No to 1,000 Things

As part of the rhythm of my productivity, I declare a “Theme for the Week” each Monday morning. At a 50,000 foot level, it helps me remember what I deem to be important that week. It’s what I’m working on.

The first Theme of the Week for 2013 is adapted from Steve Jobs. He has been quoted on multiple occasions as having said that the hardest part of good design is saying no to a thousand things. He said that it is not enough to be brilliant in figuring out what goes into your product. You have to be ruthless in paring down and leaving out what doesn’t belong.

It occurs to me that life — and especially productivity — thrives on the same principle. I have to say no to 1,000 things in order to achieve the beauty and the productivity and the success that I seek. I have to say “No” to the empty calories and the mindless surfing. “No” to the mediocre book that is half-read and “No” to the new app that beckons like a siren call.

A good life, like a well designed product, is vibrant and beautiful in its essence, which only emerges after I have said “No” to a thousand things.

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