Decluttering Your External Environment

Keeping things simple can be downright difficult. KISS stands for “Keep it Simple, Smart.” It is an easy reminder that the simple plan, the simple idea, is always more effective than the complicated one. Steve Jobs was dedicated to this principal. Apple’s incredible success hinges on this concept. Jobs insisted on the simple solution and often canned projects and people who veered toward the complex. I heard the story of how pleased he was when a kid in Africa picked up an iPad and immediately figured out how to use it. I observed my 1-year-old granddaughter do this as she swiped and clicked my iPhone to find YouTube videos of laughing babies. It is simply amazing how simple the Apple devices are to use. Let’s commit to deepening KISS in our lives, starting now.


STEP 1: Spend the next week or so decluttering your external spaces: your closet, the trunk of your car, and your garage. Cleaning out these three spaces—which you probably look at or enter daily—can have a tremendous effect on your psyche. Releasing clutter and clearing physical space helps you release energy that’s been stopped up. It’s like a mental breath of fresh air.

STEP 2: Apply the 80/20 rule. Business-management guru Joseph M. Juran taught an 80/20 principle, which applies to many things including the concept that 20% of your actions will lead to 80% of your results. If you identify that highly effective 20% and then eliminate, delegate or outsource everything else, you can increase the time you spend on your most productive actions. To identify your key 20%, for one week keep a journal of how you spend your time. Record your work time as well as your personal time in 30-minute blocks. Note activities like cruising the web, Facebooking, meals, TV, reading, etc. for personal time. Note activities like email, meetings, key project work, planning and creating for work time.

At the end of the week, analyze and chunk it down to get a picture of what you’re really doing every day. Which actions pushed you toward your goals? Which left you dead in the water or even took you off track and drained your energy? Begin to weed out those actions and time-sucks that aren’t serving you so you can focus on the actions that produce the results you want.

STEP 3: In order to identify the 20% of your activities producing the bulk of your positive results, you need to get clear on what kind of results you’re looking for. In other words, you need to make sure you go after the best targets (goals). Goal setting is critical to maintain your motivation and forward momentum and accomplish great things. Many people get frustrated because they choose too many goals to focus on at any one time or they choose the wrong goals.

The secret to effective goal setting is also ruled by the KISS principle. I recommend setting goals in three categories: long term (1-3 year) and short term (3 – 6 months) and weekly. The long-term goals are tied to your purpose, and the short-term goals are tied to your long-term goals and your weekly goals are tied to your short-term goals. Choose up to three goals for each category but no more. If you happen to accomplish all three of your goals ahead of schedule, then you can choose the next three. Piling goals onto a growing list results in being overwhelmed, leading no front sight focus.

STEP 4: Chunk your time. We could hold a seminar on this exercise alone. This is key. Chunk your time into three categories: “Build, Maintain and Play” or “On, In and Out.” Build / On times are focused on working “on” your business or life – activities directly tied to moving the dial forward toward your major goals. Activities to include should be only those items that are directly related to generating revenue or creating new things and relationships. Maintain / In times are for working “in” your business or just doing everyday activities that are important to you but not moving the dial forward. Things like managing people and projects not related to revenue. Finally, Play / Out times are just that. It is time off, away from work and when you can just play and rejuvenate. This is time to leave your cell phone and email alone – use this time to recover and focus on family, friends and personal rejuvenation. These blocks of time can be an hour, a half-day, a full day, or an extended block. The important thing is to block your time or it will get blocked for you! You have heard the story about the jar of rocks? If the jar represents your life “vessel” and the rocks the things you do in life – then if you ll your jar with the small rocks rst, representing little unimportant things that are always there for us to do – then we won’t have room or time for the big rocks, representing the key, important things we must do to move the dial. Blocking time allows us to ll our jar of life with the big rocks first, which still allows us to do the small things but with greater peace of mind.

Following these four steps brings KISS to life. You can intellectualize this but until you experience it you will not know its power. That’s why we start with clearing stuff out physically. Then we move to simplify the number of activities we perform regularly and narrow our focus to the actual goals, keeping things as simple as possible by limiting the number of goals you pursue at any given moment. Finally we plan and block our time for optimal focus. Simplicity leads to acceleration. Complexity leads to stagnation. Seek simplicity and use it to drive toward your future with con dence and momentum.

Course Discussion