Professionals Must Simplify Their Lives, Part 1 of 2, By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP

laura-stack4We’ve been restructured, re-engineered, downsized, right-sized—and now we’re left with more work to do than ever before. The Information Age is here and now, with information literally available at our fingertips. So, what’s next?

Most professionals that I poll informally in my audiences across the country say that at this point in their lives, they would rather have more time than money. The Age of Simplicity is dawning. We’ve simply been overloaded by information, overworked by our organizations, and over-committed across all other aspects of our lives. We’re looking to simplify, become more efficient, live life fully, make the right choices, and pursue what’s important to us.

“But if I just had more time, I could get it all done!” I hear people say again and again. Well, brace yourselves friends, because you can’t have it. Time is the one thing that is consistent—24 hours in every day.

Oh, sure, you could get up an hour earlier every day five days a week, or stay up an hour later. That would be…let’s see…roughly 240 extra hours a year, divided by 24 hours in a day, would produce 10 extra days a year! However, could you possibly be productive at 4:30 a.m. when you already get up at 5:30 a.m., or 12:00 midnight when you already go to bed at 11:00 p.m.? We’re already stretched beyond the maximum effort and minimum sleep requirements. Besides, I know that even if I had a 30-hour day, I would still have a pile of projects I wanted to start or finish, books to read, places to go, and things to do…. Wouldn’t you?

It’s almost a law of nature that there will always be more things to do than time to do them. So, to make sure you’re spending your time on the best mix possible, you have to challenge every single thing you do in life and ask yourself, “Why do I do this?” Once in a while, you need to stop, get off the treadmill, engage your brain, and ask yourself how you could do things differently.

The best way to do this exercise is to get a blank piece of paper, make two columns, and label one “Non-Negotiables,” and the other “Negotiables.” The things that you feel you must do in life, or have to do, are the non-negotiables. The things you’d rather be doing, or would like to do, are the negotiables.

The first step is to spend ten minutes brainstorming these areas in your life. Take an introspective look at how you spend your days and weeks—first a very broad view, then more specific. For example, you may list work, taking care of kids, doing laundry, cooking, yard work, cleaning, attending PTA meetings, visiting your mother every Sunday, and going grocery shopping as your non-negotiables.

Visit next week to read Part 2 of Professionals Must Simplify their Lives.

© 2009 Laura Stack. Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations. Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces. She is the bestselling author of three works published by Broadway Books: The Exhaustion Cure (2008), Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004). Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and 3M. To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401. Visit to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.

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