A Short Guide to Simplicity: The 2018 Opt-Out Manifesto
Why is it that we are completely unready to be with less?
The facts make plenty of sense, but this doesn’t mean we are poised to accept them. We as a nation are under a classic case of “too-much.”
Too much of everything.
Think about how bloated and busy our lives have become. Hustled into far too many things, life now looks like a blender left running with the lid off.
Even the places that once offered a quick reprieve — the bathroom, the sauna, the long walks — are somehow polluted with infotainment.
Busyness. It serves as a poor focus of life. Masked as productivity, it’s the equivalent to a short-term sugar rush. Since we can’t imagine boredom, much less consider reflection, busyness is a comforting dose of fictitious relief. But this habit can soon turn into a pattern that can generate uneasiness.
The overload of stimuli turns us restless.
My directness on the issue is a direct attack of my self-diagnosed attention disorder. My hardest work these days is believing in the idea that I can stay focused. After a nap and a cup of coffee, the obsession to do things swells up like a wave. A third of my waking hours have been dedicated to tempering this non-directional energy. In other words, I’m vulnerable to busyness.
What is the exact feeling when you want to be everywhere and do everything?
The antidote is establishing a unifying theme to our days. This theme needs to be malleable. Portable. It must be applicable from thing to thing as we go about our day. This unifying theme is called focus.
When applied, it alleviates that nagging scatteredness that graffiti’s the mind when we are too busy.
The quickest way to temper ourselves when busyness has taken a foothold is to simply opt-out. Intentionally choose to not engage in low-return activities that fill the days.
Below is an entry point for you to develop your own 2018 opt out manifesto:
I won’t be obnoxious and tell you to quit email. Instead, take a look at your relationships with it. Is a tool or a weapon at this point? How many times do you check the inbox for no good reason? If these answers are startling, then it’s time to get this in check.
Opt Out: The more accessible it is, the more likely you’re to check it. If possible, perform email on your desktop or laptop (instead of your phone). Batching email time can help your toxic checking too. For example, you can tailor down your emailing with two dedicated time blocks per day: 10AM-11AM and 4PM-5PM.
We, or at least I, have spotted an interesting cultural narrative that has a larger impact on our busyness than we think: There is a restless urge to improve. To get. To acquire. To complete.
Where does this frenzied pursuit of “growth” lead to? I have no idea and perhaps that is the issue.
Opt Out: Ease up on the outcome based self-improvement. The non-obvious relief is that we don’t have to try to become what we are. Replace the pursuit with things that provide reward via the activity itself — cooking, walking, poetry, and music are all accessible options.
We all need some stuff. The challenging part is determining what you need and what you want. Here’s one way that might spark a connection and help realign the relationship with stuff.
How much do you value your time?
When we all allow ourselves to reactively buy stuff that we don’t need in order to satisfy a short-term desire, we spend money which represents the time we spent earning that value.
This in incredibly nuanced to be sure, but when you start to value your time, frivolous purchases take on a higher purchase price because you no longer only value it for face value — you also take into account how much time that purchase is worth.
Only you can accurately day dream about this answer: What would life look like if I leaned out my spending?
Opt Out: I’m not a financial adviser and this section is as applicable to me as it is to anyone. But, I took a big step in leveraging this behavior recently. I needed a new car because the one I had was rendered “useless” by a local mechanic. He said “you literally drove this car until the wheels fell off.” My first reaction was to get a new-ish car. This would equate to a $400–600 car payment per month. After considering how much $400–600 costs me in time, I decided I didn’t want that debt. Instead, I bought a car cash and kept my time. Opt-out of purchases that aren’t worth your time.