Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thrift and simplicity

  Aachen 29

Life’s complicated.

Or, rather, life becomes complicated.

It’s contrary to entropy, but left unattended my affairs always seem to spontaneously evolve towards greater complexity.  For example, at tax time I’m always surprised by how the bank accounts change over a year.  As CDs mature and balances are transferred, they leave a trail of new deposits and unused account numbers that have to be consolidated and closed.  My credit card statements accrete standing subscription debits that recur thoughtlessly; my services accumulate and multiply as I move between residences.

I get the same feeling when I survey calendar, fragmented by standing meetings established to promote communication but now uselessly dividing the day.  Or looking at email, where my final word on a subject has elicited three replies.  Or, in social networks, the chirps of my close friends (15), pokes of Dunbar’s number (150) of Facebook friends, and tweets from Scobel’s number (1500) of Twitter acquaintances.


It all sort of happens: the end product of a lot of good intentions and legacy events.  Douglas Welch, at the Career Opportunities podcast, recently wrote about the need to “Thin the Herd”: getting rid of everything that no longer fits with your current vision, workload or budget.

I think this is a great advice.  Meaningless obligations do, unfortunately, grow incrementally from good actions and valid intentions.

There must be, in parallel, a constant effort to clear the resulting undergrowth, asking whether this item, action, or response has value or meaning.  I whittle at it a bit every day, trying to be thoughtful my time and resources.

Thrift and simplicity: I’ll never achieve the discipline of the Inbox Zero  or Voluntary Simplicity movements, but there’s still gain in following the occasional tip from Lifehacker.

Note: Subscribe to the consolidated feed, the full one, ironically, is overwhelming.

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