“To attain knowledge, add things every day.
To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”
Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu’s advice is an age-old truism. Antoine de Saint-Exupery said something akin: “​[a] designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” And E.F. Schumacher said: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction.”

This is not merely about the value of simplicity, it is about the value of wisdom.

Doing more with less

At Econation we talk about doing more with less by leveraging your resources, time and energy. The 80-20 principle says that 80 per cent of our well-being comes from only 20 per cent (or the vital few) of our resources. The corollary is that 80 per cent of our resources (or the trivial many) only produces 20 per cent of our well-being. To increase well-being at the same time as reducing our resource use (ecological footprint) is to maximise the vital few and minimise the trivial many. This means thinking about what you could do or have and not do or have – in your life that would enable this strategy. There are two easy ways to begin removing the ‘trivial many’ every day.

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.
– Steve Jobs

Create a not-to-do list

Firstly, create a not-to-do list along with your to-do list. The to-do list should be prioritised based on what is vital. Remember that what is vital to you is not what is vital to others. You need to decide what is most important. There is a very good chance that the things with the least priority could go on your not-to-list.

The not-to-list contains things that you never put on your to-do list but nevertheless take up a lot of time. Surfing the net, watching TV, daydreaming, checking social media and procrastinating. Procrastinating is very insidious because people end up doing the easier, but trivial tasks instead of the difficult, but vital tasks; you get a lot of your list ticked off except for the most important things.

The second thing you could do is ask the people close to you what they would like you to stop doing. If this idea scares you, you could stop doing certain things, especially if you believe they are trivial, and see what your close ones say.

The pursuit of less is powerfully simple: remove just the right things in just the right way and something good happens.