Life can get pretty complicated. But it doesn’t have to be.
Ultimately, we only have so much time to do what we want and to be with those we love. We need to do everything we can to simplify our life and make the most of this precious time, however, most of us like to act as if we’re going to live forever and live as if the small stuff is what’s really important. This needs to change.
Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
Clearly, for the lot of us, life is more complicated than it needs to be. And the past ten years, with the advent of the smartphone and tablets, hasn’t helped at all. The problem is, most of us go about it as if there’s nothing we can do about it. But this just isn’t true.
When it comes down to it, there are really four steps you need to take to simplify your life and distill things down so that you can focus on what is most important:
1. What is most important?
First, before you do anything, you need to figure out what is most important to you. For some of us, this is an easy step. If you have kids? No brainer. For others, it’s not so clear.
Whatever the case, take some time to figure out what is most important to you. This is the foundation of all the proceeding steps, so take as much time as you need here.
2. Find the time-wasters
Next, now that you know what is most important to you, it’s time to identify the easy targets. The likelihood is, there are several things that take up your time on a given week which you can easily remove or reduce.
- Paying bills: Having to take time logging in, checking your accounts, and paying bills each week? If you don’t have your bills set up on autopay yet, now might be a good time to start. Is this a little scary? I get it, and I’ve been there. To balance that out, make a second account specifically for bills and deposit a set amount regularly based on your monthly bills divided by four (for each weekly deposit). Next, save a small cushion to be deposited into the account, that way no matter what happens you’ll always be covered on any given week (if you don’t do this you can run into problems). Boom, everything runs smoothly on autopilot.
- Using social: Do you spend way too much time flipping through your feed? It’s time to get smart and act on what is most important to you. This doesn’t mean you have to get off Facebook, Instagram, Snap or whatever it might be for you, just that you have to reduce the time you spend on them.
- Mountain of apps: Do you have ten pages of apps on your phone that beckons your attention and serve as a constant distraction? Time to do a little house cleaning. What apps do you really need? Which ones seem to be merely a waste of your time? Games? They should probably go if you can’t control your use of them.
- Avalanche of emails: If email is your problem, there are a few things you can do. First, do some spring cleaning and unsubscribe from the people and companies you’re just not getting any value from. Second, create a folder and file the emails you read as soon as they come in. Third, use something like Inbox by Google that automatically bundles emails in your inbox and create a system for bundling emails based on their topics (while leaving the critically important emails unbundled).
3. Remove the inessential
This is where things can get tough. The inessential often masquerades as important or necessary, but when removed you realize it was anything but that. This can also be something you’re still doing which used to be important to you but really isn’t anymore.
You’ll need to take a bit of time here because you’re likely faced with some difficult decisions. Just keep reminding yourself what is most important to you and ask yourself these two questions:
- Does this help, connect with, or play a part in some way in the continued existence of what is most important to me?
- Does this make me happy?
If the answer is no across the board, it probably has to go.
4. Stay focused
From here, all that’s left to do is to keep going and be diligent in your effort to maintain this simplified lifestyle. New things will constantly crop up and you’re going to need to be intentional about taking on new duties and responsibilities that you may not be ready for.
However, as you begin to live your life this way – removing the time-wasters, cutting the inessential, and focusing on what’s most important – you’ll see that living more intentionally leads to a lot more peace, happiness, and a sense of balance that you never knew was possible.