We all lead busy lives. Whatever you do or wherever you live, undoubtedly, you’ve got a lot going on. Everyone does. Sometimes, rising up above all that noise can be difficult. And with so much going on, how are we supposed to simplify our lives? What are some of the best methods for cutting out all the meaningless stuff that takes up a large portion of our time?
Clearly, if you want to simplify your life, it’s not going to be easy. Often, you need to make some difficult decisions, and ensure that you effectively manage your time so that you’re looking after the things that really count. But, how do we do all of that? How do we know what we’re supposed to focus on and where our time is really going?
Aside from utilizing an effective time management system, simplifying your life includes several other methods that will help you achieve the results that you’re after. Implement one, or implement many, it all depends on how committed you are to simplifying your life. Like anything else, it takes time and you won’t see results overnight, but they will be worth it.
How to Simplify Your Life
What you need to determine at the outset is what things matter to you most. What aren’t you willing to live without? What are you willing to give up or sacrifice? What’s been bogging you down in the past? But this isn’t just about getting rid of the physical “stuff”; this is also about dealing with mental and emotional baggage that could be holding you back.
Mental and emotional baggage creates clutter in your mind. When the mind is too cluttered, it has difficulty focusing on the things that really matter. When that’s the case, it’s next to impossible to simplify your life because you’re so hung up on things in the past or fretting about the future that you have difficulty dealing with what’s happening in the here-and-now.
Getting rid of that baggage is hard. Sometimes, certain relationships can cause us undue stress, resulting in that very turmoil that we tend to feel on a daily basis. So, what do we do? How do we extricate ourselves from the worry, anxiety, and fears? Can we really simplify our lives with a few simple methods or steps?
The short answer is yes and no. Yes, it’s possible. No, it’s not easy. But, then again, nothing in life that’s worthwhile will come easy. But, if you create a plan and you work that plan, over time, you can simplify your life if you’re committed enough to it. The hard part? Not throwing in that proverbial towel when the going gets tough.
#1 — Shift Gears
The first method for simplifying your life involves shifting gears. Often, when we’re constantly revving the engine of life, we’re in danger of redlining. Operating at such a high velocity brings on a number of different complications. Anytime we live our lives at one extreme or another, this tends to happen, and the only way out is to simply downshift gears.
This isn’t just a metaphor. There’s a real way to downshift. It doesn’t mean you have to live life in neutral; it just means you don’t have to live at extremes. Take an inventory of your life. You already know the things that are stressing you out or overwhelming you. The important thing to do is to write them out on paper in front of you.
Why write things out? There’s a dramatic shift that occurs when you bring things out from the abstract into the real world. What are the things bogging you down? Other people? Obligations? Substances like alcohol or prescription drugs? Be completely honest with yourself. Lay it all out on paper where you can see it. Let it stare back at you. Then, make some tough decisions.
What’s it time to get rid of? Where can you cut the excess fat out of your life? What can you stop doing that will help you relax and give you more peace of mind? Put some careful thought into this and make a plan towards its attainment.
#2 — Assess Your Values
Our values strongly influence what we think, say, and do. Our beliefs, our experiences, and even our relationships are a result of our values. What you need to determine is, what do you value the most? What’s the most important to you in life? Is it honor? Is it honesty? Is it adventure? Is it God? Allah? Buddha?
By assessing your values, not only can you determine what’s most important to you, but you can also use that knowledge to simplify your life on a number of different fronts. For example, if you value your children at the top of the list, but you’ve made little time for them in the past, how can you rearrange your schedule to give them a bigger part of you?
Go through your values and jot down the top 3 things you value. Be sure to put some careful thought into it. Why do you value those things? Why are they most important to you? What meaning do you attribute to them? Use that information to organize your chaotic life. Where are your values not lining up with your goals?
For example, the person that values honesty over everything but is employed in a cut-throat profession that involves high-stakes poker-style transactions that can include lies, deceit, and backstabbing, will have a hard time finding peace of mind in life. Why? Values and goals don’t add up. You can’t value one thing, but be involved in something that doesn’t synchronize with that. It just doesn’t work.
See what’s at the top of your list, and make some changes in your life. What can you do to sync up your life with your values? How can you simplify things so that you feel more at ease, mentally speaking? If you’re committed enough, you’ll find a way.
#3 — Declutter Your Home
Physical clutter bogs down the mind, just like mental clutter does. In a study conducted at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, researchers determined that clutter in one’s environment directly affects their ability to focus on the task at hand. When we lose the ability to focus, life can get complicated to say the least. Our to-do list balloons while our stress-levels shoot through the roof.
If decluttering seems overwhelming to you, take it little by little. Start small. Begin in one space and declutter for 15 minutes. If you have to, set a timer on your smartphone or another device. Promise yourself just 15 minutes. That’s all it takes. After 15 minutes, if you feel you can keep going, then do it. If not, stop and start again the next day.
Decluttering for just 15 minutes is important because it does a few things: 1) it breaks the bad habit of procrastination, 2) it helps to build momentum, 3) it initiates behavior that could likely grow into a full-blown habit over time. But also, the removal of that clutter will help to free your mind a little bit and allow it to focus on the things that matter.
When there’s clutter and we can’t focus, our life seems far more complicated. There are many weights just weighing us down. Get rid of the clutter so you can simplify things in your life.
