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

laura-stack4The second step to simplifying your life is to look at each mandatory activity and challenge yourself by asking, “is this item really non-negotiable?”

Streamlining your life involves analyzing each non-negotiable on your list because they keep you from the negotiables. Unfortunately, negotiables usually get fit in wherever they can, or put on the back burner while we run from one non-negotiable to the next. Sometimes negotiables don’t get done at all.

I frequently see activities such as hobbies, exercise, more sleep, socialize, more time with family, read, and relax in others’ negotiable column. Hmmm…. Shouldn’t exercise be non-negotiable? Shouldn’t we be spending more time with our families? Do you ever have any time for yourself?

So, the question becomes—how do you change the mix in your life so that you spend more time in the pleasure column?

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Have It Delivered—I used to have an 80-pound beast (disguised as a dog) named Damien who plowed through 50-pound bags of dog food in no time. I remember thinking that I lived at the pet store on the weekends. I had a company deliver huge plastic drums of wet and dry dog food right to my door when I ran out! It’s cheaper than the store brands, and better quality. Think about having groceries, diapers, stamps, milk, office supplies, and dry cleaning delivered. In most cases, it’s cheaper than doing it yourself, if you factor in the value of your time. Look at every non-negotiable in your life, and ask if there’s another way to get that task done.

2. Reduce Your Standards—What could I possibly mean by that? Often you delegate a task then act surprised when it you’re suddenly in charge of it again. How does this happen? Let’s say (pretend) you get your significant other to go to the grocery store for you, then you berate him when he arrives home with the wrong kind of peanut butter. What happens? He never goes again. Why? Your expectations were too high. One way to reduce “non-negotiable” time in your life is to get rid of your picky-picky standards.

3. Barter—You may also have someone in your life who is open to an exchange of their services for yours. They may LOVE doing what you are completely resistant about and vice versa. For example, if you hate to wash windows, trade it with your neighbor to steam clean their carpet. Trade baby-sitting services. I know two women that have a wonderful trade going. One loves to do crafts, and the other loves to bake. So, at holiday time, one wraps the other’s presents and decorates her home, and the second woman bakes all the holiday goodies for the other and prepares her holiday meals. What a great exchange!

4. Refuse—Some of you have a jam-packed life because you just can’t say, “NO”! First, you must be realistic. The world will not stop revolving if you don’t chair the PR committee. Your friend won’t hate you if you don’t go shopping on Saturday. Second, think of other ways to accommodate requests made by others. If your boss is overloading you, say “I’ll be glad to handle that for you. However, I can’t get to it until I finish the XYZ project. That will be…” Or, ask her or him what the priorities are for the different pieces of work on your plate and negotiate a due date. That’s a reasonable way to call the existing workload to you boss’s attention, and you won’t be fired for pointing out that you can only do one task at a time.

You get healthy only when you really want to, when there is something you want to accomplish, and when there’s an incentive. The negotiables are the only incentive you need to simplify your life. I honestly believe that to be successful in life, you do have to work hard. But working smart makes working hard easier!

Click here for Part 1 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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