6 Essential Tips to Simplify Your Life
Imagine this tingly situation.
Your sweetheart is seducing you. Her lips, her breath, and her words are super persuasive. You’re thrilled.
Suddenly, her phone vibrates. The situation is dead. Your girl is off ensuring that it’ll only take a few seconds. *FREAKIN’ PHONE*
Funny enough, your sweetheart has been marked in a comment of a cat video…
Doh! I mean… WTF?
This article is neither about your phone nor about your girlfriend.
It’s about an overwhelming society. An over-demanding world. And about how you can escape it. How to simplify your life.
Have you ever had the feeling of being torn apart? EVERYBODY wants something. You’re working and hustling and bustling. But your to-do list isn’t getting any shorter…
As soon as you tick off one thing, 3 new things appear on your list. This makes you feel like you can’t keep up.
I’ve been there, too. Many times I’ve felt overstrained and frustrated by an ever-expanding list of must-dos.
Luckily, over the last few months I’ve discovered a few simple ways to keep my list short. The world seems less demanding and overwhelming. I feel less stressed and more fulfilled now. And I even get more things done!
Would you like to feel more relaxed, too? Would you like to get more things done, too?
Well, then this article is for you.
Simplifying your life is about removing distractions and spending your time with the most essential things in your life.
Simplify your life today and find room to breathe tomorrow.
In this article I’ll share 6 Tips to simplify your life with you.
How to Simplify your Life (2 Requirements Needed)
Before you jump directly to Tip #1:
You need the KEYS first.
You’ve got some work to do now. Specifically, you’ve got to find out what your most important things in life are (1st). Also, you have to state what you actually spend your time with (2nd). Only then you’ll know what to focus on and what to get rid of.
Let’s find out right now.
1. Identify What’s Important (1st Requirement)
What do you love?
That’s the first step of simplifying: Identify what’s important to you. Better yet, identify what’s critically important to you. What are your priorities?
Ask yourself: What is immensely important to me? What do I love?
These are the things you absolutely need to thrive. These may include:
- People you love
- Things you’re passionate about (your job?)
- Time for yourself
- Life essentials
To give you an idea, here’s my list: Spending time with my family and my best friends, working on NJlifehacks (writing etc.), reading books to acquire knowledge, preparing and eating the best and healthiest food, and working out a few times a week (at the moment that’s limited to 2 times).
Basically, I could reduce that to 2 essentials: Spending time with people I love and mastering myself, ergo becoming the best version of myself (still a looong way to go).
I learned about this first step from Leo Babauta who’s the absolute master of simplifying life. He advises us to “Create a life that focuses on the essentials – what you value and love the most, what you’re most passionate about.”
Action Step: Give yourself 3 minutes and list your 4-5 most essential tasks, people and activities that give you the best bang for the buck (or for your time). What do you value most in your life? Do that now.
Great! (You can still edit that list later.)
These are the things with the highest value for you. The essentials you WANT to spend your time with. When you spend your time with those activities, you get the most out of life!
Your essentials are the most important things in your life and you want to spend as much time on them as possible.
Once you’ve identified what’s critical in your life it’s time to make time and space for these essentials.
Let’s find out what you actually spend your time with.
2. Identify the Non-Essentials (2nd Requirement)
This is vital.
It’s all about focusing on your essentials and eliminating the rest. Ergo eliminating what’s NOT important.
Remember, you asked yourself what you love the most. You identified your essentials and you created your list.
Now, ask yourself:
What do I do day-in, day-out? What do I do all the time? What do I spend my time with?
Basically, that’s all you do. You know school, work, free time, going out, playing video games etc.
(Just list these things in your head.)
Now, some things certainly are necessary. Like school and work (let’s suppose they are necessary). All the other things are more or less freely chosen. And some of them are vicious TIME KILLERS.
