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Last annotated on March 12, 2017
Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.Read more at location 72
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Set limitations. Choose the essential. Simplify. Focus. Create habits. Start small.Read more at location 105
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The haiku, as you may know, is usually a nature-related poem of just seventeen syllables, written in three lines (five syllables, then seven, then five).Read more at location 148
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Principle 1: By setting limitations, we must choose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations. Principle 2: By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources. Always choose the essential to maximize your time and energy.Read more at location 154
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choose to do fewer things, but things with the most impact.Read more at location 163
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1. Examine your task list. Take a look at everything on your list and ask yourself the following questions about each one: Will this have an impact that will last beyond this week or this month? How will it change my job, my career, my life? How will this further a long-term goal of mine? How important is that goal?Read more at location 171
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2. Start with your goals. If you start by identifying the things you really want to accomplish in the next year, you can plan your tasks so that you are doing things each day to further those goals along. Let’s say you have three long-term goals—each day, choose a task from your list that will move you closer to those goals. This will ensure that you are completing the tasks with the most impact, because they relate directly to a long-term goal.Read more at location 176
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If there’s any area of your life that is overwhelming you, and that you’d like to simplify, apply limitations.Read more at location 188
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Which areas of my life are overwhelming? What would I like to simplify? In addition to the tasks I need to accomplish in different areas, do I want to limit the number of possessions I have, what information I receive, or what responsibilities I have?Read more at location 194
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Limitless is weak. Learn to focus yourself with limits, and you’ll increase your strength.Read more at location 216
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ask yourself in everything you do, what is essential?Read more at location 280
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1. What are your values? Values are simply knowing what things are most important to you. Think about the things that really matter to you, the qualities you want to have, the principles you want to live your life by. Once you’ve identified these values, everything you do and choose should follow from those. 2. What are your goals? What do you want to achieve in life? How about over the next year? How about this month? And today? If you know what you’re trying to achieve, you can determine if an action or item will help you achieve it. 3. What do you love? Think about what you love, who you love to spend time with, what you love doing. 4. What is important to you? Along the same lines, make a list of the most important things in your life, in your work, or in whatever area you’re thinking about. 5. What has the biggest impact? If you have a choice to make between a list of projects or tasks, think about which project or task will make the biggest difference in your life or career. What will have the biggest effect on everything else? For example, if you have a choice between making some calls, having a meeting, and writing a report, think about the impact each task will have: the calls are to clients who spend perhaps one hundred dollars each on your company, the meeting is with a client who will bring in ten thousand dollars in business if you can close the deal, and the report is something that might not even be read. The meeting, in this example, has the biggest impact, and is therefore the most essential. 6. What has the most long-term impact? There’s a difference between the size of an impact and its long-term value. For example, a meeting with a client might bring in ten thousand dollars next week, but a long-term marketing campaign might bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next year. The impact doesn’t have to be in terms of money—it could be anything that’s valuable to you. 7. Needs vs. wants. This is a good criteria to use when you’re trying to decide whether to spend on certain items: Which items do you actually need, and which ones are just things you want? If you can identify needs, you can eliminate most of the wants, which are nonessential. 8. Eliminate the nonessential. Sometimes it’s useful to work backward, if you’re having trouble figuring out the essentials. If you have a list of things to do, for example, start by crossing off the nonessential items. You know that washing your car, for example, isn’t as important as paying your bills or fixing that leak that is costing you hundreds of dollars on your water bill. Once you eliminate some of the nonessential stuff, you are left with the more essential things on the list. 9. Continual editing process. Most of the time you don’t pare things all the way down to the essentials on your first try. You eliminate some of the nonessentials and give the remaining things a try. Then you take another look at it in a week or two and eliminate more things. Continue that process until you are happy that you can’t eliminate anything else.Read more at location 288
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Simplifying isn’t meant to leave your life empty—it’s meant to leave space in your life for what you really want to do. Know what those things are before you start simplifying.Read more at location 344
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Focus on less to become more effective. Focus on One Goal in order to achieve it (more on this later). Focus on the task at hand instead of multitasking, and you’ll be more productive. Focus on the present, to reduce anxiety and stress.Read more at location 367
