Earlier this year I simplified my online life: I unsubscribed from almost every mailing list I was on, unfollowed a swag of people and organisations on Twitter, took various sites off my frequently visited lists and so on. I was pretty ruthless.
In my off-line life I also continued an ongoing process of simplifying: I’m cleaning up and cleaning out — finding items I no longer need or use and selling them, giving them away or putting them in the bin. This has intensified recently because we plan to move house soon.
One newsletter I do still subscribe to comes from James Clear, who recently wrote an article that seems to have really snagged me. He wrote about values, including these paragraphs:
Researchers believe … that journaling about your personal values and connecting them to the events in your life helps to reveal the meaning behind stressful events in your life. Sure, taking care of your family or working long hours on a project can be draining, but if you know why these actions are important to you, then you are much better equipped to handle that stress.
In fact, writing about how our day-to-day actions match up with our deepest personal values can mentally and biologically improve our ability to deal with stress. In McGonigal’s words, “Stressful experiences were no longer simply hassles to endure; they became an expression of the students’ values… small things that might otherwise have seemed irritating became moments of meaning.”
deepest personal values …. Later in the article he linked to
a core values list with more than 50 common personal values. I viewed the list and though not specially taken by any, managed to pull out half a dozen values that I thought applied to me — things such as autonomy, compassion, inner harmony and self-respect. I noted them down and put them aside.
After a good night’s sleep though I woke up knowing exactly what my most driving value is, and it wasn’t on the list: simplicity.
I wear clothes in plain solid colours. I don’t care for fiddly little twirly bits on anything. As a teacher and trainer I’ve spent my life making complicated things simple for learners. I prefer to write in a simple, understandable way.
I cook simple meals. I don’t like TV shows or movies that are about intrigue, politics or have brain-breakingly complex plots. Though I’m watching Quantico, which probably does fit into that category. And I prefer cryptic crosswords to quick crosswords, and jigsaw puzzles with lots of pieces. I also love to learn and do things that may be hard, such as creating a complex Applescript to shave a few seconds off the time it takes to do a repetitive task.
I believe I’m a fairly simple person: what you see is what you get. I’m striving for simplicity in my surroundings: disposing of excess and unwanted goods.
Then I realised that a related value is efficiency. I’m very fond of that and frequently strive for it. After all, if it’s more efficient to press one button than two then it’s also more simple. That leads me to use software such as TextExpander and Keyboard Maestro and Applescript, and a text editor, BBEdit, rather than Microsoft Word or Apple Pages.
TextExpander means I can type 3 characters and produce a standard reply email of a hundred words. Keyboard Maestro with one click opens half a dozen files and web pages, ready for me to get to work. With one click, an Applescript runs over a poorly formatted and organised confirmation email I’ve pasted into BBEdit, extracts the information I want and organises it into the sequence that works for me.
Simple, and efficient. Two values that are important to me.
Update February 2016: I wrote this post way back in November 2015 and was almost finished when I had to stop and attend a social engagement. It was really frustrating.
Then life happened and it’s only today that I’ve come back to it. Meanwhile we’ve moved house, I’ve simplified even further, but am continuing the process. This realisation of a core value really opened my eyes to how my life works best.
Oh, and the writings of James Clear continue to add value to my life. He has a lot of interesting things to say. Check out his site, linked above.