Canadian Lawyer

September 2020

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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44 www.canadianlawyermag.com FEATURE PRODUCTIVITY Aytekin Tank explains how paring down to just the essentials can transform both the way you do business and the way you live your life "HOW ABOUT this one?" I glanced at the dark green shirt my wife was holding up. Not my favourite. In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I'd worn it. We're a small family, and we pride ourselves on living ecologically. Even so, our apartment felt like it was bursting at the seams, which is why we'd organized this clear-out. The dark green shirt was the fifth one I'd looked at before sheepishly shaking my head: straight into the charity pile. The experience reminded me of an editor I used to work with. An easygoing guy, he was ruthless when it came to cutting text. He'd take me through my work, line by line, asking over and over: "Do you really need this?" Ninety-nine per cent of the time, the answer was no. And as unnecessary words, sentences and paragraphs were weeded out, the core content began to emerge — and shine. Like my old drafts, we live in a world that's brimming with unnecessary content. Change your life with deliberate elimination Our desks, schedules and brains are clut- tered: We over-explain (to appear smarter), over-plan (to feel popular) and overload ourselves — and our to-do lists — to the breaking point. Quantity, not quality, has become our barometer for success. Can we apply the same editor's eye to other areas of our life? By deliberately elim- inating everything but the essentials, we give way to greater focus and simplicity. Here's what else I think we could do with less of. Fewer interruptions It's been 13 years since David Foster Wallace coined the term 'total noise': the seething static of every particular thing and experience. Today, this has just become part of the texture of living on a planet that is now home to more than five billion mobile phone users. The average American checks their smartphone 36 times an hour. When they're not interrupting themselves, someone else is — every eight minutes, to be exact (or 60 times per day). This causes them to lose focus on the task at hand 40% of the time. And while all this is going on, they're juggling around 605 emails per week. According to the Information Overload Research Group, this time wasting costs the economy $997 billion a year. So, what's the solution? I recommend a self-imposed digital diet. It doesn't have to be radical. At the end of my day, for example, I plug my phone in to charge in a different room at least an hour before I go to bed. This lets my mind quiet down, free of blue light and distractions. And I don't re-check it until I've set foot in the JotForm offices: no work calls, no emails, nothing. This gives me a 14-plus-hour "fast" from the triggers of technology every day. And when I do knuckle down to work, I feel refreshed and alert, not mentally depleted from hours of tapping, swiping and scrolling. Checking our phones from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep encourages a reactive, scattered state of mind. By drawing a clear line between online and offline, you'll We over-explain (to appear smarter), over-plan (to feel popular) and overload ourselves — and our to-do lists — to the breaking point. Quantity, not quality, has become our barometer for success.

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