“Designing a simple life means having fewer distractions in your life, so you can focus on what matters. It’s about saying no to everything that gets in the way, but saying yes to what’s right for you.” ~ Melissa Camara Wilkins
What Is Required For A Simple Life?
“If less is more, then nothing is everything.” [CoachU]
What is required to live a simple life? Does it mean giving up all luxuries? Going “off the grid”? Giving up your job? Cleaning out your possessions?
Actually, it could mean that and does for some people – but it isn’t a requirement. Most of us could lead simpler lives and create more time, energy, and resources for pursuing the things that really matter.
For example, research shows that people who have shorter commutes generally have a higher sense of well-being. [Morin] Yet, the trend is to move further away from our jobs to the suburbs and larger and larger houses. Most of us would be happier living in a smaller house, closer to work, but we have been enculturated to think bigger is better and more is preferable.
So, one of the first steps to creating a simpler life is to become aware of what we really require to be at our best and what is unnecessary and perhaps even detrimental to creating our best life. Designing a simpler life “doesn’t just mean throwing out all the things. It’s not about a life of most, it’s not about a life of least, it’s about the life that’s right for you. You don’t have to get rid of things just for the sake of getting rid of them. You remove what you don’t need (in your home, in your thoughts, in your schedule) to make room for the life you want to live.” [Wilkins]
If you feel you are spending too much time, money, and energy in acquiring things or experiences that are not adding to your well-being and perhaps are even detracting from your ability to live a joyous and meaningful life, then consider how you can begin paring away at the complexity and devoting more of yourself and your resources to the things that matter most. Here are some suggestions for simplifying in certain areas. Use these as a way to get your own creative ideas flowing.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” ~ William Morris
Can The Clutter. The average American spends 16 – 30 minutes per day looking for lost or misplaced articles. Have a home for everything and keep things in their homes.
Develop or adopt a simple filing system and use it.
Cancel subscriptions to magazines and catalogs you no longer use. Get on a Do Not Mail list.
If you use specific tools in more than one place, keep duplicates close to each area they are needed. Keep tools close to where you use them.
Use my “a PLACE for everything and everything in it’s PLACE” method:
P = Purge. When you start a decluttering project, first get rid of anything that is obviously trash. Recycle old magazines, catalogs and newspapers. Toss anything you haven’t used in a year or more (except for legal documents and tax records).
L = Like with like. Know where each object lives and keep it in it’s house when you aren’t using it. Keep like things together. Before you bring something new home, decide where it will live. If it has brothers and sisters, it can live with them.
A = Access. Keep items you use frequently close at hand. You can store items you use only occasionally further away or in those difficult to reach areas. If you use tools or supplies (pens, scissors, notepads, recycle bins, cleaning supplies, etc.) in multiple locations, keep one of each tool or item at each location.
C = Contain. Find ways to store items that make them easy to see and identify. This could include using a clear storage bin to contain items, hanging file folders that are clearly labeled, and drawer dividers that keep small items in place. A word of caution: When a collection outgrows its container, weed the collection – don’t get another container.
E = Evaluate. Before you begin organizing a room, take time to plan the space. Evaluate the different activities you do in the room or space you are organizing and set up “centers” for the activities. Keep the supplies and equipment you’ll need for the activity stored in the appropriate Center. The purpose for organizing is to give space to the objects you use most and to clear out the clutter. Without a plan, you’ll end up merely re-arranging the clutter (at best).
Or Eliminate. Instead of mindlessly performing a task or chore the same way you’ve always done it, pay attention. Are there steps you can combine to streamline the process? Are there steps that you don’t need to do anymore? Maybe they were important at one time, but over time they’ve lost their meaning or importance? Then consider this: Do you even need to perform this task or chore any more? Can the entire task be eliminated?
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” ~ Rumi
Focus on your most important tasks. Start your day by listing your 3 most important tasks for the day. These are the 3 three things you most want or need to accomplish today. They are tasks that have the most positive or negative consequences if they are not done. Of course you’ll do more than 3 things in a day, but do everything you can to be sure that the 3 most important tasks for the day are completed first.
Prioritize. You already have more to do than you can get done. Once you accept this fact, you can see the importance of prioritizing your tasks. If you use the “most important task” step, you have begun to prioritize. For those lower-priority tasks, look for ways to combine jobs, streamline, delegate, or eliminate altogether.
Use single-tasking. Research increasingly shows that multitasking (jumping from task to task) is counterproductive. It takes more time to switch between tasks than it does to complete one task, then a 2nd, then a 3rd, etc. At the heart of the matter is the fact that there is no such thing as “multitasking”, if we mean concentrating on several things at the same time. Computers don’t do it . . . neither do brains. During multitasking, either in a single-processor computer or in our brains, processing jumps from one task to another, so quickly it seems that all tasks are being processed at the same time. But the fact is, the processing is jumping from one task to another. And the “jumping” part, the switching between tasks, requires some amount of time. Computers do this very rapidly . . . the brain is a lot slower. So to get more done, do 1 thing at a time.
