You can too if you’re willing to think differently
I like simplicity.
I always have. But, there have been a lot of times in my life when I have found myself in the midst of a storm of complexity.
I also enjoy getting things done. Even before productivity became the buzzword that it is now, I liked accomplishing things. I was happy when I could check things off my list. It was an innocent pleasure, something that warmed my heart. I wasn’t a crazy person about it; I just liked it.
But then, things changed. I stopped getting things done. I stopped being productive and wound up spending my day spinning my wheels without ever moving forward.
I had the same number of things to do in a day, but I couldn’t seem to get them done. I worked and worked and still at the end of the day I could barely check anything off my list.
This state of living bothered me, and instead of feeling delighted at the easiness of my days, I became sullenly frustrated. I spent more time in a day whining about life than actually living.
That was no way to live.
Here’s what I did.
I started a time diary. I wrote down everything I did in a day and put down the amount of time I spent doing it. Pretty simple. I just wrote this in a notebook; no app needed. At the end of the week, I went through my pages to see what was going on.
What a revelation. Seriously.
The first thing I saw was that I had spent 30 minutes in the grocery store buying five items. “That can’t be right,” I thought.
But it was.
On my list were catsup, milk, toilet paper, potato chips, and lettuce. These were everyday staple goods, nothing more.
As I sat staring at my time diary, it dawned on me how irritating it had been to buy those items in the grocery store.
I had gone first to get the toilet paper and had been faced with enough choices to make my head swim. All I wanted was to buy a package of double rolls. That’s what my wife and I like. I remembered there were at least 40 packages of toilet paper — not just different brands, but two roll, four roll, eight roll, and 16 roll packages. There were at least four choices of eight rolls equals 24 rolls packages.
I don’t remember the rest, which is good because I need my brain cells for things that matter. I finally found a four pack of double rolls of the brand we like on the bottom shelf toward the left-hand side of the display.
I remembered how exhausted I had been after that series of toilet paper decisions. But I still needed the rest of the items on my list.
After going through the same scenario with the catsup — small,medium, large sizes in 8 brands and a multitude of customizations — catsup with sweet relish, catsup with dill relish, catsup with mustard, hot catsup, extra sweet catsup, and who know what else; I finally managed to find what I wanted. A bottle of catsup; and I put that in my cart.
Then I had to get the milk, potato chips, and lettuce. Each of those items had endless amounts of choices.
When I studied my time diary and thought about the trip to the grocery store, I realized that my days were full of time sinks when I had to make meaningless choices.
Almost everything I did in a day involved enormous amounts of customizations. And each of those customizations involved me needing to spend time figuring out what would be the best for me.
What a waste of time.
I don’t have FOMO.
I know I think differently than lots of other people. I’m upfront with that. I don’t need endless amounts of customizations to make me feel important; I already like who I am. I know many people have this whole FOMO thing going on, but I don’t.
I am OK with making a mistake and correcting it next time around. I don’t need an epic catsup experience or lettuce that has a date stamp on it for when it was picked. I like regular catsup, and I can tell if the lettuce is fresh or not.
So I decided to stop evaluating choices for regular everyday things. Having endless amounts of customizations and options is popular, but I don’t need them.
Not surprisingly, when I stopped feeling the pressure of trying to figure out which container of olives was a better price per ounce, which email service offered me the most add-ons, which registrar to buy my domains from and a hundred other everyday choices, I had more room in my day to do the things that mattered.
My life became simple again.
I now spend much less time on regular everyday transactions and interactions. If I have to read to the bottom of a webpage to figure out why something is better than its competition, I stop reading and make a different choice.
The week after I made this a conscious decision-making point in my life, I reread my time diary.
I had finished twice the number of important things as the week before.
I was no longer frustrated. I wasn’t worried about missing out on anything. My entire life was more productive. Best of all, I was back to enjoying my life again.
I know there are things I have to evaluate before I make a decision, but frankly, I reserve that effort for the important things in life.
Catsup is not one of them.