Here lately I’ve been yearning for a simpler life. This is pretty normal for me. I tend to put off getting organized or culling stuff from my life until it reaches a boiling point of frustration and then I go into “purge” mode where I start getting rid of stuff. I’m just about there.
However, this time I’ll try to take a more methodical approach. My wife and kids will appreciate this as they have witnessed far too many Saturday afternoon meltdowns when I couldn’t find something in the garage and go on a three-hour cleaning spree. I’ve started looking for tips to simplify my life, and implementing those a few at a time until things feel more orderly.
Photo courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt
Simple Ways to Simplify Your Life
Clear a thinking space. When our space is cluttered, our mind is cluttered. This step is one that I have put off and sort of tolerated living without until I started trying to organize thoughts on paper. I’ve lived with a messy office and a messy desk for quite a while, and found organization in my clutter (I usually only lost things after cleaning up). But I have discovered writing in a cluttered environment jumbles my thoughts. Remove anything from your space that is distracting. Clear surfaces of clutter. File papers and documents that no longer require your attention. Adopt a one-touch system and force yourself to take action, shred, or file something the first time it touches your hands.
Just say “no.” It’s only two letters, but it is often the most difficult word to say in the English language, especially for “pleasers.” But saying no gracefully is key to simplifying your life because it allows to focus our energy on those commitments that are most important to us. If we dilute that energy by committing to ten different opportunities we aren’t doing ourselves, or those we commit to, any favors.
Simplify your finances. How many credit cards, savings accounts, brokerage accounts and mutual funds do you own? Chances are you are like me and have things scattered all over the place. I’m going to dedicate some time in the near future to consolidating a few accounts so I’ll have less to keep up with. Here are few ways to simplify your finances:
- Scale back to one credit card and a backup.
- Unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars and are worried about FDIC coverage, consider banking at one institution.
- Consider a target retirement fund rather than a smattering of funds that you have to manage, research and rebalance periodically.
- Put recurring charges and utilities on automatic deduction and opt for paperless statements. It’s one less envelope to enter your home and cause distraction.
Clean out your car. What’s the last thing you see before you walk into the office each morning? What’s the first thing you see when you leave the office in the evening? The inside of your car. If your interior is littered with three stained coffee mugs, fast food wrappers and receipts, then consider taking some time to spruce things up. For those who commute, time spent on the road is often when we do some of our best thinking. It’s also an opportunity to decompress after a long day at the office.
Create an “I Will Do One Thing Today” list. Of course you can do more than one thing, but name at least one thing that you’ve been putting off and do it today. I like to fill this out a day ahead of time (an I will do this tomorrow list, if you will) by declaring a task I’ve been procrastinating on. The last few days my lists looked like this (I have a similar list at work):
- Adjust gate hardware
- Finish taxes
- Put tomato plants in pot
Become a “90-percenter.” Are you one of those people who are always in a rush? I used to be, too. Then I realized that all that time I spent hurrying around was time I could have spent truly enjoying life. At my first job I ran around like a maniac, worked a ton of hours, and basically tried to out-hustle everyone there. I thought I had to because I was one of only a handful of team members who did not have a degree. The hustle paid off, or so I thought. I was soon promoted to a position that required even more work and more hours, but did not come with an equal bounce in pay. I had a toddler at home and one on the way, and it occurred to me that all the hours spent working were hours I was missing watching them grow. That’s when I became a “90-percenter.”
I now work hard to accomplish the top 90% of my priorities each day, but refuse to drive myself past exhaustion to get to the remaining 10% – it takes care of itself in time. I discovered that the remaning 10% wasn’t worth getting an ulcer over, and I could spend that extra quality time with my family.