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Simplify your eating habits. Popping a processed meal in the microwave may seem like a way to save time, but at what cost to your health? If you want to improve your diet and boost your nutrition, begin adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals. If you want to cut calories, fat, and sugar, begin adding more fresh fruits and vegetables. By simplifying your diet, you can cut preparation time, lower your food bill, and feel better by eating foods that are nutrient dense.
Turn off things. Create periods of silence so that your mind can relax and function better Practice solitude on a daily basis. Having a time of contemplation and reflection can help you think more deeply. To sit quietly and allow your thoughts to go deeply into a subject can yield insights and truths that might otherwise take years to learn, if ever. Our modern world doesn’t always seem a welcoming place for contemplation, for sitting quietly with your thoughts. By being constantly on the go, by constantly doing, we miss the benefits that come through reflection and contemplation. Make time for reflection and contemplation by leaving the TV, radio, phone, iPad, or computer off for a time.
Take a walk. Here is a slogan I’ve heard quite a few times recently: “Sitting is the new smoking.” The human body was evolved to move but consider how little movement we do in an average day. Instead, we have “sitting disease” and it is literally killing us. According to some statistics, 300,000 deaths annually in the US can be attributed to inactivity and poor diet. Yet one of the best exercises, and the simplest, is walking. You don’t need to join a gym or drop a bundle on fancy equipment. You only need a good pair of walking shoes and comfortable clothes. A pedometer is handy but not essential. Try for 10,000 steps each day. Studies show that this number of steps can lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular fitness. Of course, 10,000 steps isn’t the magic number and may not be right for everyone. (10,000 steps may be too many for someone who has been sedentary for years, or not enough for someone who wants to lose weight.) The point here is that there is a simple way to begin adding healthful activity to your daily routine.
“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” ~ Nelson Mandela
The 3 Questions. This is a way to help plan your day. At the beginning of the day, ask and answer these 3 questions:
What is important about today?
What must get done today?
What is important about the future?
Play the Zero Sum Game. Periodically, step back and look at everything you have to do. Ask yourself, “If I were to take this on today, knowing what I now know, would I still accept it?” Look at each of the roles you fulfill and ask the same question: “If I were to start this role today, knowing what I now know, would I still take it on?” If your answer to any commitment, obligation or role is “No. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t start this today”, then begin making plans immediately to hand it off or give it up or otherwise get out.
Limit TV. Television easily adds to the clutter of your mind. Make your TV watching intentional. Choose the programs you want to watch and only turn the set on during that time. (Or record it to watch on your own schedule.) Set a limit on the number of hours you watch each week. If you are short of time, here is where most people can add several hours a week simply by reducing the amount of TV they watch.
“Get a fulfilling life, not just an impressive lifestyle.” ~ Thomas Leonard
Use a simplified approach to simplifying. According to Leo Babauta, author of The Power Of Less, there are only 2 steps needed for simplifying anything. 1) Identify what’s most important to you. 2) Eliminate everything else. [Babauta]
Do what is necessary and no more. Realize that not everything has to be 100%. Many things are fine at 95%, 90% or even 80%. Understand and use the law of diminishing returns. Will it be worth the extra time it takes to get that last 5 – 10% perfect? Don’t spend time doing things that nobody values. (If you don’t know — ask.)
Use routines and habits. Use the power of habit and routine to simplify aspects of your life, particularly in the area of self-care. Create an energizing morning routine to get yourself up and moving or create a relaxing evening routine to get yourself relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep. Set up other routines to help you complete daily or weekly tasks. Routines followed again and again over time become habit. Habits allow you to accomplish with a minimum of effort or even thought.
This list is meant to be an idea starter, a menu that you select one or two items from, not a to-do list. Remember the main thing is to pick one idea or concept and stick with it until you’ve mastered it and it becomes second nature. That is the way to simplify simplifying. And that is Excelerating.
Excelerated Simplicity™ — freeing yourself from unnecessary complexity — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Leo Babauta, “Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life”, September 5, 2007, May 22, 2016
Coach U, Inc. Coach U’s Essential Coaching Tools. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005
Miedaner, Talane. Coach Yourself To Success. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Books, 2000
Amy Morin, “Want To Be Happier? Change Your Commute Or Change Your Attitude”, December 7, 2014, May 22, 2016
Melissa Camara Wilkins, “How to Design a Simple Life”, June 1, 2015, May 22, 2016 http://nosidebar.com/design-a-simple-life/