If you read my article 3 Essentials Of Leadership you might be aware that I am publishing my second book The Power Of Three: Simplify. Start. Succeed. in a few short days on Saturday 6/17.
Today, I want to give you my take on simplifying life I describe in The Power Of Three.
I hope you enjoy...
Chapter 2: Simplify
There are 3 processes that happen in our brain to help us acquire, learn, and use information. First we encode. That’s input. Then we store it. When we recall and use it, and the more we do that the better, the information is stored in our permanent memory.
Encoding involves processing to understand concepts for future recall and application. To make encoding easier, it’s best to simplify and chunk information. To improve short and long term memory storage and recall, the chunks should be reasonably sized; smaller rather than larger.
The magic number is 3.
Let me show you.
Can you name all seven dwarves? If you have not seen the tale recently, you probably can’t. But, can you name the three stooges? If you’ve seen the show a few times, you most likely can. And that’s precisely the point.
Our memory can hold and remember about 3 things at a time easily. Some sources claim 3 to 9 things, so let’s see. Tree, car, ice cream, basketball, chair, duck, hat, water, doctor. Look away and recall as many things as possible. How did you do? Remember that most comprised of just one syllable. I could have used
to make things interesting… No idea what that means.
The point is that our mind receives a crazy amount of information all the time and our brain is a single tasking device. This means that multitasking is just a bad explanation of what happens when we switch between multiple tasks and waste a whole bunch of time while at it.
Our 5 senses receive stimuli, most of which are processed by our brain in the background and our conscious mind ignores them. But if a stimulus is strong enough, we pay attention. This is why we get so easily distracted.
Imagine what could happen if you get bitten by a bed bug at night and your skin starts itching in a really important meeting. It will be hard to pay attention to what your colleagues are saying or the information that’s being presented.
Scratch. Listen. Scratch. Listen. Scratch. Talk. Afterward, you’ll be lucky to remember anything other than the itch.
Gross examples aside, it is crucial to bring the important information, tasks, projects, and goals to the forefront of your mind’s attention and to organize them for your mind to effectively process them and tell your ass to work on them.
But this is not enough. Because the mind cannot multitask or hold a lot of information in your working memory, the organization system you choose should be simple. The first reason is that your brain will perceive tasks as achievable. Secondly, you will be less likely to procrastinate, because you avoid information overload and the psychological pain associated with being overwhelmed.
So how do you simplify?
First, try not to get bitten by bed bugs or other repugnant creatures. If you do, use an anti itch ointment before going into a big meeting or interview.
Second, make lists. Lists are good. They help you conserve mental energy as you don’t have to constantly work your mind to recall the next thing you have to do. Long lists are bad. They make the Shit of Life seem even harder.
So declutter your personal and professional life and create categories of what’s most important to you. Spend some time on this and make it yours. Then, make lists of 3 or fewer items to go in each category. These should be things that will make the biggest difference in your life.
If you’re tempted to put more than 3 in, remember the 80/20 rule. It’s the 20 percent of what you do that’s responsible for 80 percent of the results. So go ahead and put 10 things down, rank them in order of importance, and cross out the 7 or 8 things that steal time.
To dos are impossible to get away from, so that’s a category you can start with. Write down the 3 most important success tasks to accomplish each day, such as updating your resume or creating a presentation.
Balance the daily task list out with 3 family things. Being intentional about making time to talk with your loved one goes a long way to strengthening your relationship.
If you’re a complete fucking mess right now, start with the two above and create more categories that help in other areas of your life later. Do it only after you’ve been able to stay consistent with the first two for 3 weeks to a month, because it is likely the behavior is habitual by then and you are ready for more.
Little by little. Step by step.
This is how simple becomes profound. You will get more done and maintain sanity by applying the Power of Three. In the next chapter, I will show you the system I use, which you can adjust to fit your own life.
There you go! I will give you another glimpse into the book tomorrow.
You have the power to change the world. Use it often.