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3 – Ruthlessly Eliminate Noise

by Jill

In this podcast episode, I dive into the topic of eliminating noise in life and the significance of focusing on what truly matters. The episode stresses the need to prioritize tasks that have the most impact and eliminate low-value distractions that consume a lot of time and energy. To achieve this, the episode introduces the Pareto principle, which helps identify the 20% of tasks that cause 80% of problems. By concentrating on these high-impact tasks, individuals can make the most of their time and effort.

In addition, the podcast suggests reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown, which is an excellent resource for anyone looking to eliminate noise and focus on what’s essential. McKeown’s book emphasizes channeling energy and resources toward the most significant tasks while eliminating low-value distractions. It also urges readers to prioritize their goals and make space for what matters most. This podcast episode also offers practical tips for prioritizing and eliminating tasks, including writing down goals and ranking them in order of importance, identifying the tasks that contribute most to problems, and removing tasks that don’t help overall progress. By adopting these strategies, individuals can focus on the tasks that matter most and progress toward their goals.

Overall, this podcast episode is packed with valuable insights into the significance of eliminating noise and prioritizing what really matters in life. Individuals can optimize their efforts and make the most of their time by focusing on high-impact tasks and eliminating low-value distractions.



[MUSIC] Hello! This week, I’d like to thank my friends who helped me with this podcast. They saw every version of the recordings, every graphic, every website style, every color choice to make this podcast great. “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything,” as David Allen, the creator of Getting Things Done, said. We all have the same number of hours in a day, but some people are better at planning, producing, and knocking out a schedule. We must eat and care for our loved ones, have fun, have hobbies, chill out, spend time doing nothing, and sleep. We will break if we don’t do these things. We get burned out, feel like our tasks are bossing us around, and eventually feel like we’re victims of our schedules, not leading our lives.

We won’t get anywhere if we plan a vacation like many of us plan our lives, with no ambition or direction. If we were to go to the center of the U.S. and decide to drive to Los Angeles, no wait, New York, no, let’s go to Fargo, we would go nowhere. We would speed across Interstate 80, and then in a few hours, do a U-turn and go back. If anyone saw us doing this, they would wonder what’s wrong with us. Well, that’s how we live. It’s not our fault. The world demands a lot from us. Then we get frustrated that few of our plans succeed. We’re frustrated that we can’t make traction on what needs to happen or what we dream of happening. We start to blame the very people and activities we love.

We suffer from sunk cost bias, where we feel we must stick to something because we’ve already put so much effort into it. But this is where it becomes hard. Are we just at a tough part of our adventure, and sticking to it would help us win and love our goal? Or are we just doing something that is not worth our effort? This is hard to tell and takes a lot of deep soul-searching to figure out what is true. Work harder and get to the goal over the plateau or just quit and confess this wasn’t for us.

When eliminating the types of tasks that we have in our lives, what we’re really looking for is what gives us the most bang for our buck, the most win for the least amount of effort. Especially if we’re starting new habits, once we start seeing payoffs with good habits, they will gain momentum. Right away when we start doing them, it’s hard to creak out those habits and behaviors. So start small, get the most impact for the least amount of effort, and keep the effort level down.

This is where the term “essentialism” comes in. Greg McKeon, in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less from 2014, advocates for the main point of the book: focus your energy, resources, and prioritize. He talks about getting down to what it really means to move from a person who says, “I have to or I must,” and insists instead on saying, “I choose to,” and only a few things really matter. You move on from saying yes to everything to deciding what matters. You go from being out of control in your life to feeling like the right things are getting done. You go from thinking that most everything is important to thinking that only a few things are important. You go from big goals and desires and big shiny wins to small steps and big actions over time.

He then discusses eliminate, the ongoing process of eliminating any and all things that are low-value distractions and take away from our effectiveness. For eliminating, he suggests that we write everything down as a candidate and start crossing them off. While many people ask us to imagine future success and our happy selves, he says to stick to what’s important now. He suggests adding 50% time to what we think something will take. We are terrible at estimating time. We usually think that something will take a very little amount of time, and it ends up taking a lot longer. With buffer, we could reduce that stress and get those things done on time. This ensures that the important things will get done.

According to this book, we must prioritize, and some things just won’t drop off the list. But we realize that they are so far down that we won’t even have time to worry about them. We have to realize that not everything is an A1 in our task list or our life. We should look for the right time, the right thing, the right reason, and also have the right resources in place. Greg also warns that his book is not about going back to a simpler time. It’s not about lamenting emails or disconnecting from the web and living like a hermit. That would be backward. It’s about applying a principle that less is better to how we live our lives now and in the future. That’s innovation. Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. The way of essentialism means living by design, not by default, and figuring out what the minimal viable progress is. We use this concept in software. What fields must you fill out for the product to work?

He reminds us to reward progress. Then he says, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” He mentions one of my favorite quotes by Stephen Covey, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” He talks a little bit about backpacking as an analogy to essentialism, and that the number one goal is getting to the campsite. There are pretty things to look at on the trail. There are trails that go off in every direction. But do we want to set up our tents in the dark? Do we want to go to bed without a cooked meal? The first thing is getting to the campsite in daylight, building a fire, setting up our tent. It isn’t about denying us the pretty things along the way. It’s about the tradeoff between the pretty things and the main goal.

So, in conclusion, essentialism is about identifying what matters most in our lives and focusing our time and energy on those things. It’s about saying “no” to distractions and low-value activities, and saying “yes” to the activities that will move us closer to our goals. By prioritizing and eliminating the non-essential, we can live a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

Thank you for listening, and have a wonderful week! [MUSIC]

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