The Mother of all Power Tools

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 15, Issue No. 9b
January 15, 2017

By Dan Coughlin


We buy power tools to increase our efficiency and effectiveness. We do this for our personal lives, we do this for our work groups, and we do this for our organizations. Oftentimes, power tools are devices like smartphones, video conferencing, self-propelled lawn mowers, and on and on. They have become cheaper to buy and easier to use.

However, the mother of all power tools is not a device, but rather a belief. It’s the belief in the power of simplifying our lives.

When we simplify our lives, we increase our chances of being efficient and effective because we’re not letting our time and energy and talents to be dissipated over a ton of unnecessary things.

Here are some ways you might consider simplifying your life.

Simplify Your Stuff

I’m a keeper of memories.

I keep notes and little mementos and books and tapes and CDs and DVDs and audio cassettes and video cassettes from a wide range of life experiences. Over the past 35 years I’ve collected and held on to boxes and boxes of things and more than 300 books. About every two years I pull all of my stuff off of shelves in my house and empty the boxes on to my bed. Then I force myself to look at every item and decide if I really want to keep it. I go through every book on my bookshelves and ask myself if I still want it. A few days ago I got rid of four boxes of stuff, three bags of paper, and about 60 audio cassettes and 40 video cassettes, which was good because I no longer have an audio cassette or video cassette player. You can donate music and books to your local library, and they can resell them and the money goes to the library.

It’s amazing how that activity freed up space in my brain and space in my house.

Simplify Your Spending

It’s wonderful how much stress we take out of our system when we stop spending beyond our means. When we save money and refuse to buy things that we don’t have the money to pay for, we simplify our lives. Personal debt complicates our lives. Saving money simplifies our lives.

Several years ago I worked with a client I couldn’t stand because I absolutely needed the money as the world economy almost collapsed in 2008 – 2010. I took on a project that was a nightmare, but paid pretty well.

From that I learned the enormous value of simplifying my spending. When you live within your means you don’t have to take on work that you can’t stand. You get to work with only the kind of people you want to work with. It’s amazing how nice an old car can look when it’s all paid off.

Look at where your money goes. Where can you simplify your spending?

Simplify What You Eat and Drink

Sugar, grease, and dough have a way of taking over our lives. It’s incredible how fast cookies, brownies, ice cream, cupcakes, candy, pizza, and beer can work together to complicate our health in ways that eat up, no pun intended, our energy.

Like a tsunami gaining momentum, bad eating habits can overwhelm the benefits of any past diet. Simplifying our eating habits is a daily challenge for many of us, but the benefits can be tremendous in terms of increased efficiency and effectiveness.

Simplify Your Relationships

When you carry bad relationships (defined as someone who drives you crazy and where you feel worse off after you see him or her as opposed to before you see him or her) around, it’s like carrying a giant backpack of rocks everywhere you go.

Do yourself an enormous favor.

Look at the non-family relationships in your life. Those are the people you hang around with by choice. If you identify one, or more, of those relationships that is eating up your time and energy in a negative way, then just quietly slip out of the relationship and move on. Don’t make a big deal about it. That would eat up even more of your time and energy. Just move on without that person in your regular routine.

Simplify Any Loose Ends

If there is anything you are doing in your life that you think is slightly wrong and is causing you to lose sleep at night, just simply clean it up. If you cheat on your travel expenses by fifty dollars a month or you do something that bothers you and it feels like a child tugging on your coat all the time wanting to tell you something, then acknowledge it within yourself and stop doing it. Cleaning up those loose ends can allow you to sleep better at night, and can free up more time and energy for you to be more efficient and more effective every day.

Simplify Your Website

Okay, one more. Since almost every organization no matter how big or how small it is has a website, I encourage you to consider simplifying your website. I have a theory that simpler websites are better than complicated websites.

Think of a website like a soda machine. You walk up, you look at the options, and you press a button. Very simple. How simple is your website?

One of my favorite websites is Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world, and you can see everything they have to offer on their website like you’re walking up to a soda machine and pushing a button.


The mother of all power tools is to simplify your life. This will allow you to focus on the things you really want to focus on and apply your strengths and passions in a way that will really make a significant difference in the world.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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