My time killer list used to look like this:
- Watching series (OC California, Two and a Half Men, Scrubs, Prison Break, How I met your Mother, Castle, Big Bang Theory and so on…)
- Playing video games (MarioKart, SmashBrothers, DonkeyKong, FIFA, Age of Empires, Tekken, Counter-Strike and a ton of others)
- Watching TV (Sports, series, movies, documentaries and just crap)
- Surfing the World Wide Web (Mainly porn. Haha. Just joking. You know, web surfing, checking news, checking email, Facebook, YouTube etc…)
You get it. I wasted a lot of time.
And most certainly you do, too.
So, when you compare your two lists (your essentials and what you actually spend your time with), what comes to your mind?
Do you find that what you do does not align with your essentials? Yes? Well then it’s time for a change.
Attention: Some non-essential activities are disguised as essentials. They may seem harmless, yet in the end they’re non-essentials and need to be eliminated.
Let’s look at an example together.
Imagine you’re a gourmet chef. You opened a restaurant. And it flourishes.
After a while you find yourself spending most of your time with trivialities. You talk to customers, order the supply, teach your employees – but you never prepare food. Which is one of your essentials.
All the mentioned tasks are important – for the restaurant – but not primarily for YOU.
If you’re that chef, it’s your task to find ways to eliminate these distractions so you can focus on your essential – preparing delicious food.
What would you do?
You wouldn’t just leave the other tasks out, would you? No. You’d probably delegate these tasks. You could delegate talking to customers to the servers. And you could delegate ordering the supply to one of your other employees. This leaves you with teaching the employees. You could keep that task until you find a better solution.
You just eliminated 2 trivialities and will now find more time for preparing delicious food. Easy, right?
You’re probably no gourmet chef. Yet possibly you’re in a similar situation – you’re spending your time with all but your essentials. Maybe you work long hours, you check Facebook 50 times a day, answer emails, watch TV, or surf the web for ages.
Here’s a crucial time spending rule: Whatever is not essential, minimize it.
“And how can I do that,” you wonder? Well, that’s what this article is all about.
You’ll find out how to minimize the non-essentials and gain time and space for your essentials.
Jump right into Tip #1.
Simplify Tip #1: Say Hell Yeah! or No Thanks
Are you ready for ruthless elimination?
You’ve already identified your essentials. And you know that you spend your time with unnecessary distractions. Now, it’s time to eliminate these things.
Once you’ve identified the things you spend your time with, ask yourself for each item, “is this worth my time?” If you can’t answer with “Hell Yeah!”, then it’s a time killer and should be eliminated.
I stole this Hell Yeah! idea from Derek Sivers. He states that “When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ – then my answer is no.”
I love that idea.
It’s about saying “yes” less often. And saying “no” instead.
Don’t commit to things you don’t absolutely want to do. As you say “yes” to others you say “no” to yourself and your essentials. If something is not an essential, then it’s not worth committing to.
Your time and energy are finite. Reserve most of it for your essentials and say “no” to other things. Otherwise you shortchange your essentials with commitments that are important to others BUT NOT TO YOU. So, say “no” more often.
Look, I know saying “no” can be tough. I used to say “yes” often even if I secretly thought “no” or even “Hell no!”. Thanks to Derek Sivers’ Hell Yeah! strategy I find it much easier to say “no”. (Consider this article if you want to read more on saying “no”.)
Action Step: The next time you get asked for a favor, ASK YOURSELF FIRST before you answer. If you don’t immediately think “Hell Yeah!” then “No thanks” is your answer.
Saying “yes” less frequently will bring you less future commitments and more time for your essentials.
Look at the commitments you already hold and ask whether they’re worth being committed to. If you can’t say “Hell Yeah, this is worth my input!” then it’s time to cut that commitment.
Otherwise you lose yourself in commitments that won’t bring deep and lasting happiness.
That leads us right to the next tip:
If you chase two rabbits…
Simplify Tip #2: Focus on One Thing at a Time
… you will not catch either one.
That’s a Russian proverb and it’s how Gary Keller starts his bestselling book The ONE Thing. (Great book by the way! The book is mainly about productivity, while this Tip #2 is about the attention you give to the things you do.)
You know that your resources, whether it’s time or energy or attention, are limited. You can’t, and nobody else can, do everything at once. You may can brush your teeth and pee at the same time. Or drive and listen to the radio. Or run on a treadmill and watch a series.
