zenhabits : breathe

The Empty Container

By Leo Babauta

Our lives get so complicated not overnight but gradually.

The complications creep up on us, one insignificant step at a time.

Today I order something online, tomorrow someone gives me a gift, then I get a free giveaway, then I decide I need some new tools. One item at a time, the clutter accumulates, because I’m not constantly purging the old.

Today I say yes to an email request, tomorrow I say yes to a party invitation, then I get asked to a quick cup of coffee, then I decide to be a part of a project. One yes at a time, and soon my life is full and I don’t know how I got so busy.

I look at a news site, then a social media site, then my email, then read an interesting article, then watch an online video someone sent me … and soon my day is gone, and I didn’t get much done, and my life gets eaten away in minuscule bites.

How do we protect against this feature creep, this complication creep? We have to take a step back, regularly.

Instead of thinking, “How can I get rid of this complicated mess?” … let’s ask, “What if I started with a blank slate?”

What would you do if your life was a blank slate?

If it were an empty container, with limited space, what would you put in it?

For me, I might put in some play time and reading time with my kids; coffee time and exercise time with my wife; some long walks and talks with good friends and close relatives; work that matters to me and that helps others; continual learning; and time alone to meditate and spend with my thoughts and a good book.

Those are the things that I’d put into my empty container, because they feel right to me. What would you choose?

Once we’ve figured that out, we know what belongs in the container … now we just need to constantly look at things and activities and requests and tasks, and ask: “Is this one of my container items?”


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