I was on a work trip and noticed my luggage was significantly bigger than my colleague’s, despite staying for the same length of time. She could pack her three days’ worth of clothing into a small carry-on duffel, whereas I brought a heavy suitcase. The difference was remarkable enough for her to comment a few times, asking, “What do you have in there?”
When I got to the hotel, I opened the suitcase wondering the same. I am known for doing things way in advance, often too much, and packing is no exception. Opening the suitcase, I noticed multiple tennis shoes buried under too many clothes. I had forgotten I had packed my tennis shoes and inadvertently added a few pairs. No wonder it weighed so much.
I paused to reflect on my woeful packing and realized it was an all-too-real metaphor for my life: overpacked suitcase, overpacked life. Why did I have three tennis shoes when one pair would have sufficed?
Since I’m in the leadership business, I couldn’t help but see a few glaring takeaways in the three pairs of Nikes littered throughout my suitcase:
“Pair” it down. It’s easy to overcrowd life with to-do’s, competing priorities, and over-scheduling. I’m a say “yes” kind of lady, and sometimes I say yes too many times. When I look at my calendar, there’s zero white space or time for meaningful rest. While many of these activities are good or very good, a lot are trivial (like two extra pairs of sneakers). It’s always onto the next thing, and that next thing might not be worth a lot in the grand scheme. Consider how you might pare down your schedule to create space to focus, recharge, or embark on something big.
Are you investing in the right things? Once you’ve pared down your schedule, it’s important to determine what might be the highest and best use of your time. To lead effectively, you must make the smartest possible investments of your time and energy to get the highest possible contribution. This requires real trade-offs and tough decisions.
Don’t get overwhelmed by choice. We have so many choices in life – too many. Different decisions constantly come at us, and we’re not always prepared to filter through them. It’s easy to develop “decision fatigue,” limiting the quality of our decision-making. We stop discerning our lives just like throwing everything in a suitcase rather than determining what is needed. Don’t get overwhelmed by choices to the point of giving up. Stay focused on what’s important and filter out the rest.
Embracing a less but better approach to life means saying “yes” to the few things that move the needle and “no” to the things that don’t. Don’t travel through life weighed down by extra baggage. You’re meant to move quickly.