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Principle 4: Focus is your most important tool in becoming more effective.Read more at location 369
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First thing in the morning, work on your Most Important Task. Don’t do anything else until this is done. Give yourself a short break, then start on your next Most Important Task. If you can get two to three of these done in the morning, the rest of the day is gravy.Read more at location 404
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Principle 5: Create new habits to make long-lasting improvements.Read more at location 455
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Focus on one habit at a time, one month at a time, so that you’ll be able to focus all your energy on creating that one habit.Read more at location 457
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Here’s how it works: 1. Select one habit for the Challenge. Only one habit per month. You can choose any habit—whatever you think will have the biggest impact on your life. 2. Write down your plan. You will need to specifically state what your goal will be each day, when you’ll do it, what your “trigger" will be (the event that will immediately precede the habit that’s already a part of your routine—such as exercising right after you brush your teeth), and who you will report to (see below). 3. Post your goal publicly. Tell as many people as possible that you are trying to form your new habit. I suggest an online forum, but you could e-mail it to coworkers and family and friends or otherwise get the word out to a large group. 4. Report on your progress daily. Each day, tell the same group of people whether or not you succeeded at your goal. 5. Celebrate your new habit! After thirty days, you will have a new habit. You will still need to make sure you do the habit each day, but it’ll be fairly well entrenched if you were consistent all month.Read more at location 460
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Principle 6: Start new habits in small increments to ensure success.Read more at location 517
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Make gradual changes, in a series of small steps over time, and you’re more likely to stick to those changes than if you attempt a big change all at once.Read more at location 542
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It’s easy to set goals, but extremely difficult to achieve them if they’re goals worth achieving. Tackling a goal takes energy and focus and motivation, three things that are in limited supply in any person, no matter how driven.Read more at location 563
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Limit yourself to fewer goals, and you’ll achieve more.Read more at location 568
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focus on one goal at a time to increase your effectiveness with that goal. To break the goal into concrete steps, you will focus on one sub-goal at a time.Read more at location 571
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Make a list of things you’d like to accomplish over the next few years.Read more at location 573
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choose just one, and focus completely on that goal until you can check it off the list.Read more at location 575
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Once you’ve decided on your One Goal, the next step is to focus on a smaller sub-goal that you can accomplish in the next month or two.Read more at location 585
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Each week, create a weekly goal that will move you closer to your sub-goal.Read more at location 592
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each day, choose one action that will move you closer to your weekly goal. Make this action your most important task for the day. Do it first, before you do anything else. This will help keep you focused on your One Goal,Read more at location 595
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List all the projects you have going on in your life, including all your work projects, any personal and home projects, projects with civic organizations, and so on.Read more at location 603
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Too many projects leads to ineffectiveness.Read more at location 608
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Choose just the top three projects on your list. Don’t choose three from each area of your life—just choose three altogether. This list of three projects is your Simple Projects List.Read more at location 609
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I recommend that, at all times, you have at least one of your top three projects be related to your One Goal so that you are always moving that goal forward.Read more at location 619
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the real focus of any project should be in getting it done. Completion. Each day, put your focus on moving your project forward to completion. Put aside distractions, and put all of your energy into one project at a time—you can switch to another of your three active projects when necessary, but at any given moment, just focus on one project. And move it closer to completion, until you’re done.Read more at location 638
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Your MITs are the tasks you most want or need to get done today.Read more at location 702
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I have a glass of water to wake me up.Read more at location 705
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if you make your MITs your first priority each day, the important stuff will get done instead of the unimportant.Read more at location 708
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At least one of the MITs should be related to one of my goals.Read more at location 711
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Do your MITs first thing in the morning,Read more at location 714
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The keys to making MITs work for you: Set them first thing in the morning. Limit yourself to three. Ensure that one MIT is goal-related, or related to one of your top three projects. Focus on accomplishing these tasks above all others. Do your MITs early in the day, before you do anything else. When you do one of your MITs, be sure to single-task—focus on that task only (see Principle 4).Read more at location 718
