Take a trip with me for just a moment. Let’s go back a few decades to a time when everything was simpler. A time where your email inbox is empty because it doesn’t exist. An era without cell phones to serve as virtual ball-and-chains and enslave us. A place where children go outside to play and have fun. Truly, a golden age when life was just far more simple, right?
Yeah, I have no clue. I’m a millennial, so I’ve only read history books about these supposed “simpler times.” It all sounds like quite a lovely fairy tale though! Lately it seems like a lot of people are dreaming of simplifying their life to be more like the “good ol’ days.” It just seems so hard to attain with the ever-increasing amount of things to do, obligations to fulfill, and people to satisfy in our ever-increasingly busy lives.
I’ve found this struggle to be very true for myself as well, and usually feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole with tasks and obligations that complicate my life. Get rid of one, and two more take its place. Unfortunately, there are a lot of complexities in this modern age that are just simply unavoidable. For instance, new technology will always be coming out, and you will have to learn how to use it or get left behind.
So what can you do when life is constantly throwing you inescapable obligations that are out of your control? All you really can do, and should do, is focus on what you can control. Be the captain of your ship and steer yourself towards a destiny that you desire.
Below I will cover 13 key strategies (in no particular order) that I’ve found unbelievably invaluable to simplifying my own life. You can think of each method below as being like a cheat code to win at life. Once you realize how much power you have to control your destiny, things will begin to be much simpler. But remember, simplifying your life is an active choice that you must make.
Learn To Say No
By saying “yes” to something, we’re automatically saying “no” to other potential opportunities. It’s important to choose carefully what we say “yes” to. All too often, we tend to say yes to something because it’s the path of least resistance, or feel somehow pressured.
Just the other day I was at a Home Owner’s Association meeting (kill me now) and somehow got volunteered to research something. Why on earth did I let this happen to myself when most people in the HOA are retired and have little to nothing going on? I’ve now committed myself to probably a few hours of research, just because I’m too nice and said yes. I will say no next time.
Saying “no” isn’t just about rejecting tasks or unnecessary commitments. Learn to say no to toxic people. Say no to the drama that others might try to bring you into. Don’t obligate yourself to a commitment you don’t want to. Say no to the things that drain your energy. Say no to the things that don’t make you happy. Find more ways to say no, and you’ll soon be saying yes to the things that matter most.
Focus On The Important
Our lives are crazy busy and it’s easy for the to-do list to get unmanageable at times. Hopefully if you embrace the above tip and begin saying “no” more often, your list will start to get shorter. But how do we decide what to do next on our list after that? The simple, “not-so-simple” answer, is to address the important items first. I know, I know, you wouldn’t have the item on your to-do list if it wasn’t important, right?
I would argue otherwise. Remember, if everything is important, then nothing is important. If you really dig deep and evaluate most of the things you spend time on, how many of them are truly important? If it doesn’t bring value to your life or move you closer to a goal, then it’s probably not too important.
Be Productive, Not Busy
See if this sounds familiar: Person A asks, “Hey, how’s it going?” and Person B responds with something like, “Good! Just suuuper busy.” As if that’s a good thing?
Everyone I know is always “so busy” all the time. Life is more complex these days, but what are we all so busy with all of the time? There’s still the same number of hours in the day as there ever has been. The only thing that changes is how we choose to spend those hours. Being busy can be a good thing if it yields a productive outcome, but too many people are busy just for the sake of being busy.
The time that we are busy should be focused on achieving a particular result or outcome. Focus your effort to complete an important project you started. Learn that new skill that will help you get to the next level in your career. Do that home improvement project that will make every day more amazing for you.
Remember, you don’t have to be “busy” every moment of the day to be productive. Sometimes having downtime or flex time can help make sure you have sufficient availability and energy to maximize your productivity.
Unclutter Your Environment
Many sources show that there is a known link between physical clutter and feeling anxious, depressed, and stressed. It’s impossible to be your best and most productive self if your environment isn’t set up for success.
Uncluttering your home and work areas will remove unnecessary distractions and increase your efficiency. There’s also a great sense of pride and joy when you’re surrounded by the things in your life that you truly value. Why would you keep things around that don’t bring you joy? Things like that will only hold you back. Take the Marie Kondo approach, and find the items in your life that spark joy.
A lot of justification for keeping things often comes from the “I might need this someday” mentality. But if clutter is a source of stress, wouldn’t it make sense to just remove the clutter, rather than stress over keeping and organizing it? You can save yourself time that would have been wasted organizing, and also the money you’d probably spend on new storage containers.
I read somewhere once that our physical environment is like a reflection of our state of mind. Does your environment match your ideal state of mind? If not, then it’s time to make a change.
Let Go Of The Past
Let it gooo, let it gooo, can’t hold it back anymo… Er sorry, sometimes I get so passionate about this stuff that I start singing Disney songs, apparently. This entry in the list is probably a no-brainer and among the most common advice you will find from anyone or anywhere online. It’s on the list because the importance cannot be understated.
If we waste energy on events that have already passed and can never change, we leave ourselves no energy for the present to create a better future. I myself have struggled with “letting go” for many years, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s an easy thing to do. It’s damn hard to do. But it’s also damn important to do it, and immensely rewarding.
If you feel that you’ve hit a dead end in trying to leave the past behind on your own, you owe it to yourself to get help from a professional. Your future self will thank you for it.
Admittedly, I’m super guilty of this one myself and actively striving to change, but it’s a work in progress! There are plenty of instances in life where aiming for perfection is great and absolutely the right thing to do, but far too often we strive for perfection on things that don’t matter at all.
Think back to your school days… If you have a 91 in a course at the end of the semester, then there’s no point in completing an extra credit assignment to boost your grade. The 91 will give the same 4.0 GPA as any higher score. Instead that energy could be put into another class, or maybe just giving you the night off to recharge your batteries.
