For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River. I’ve come a long, long way – 13 time zones to be exact – from my original hometown of Rolla in south-central Missouri, on the Little Dry Fork creek. Depending on how loosely you define “city”, one could argue that CQ is the world’s largest city. In my quest for a simple life, I write this drivel from my 18th-Floor homestead.
Imagine this scenario: You have tickets for a plane to catch in the early afternoon but, somehow, you have been delayed at home all morning. This flight is the beginning of your long-deferred holiday trip, something you have planned and dreamed of for months. Missing the plane would ruin the trip. Now, unless you hurry, you will not get to the airport in time. As you are grabbing your suitcase and rushing out your front door, a friend arrives and wants to chat. Will you stop and talk or will you speed past him with the briefest of explanations? The answer is obvious.
Remember that sensation of dashing past your friend with a quick apology when you were rushing to the airport. Now consider how many other conversations during your typical day could be minimized. How much more could you complete by not talking unless necessary during your most productive hours?
Maybe Douglas Adams was right; perhaps we humans have a subconscious fear that our jaws will lock if we don’t keep moving them, regardless of the value (or lack of) in our utterances. But, in your reinvented life, you can stop wasting time with unnecessary conversations.
We have been conditioned by movies and television to think that every action must be preceded, accompanied, and followed by dialogue… lots of dialogue. No dead-air time allowed. The reason is obvious: Movies and television programs would lose much of their entertainment value without the dialogue. Long silences are boring to watch. In the movies, you cannot shoot someone without having a conversation before pulling the trigger.
However, that is in the movies; real life doesn’t have to be stuffed with continual pointless chatter. What if you could eliminate most of the needless dialogue from your life and use that time for action steps? You can simplify your life immensely by removing superfluous conversations – and, when we examine it objectively, much of what we say is superfluous. We waste valuable time each day spewing verbal Pablum.
If you clearly know what you want to do… if you don’t need prior approval or confirmation by others… if you know how to do it… if you know the first steps, why not simply start? If you’re gonna shoot… shoot; don’t talk about it. You don’t have to explain to others before or while taking action; you can tell them after you finish.
If you make a decision to do something – a major project or a one-time, quick errand – start it without expending unnecessary time and energy in talking about it with other people before you commence. Your life becomes much simpler and more productive – quieter and less stressful, too – if you are not spending large amounts of your precious time discussing your intentions, plans, reasoning, hesitations, concerns, deadlines, alternatives, objectives, and long-term goals ad nauseum with other people before taking action.
Yes, we are social animals with a need for communication and exchanges. But, could you shift most of those conversations to the evenings when you are done with your work for the day? How much simpler and more productive could your reinvented life become?
As much as possible, defer talking with others until after your work is completed for the day, or while you are taking a break. Could you literally turn off your phone and disconnect from the internet? (How often, really, do you have a message or call that cannot be deferred a few hours?) As Benjamin Franklin said, avoid trivial conversations.