#4 — Write a Mission Statement
Sometimes, when we have so many goals and dreams, it’s hard to have one particular direction. We’re pulled in so many ways that it can get overwhelming. No matter how many goals you might have, beyond all of that is having a mission statement. Yes, a mission statement. Companies do it. Why shouldn’t you?
So, what are the benefits of having a mission statement? Your mission statement will help you to simplify and reduce everything in your life down to one very important paragraph. This is similar to assessing your values, but goes a little bit beyond that. Sure, you need to know your values first. But, it’s your mission statement that will give your life direction.
How does this work? Think about how a company writes a mission statement. They think about what it is that they do, whom they do it for, and why they do it. Use the same approach to create your personal mission statement. What are you doing in life? What’s your major goal or focus? How are you doing it? Why are you doing it? And what values does it carry for you?
Once you create a mission statement, you can look at all of your major problems from that perspective. When you have the choice of doing one thing or another, weigh that choice through the eyes of your mission statement. How much does it help you to fulfill your mission in life?
#5 — Meditate
One easy way to simplify your life is to meditate. Meditating is one of the best habits you can develop. It involves quieting the mind, and breaking free from all the noise. It’s a way to spiritually center and ground yourself, realizing the metaphysical potential that comes through the power of solitude through thought.
While meditation isn’t an easy habit to develop, like anything else, it gets easier over time. Channel your inner strength and energy into establishing a routine that will help you simplify your life by simplifying your mind.
Carve out 15 minutes in the morning. Find a place where you can enjoy some isolated time. Quiet your mind and focus on your breathing. Feel your spiritual energy grounded into the earth. Feel the oneness that binds us all.
#6 — Utilize the Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20-Rule, states that 80% of the results comes from 20% of the efforts. Often, a big source of frustration is when we have so much to do with so little time. Tack on the small amount of progress we feel like we make on a daily basis and it’s enough to drive any person almost crazy.
However, the Pareto Principle can help simplify things by helping you produce more results in the same amount of time you already have. The hard part? Figuring out where the 20% of your efforts that are producing the 80% of your results are coming from, and scaling that out. To do that, you need to be highly analytic of your efforts. And to do that, you need to meticulously track everything.
While having to track things might seem like a lot of work at the outset, and not necessarily a simplification of your life, it’s the means to the end that we’re after here. Once you figure out where the 20% of your efforts that are producing 80% of your results are coming from, precisely, and scale that out, it will be far easier to produce the results that you’re after on a massive scale.
#7 — Practice Being Present
Being present and living in the moment isn’t quite that simple. Anyone who’s tried it can definitely attest to that fact. Often, we’re bogged down by so much stress, anxiety, and fear that we label as “concerns,” that it’s difficult to focus on anything else. We’re so busy worrying about the past or playing out our fears for the future that we forget about the here-and-now.
But being present is probably one of the quickest routes for simplifying your life. It’s one of the best methods for letting things go and just living in the moment. There will always be problems in our lives. There will always be something to worry or fret about. But we won’t always be around to enjoy life and what it feels like to just be alive.
Literally, just take a walk and smell the roses. Find a park or a lake or a beach and just walk around. Observe the sky, the birds, the people, the houses, the smells, the sounds, and everything else all around you. Live in the moment. Just experience it without the need to judge or let your mind wander off into its tailspin of behavior.
It’s not easy. Especially after decades of worrying about every little thing. But it’s well worth it. Like any other habit, the habit of being present can be built up over time with practice. Don’t expect it to unfold overnight.
#8 — Contribute Your Time
Contribution of your time and energy might sound like the exact opposite of a way to simplify your life. However, contributing offers a change in focus, especially when we contribute to help those that are lesser off in life.
Contribution is an important facet of life. It’s our duty as human beings to contribute to others. And, that contribution of time and energy forces a reorganization of daily priorities. It also offers up a shift in focus. We stop being so centered on our needs and begin to focus on the needs of others. When we do that, we tend to realize what we have rather than what we don’t.
Contribution of your time doesn’t have to take up a majority of your week or even day. It’s all about the simple little things that you can do for other people to assist them in their times of need. Where can you be of service? Ask yourself that question every day and seek out opportunities to contribute your time.
#9 — Express Gratitude
Most of the time, we’re focused on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. When we focus on what we don’t have, we live in a state of lack. When we focus on what we do have, we live in a state of abundance. There are plenty of people out there who literally are living in a state of lack: famine, disease, poverty, homelessness, oppression, abuse, and more.
By expressing gratitude on a daily basis, we can move from that state of lack to a state of abundance. We can always think about the things we don’t have, but how often are we grateful for the things that we do have?
Gratitude can simplify your life by putting your mind more at ease. When we stop wanting things incessantly and start focusing on appreciating the things we have, we gain a mental advantage. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have goals or aspirations, just that we should also appreciate what we presently have in life.
#10 — Manage Your Time Effectively
Effective time management is a skill that most of us lack. We’re usually busy responding to stimuli rather than organizing our days and properly managing our time. We also tend to engage in a lot of time-wasting activities such as endlessly surfing the Web or binge-watching our favorite television shows, and so on.
However, by managing your time in an effective manner, you can move away from the complications that arise and tackle things head on. You won’t be living in reactionary mode; you’ll be taking things head on and knowing what to expect.
Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with not procrastinating. When we procrastinate, we don’t simplify our lives, we make them more complex. Putting things off never helps, especially when those things have impending deadlines that can result in a lot of long-term pain if not handled in an expeditious manner.
Take the time to simplify your life by instituting an effective time management system and stomp out procrastination once and for all.