The great undone

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Recently I came across this wisdom from Lin Yutang,Chinese writer and translator. He writes:

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.”

This quote reminds me this time of year is a good time to check-in with my goals and habits to see where a course correction might be in order. I believe it’s important to block out at least a few hours of uninterrupted time to ask ourselves what’s working, what isn’t, and what has been essential in terms of our success or failure. Here are three questions I ask myself when I’m looking to tune up my year:

  1. Where can I simplify? Complexity for its own sake is a waste of energy. If you have a process which gathers lots of data you don’t use or goes through several gatekeepers, ask yourself: What (or who) is essential to this process? If there’s anyway you can reduce the complexity of a system without damaging its essential outcome, do so immediately.
  1. What is the net impression to my clients/customers/friends/family? How do I improve it? With every experience, it’s only important that you ask yourself: How did they perceive the outcome? Anything you can do to improve their experience goes solidly in the win column.
  1. Is finishing everything I start wise? There’s enormous pressure to try new technology, approaches, and platforms. In fact, you should try lots of new ideas. You should try them to the point you recognize their potential or lack of promise. As soon as you determine they seem unlikely to succeed, move on. There’s no shame in saying, “Maybe we don’t need to see this through.”

I hope these questions help you gain a little altitude over your life and help you finish this year strong. People say “focus is the key to success,” and it’s true. One of the first steps toward focus is trimming away the nonessentials.

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