I am quite enjoying the slight text “The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential… in Business and in Life” by Leo Babauta (1). It is a text that is designed to help you become more productive and effective in your work, largely by streamlining your life and focusing on what is essential. He notes that our lives have become cluttered; there is too much information, too much to do, too much clutter (yes, have you seen some faculty offices?). So we have what seems like unlimited work but limited time, and we have trouble trying to get all of everything done. We live without limits, so to say.
Being limitless is weak, according to Babauta. Learning to focus yourself with limits helps increase strength. Having limits simplifies things, so that life become manageable. It helps focus you, so that you put your energy toward a smaller number of things. It helps you focus on what is important, so that you stop trying to do everything but get done what is important to you. As a result, it helps you achieve. By focusing on a smaller number of things, we can actually get them done. It helps you show others that your time is important; we no longer say yes to everything, but only to those things that we know are important. And we become more effective.
We should set limits on all that we do. Think of how you would address this with regard to trying to do the following: answer emails, address daily tasks, talk on the phone, work on projects and reports, read information on the net and in print, address everything on your desk. When you first set limits, doing so might be arbitrary. How often should you check email? I know that I fail here; I tend to respond to emails as they arrive on my desktop. I need to stop doing so, since that interrupts what I am already doing, breaking my concentration. So perhaps I will check email every 3 hours- but that may or may not be best if so many come in over that period.
Babauta suggests that you analyze your current usage levels for a given activity, and then pick a lower limit. Test it out for about a week and see if it is working for you. If it does not, adjust it to a different level and test again. Do so until you find the level that works. I suggest you start with your email. Try to change your pattern and see if that works for you.
1. Babauta L. The power of less: the fine art of limiting yourself to the essential… in business and in life. New York City, NY; Hyperion 2009