Three Chords and the Truth: Finding Excellence in Simplicity

There’s a saying that goes “All you need to write a country song is three chords and the truth.”

I’dImage like to propose that all a great country song takes is three chords and the truth as well, with the addition of some talent.  My search for self improvement has continually reinforced this concept of finding excellence in simplicity.

It takes time and energy to create a list or a work flow.  The more detailed the list, the more time and energy are involved before even starting the task at hand.  Once you do start, every step and every detail involved in the process is an opportunity to make a mistake.  Every mistake costs us time and energy, sometimes significantly more than the original task.  Avoiding these mistakes requires the use of very valuable focus.  Finally, once the process is complete, you have to look at either reimplementing your method in the future, or developing a new one for the next task.  The more detailed your workflow, the less widely applicable it is, the more difficult it is to communicate to others, and the more necessary spending additional energy on developing its replacement becomes.  This applies to schedules, projects, workouts, habits, and a host of other things.

When beginning the process of reorganizing yourself, it’s easy to get caught up in the numerous applications and methods out there.  Instead of spending time trying to figure out a new system, or hyper-organizing yourself before you really understand what you’re doing, or what you even want, I recommend that you keep it simple.  Find your own three chords and the truth in the form of a notebook, a pen, and a desire to improve yourself.

My personal notebook is currently a Moleskine.  It’s not because I find them to be superior to much of anything- I just happened to have a pocket sized one laying around.

So, how does this work?  For one week, keep simple notes about your day to day life, ranging from things that need to be fixed, to those things that you’d simply like to start.  Did you notice that you ate too much junk food on Tuesday?  Make a note of it, and a how you might address it: “Unhealthy diet choices today.  Don’t buy cookies next week?” By writing it down, as opposed to simply letting the thought briefly run through your head, you become more aware of it, which in itself can be enough to elicit a change.  Additionally, you won’t forget about it.

So, what are the necessities for making this the foundation of a strong schedule, as well as a powerful tool to help you keep your life on track?

  • Time killers and inefficiencies (spending too long in the shower, hitting snooze)
  • Things you’d like to accomplish (fix posture, organize CDs, learn to sing, start building that model train)
  • Things that you need to accomplish (change oil, call plumber, visit grandma)
  • Items that you’d like to schedule and where you feel they should be scheduled (upper body workout MWF @2130? write new article TTH @2000?)
  • Habits that you’d like to break or develop

A week of this, and you’ll have yourself a starting place.  It’s a first step that won’t bog you down, and it has the capacity to create big changes in your awareness and the way you address tasks in your life.  Later I’ll discuss what I’ve done to refine it after this foundational step was accomplished.

Any thoughts or comments are always welcome!

-NSTB

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