This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 5: Eliminating, subscribe and buy here
Eliminating is a principle of actions and consequences. It is inherently applied at the same moment you do something. This principle has, in each of these moments, the power to determine your future.
In order to fully understand this principle, we need to comprehend its dual nature, one that originates from the opportunity cost. In simple terms, the opportunity cost is intrinsic to any action and its price is your inability to perform any other action. A simple example of opportunity cost: Going to a sports game prevents you from attending a charity event in your local community. These events are mutually exclusive: you cannot do both.
Our choices eliminate other activities that we could be doing at any particular moment. The other side of this coin is the choice you’ve made and action in which you are partaking. This choice moves you somewhere; It takes you to a certain destination and if you’ve chosen the right action, you are headed towards your dreams. Many people go about their whole lives oblivious to this concept, inherently under-valuing their time, fooling themselves that it can be spread around liberally without care or thought given to the consequences. Those who are more conscious of their lives understand inherently the power of mindful elimination. We want you to comprehend the price you pay for your actions and how it affects your life.
There are two ways we eliminate: by action and by consciously “opting out” of particular opportunities. It is not simply a question of a “right or wrong” way to eliminate; both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. Understanding these and applying them appropriately is key to effective eliminating.
Eliminating by Action
Our default mode is to make decisions instinctively or subconsciously. Allowing ourselves to be guided by what feels right in the moment enables us to be agile, responding to changing circumstances and making decisions as we go. Sometimes the best course of action is pretty straightforward and it’s possible to act without investing too much thinking. Sometimes we just know how to act, guided by some powerful inner force that compels us to get things done.
The issue with eliminating by action is that low willpower always pushes us towards the things that we feel most comfortable doing. Sometimes we may recognize this as procrastination, but other times we do this believing that we’re making the right decisions, failing to spot the implications of focusing on the task at hand. This thinking and the “gut-feel” approach becomes habit through repetition and can form a behavior pattern that is difficult to break.
Sometimes we just know how to act, guided by some powerful inner force that compels us to get things done.
Most importantly, when you eliminate instinctively instead of consciously it’s easy to overlook the opportunity cost. How confident are you that you’ve assessed the available options and selected the one that is the most important? For the simple priority calls this may be overkill, but for the bigger decisions -the ones that will shape your day, week or even further ahead- it is essential.
Eliminating by Cutting the Actions
The second elimination mode comes at the moment when we choose not to do certain things and consciously decide that we will accept the consequences. Trimming down, removing things from life feels very empowering and liberating. Sometimes this is as simple as saying “No” to new commitments; at other times it requires us to break out of existing routines.
When we remove certain time sinks in our life, we start to feel very liberated. But the majority of people are caught in the rat race and become obsessed with staying “busy” and “active” instead of thinking about what’s important. Sustaining this level of “productivity” takes its toll and when the time comes to get off work they just want to disengage. When you’re in this situation, you need to eliminate in order to make time for the things that matter.
We’ve been through the same thing; We come off work and the first thing we do is get back to the screen and start work on Alpha Efficiency…doing this requires us to sacrifice other priorities and we have both eliminated opportunities from our routines to make it work.
Take a critical look at those things that seem to be distracting you, that are creating fog or where you’re not getting clear value.
Understanding the Value of Your Choices
Henry David Thoreau said:
“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
Whether you eliminate by action or by cutting out actions, it is important to question what is valuable and what is not. Our days are littered with opportunities that require an investment of time or money, that require ongoing effort to maintain or that distract us from our goals.
It’s important to ask yourself: What am I getting out of this activity? What opportunities am I passing up? – if you’re reviewing regularly then you’ll have a good idea of whether your choices and actions are moving you towards your goals. In any case, take a critical look at those things that seem to be distracting you, that are creating fog or where you’re not getting clear value.
It’s important not to forget that doing nothing is a conscious choice too; as we learn from Andrew Smart in this month’s interview, creating time in which to be idle can be as equally important as creating time for “doing.” Whether you’re relaxing, reflecting or simply biding your time, the “do nothing” opportunity needs to be considered alongside all the other opportunities you have
Eliminating the Clutter in Your Brain
We’ve already talked about “eliminating by doing” – the notion of pursuing a series of actions based on intuition or gut feel. Eliminating by action also includes the process of getting stuff “ticked off” your list; very simply, getting stuff off your pad and therefore out of your brain.
When your brain is full, getting the basic stuff done just seems to get harder. How many times have you had a terrible night’s sleep because your brain was fizzing with the things you want to get sorted out? We’ve all felt the weight of a big problem or decision on our minds; what’s frustrating is that the bigger the problem, the less effective our brains seem to become in processing and dealing with it. Taking action against some of the stuff that’s on your mind acts like a pressure valve and creates space in which to think. In certain cases like this, it doesn’t matter what action you take – the important thing is to do something.
Succesful implementation of the Eliminating principle comes down to conscious decision-making: If you can make your decisions more purposeful, more mindful of the direct and indirect consequences, you’ll be on the path to effective eliminating.
Whether you take action or deliberately cut them out, understanding the value of your choices and eliminating peripheral concerns will give you greater clarity, purpose, and power.