Day 100 – Life 100 Things Simpler

by Dan


Day 100. Wow!

109 days ago I was driving back from a relaxing holiday in Scotland’s Western Isles wondering how to tackle the one problem I had with my holiday. Constant interruptions by emails and social media updates, coupled with a terrible mobile connectivity due to my location, meant that I had spent far too much time and energy trying to keep up with everything. I concluded that the vast majority of these interruptions were completely worthless, but the few of value meant that I didn’t want to disconnect completely. I knew I wanted to sort out the wheat from the chaff and kill off all of the noise, so that only the value-adding stuff remained. Where to start? The 600 mile drive gave me plenty of time to ponder this. My mind wandered back to the prospect of returning to work and my ‘normal’ routines. My daily planning sessions, exercise, and running my team all came into my thoughts, and the need to ramp back up from the zen-like holiday mode to the go-getter professional guy who has ’stuff to do’. I knew it wasn’t just social media and emails that could be improved. Our house still wasn’t straightened out from moving in 6 months previous, there was stuff on the back burner of my mind that I wanted or needed to do, I had a million and one obligations to fulfil, I was spending far too much money on I-didn’t-know-what, the list went on.

This could be the recipe for a vicious circle of depression but luckily, rather than wallow in the hopelessness of it all, my mind turned to a philosophy that I held. I’ve written about it a number of times over the last 100 days, most recently in my marginal gains piece. Small daily disciplines, compounded over time, to create breakthrough results. I got excited. I wonder if I could tackle this one step at a time? What if I committed to taking one step, each and every day, to make my life more simple? The commitment was made there and then. I also knew that whenever you set yourself a new goal, or want to create a new habit, then holding yourself to account publicly is a great way to keep you focussed and motivated. Hence, this blog and the Daily Acts of Simplification were born. My progress would be out there. If only one person read it, then that would keep me going. It was a perfect plan. I would start on the first day of the following month. That gave me 9 days to buy the web domain, and set up the blog.

I had loads of questions – Could I keep it up? Would the one-a-day method actually compound over time into a noticeable difference? What would the benefits be? Would anybody be interested to read about it? Where would it all end? Good questions all but there was only ever going to be one way to find out! Also, I am a theorist by nature, so this was a great opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone and do-first, learn-second. We began.

The last time I reviewed progress was after the first month. Day 100 seems like a pretty good time to review again, take stock, and decide where to go from here. There will be some changes, but changes designed to kick this to the next level. I have been surprised and delighted in equal measure at the level of support I have received, the number of followers, and the comments and suggestions that have been sent in. I’ve met some great new friends and kindred spirits in the social media world. This is now as much about you as it is about me and so we keep moving forward!

I won’t recap all of the 100 Daily Acts because, well, they are all described on this website. I have attempted to group them into ‘simplification types’, and in order of appearance they are:

1. Subtraction (40%)
2. Controlling Inward Information Flows (32%)
3. Process Improvement (10%)
4. Get on top, stay on top (9%)
5. Financial Benefit (3%)
6. Worry Removal (2%)
7. Complexity Avoidance (2%)
8. Bringing Presence (2%)

I will explain more about these types in another post, or this one will turn into a full length book! What is obvious however is that the vast majority of the Daily Acts relate to ‘Subtraction’ (i.e. removing things from my life) and ‘Controlling Inward Information Flows’ (i.e. emails, social media etc). It is fair to say that these are the categories in which most of the ‘low hanging fruit’ has been found. As these easy pickings have gradually become exhausted, some of the other categories have started to come into play. It is the opportunities in these categories that I have found to be the most thought intensive and time consuming, but come with the biggest instant rewards. The last ten days or so have been tough. Not because I’ve run out of things to simplify (that couldn’t be further from the truth!), but because the next big wins on my mind are things that can’t easily be planned and executed in a small time period of one day. This is the first reason why I have decided to make a change to how I tackle the simplifying process going forward. I’m going to keep going, but won’t force myself to do, and write about, one new thing each day. That routine forces me to think small, and I now want to think big! This will also benefit my readers who would soon see more repetition and diminishing returns from sticking with me. I want to bring new, bigger, more interesting things to this blog. I want to turn some of the learning from the first 100 days into practical advice for others to follow, and spend more time writing about simple things. For me, this is the best way to continue the momentum. This decision is also the Day 100 Daily Act of Simplification.

So is this the end of the Daily Acts of Simplification? Not quite…you see I’ve developed a number of new habits that mean that I simplify a number of things each day, maintain my improvement, and avoid complexity going forward. They say it takes 30 days to form a new habit, well I’ve had 100 days so they are pretty well established!

1. I unsubscribe immediately to any newsletters or marketing emails that I do not get value from
2. I monitor my social media feeds to ensure that I only receive updates from those who create value to me
3. I stay on top of all my regular maintenance activities (I don’t like the term “chores” as they can be enjoyable)
4. When walking from one room to another at home, I will scan for any object that can be taken with me to put them back where they should be
5. I open my post and immediately action, file or discard so that I accumulate no filing or to-do trays
6. I always hang clothes back at one end of the wardrobe so that the least worn accumulate at the other end. This makes it easier to identify those which can be discarded
7. I don’t take any distracting electronic devices to the dinner table (phone, iPad, work Blackberry)
8. I don’t carry things on my daily commute that don’t need to be transported
9. I use Spotify for my music and Kindle for my books, which are all housed on my iPad, and therefore don’t buy books or CD’s unless I really need to

I need to make mention of the benefits that the process has produced, after all it’s nothing more than an intellectual exercise unless there are any real reasons to do this. Well I can say that the benefits are significant. I have deliberately kept benefits tracking fairly unscientific. If I had kept records it would have been possible to say that I had saved x hours of time per week, had saved £x, or reduced my possessions by x%, but all of these are just numbers. What matters is whether it feels different. This main thing I have noticed is that I now have more free time. Most evenings I relax, something which used to be a rarity. I am more present in the things I do, with Continuous Partial Attention being noticeably reduced. Even more importantly, my wife has commented that I seem happier and more chilled out. I focus better at work, and am performing as well as I ever have done. I am also excited about this blog and this process. Every day is a joy. I’m not sure there’s a lot else I can say on the subject – it’s been incredible and I would recommend it to anyone!

So here’s to the next 100 days. They will look different to the first 100 but will hopefully be as interesting, fun, and beneficial as the first 100. This is most certainly the beginning not the end – stay tuned!