Six Principles for Focus and Simplicity

In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster lists several principles for the outward expression of simplicity. These are things which someone could use or do in their attempt to flesh out the meaning of simplicity in the modern life.

Here are six of Foster’s suggestions:

  • Develop a deeper appreciation for nature.
  • Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  • Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
  • Develop a habit of giving things away; de-accumulate.
  • Shun whatever would distract you from your main goal.
  • Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
Six Principles for Focus and Simplicity

The definition of overwhelm

The definition of “overwhelm” is pretty intense, actually. It means:

  • bury or drown beneath a huge mass
  • defeat completely
  • give too much of a thing to someone

When you’re feeling buried under a mass of so much stuff, and you feel as if you’ve been given too much of a thing, it can feel as if you’re responsible for everything in the whole world. But it is liberating when you step back and get clarity about the things that ONLY YOU can do.

Here is the process and framework I use to get clear on what only I can do and make sense of things when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

The definition of overwhelm

Habit Trackers are vastly underrated. Why? Because results come from consistency over time. Any singular, small action that is done once will not produce any meaningful results in your life. This is true for good actions as well as bad actions. Using a habit tracker is one of the best ways to stay focused and on track with the small actions that drive meaningful results in your life. (If you’re not a Notion user, we also have a habit tracker built in to our 2023 Planner.)

The TSS Notion Habit Tracker

How to show up every day (for a workout, writing, or whatever)

Twyla Tharp’s morning workout routine is an inspiration.

Few people enjoy hopping out of bed and going directly to a workout. So, Twyla “cheated” by making it easier to get started.

In her book, The Creative Habit, Twyla shares that her morning routine was NOT to go to the gym. Instead, it was far more simple: wake up, put on sweats, go outside, hail a cab to the gym.

The thing she is actually trying to do — exercise — was not the thing she committed to do each day. Instead, she focused on getting herself out of her apartment and into a cab. Once she was in the cab and on her way to the gym, the inertia took it from there.

If you focus on the very first steps of the starting line, it can be much easier to just get started.

How to show up every day (for a workout, writing, or whatever)

A few alternative things you can do when you’re bored (instead of scrolling social media)

Here are a few alternatives to what I call the “Just Checks”.

  • Scroll through your Day One timeline and read a previous journal entry or browse some old photos and memories.
  • Launch Day One and log how you’ve spent your time so far for the day. Doing this for a few weeks can also be super helpful for getting a perspective of where your time and energy are being spent.
  • Write down 3 new ideas. These could be articles you want to write, business ideas, places you want to visit or photograph, topics you want to research, date ideas for you and your spouse, gift ideas for a friend, etc. These ideas never have to to be acted on — the point isn’t to generate a to-do list, but rather to exercise your mind and build your idea muscle. Ideation and creativity are muscles, and the more we exercise them the stronger they get.
  • Send a text message to a friend or family member to tell them how awesome they are.
  • Don’t get out your phone at all — do some stretches or take a 5-minute walk.

Take advantage of those moments of down time in between meetings, calls, or whenever. Allow your mind to rest for a bit or engage it by doing something active and positive.

A few alternative things you can do when you’re bored (instead of scrolling social media)

“Zero Time Habits”

A Zero Time Habit is a new term I’ve been noodling on. In a nut, a Zero Time Habit is a lifestyle practice that takes ZERO time to do and, in return, it gives you back more time / energy.

Many habits require time to complete — such as your workout routine, reading, journaling, scheduling your week and your day, etc. But some habits require no time at all.

Examples of Zero Time habits:

  • Not drinking alcohol — this takes no additional time from your day, and it improves your sleep and mental focus.
  • Living within a financial budget — once you’ve created your budget, it takes no additional time to live within it, and it improves your finances.
  • Going to bed on time — this gives you back time and energy in the mornings and throughout your day.
  • Keeping your smartphone in a different room — this gives you back undistracted time and focus for doing your most important work in the office or even for spending time with family.

Think of a Zero Time Habit as something you don’t do so that you can do more of what you want.

“Zero Time Habits”