Everything you own feels like it is necessary. The services you subscribe to seem essential. Everything on your to-do list seems important. But when you feel like you’re forever chasing your tail and there’s never enough time in the day, eventually something has to go. It’s difficult to decide what to cull, but after the initial withdrawal you wonder how you ever found time in the first place. It turns out very little is essential, it’s just hard to let things go.
Before I quit Facebook I feared I would miss a huge chunk of my social life; now I don’t think about it unless I see other people glued to their phones. Before I sold my Crossfit equipment I feared my fitness would deteriorate, but I manage just fine with body weight exercises, running and yoga. Stuff we think is essential usually just takes up precious time and space in our lives. But it doesn’t mean the decision to let stuff go is easy.
Recently, and despite being on a sabbatical, I’ve felt overwhelmed with the amount I’ve tasked myself. An example is the process of digitising book notes and marginalia to put on this site. I feel it’s important because this is how I best remember what I read, and something I hoped others might find useful. But the Book notes task remains untouched in my journal month after month, serving only as a burden to be migrated to time and time again. Sometimes you have to dig deep to discover what is truly essential.
I decided to remove my book notes, deeming the process too time consuming and a duplicate of the effort I put into keeping index cards for my Commonplace Book. But it was hard to let another seemingly essential activity go.
Your job is to ruthlessly cull the superfluous, to create more time to focus on what truly matters. When you focus the lens on what is truly important you realise there’s very little you can do without. By letting go you free up time and space to focus on the more important things, like spending more (and better) time with your kids, improving your writing, perfecting your craft. Removing a feature is a feature.
Every great man has become great, every successful man has succeeded, in proportion as he has confined his powers to one particular channel. — Orison Swett Marden