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Is It Time to Simplify?

By Joyce Shafer

Could a lesson from Super Nanny apply to you and your personal and professional life? If you feel stressed and overwhelmed... yeah.

The parents Super Nanny Jo Frost went to help were well-meaning--they wanted to give their children the best head start in life. Unfortunately, this meant not only school and homework hours for each child, but LOTS of additional activities to help them be well rounded individuals, as well.

Super Nanny pointed out two things:

  1. Making their children engage so many activities meant the parents' involvement with their children was minimized. Activities instead of TV were the babysitters. There was a real lack of quality time as a family.
  2. The children were stressed out from being overburdened, which affected their behavior in a negative way.

Super Nanny did something that really drove point 2 home: she made a pile of objects that represented all the extra activities each child was enrolled in. There were books, drums, ballet shoes, sports shoes and equipment, and so on. The parents were instructed to put all the items that matched a child's activities into each child's arms. The children were instructed to make every effort to hold everything they were given. The visual effect of the children struggling to hold so much stuff that looked more like clutter than creativity was poignant. Finally, the little girl said, "I can't keep holding all these!"

Super Nanny's solution was to have the parents choose one activity they felt very strongly their children should engage and each child was told to pick one activity they really wanted to keep or to pick a new one. And, the parents were instructed on how to better engage as a family.

Your arms might be bigger than the little girl's, but how would the load look that you may be trying to carry? Is it comfortable, stacked past your chin, straining your arms, falling from your grip? The parents had encumbered their children with extra activities without including choice in the mix. In your life, at least some of what you expect yourself to do is imposed by you and no one else; but you also want to consider who's put what onto your shoulders and why.

How might this Nanny lesson apply to you?

Marcus Aurelius said, "Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you'll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, 'Is this necessary?'" Super Nanny isn't super because she does a lot, but because she focuses on what's important so she can be effective and effect improvements that change lives in a positive way.

The gift download on my website, "focus: A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction," is one I'm pleased to provide because it ties in perfectly with Super Nanny's point about the need to simplify--not solely from the too-much-to-do syndrome, but also the issue of multiple distractions that pull us off focus, not just on work but also on the other areas in our lives. The author of "focus", Leo Babauta, wrote about overwhelm and addiction created by our new technological age, and how so many of us don't even realize the impact on our lives because of it. Even if we don't see it, we do sense it.

This week, maybe pay attention to when you feel stretched or stretched too thin. What's causing this feeling? Is it a fact that you're overburdened? If so, what solution are you willing to engage? Is it that you burden yourself with too much thinking rather than productive action? Over-thinking is a great avoidance tactic: It allows us to believe we're being productive when we aren't.

Eliminate and manage any distractions and extra tasks you can, and that make sense to shed, to simplify your life and reduce overwhelm, if that's your choice.

Practice makes progress.

Joyce Shafer is a Life Coach, author of I Don't Want to be Your Guru, but I Have Something to Say and other books/e-books, and publisher of a free weekly online newsletter that connects people with information, resources, and others aligned with enhancing and expanding spiritual Truth in their personal and business lives. Receive a free PDF of How to Have What You REALLY Want when you subscribe at:

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