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break things down into small tasks that can be accomplished in an hour or less—even better would be twenty to thirty minutes,Read more at location 726
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Anytime you find yourself procrastinating on an important task, see if you can break it into something smaller. Then just get started.Read more at location 734
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The calendar, then, serves as a way for you to see what your options are, but not as a tool to rule your life. I suggest not keeping too much on the calendar,Read more at location 753
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What do you do instead of keeping a schedule? Know your priorities (see the next section) and from moment to moment, decide what you should be doing based on your priorities, how much time you have available, and your energy level.Read more at location 754
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The way to get into flow: Choose a task you’re passionate about. If it’s something you don’t care about, you won’t find flow. Choose a task that’s challenging. But not too challenging—if it’s too difficult, you’ll have a hard time getting into flow. If it’s too easy, you’ll get bored. Eliminate distractions. The less you think about other things, the better. You want to focus completely on this task. Get rid of distractions such as phones, e-mail notifications, instant-messaging, clutter on your desk or computer desktop, etc. Immerse yourself in the task. Just start on the task, and focus completely on it. Forget about everything else, and let the world melt away. Get excited about the task and have fun. Warning: You may lose track of time and be late for your next appointment—which is why it’s a bad idea to schedule too many appointments.Read more at location 763
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you should decide first thing in the morning what you want to accomplish each day.Read more at location 773
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single-tasking is not only more productive, it’s more relaxing as well.Read more at location 779
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gently bring yourself back to your task every time you feel yourself being pulled away.Read more at location 780
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Instead of switching tasks, just make a note of other tasks or ideas as they come up, to consider for later.Read more at location 783
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reduce before you organize.Read more at location 790
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wait until later in the day to process these batch tasks, instead of doing them early in the day. Save the mornings for your important tasks, get them out of the way, then focus on knocking out your batch tasks as quickly as possible.Read more at location 801
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The fewer in-boxes you have, the better.Read more at location 873
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make the decision to only check e-mail at predetermined times, and leave it alone for the rest of the day—that will allow you to work on more important stuff. I recommend that you decide, in advance, how many times you’ll check e-mail, and at what times.Read more at location 876
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If you can get away with checking e-mail just once per day, that would be ideal—you’d have very few e-mail interruptions and your e-mail habits would be most efficient. However, for many people, twice a day is probably more realistic.Read more at location 879
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10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are good times—that lets you get a mid-morning feel for what urgent e-mails you have and then allows you to finish up your e-mail before you leave for the day.Read more at location 885
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A common productivity tip is not to check e-mail first thing in the morning,Read more at location 888
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turn off alerts and only check e-mail at predetermined times. You’ll get a lot more done this way.Read more at location 898
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Here are some essential ways to reduce your incoming stream of e-mails: 1. Junk. I recommend using Gmail, as it has the best spam filter possible.Read more at location 907
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Notifications. I often get notifications from the many online services I use, from Amazon to WordPress to PayPal and many more. As soon as I notice those types of notifications filling up my in-box, I create a filter (or “rule" if you use Mail. app or Outlook) that will automatically put these into a folder and mark them as read, or trash them, as appropriate. So for my PayPal notifications, I can always go and check on them in my “payments" folder if I like, but they never clutter my in-box. 3. Batch work.Read more at location 911
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If you have friends and family who send you chain e-mails and joke e-mails and the like, e-mail them and let them know that you are trying to lessen the huge amount of e-mail you have to deal with, and while you appreciate them thinking of you, you’d rather not receive those kinds of messages.Read more at location 919
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Set expectations and publish policies.Read more at location 925
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you should be able to get your in-box empty in a minimal amount of time using these methods. 1. Temporary folder. If you have a very full in-box (hundreds or thousands of messages), you should create a temporary folder (“to be filed") and get to them later, processing them perhaps thirty minutes at a time until they’ve all been taken care of. Start with an empty in-box, and use the following techniques to keep it empty, in as little time as possible. 2. Have an external to-do system.Read more at location 937
