“What are you yearning for in life?” That is the question Julio Olalla posed in a recent Newfield Network webinar.  For me, the answer came quickly. Simplicity.

We yearn for less complication, less clutter, fewer features. Less frenzy, more calm. Less multi-tasking, more focus. We are wearing ourselves out.

We worship productivity as essential to a better life

Fast is better than slow. Less time means more money. A recent TV commercial illustrates this well. The interviewer asks a number of children, “what’s better, slow or fast?” All but one says “fast”. The interviewer turns to the one child who seems uncertain. “What happens to the slow turtle crossing the street? He gets squished. Eeow!” Cute scene but so revealing about our values.

We pay a price for our obsession with “more, better, faster”; in anxiety, lack of fulfillment, and a growing inability to persevere when things get tough. We feel entitled to  “instant gratification” and complain bitterly when we don’t get our way … right away!  Just observe the ranting of irate customers at the airline desk when delays are announced.

Our nostalgic yearning for simplicity is a bit romantic. We remember fondly when things moved more slowly but take for granted our ability to instantly communicate with anyone around the world. We don’t want to give up the convenience of the internet and our smart phones.

The underlying issue is that we feel our freedom slipping away

We feel besieged with the amount of information being pushed at us every day. A recent Politico poll found that 64% of Americans believe “things in the U.S. feel like they are out of control right now.”  We want to recover our freedom at work and at home. We want to pause and take a breath. To think before acting.

There is no stopping the march of technology. However, we are still responsible for where we put our attention. We can reap the benefits of technology and, simultaneously, learn to sustain ourselves in our insanely fast-paced world.

We can restore some simplicity to our lives

Here are seven practices I recommend:

1.    Unplug. Declare certain times as “screen-free”; reflect; connect with nature; be fully present for uninterrupted conversation

2.    Designate “device-free” zones. Declare a room in your home as off limits to digital devices.  At work, sponsor certain meetings as “deep dive, focused conversation” with all digital devices put away.

3.    Declutter. Your office and home, your calendar and in-box. Clutter is “visual noise” that makes focus more difficult. Instead of finding a place for everything, free up space. Let in some fresh air and clear thinking.

4.    Defriend. Instead of accumulating more online “friends”,  focus on your core relationships. Feed your “golden circle” network. Don’t let superficial relationships steal your time.

5.    Unsubscribe. Stop letting organizations “push” information to you. It’s all available to “pull” when you need it. Subscribing is choosing where to put your attention –do it with great discernment.

6.    Practice “quiet time”. Devote 30 minutes daily to simply being quiet. Meditate if you like. Or just sit undisturbed and let your body, mind and spirit relax. It’s also a great step to a better night’s sleep.

7.    Say “no” more often. Simplicity requires “border control”. Stop incursions on your attention that don’t advance what you care most about. Use “no” to make your “yes” more meaningful.

Don’t just yearn for simplicity. Act. Experiment with “clean zones” for yourself.

Take back your freedom.