Saturday, July 9, 2011

100 things challenge to become a zen minimalist master

My good friend Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and Mnmlist blogs posted a 100 things challenge - meaning he's committed to have only 100 personal possessions in his home. Later he scratched that and went with 50 things. That's a minimalist to an extreme, I thought. And then I looked around my home office...

My home office is as Zen as it can get... or so I thought

If you've followed my blog for a while you can see I've been designing all my home offices with zen in mind but the problem started showing up in the closets... as I had too many gadgets and cables piled up in many places.

So I challenged myself to start with my home office and wanted to go down to 100 things (including furniture)

After one day of hard-work I went down to 99 things and 23 books.

It was a hard day - I had to throw away many cables, swtiches and office appliences. I had many cool gadgets I was never using so I photographed them all and put them in a separate box. Now whenever someone visits me at home and he (or she) is a geek, I tell them I have this great gadget box and if they want something, I welcome them to just take it. Putting it all on eBay would be time wasted and I get a reward someone receives a gadget gift from me upon their visit to my house.

The idea goes beyond 100 things - it's about conscious choice of what we really need.

As Leo Babauta confirms it, it's not about the 100 things - it's about training your mindset to let go of keeping stuff for the sake of keeping it. To learn what you really need, to evaluate each subsequent purchase (like: "I have all I need, I don't have to buy this shiny new gadget, even though it's from Apple and it's amazing").

Give it a try - you won't regret it. You'll get to know yourself better.

After this hard lesson I went to my favorite electronics store to see if I can really make it... and then to the Apple store... and surprise, surprise - I had no urge to buy anything. I knew I didn't need anything and I just was comfortable window-shopping without taking out my credit card. I'm still a geek and an "inspector gadget"... but now I know which gadgets I really need and which are totally useless... and my office is closer to zen and looks even cleaner than before.

1st battle is won - now it's time to look at my clothes...

Now that I've trained my mindset I'm going to check my wardrobe and throw lots of stuff out. I want to have 100 things there as well (maybe I'll count "socks" as one category, but we'll see) - I'll report back on this blog how it's all coming along. Wish me luck!

Have you ever tried becoming a minimalist zen master? What can you throw away today?
I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eliminate negativity pro-actively

... and it's already after Christmas. A very stressful (shopping, preparation, family logistics... etc.) but on the other hand a very joyful (family reunion, gift giving and gift receiving...etc) time of the year. And on Sunday, at the end of all of it, while catching up with reading some news and some blogs one idea struck me that I'm going to keep implementing over and over throughout the next year.

On my path to more "zen and minimalist-oriented life" I will be eliminating negativity from my life a lot more pro-actively than I used to... and I believe it will bring me more happiness in the long run:
Negativity generates more negativity... so it has to stop!

Let's start with the obvious problem. A negative thought, comment, behavior... generates more negativity.... and the "negativity keeps on spinning". Just think about it. When someone calls you names, you call them back and they call you even more... so it's time to stop it right then.

That's why to avoid this "negativity spin" it's time to remember to fight bad with the good (like the Jesus said, actually). When you feel like making a negative comment... think again... and don't.... just don't make a comment at all. If someone calls you names... just look away and smile... and think about something positive or something nice... and think how fortunate you are to have a great and happy life.

Negativity brings you one level down. Always. That's why it's not worth it.

Negative thought or comment or news brings you down and lowers your quality of life by one level at least. Even if you have a great life, a simple negative thought can bring you down in an instant. And if you meet a frustrated person, they want to bring you down to their level of misery with negative behavior.... don't let them.

How? Here's how to put "No Negativity Rule" into practice:

1. Avoid negative people... especially negative friends.

I use to have a few friends who were very negative and frustrated with their lives. I thought my mission was to inspire them and help them get through tough times and work their way up... but every time we'd meet I'd feel more and more miserable... and I just had to recognize that these people will not change. They enjoy their misery and there's no way in the world I'm going to help them. They just need someone to share this misery with and I needed to understand that I'm not that person.

I just stopped seeing them and started avoiding them. Now my goal is to let them be and try not to have anything to do with them. Don't get me wrong - cheering people and supporting them is good... but now I need to recognize faster when it's fruitless and when I need to just stop. Misery loves company after all... and I don't want to be that company.

2. Avoid TV News.... they should be called "Bad News" anyway

The last 4 months when we moved to our new place, I stopped watching TV all that much. More importantly, I stopped watching TV news every evening... and I didn't understand why it felt so good... and when I did watch the news again... I it quickly came to me... TV news should be called "TV Bad News" as only the negative news seem to make the headlines.

My father is watching news every day and now that I'm home for Christmas I can see how it impacts him. He's frustrated with the politicians, our local government, the crime rate... or the TV presenter... and my mum seems to analyze all the illnesses and problems people seem to have and she sometimes can't sleep at night.

You think I'm exaggerating? Well, think again. The top headline in my country on Christmas Eve was about a guy who got drunk and killed his two children and the TV news was talking about him all of the time. Now that's a cheerful Christmas theme, don't you think?

3. Avoid even more negative people... like negative bloggers

This Christmas I re-organized my Google Reader account and unsubscribed from many of the blogs I used to read on a regular basis. These were blogs by people I used to respect... but who started playing on my nerves. So I made a new policy: if I discover that every time I read a certain blog I want to post a negative comment... I should stop reading that blog. I hated the fact that these blogs made me feel negative... on one hand it's healthy not to agree with a blogger... but on the other it's not healthy to want to disagree with them too many times.

4. Avoid negative clients.... just choose not to do business with them

At Nozbe we have 60-days money-back guarantee which means the clients can choose to walk away from our service and ask us for a full refund within their first two months. This generous guarantee serves us, too. I love my customers and I love receiving emails from them about how we can improve our service or what can be done better... but if someone is insulting, calling names or just plain rude... I don't want their dollars. Our policy is to refund them right away and thank them politely for doing business with us... and tell them thank you... but no thanks.

5. Seek positivity and build stuff on it

In my posts about Steve Jobs' comeback or the "Switch" book I highlighted how it's important to find good things and build upon these. That's why, if we want our lives to be happy, we should pro-actively eliminate negativity from our lives and seek positivity or at least where we can help and build positivity.

I believe we shouldn't be blind or ignorant to all the bad that's happening in the world, but let's focus on things we can help, let's create charities and support the ones who can't support themselves and convert negativity into positivity.

Feeding trolls is always a bad thing that's why I'm making my 2011 resolution to actively focus on positivity and eliminate all the sources of negativity in my life... for good.

Don't you want the same?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.