Simplifying things can sometimes be overwhelming. The amount of information you have in your life and the number of things you have to do can be a big challenge to face.
But you don’t have to simplify everything at once. Do a little each day, take small steps. You’ll get there and, best of all, having fun with it.
In fact, you can do some small but important actions to start living a simpler life. There are ten easy actions you do today. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next month. Today. Pick one and do it today. Tomorrow, choose another one.
If you do these 10 things, you will have a breakthrough with a little effort.
1. Make a shortlist to simplify your life
Take a sheet of paper and fold it into four pieces.
Now make a short list of the four or five most important things in your life.
What’s more important to you? Which do you value most? What are the four or five things you most want to do in life?
Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to organize your life to have more time for those priorities.
2. Get rid of an appointment
Think about all the things in your life that you are committed to, and try to find one that isn’t worth doing. Something that takes time but doesn’t add much value.
Maybe you are on a team, or training, or on a committee or something. Something you do regularly but you really don’t want to do anymore.
Now take action today to get rid of this commitment. Call someone, send an email, let the appropriate person know that you simply don’t have more time. You will feel relieved.
I would recommend getting rid of any appointments that are not contributing to the list you made in the previous item. But for today, just get rid of a single commitment to simplify your life.
3. Organize a drawer
Or a shelf, or a nightstand, or the corner of a room. Not an entire room or a closet. Just a small area.
You can use this small area as your base to simplify and expand it.
Here’s how to arrange it: First, empty everything out of the drawer and put it in a pile. Then, from this pile, separate only the most important things, the things you use and love. Third, get rid of the rest to simplify more and more. Right now. Throw in the trash or put in the car for you to donate.
Finally, put back in an orderly way the things you really use or love.
4. Determine boundaries
Basically, you should set boundaries for things you do regularly: read emails, RSS, tasks, things in your life that you want to simplify. And stay within those limits.
Today, all you have to do is set limits on a few things to simplify more and more.
Tomorrow, try to stay within those limits.
5. Simplify your to-do list
Take a look at your to-do list. If it has more than ten items, you can probably simplify it a bit.
Try to find at least some items that can be deleted, delegated, automated, outsourced or ignored. Shorten the list. This is a good habit to do weekly, perhaps in your weekly review.
6. Increase your free time
Simplifying your life is usually a way to free up time for the things you really want to do.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to find time to even think about how to simplify your life.
If so, free up at least 30 minutes of your day to think about how to simplify. Or release a weekend and think about it.
How can you free up 30 minutes a day?
Here are some ideas: Wake up earlier, watch less TV, have lunch at work, take a walk for lunch, disconnect from the internet, check email only once a day, turn off your phones, do one thing less each day.
7. Clean up your desk
I can personally attest to the incredible feeling that a clean table can bring to you. It is such a simple thing and at the same time can do so much for you.
If your desk is covered in papers, notes, and equipment, you may not be able to clear it today. But here are some small steps:
- Take everything off your desk and put it in a pile
- Process the stack of things from top to bottom, one item at a time. Do not postpone the decision on any item. Deal with them immediately and quickly
- For each item, file, delegate, delete, or write down in your to-do list. If it is office equipment or supplies, put it in a drawer or get rid of it.
- Repeat the process until the battery runs out and your table is clean. Your desk should have your computer, your inbox, maybe a notebook and maybe a single photo. Ah, a clean table!
- From now on, put everything in your inbox. And at least once a day, process it by repeating the previous steps.
8. Clean Up Your Email Box
Simplifying and cleaning up your email inbox has the same psychological effect as cleaning up your desk.
Is your email inbox always full of read and unread messages? This is because you are postponing decisions in your email.
If you have, let’s say, 50 or fewer emails in your inbox, you can process them all today.
If you have hundreds, you should put them in a temporary folder and process them a little at a time (do about 20 a day).
Here’s how to process your inbox until you clear it:
- Process messages from newest to oldest one at a time, deciding what to do with each one immediately
- Your options are delete, archive, reply immediately (and archive or delete later), forward (and then archive or delete) or star (or something) and put in a folder to respond later (and archive).
- Process each message this way until you clear the inbox
- Each time you check your email, process it until empty. Ah, clean emails!
9. Move Slowly
We run all day from task to task, commitment to commitment, until we collapse, exhausted, at the end of the day.
Instead, you can simplify your life by doing less (see items 1, 4, and 5) and slowing down.
Eat slowly, drive slowly, walk slowly, take a slow shower, work slowly. Be present.
This is not something you will master today, but you can start practicing today.
10. Do one thing at a time.
Instead of doing multiple things at once, do one at a time for simplicity.
Remove all distractions, resist the temptation to check email or do a routine task while you are doing an important task until you are done.
This will make a huge difference in your stress level and productivity.