In my strategic planning work, I often coach clients on how to make their work lives better by asking them to change habits, which is really asking them to spend their time differently. The conversation is often framed by questions like, "if you had an extra hour or two a day, what would you do with it?" The problem is that you can't manufacture an extra hour or two a day - you simply have to give other things up.
Therefore, my ears perk up when I hear stories about people that forgo a routine in an effort to simplify their lives and free up time for more important things. I could relate, in particular, to a recent story I heard on American Public Media's Marketplace; the whole story can also be read in Harper's Bazaar. In it, Matilda Kahl, an art director in New York City, recounted a Monday morning fraught with fashion indecision and ending in a sartorial mini-disaster that made her both unhappy and late for an important meeting. She decided to adopt a work "uniform" consisting of 15 of the same blouses and several pairs of the same black pants.
The idea of a uniform isn't new, for sure. Men call it "a suit." Early in his first term, President Obama had his closet stocked with one color of suit so there'd be no brain space wasted on a decision about what to wear. Uniforms aren't just for private schools anymore, either. Kids across America don matching t-shirts and neutral colored pants each morning in an effort to level the fashion playing field and get their minds focused on, well, the development of their minds.
Hmm...will it be the ball gown or the short-short today? I just can't decide...
I can relate to this story because, like many women I know (and yes, this is mostly a female problem), I've lived that morning, too. Many, many times. Faced with a full closet of many different things, I somehow find nothing quite right to wear. The five minute task of dressing becomes the fifteen or twenty or, heaven forbid, thirty minute task, and the rest of the morning becomes a rush.
Certainly, with the arrival of a child in my life, the items in my closet have become more practical and care-free. Does it hide schmutz? Check! Does it require ironing? Forget about it! When I find something that fits well, I'll buy multiples if possible. But I'm nowhere close to what Kahl did...although given an afternoon and the budget, I'm tempted.
Other "time wasters" have been easier to dispense with entirely. I almost never watch television anymore - network, cable, Hulu - all of it has gone by the wayside. It does mean I can't discuss the latest episode of Orange is The New Black with you. But it also means I have a lot more time to think, work, and have face to face interactions with the people I like and love the most.
Do you have routines you wish you could dispense with altogether? Have you found a way to unclutter your time? Please share with me!