These are all things you and I do automatically. Yet, as soon as there is more attention needed, we shut off and focus. When the traffic is getting complicated we focus on the traffic rather than the guy on the radio. When the speed of the treadmill is rising we cannot follow the series anymore. When the act of peeing is somehow unusual (wtf?) we stop brushing our teeth.
We cannot multitask if the task at hand needs our attention. We can’t focus on two things at once. Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass tested so-called multitaskers and concluded that…
“Multitaskers were just lousy at everything.”
When we think we’re multitasking we’re actually just SWITCHING OUR FOCUS between the tasks. Basically, we’re not multitasking but just switching focus. This slows us down and makes us lousy. Period.
Okay, but what has that to do with simplifying life?
Understand that you have 24 hours a day and 365 days a year and approximately 80 years a life (your one life).
You cannot do everything. You cannot please everybody. And you cannot be at more than one place at the same time.
In order to live your life in accordance with your essentials you need to prioritize.
Say “no” to more future commitments and respect your priorities. Because you won’t be able to do all the things. At least you won’t do them right. Just like the multitaskers that do everything lousy.
You’re either doing a couple things right or you do everything poorly. The decision is yours.
Focus on one thing at a time. Do it right. When you’re done, focus on another thing. Do it right. And when you’re done, focus on another thing... You get it.
Action Step: Make a list of your 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) for the next day. Then focus solely on one task at a time and don’t do anything else until you’re done. Preferably you do those MITs in the morning.
Your life will become so much simpler when you focus on your priorities one by one. Eventually, you’ll find yourself being more productive and having more time. You won’t be overwhelmed by too many tasks. And you’ll feel relaxed.
When you focus on one thing at a time you will get more things done. DONE RIGHT. Focusing on one thing makes you living more consciously. This will help you recognizing what’s truly important in your life. And you’ll recognize that maybe your phone gets way too much attention…
Simplify Tip #3: Limit Screen Time
Have you ever walked through the metro?
Have you noticed what everybody’s doing?
Of course, it’s obvious. Everybody’s staring at their phone, tablet or laptop like a bunch of zombies.
When you leave the metro… screens EVERYWHERE.
Back home… the TV is already on.
And at night it’s time to binge watch Netflix.
. . . . . (Crazy right?!)
I don’t think the screens are a problem per se. But being accessible 24/7 is.
Your phone interrupts you constantly.
* Facebook * Twitter * Instagram *
News is pouring all over you. Nonstop!
Attention here. Attention there. Watch this. Listen to that. Buy this. Buy that.
You’re getting BRAINWASHED left and right.
* KABOOM *
L i m i t a c c e s s t o y o u r s e l f !
All these distractions are not essential.
Seriously, STOP THAT MADNESS and limit access to yourself. Stop the constant stimulation.
Shut off the TV. Don’t check Facebook 50 times a day. Don’t (spam) text your friends all day long.
Do nothing which is of no use. – Miyamoto Musashi
Take a break and UNPLUG yourself.
This brings us back to the intro when you got seduced by your sweetheart when her phone vibrated…
I mean, what can be more important than your love? Seriously?
- You don’t miss anything if you don’t watch the newest cat video that goes
- You don’t miss anything if you don’t know your friends newest Facebook status.
- You don’t miss anything if you don’t check out Justin Bieber’s newest tattoo on Instagram.
If something is important, you’ll hear about it eventually. I promise.
Do I really need to check Facebook right now? Hell Yeah! Then check it.
If it’s just a mindless Facebook checking, then leave it.
- How often do I need to check Facebook a day?
- How often do I need to check my emails?
- How often do I need to text my friends?
You get it: Don’t waste your life online. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media, but it’s a time trap if you don’t watch out.
Again, I don’t care what Kim Kardashian’s ass looks like in a ski suit or what Sarah Palin shot last night. This is irrelevant and I try my best to block such stuff out. I suggest you do the same.
Spend your screen time consciously.