It’s OK that your hair/makeup isn’t perfect when you leave home (it’s probably going to get messed up somehow anyway). It’s OK for a relationship to not be “perfect” all the time, seeing as we’re all only human. It’s OK that your blog post isn’t totally perfect, just post it anyway (I’m still working on that).
Be More Proactive
When we are proactive, we are taking a greater level of control over the outcome of a situation. It’s not always guaranteed, but at least the sense of control will remain regardless. Problems are far easier to deal with when they don’t exist, thanks to being proactive.
In many cases, being proactive may also save us money too. For example, it’s relatively cheap to do routine preventative maintenance on a vehicle. Alternatively, our car could strand us, have to be towed, leave us without transportation for weeks during repair, and stick us with expensive repair bills. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just do the maintenance?
If you can’t control something, then it’s out of your hands so don’t worry about it. If you are able to control something, then you have nothing to worry about. Basically, no matter the situation, there’s no reason to waste precious energy on worrying.
Worrying is not only an ineffective use of our time, but it also adds to our stress, which can manifest as health issues, and ultimately cost us more time and money. Things won’t always go the way that we hope or want them to, but if we spend more energy on the things we can control, we’re less likely to worry anyway.
Being proactive, as mentioned in the above section, is a great way to channel your worrisome energy to create a positive outcome. The greater your feeling of control over your life, the less you will find yourself needing to worry about things that can’t be controlled. Let life unfold as it will, control what you are able, and let the rest be what it will be.
Ask For Help
Many of us seem to have an irrational fear of asking for help. On the flip side, we’re also quick to turn down offers of help when we probably need it. Why do we do this to ourselves?
People naturally need help. This world isn’t optimized for solo acts to find great success, and that’s OK! The outputs of two (or more) people working together can be greater than the total that they could collectively achieve independently.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you need help, ask for it, and accept it. Our friends and family will be there for us when we need them the most. Just be sure to return the favor when they need help!
Watch Less TV
The key word here is less. I firmly believe that having time to veg and engage in mindless activities like watching TV is utterly crucial to our health and ability to be productive.
Streaming services make it so easy to watch without stopping. No commercials, skipped intros and credits, jumping straight to the next episode without having to hit a single button… now that’s automation! But with great (automation) power, comes great responsibility… or something like that.
I find it easiest to dedicate a specific block of time every day to watching shows. When you hold yourself to a consistent block of time every day, it’s easier to stop yourself when time is up. Try this the next time you sit down, and see how many days you can do it in a row. Before you know it, you’ll have a consistent block of time, and probably freed up some extra time to do something else!
Also if you watch the news on TV… just stop it. Seriously, you can get the same information online for free in a matter of minutes if you really need it.
Remove Toxic People From Your Life
You’ve probably heard the idea that we all are the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with, which is a crazy concept, but it makes sense to an extent. I can’t say I fully buy into the idea, but it’s clear that there’s a distinct connection between the person we are, and the people that are close to us. We are likely to share some of the qualities and characteristics of the individuals we keep close in our life.
To that end, it’s no surprise that some of the most successful people attribute their success to surrounding themselves with successful people. Success breeds more success. The opposite is often true as well. A lot of us have toxic and draining people in our lives that we keep too close, and are influenced by a little too much.
It’s time to really evaluate the people you keep close and spend the most time around. Life is much simpler when you don’t have to deal with toxicity and undue drama. The parasites that drain you have got to go, and should be replaced with people that can help bring you to new heights.
Don’t Answer Every Call/Text/Email
Experiment: throw your phone in a drawer for a few days and forget about it, then see what happens. Believe it or not, the world won’t come to an end, and you’ll probably find yourself with way more free time!
We’ve all become slaves to our literal ball-and-chain cellular devices. We are always connected, and always expected to respond to calls, texts, and emails. Stop doing that! You are literally letting your life be controlled by others’ requests for your time and attention. Choose to respond when you want. Answer the call only if you feel like it. Ignore the email for a while and odds are it will resolve itself anyway.
My own personal policy is to answer no calls outside of immediate family (with a few exceptions), respond to texts in bulk whenever I feel like it (usually within a day), and only touch emails after at least a full day has passed where the issue hasn’t sorted itself out. I can’t begin to tell you how incredible it feels to make your device work for you instead of the other way around. Give it a shot and experience freedom for yourself!
Ditch Social Media And The Endless Scroll
As I just explained above… stop being a slave to your phone! Social Media is another incredible time-waster that many of us fall victim to. What’s worse about social media, and why it has it’s own entry in our list separate from the other phone-related items, is because of it’s infinite nature. I’m talking about the “endless scroll.”
Social Media has been specifically engineered to keep you as engaged as possible, for as long as possible. One of the ways this is accomplished is through the endless scroll functionality, which allows you to zoom through and enjoy content, forever. It’s easy to spend countless minutes or even hours just swiping up, up, and away.
Like most things on this list, the key is moderation. However, in the case of social media, if you’re like me, you’ll find it very difficult to moderate for yourself. The easiest way to do so is to just remove the apps, and never look back. The only times I use social media now are for purposes of Get Automated, and I have to log in each time. By placing barriers, I ensure that I’m not tempted to randomly start scrolling again.
Try ditching Social Media for a week and see just how much time you get back!
This list is not exhaustive, but we hope it provides you some ideas and inspiration to start simplifying your life.
I’d recommend not trying to implement too many of these ideas at once, as it could be too overwhelming and make things worse. Instead try one at a time, and do it consistently for a while before trying another. The real key to retaining the benefits is consistency.
Let us know below what things you’ve done to simplify your life!