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Process quickly. Work your way from top to bottom, one e-mail at a time. Open each e-mail and dispose of it immediately. Your choices: delete, archive (for later reference), reply quickly (and archive or delete the message), put on your to-do list (and archive or delete), do the task immediately (if it requires two minutes or less—then archive or delete), or forward (and archive or delete). Notice that for each option, the e-mail is ultimately archived or deleted. Get it out of the in-box. Never leave it sitting there. And do this quickly, moving on to the next e-mail. If you practice this enough, you can plow through a couple dozen messages very quickly. 4. Be liberal with the delete key.Read more at location 947
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Process to done. When you open your in-box, process it until you’re done. Don’t just look at an e-mail and leave it sitting in your in-box. Get it out of there, and empty that in-box. Make it a rule: Don’t leave the in-box with e-mails hanging around. Now your in-box should be empty and clean. Ahhh!Read more at location 957
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Another key to spending less time in e-mail but making the most of every e-mail you send is to write short but powerful e-mails.Read more at location 960
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Apply the Power of Less to your Internet usage: Set limitations and use the Internet more powerfully. With limitations and simplicity, you can get more done both on and off the Internet.Read more at location 974
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Track your Internet usage for three days. Use a tool like Toggl (www.toggl.com/), yaTimer (www.nbdtech.com/yaTimer/) or Tick (www.tickspot.com/) to track your Internet usage time,Read more at location 977
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Once you’ve tracked your Internet usage, you can take a look at which sites are time-wasters for you—you spend a lot of time there, but they’re not helping you get to your goals.Read more at location 981
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After awareness comes consciousness. You want to consciously plan your use of the Internet,Read more at location 984
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I suggest that you set blocks of your day for doing uninterrupted work (without the Internet), for doing communication like e-mail or instant messaging, for doing research and other work-related Internet activities, and for doing fun stuff or just browsing. This will allow you to be more conscious and smarter about how you use the Internet, and will allow you to get more work done.Read more at location 992
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Create a simple system for organizing paperwork; and Get into the habit of using that system, immediately and routinely.Read more at location 1044
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Here’s how to set up your system: 1. Reduce before organizing.Read more at location 1050
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Simple filing. All you need is a simple, alphabetical filing system.Read more at location 1061
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File immediately. The key to keeping your filing system up to date is to file things right away. When you’re processing your in-box and you run across something that doesn’t require action but that you might need to file later, don’t put it in a pile to be filed later. Don’t put it in a folder labeled TO FILE or MISCELLANEOUS. Just open your filing drawer (it should be close at hand), pull out the appropriate folder, put the document in it, and file it. That takes about five seconds, and then you’re done. If you don’t do it now, it will start to pile up, and stacking just doesn’t work.Read more at location 1066
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4. Have materials on hand.Read more at location 1077
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Store reference information online.Read more at location 1085
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Reduce incoming paper.Read more at location 1088
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Stop printing stuff.Read more at location 1090
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Analyze other incoming docs.Read more at location 1093
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here are home-specific tips for organizing all the papers in your personal life: 1. Create one “mail center" in your home for dealing with your mail and incoming paperwork.Read more at location 1097
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2. Home in-box.Read more at location 1102
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Pay bills immediately.Read more at location 1106
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4. Enter stuff into your to-do lists or calendar.Read more at location 1111
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5. File immediately.Read more at location 1115
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That’s it. No papers should ever be anywhere except the in-box or in your filing system. It’s simple and efficient. The trick is to make this a habit, and stick to it like a routine. Have set times of the day or week when you process your in-box and pay your bills. Create a simple system like this, and you eliminate the clutter and the worry.Read more at location 1121
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IF THERE’S ONE change that you could make today that would have the biggest impact on your life in terms of productivity, effectiveness, and being able to do the things you want to do, it would be to reduce the commitments in your life.Read more at location 1126
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Christopher Hurtado

Christopher Hurtado has over twenty-five years' experience teaching a broad range of subjects. He is self-taught in the classics, holds a Bachelor's in Middle East Studies/Arabic and Philosophy from Brigham Young University, and an MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He is a serial entrepreneur with startup and takeover/turnaround experience in various industries. He has varying degrees of fluency in twelve languages and has lived and traveled abroad extensively. He lives in Mapleton, Utah with his wife, Alysia, and their children.