Tell yourself that you check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever for 30 minutes and then you go offline. Tell yourself that you watch one episode of your favorite series. Tell yourself that you chat with your best friends for 20 minutes.
Needless to say, the less time you spend behind a screen the more time you spend with your highly-valued essentials. With actual people; with others and with yourself.
Action Step: The next time you spend time with your sweetheart, with your kids or with yourself, put your phone on airplane mode. That’s my favorite mode. Sometimes I’m on airplane mode one day straight. People don’t need to have access to me 24/7.
So, minimize your screen time. Cut your time online. And limit access to yourself.
Simplify Tip #4: Get Rid of Stuff You Don’t Need
This is a big one…
How many things do you own?
You don’t know?
I don’t know either. (And don’t worry, you don’t need to count.)
Here’s another tough question:
How many things do you actually need or use?
And that’s the clue!
You need less than you have.
All the stuff you own holds you back from feeling free. Check your list with your essentials. Does it say anything about all the tchotchkes, knickknacks, and gewgaws that decorate your shelves?
No, it doesn’t!
Pssst… Here’s a secret about my mum (luckily she doesn’t speak English very well so she won't understand...).
She’s got a shelf that’s sole purpose is to make room for decor angels (she wouldn’t agree though). Such things are easy to buy because they look cute. But once you’ve bought them all the fun is over. They won’t make you happy. They just take up space and catch dust.
My mum’s weakness for angels (and turtles and elephants) just serves as an example. You and I, too, we have WAY TOO MUCH STUFF we don’t need.
But seriously, a whole shelf just for dust catchers?! I mean… get rid of that crap and get rid of the shelf. This is just unnecessary clutter that holds you back from feeling free.
Such needless stuff takes up space and clutters our lives. Yet we don’t notice the effect it has on us. Once you get rid of things you’ll find yourself with room to breathe. It’s a liberating feeling to disconnect from material things and clutter.
It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential. – Bruce Lee
When do you know whether something is unessential or not?
Ask yourself: Do I use this? Do I need that?
“Hell Yeah! I need my toothbrush!” So keep it.
“Hell Yeah?! I need that plush toy I got as a gift when I was already waaay too old for that stuff…” Trash it, donate it or give it to your cousin who could actually use it.
You can do that with ALL the stuff you don’t use. As far as I’m concerned you’re not going to miss things you’ve never used anyway.
The opposite is actually true, you’re going to feel free and liberated once you get rid of things.
Create white space within your home. This allows you to HIGHLIGHT certain items of meaning. These are items you choose to surround yourself with. Appreciate these things.
I’d rather appreciate ONE thing than overlook 10.
Action Step: Check your wardrobe. Are there any clothes you haven’t worn in ages? Shoes you don’t need? Belts you never use? Pants that don’t fit you anymore? GET RID OF THAT STUFF!
Seriously, do that right now. You can start small. Start with T-shirts only. Do it step by step. And trust me, you’ll feel relieved.
Getting rid of stuff brings us to the next tip.
Simplify Tip #5: Don’t Buy Stuff You Don’t Need
Guess what, getting rid of stuff isn’t a free pass to buy a bunch of new stuff.
You and I, we live in a world of consumerism.
We are conditioned that way. We always want more: More clothes. More gadgets. More toiletries. A bigger house. A faster car. Nicer furniture. And so on.
More. Bigger. Better. --> That’s the motto of consumerism.
And interestingly, we don’t get satisfied when we buy new things. There are always (seemingly) newer, better and more promising things out there.
Don’t get me wrong. You actually are satisfied when you buy something new. This satisfaction just doesn’t last…
Wanting more is an illness. And we are all ill. As I said, we are conditioned that way.
One main force that makes us want more is the pervasive influence of advertising. It’s EVERYWHERE: On TV, on the radio, on public screens, in the metro, in the internet, in magazines and so on…
- "What?! That dress is on sale? I must have it!”
- “Finally, the new iPhone is released. It’s got 2 new features! I’ll buy it!”
- "WOW! Cristiano Ronaldo wears new soccer shoes! I want them now!”
Advertisers have studied a thousand ways that make us want something. (By the way, did you click that button? See, advertising works.)
