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Less is more

Illustration by Val Brains

The Best List is the Easiest List

Written By Val Brains | Mar 27, 2019

I always have my eye out for a good decision-making framework, the simpler the better. Imagine my good fortune when this organizational treat from illustrator Julia Rothman fell from heaven directly into my Instagram feed.

Of course I immediately began composing my own LESS/MORE list for 2019. In the past month it has undergone a few rewritings but here is the most recent version:

In case you can’t read my terrible handwriting, the lists are as follows (subject to additional change/addition as the year continues):

LESS: judgement; doubt; negative thinking/assuming the worst; comparison
MORE: gardening; sex; money; sales (as in of books, not like dresses on sale or something equally horrible); treats; affection; exercise; socializing; strategy; dancing; dogs; stopping to appreciate past progress; letting people help; people whose work i really like; flowers

I’m not sharing my intimate list thoughts with you just so you know how many things I want – I’m suggesting it as a good planning framework that you might like to try it yourself. Just because January has passed and you escaped without saddling yourself with un-keepable resolutions doesn’t mean it’s too late to plan some excellent things for your year!

The structure is pretty simple: Less on one side and More on the other. I made the “Less” side narrower because there are fewer things I want less of, but you can do it however you like.

First, the obvious question: Why write it down?
For the science reason you can take it from leadership author Mark Murphy, who writes that you are more likely to remember information you generate yourself (vs reading it), which you do twice with Less/More: once when you think of the content of your list, and again when you choose to write it down. For the conceptual reason you can take it from me: writing something down and allowing it to exist physically where either you have to look at it or someone could (gasp!) stumble upon it is a way of intentionally exposing yourself. I’ve made a habit of announcing things I want to accomplish (be they work-related or otherwise) to other people so that they hold me accountable. Keeping a Less/More list is the first step of this process – the first member of your audience is yourself.

Where to keep your Less/More?
So far I’ve carried my list in my bag to facilitate adding things to it on the go, as we all know the ideas come when driving or bike riding (or in the shower). Once I feel it is more or less complete, I’ll do it up super small in InDesign and get it printed on a couple cards, one for my wallet and one for my desk. From there it will get faded and probably spilled on and maybe added to throughout the year.

What to add to it?
You may have noticed most of the items on my list cannot be classified as work-related (there’s one in particular that you should definitely not mix with work – can you guess which??). I’ve long felt we spend too much time prioritizing the work-related parts of our lives to the detriment of the other parts (the ones that make our lives worth living). If we give all of our desires the same status and keep them on the same small Less/More list we get a complete view of what we really want to move towards. Bottom line: Don’t be shy about adding items that feel too personal – they’re not.

When to add to it?
When you get to do something fun and say to yourself, “I should do that more often,” or you do something that is not fun and say, “I never want to do that again!”… that’s the perfect time to add it to your Less/More. That’s also why it’s a good idea to have it on you so you can add easily.

What is my list missing?
Do you have any notable entries under either Less or More that we should be aware of? Comment below!

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