Ruthless Elimination of the Unnecessary

Colton Swabb
ILLUMINATION
Published in
7 min readMar 19, 2023

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Why less is more and you have more to give when you give to less.

Photo by Robbie Noble on Unsplash

We live in times where you are more likely to die from over-eating fast food than starvation.

From sitting too long than overworking your body.

While being blessed with not struggling for the bare minimum to survive, we’re dealing with a new kind of challenge: being simultaneously tired, wired, and burning out, with a new kind of to-do list that never really ends.

In this lifestyle, evenings become an escape from the day, weekends an escape from the week, and death an escape from life.

Sounds to me like maybe we got something wrong at some point and that maybe more than a few people have simply had enough, right?

It’s nothing personal.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just full.

Very full.

I appreciate a good piece of timely advice and want to keep learning and growing alongside the world.

But at a certain point, I had to call it and decide that: I’d had enough.

And…

I feel better with less.

That’s why I dare to ruthlessly eliminate what is unnecessary.

I used to live for novelty. Traveling for 8 straight years, living on multiple continents, (not seeing my family for years at a time).

For a long time that was enough.

It drove me.

But eventually, it wasn’t.

And then I realized, when there is less asking for my attention — I have more of it to give.

And best of all, the things I give it to grow.

The fruits of my labors give me more energy than they used to when I starved them and gave them the same, dull, half-focus as everything else.

Instead of being overwhelmed, or consumed by my tasks, I choose only a few and I overwhelm them.

With energy left over.

How Would Your Life Be Different if you Had More Energy?

We have so many goals for our modern and happy lives: new promotions, businesses, and relationships — one stepping stone toward self-actualization to another.

But how often is your goal to have more energy?

More focus, more enthusiasm, bring more to less?

When you have more energy, you can do more things and you can do them well.

Having a high energy level is highly underrated, and not talked about as often as it should, and I think it’s because most people don’t have one.

Because most people give their attention away like it isn’t worth anything.

Don’t be like most people.

Eastern philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti once said,

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society.”

When I first read that it resonated with me.

And not even because of how things are now.

I grew up in the chain-smoking 90s-10s era of the Bible Belt of America, so I learned a lot in the very beginning just by looking around me and realizing I don’t want to…

look, think, feel, act, react, be

Like most people.

I later realized the world is a much wider place than the Midwest.

But at this point, you shouldn’t want to be like most people either.

It’s no measure of health.

We’re too normalized to being tired, wired, and stressed out all of the time.

The world is quaking right now because society is just figuring out that a 4-day workweek is more productive than a 5-day workweek.

Turns out, it doesn’t matter as much how much time you put into something.

It matters more what kind of time you put into something, because…

Not All Time is Equal

There is a very big difference in the quality of the focus and attention you give the things you do at the beginning of your day, versus the things that happen in the evening and at night — especially if you’re overworked like most people.

After all, there’s a reason why most jobs, despite their duties, take on the same 9–5-ish structure.

It’s the most efficient for harvesting the most valuable kind of time.

That time is most valuable.

And people don’t know it, so they willingly give it away.

What else do they give away that they don’t know is so valuable?

It’s hard to tell just how valuable this time is when you’re used to putting it towards the things you have to do each day and the ones that will get you the most reliable paycheck in return.

And each time you switch between tasks?

You pay the tax of task-switching.

And the more different the tasks, the greater the tax on your attention, willpower, and focus.

A full 8-hour day of what many are willing to accept as normal, divided by the tax of task switching, doesn’t leave much over for you or the few things that actually truly need your focus.

Sounds obvious written out, but it’s something you need to experience for yourself to really know the true value of your focused time.

Want to Experience This for Yourself?

Tomorrow wake up and work on the most important thing, the thing most deserving and needing of your undivided attention for 90 minutes.

Then the next day, work on it again but after 8 hours on something else.

There will be challenges in anything we choose to do or create, and when we give our highest quality attention first to what matters we have the tolerance and patience, and tenacity to push through them and extract wisdom from them…

And actually grow from our challenges.

Because we have more energy for them, not just to throw ourselves into action and hope for the best outcomes…

But actually, see a commitment through, and experience a process, so that we can actually actualize the outcome.

This is only possible when we eliminate the unnecessary.

Because the process takes energy.

And…

While Energy May Never Be Created Nor Destroyed, it Can Be Given Away and Invested in the Wrong Places

So, ask yourself, “Does this add to my life?”

And “If this went away, would I survive?”

If it does not, and you would…

Experiment with ruthless elimination of the unnecessary.

It won’t feel normal at first.

Even the word elimination sounds bad.

But you’ll find immediately that when you give your attention to less, you have far more attention and far more good to give.

Maybe more than you thought you did before.

It’s easy to lose touch with this part of yourself, and the source of your energy when you’re too used to life-as-usual.

And just going through the motions, walking talking, and appearing to be functioning like a normal human.

Meanwhile, our senses are getting dulled out, we accrue a tiredness that one good sleep doesn’t wash away, and we push the psychological ‘autopilot’ button a little too often reacting to life instead of responding to it.

That all changes when we ruthlessly eliminate the unnecessary and…

Show up Whole-heartedly for Fewer Things

When we give our attention away to everything and everyone, we have less for ourselves and half-heartedly experience our lives.

It’s like taking the resolution dial on life and turning it back, greying the colors, and lowering the volume…

Is that how you want to spend the time that is precious for you now?

Time you won’t get back?

When we spend time on what matters to us, but our cup is already near-empty, our senses are dulled, and we’re having trouble fully tuning in — we barely experience what we’re there for, let alone grow from it.

That’s why not all time is equal.

The first thing you give your focus to gets a very different version of you than the last thing you give your attention to.

Or the thing that pops up unexpectantly after that.

Or the one after that, where you’ve stepped beyond ‘sustainable’ and now you’re just running on pure adrenaline.

Far too many people are going to know what that feels like when they read that last sentence.

And that’s the problem.

And that’s why we have to remain vigilant and be ruthless with what we say no to.

It’s also why the greatest flow hack in the world is simply shutting yourself in a room first thing and not leaving until you finish what you need to do.

And the only real way to make sure your focus goes to what matters each day is not by not giving it to anything that doesn’t need it.

Not things that don’t deserve it, or don’t want it, but don’t actually need it.

Because there are always more things that want your time…

But only a few that need it and that you need.

For all other things, practice the ruthless elimination of the unnecessary.

Because if more things want your focus than you can give…

You’re Going to Drop Some of Them

So, just make sure you’re dropping the ones that you can afford to lose.

The best way to protect the ones you can’t afford to lose is with a strong offense.

With ruthless elimination of the unnecessary.

So what’s there, actually goes to what matters and it grows.

You weed a garden so it can grow.

You say no to all opportunities besides the few that you truly want so that you have enough energy for the full process they require and so that they can actually succeed.

You’re not eliminating everything else ruthlessly because you don’t want to focus on it…

Or because it isn’t fun, rewarding, or even potentially worthwhile…

You ruthlessly eliminate it, because destruction is the twin sister of creation.

And you get to choose where your focus goes.

So what’s going to get the axe today and what’s going to grow?

Want to Learn More About Focus?

Sign up for my newsletter Good Wisdom, and my Notion Wisdom Planner, free here and put more focus into what’s priority for you.

And if you liked this guide, comment or reach out to me on Twitter and let me know. Thanks!

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Colton Swabb
ILLUMINATION

Entrepreneur Advisor & Wisdom lover. You can read more and get my Notion Wisdom Planner for free here: https://www.wisdomwell.co