Something that became a factor for me last year and which features even more strongly now is a move away from “getting as much done as possible” and towards “doing a few things very well”.

My To Do lists are getting shorter and my home and mind are less cluttered while the quality of what I do has (at least from my perspective) improved enormously, as have my general happiness and feeling of fulfilment.

It seems that without even trying, I’m becoming a minimalist.

Of course, people like Leo Babauta have been talking about this for a long time, but when I sat surrounded by a house full of possessions and an inbox full of work, the concept of minimalism had no appeal for me. I prided myself on my multi-tasking abilities and the ease with which I could switch from coding to marking to 3D design while holding simultaneous conversations in Messenger (text) and Skype (voice). I was Successful!

Then I decided to move abroad and that meant fitting my life into 300 cubic feet. Every single item I possessed was evaluated and had to earn its place in the container – and that was when I realised how little of it I actually needed. It was pretty traumatic at first; I cried especially over the more than 1000 books that I had to sort and leave behind, the clothes that I’d held on to for more than 20 years (heck, they’d just become fashionable again!), the pieces of my past that I’d gathered around me like a cloak, that proved what I’d done and who I had been. I felt naked and vulnerable without them all.

I also felt increasingly liberated. As I let go of the “stuff”, I let go of the person they represented. I began to identify myself in a new way, as the person I wanted to be. I had the opportunity to write a new script for myself and it wasn’t going to include 18 hour working days, high stress and ill health – but I still needed to earn a living and more.

I chose to substitute quality for quantity, to make the primary criteria for doing something the fulfilment it would bring, or the fun I would have in doing it instead of how much I could earn from it – and something remarkable happened.

I work fewer hours and I’m earning slightly less but I have more disposable income and my effective hourly rate has actually gone up. It seems that switching my focus from “how much can I do?” to “how well can I do it and how much fun will it be?” is paying off in all areas.

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