Be Ruthless to the Nonessential

Everyone I know wants to be productive, and they all have one thing in common — a running list of to-dos they have to accomplish in a single day! I can’t criticise or blame them because I used to be one of them a few years back. 

But if you’re struggling with productivity and procrastination, listen to what Marcus Aurelius has to say: 

“It is essential for you to remember that the attention you give to any action should be in due proportion to its worth, for then you won’t tire and give up if you aren’t busying yourself with lesser things beyond what should be allowed.”

And here’s another one: 

“If you seek tranquillity, do less. Or do what’s essential – what the logos of a social being requires, and in a requisite way, which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better. Because most of what we say and do is not essential, if you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’” 

I, ideally, would leave you to the powerful quotes above, but that would be a disservice. So, here’s my list of action ideas that you must try today, should you wish to break out of the overwhelm-procrastination-stress cycle once and for all. Ready? Here we go: 

  1. Irrespective of the number of tasks you have on your to-do list, focus on the five most important things to be done for today. Once done, identify the next five, knock them out of the park, rinse and repeat. Remember, if everything is necessary, nothing is!
  2. While carrying out this exercise, you will notice that a lot of items in your list are not relevant to you anymore or have dependencies that you don’t have any control over. Get them out of your sight; else they will keep bothering you. And that’s the part where you eliminate the nonessentials. Be ruthless about it.
  3. For best results, stick with your working hours for the above exercise. It will be hard amidst all the chaos, disruption, and urgent deliverables but getting just five of the most important tasks done is way more doable than a running list of things to do. 

The three steps above are all you need to do get back in control. They’re simple, not easy. And the best part is that the exercise forces you to do less in a much better way or as Marcus would call it “double satisfaction.”

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