Addition is the exercise of fools. Subtraction is the exercise of genius.” – Tom Peters


I’m a big fan of the “less is more” movement; in our lives of continual overload, we’ve become captive to our own over-committed, over-prioritized, decentralized way of life. There are some brilliant books available on the subject; “Laws of Subtraction” (May, 2013), “16X” (Koch, 2006), and the inspiring Tim Ferris tome, “The 4-Hour Workweek” are but a few of the plethora (“…oh yes, you have a plethora…”) of relevant and timely readings you can enjoy in your quest to go “simple.”

There’s no doubt about it – we have too much clutter in our homes, our offices, our minds, and our lives in general…time lost, productivity lost, quality lost – does anyone think we have a shortage of priorities that monopolize our day? But instead of eliminating, reducing, deferring, delegating, or dismissing non-value activities, we just add more to our current pile.

I think I know why that is.

Because it’s really, really, freaking hard.

So, in the spirit of the Bob Wiley, I’m baby-stepping my way to a simpler, more efficient existence. Here’s my first (baby)step:

1. The 20-minute egg ~ Not sure if I’ve ever been diagnosed as having ADD, but I feel pretty comfortable in a self-diagnosis of “scatter-brained.” On any given day at the office, I’m working on business development, blogging, correspondence, presentation development, research, and “maintenance” of the social network morass I’ve created. Every “ding” brings immediate attention; my days are/were a constant stop & start exercise to the point of annoying myself. So my rather simple attempt at a solution? My iPhone timer. From the time I arrive in the morning until the time I finish in the evening, my timer goes off every 20 minutes. Why does that help?

  • I can alternate tasks instead of multi-task. Don’t be fooled into thinking multi-tasking is a strength; it’s a cleverly disguised black hole of time-suck. I have my “things to do”, and for 20 full minutes, I’m focusing on one thing.
  • If I’m “blocked,” it’s only for 20 minutes. Anyone familiar with the creative process knows how frustrating it is to have Jack squat on the brain when you need it most. When I hit the wall, it’s only for 20 minutes.
  • I “allow myself” to focus. It’s only 20 minutes for cryin’ out loud. Emails, texts, calls – I’ll get to them during their respective “slot” on my 20-minute rotation.
  • I’m not eliminating the task, but I am minimizing the distractions.

Like I said, I’m baby-stepping. For me, this remedial, egg-timer approach to simplicity has already worked wonders for me in terms of productivity. I can imagine a time when I can start eliminating entire 20-minute chunks; but thinking of that gives me “dizzy spells, nausea, cold sweats, hot sweats, fever blisters, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, involuntary trembling, dead hands, numb lips, fingernail sensitivity, and pelvic discomfort.”

If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t even know who you are….

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources.