How to Stop Adding Stuff to Your Life

The case for subtraction and creating more space

Brad Stulberg
Forge
Published in
2 min readNov 1, 2021

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Photo: Boris SV

A common refrain amongst my coaching clients, and most people these days, is finding it challenging to pay deep attention to meaningful activities. Even after addressing low-hanging fruit — for example: eliminating distractions, designing the physical environment, and timing specific tasks — many people still struggle. The solution, it seems, almost always involves creating more space; space between activities in the day, days in the week, and weeks in the year.

Even if your capacity to pay attention is world-class, you still need periods of restoration and a manageable load of things to pay attention to. Back-to-back-to-back high attention activities is draining over the course of a day, no less over the course of a week or year. Having eight high-priority endeavors ensures that none will actually be high priority, since you won’t be fully there for any of them.

Creating space works on two complementary levels: physical space (and time) between activities and also psychological space between priorities. Neither eight meetings in a day nor eight balls to juggle in a mind lead to great outcomes.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and struggling to focus, it is likely you are also feeling a sense of behindness on the important stuff in your life. The first-pass response is to do more, to try and catch up. It’s worth considering the opposite, doing less, being more, and as a result, doing (and feeling) better. There is no one-size-fits all solution or formula for space, at least not that I am aware of. A few strategies, about which I write extensively in The Practice of Groundedness, include creating not to-do lists, focusing on productive activity instead of productivity, and shifting your mindset around efficiency to think of the difference between efficiency over the course of a day versus efficiency over the course of a year or decade.

These are all good starting points to create more space in your days and life. As in a beautiful song, the rightness of something has every bit as much to do with the space between notes as it does with the notes themselves.

My Twitter is @Bstulberg. My new book is The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success that Feeds — Not Crushes — Your Soul.

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Brad Stulberg
Forge

Bestselling author of Master of Change and The Practice of Groundedness