The result? Impulse buying.
There are 4 simple tricks you can use to minimize and control impulse buying:
- Reduce the trap situations altogether: Less media. Less advertisements. Less magazines. Less strolling along the shopping areas. Try to escape and ignore advertisement.
- Before you go shopping make a list of what you need. Everything that’s not on the list, you don’t buy it. Simple as that.
- When you see something you want, ask yourself: Do I need this or can I live without it? Does this still make me happy in a few weeks from now? When am I going to use/wear it? Will it contribute to a better life? If the answer is not “Hell Yeah! I need this and it will contribute to a better life.” then don’t buy it.
- If you still find yourself buying stuff you don’t need, consider this: Make it a rule that you don’t buy the day you find what you want. Sleep on it. Go for a week without it. If you still feel that you need it, you can buy it later.
The basic idea is to trick yourself so you don’t buy.
By asking yourself whether or not you need something, you become more conscious. When you buy/consume consciously you will automatically appreciate it more.
Action Step: Go on a buying fast. Try for one month not to buy anything but your essentials (food & toilet paper).
The more you resist impulse buying the better you will become at it. AND you’ll gain self-respect for being persistent despite the temptations. Also, you save money.
In short: BUY LESS CRAP. It only makes you want more, and it’s a money sucker that won’t make you happy anyway.
Simplify Tip #6: Appreciate and Accept What You’ve Got
Who are you?
. . . ?
Well, this is a super tough question.
And you don’t need to answer it right now.
You are who you are. And you are good just the way you are (great song by the way).
This is critical.
In order to simplify your life you need to accept yourself. No matter where you are in life right now. Whether you’re a single mum or a bachelor or a broke salesperson. Take this as your starting position.
You are who you are – with all your strengths, weaknesses and limitations.
Now, appreciate what you’ve got.
- Appreciate that you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel.
- Appreciate that you have friends that would jump off a cliff for you.
- Appreciate that you are breathing, your heart is beating and that you’re ALIVE!
Once you learn to appreciate what you’ve got, it will be easier to resist the temptations of the world.
When you appreciate what you have you will want less. And you will be thankful for what you have.
There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is no greater guilt than discontentment.
And there is no greater disaster than greed.
– Lao Tzu
Wanting less and being generally grateful will help you slowing down. Slowing down in a world that’s hustling and bustling all around you.
This may sound spiritual and therefore a bit scary, but eventually you will find to yourself.
Action Step: The next time you eat, try to eat slowly and more consciously. Appreciate the mouth-watering taste. And focus on eating solely. No TV. No radio. No newspapers.
Living a simplified life will change the way you perceive the world. You will appreciate the little things. You will feel liberated and happier. You will feel simplified.
Let’s Recap How to Simplify Your Life:
- Less commitments means more time. More time to breathe.
- Focus on less means more time. More time for the essentials.
- Less screen time means more time. More time for yourself.
- Owning less means more space. More space to breathe.
- Buying less means more space. More space to live.
- Wanting less means more space. More space for a simplified life.
This all sounds dazzling.
Yet I only know too well that this is WORTH NOTHING if you don’t commit to it.
Start with writing down your essentials if you haven’t done it yet. What are the most crucial things in your life? What do you love doing (except for eating burgers and checking Facebook)?
Once you’ve identified your essentials start eliminating other distractions.
You can do it. Trust me.
Remind yourself that it’s either a “Hell Yeah!” or a “No Thanks”. Don’t commit yourself to things you don’t completely want. Just say “No”. It’ll be fine.
It’s not always easy. But it’s worth it. You’ll feel liberated, free and more relaxed. On top of that, you’ll even be more productive. Doesn’t that sound exhilarating? It’s at least worth a try!
- Say No to TV and Facebook
- Say No to more commitments.
- Say No to crap you don't need.
- Say Hell Yeah! to your supportive friends.
- Say Hell Yeah! to liberating yourself from an exhausting world.
- Say Hell Yeah! to the simplified life.
Cool. That's it. And now say Hell Yeah! to writing a comment and let me know what you get rid off first...