12 Essential Steps to Simplify Your Life
From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, life is a series of peaks and valleys. Life is challenging for all of us, in one way or another. I am a huge advocate that we can’t control everything that happens in our lives, but we can control certain aspects like our reactions and behaviors. Our days are made up of hundreds, if not thousands of tiny decisions, which then affect our actions. We have more control then we think, and I believe one of the first steps is to begin by simplifying. These next steps won’t fix every problem in your life, but they can allow you to have more free time so you can fill your life with more of what you love.
1. Create a priority list for the upcoming day
The best way to simplify your list is through organization and setting clear goals. When I say clear, be concise. It’s the difference between “clean up house” and “vacuum, wipe bath counters, and scrub toilets.”
At the end of each day, create a list of three priorities that you need to get done tomorrow. List three priorities in the order of importance on a dry erase board. Be sure to mark it off, so you see your productivity in action. You will soon find that you are a lot more productive by writing down what you need to get done. As the saying goes, tomorrow’s success depends on today’s preparation.
Tip: I know I have more energy from 7 am-10:30 am compared to the rest of the day. I make sure to schedule my most important or hardest tasks, projects, or phone calls during this time. Pay attention to when you feel most alert and creative, and make a note. You’ll soon see a pattern and can figure out your highest point of energy in the day, and plan those hard or important to-dos during that time.
2. Utilize weekly time blocks
Simplify your schedule by creating time blocks. Anything you do regularly can be scheduled into weekly time slots. Planning out your weeks and seeing it on your digital calendar (or written down on a planner) will keep you more accountable, more productive, and put you on track for success.
These are a few items I have on my time block, so I make sure I do it during the week. Working out/yoga/Crossfit, contact a family member to say hello, read, write my book, or paint for fun. If I don’t put these on the calendar, they never happen!
3. Look how far you have come
I want you to think about where you were six months ago, five years, or even ten years ago. Think about how far you have come and what you are doing now that you thought you wouldn’t have done ten years ago. Be grateful for the lessons you have learned along the way, and keep working towards your goals every damn day. You may not see the forest through the trees now, but eventually, you will. It’s essential to see that no matter what timeframe, you can make progress. Keep going.
4. Be picky with your relationships
Time is our most finite resource. Choosing the right people to have relationships with is essential for having a happy and productive life. To simplify your life, spend time with the people that matter most. Spend time with the people who motivate you to conquer the world! These people are so important when you are making significant changes in your life. This doesn’t mean get rid of everyone in your life, just be more intentional about who you spend a lot of time with. Remember, it’s easy to carry around four quarters rather than one hundred pennies.
5. Reduce screen time & simplify your life
“The average daily screen time for Millennials is 205 minutes; for Gen Xers, 169 minutes; and for Baby Boomers, 136 minutes. While the difference between generations is significant per day, each generation spends over a month on their phone per year.” SimpleTexting
WTF, that’s a lot of screen time. I know for me, this is a battle I struggle with daily. I want less screen time, yet I know I should be interacting more to build a following. I want to form a community around my brand, but I also don’t want to be dependent on social media. Ugh. It’s a tricky balance being an online entrepreneur and a screen minimalist. I’ll let you know when I have it all figured it out. J
Not so fast, though. This article is all about how to simplify, and the best way I have found to simplify my screen usage is to put a limit on the accounts I use the most. I have an hour limit on Instagram, but I don’t have it on Youtube since I use Youtube mainly for music while I work. My goal is not to use an hour every day but to never go over an hour – make sense? Be honest with yourself and the social platforms you tend to waste more time on and adjust from there.
Tip: If you want to take it to a whole new level, refrain from looking at your phone when you first wake up. This was a tough habit to break, and instead, I do a morning meditation to start my day off on the right foot. It makes such a difference starting my day on such a high note. Find what works for you, and remember life is happening right now before your eyes, not on a screen.
6. Get a new email address
This may seem trivial; however, email overload can complicate your day-to-day productivity. The overload of emails is distracting more than anything. If you want a fresh start and an easy way to get there, getting a new email is a great solution. This clears out the clutter, and you can even set up an autoresponder letting your essential contacts know your shiny new email.
Tip: If you don’t want to get a brand new email address, then start unsubscribing. If you are worried, you will miss out on the next Bath and Body Works deal; don’t worry, another will come around. Companies like these are continually promoting sales to make you think you need to buy immediately. How many times have you seen 5 for $20 or $10 candles – at least once every few months. It’s a cycle. You won’t miss out, trust me. Also, do you really need all those candles and soaps? That’s a whole other conversation. 🙂
7. Think automation
From paying bills to responding to emails, there are several tedious tasks to complete each day. When these tedious tasks arise, ask yourself, “How can I automate this?” In some instances, you won’t be able to but continually look for ways to automate these tasks. For example, in my business, I have a list of scripted emails I use for standard emails like job applicants, donation requests, or even my sales funnel. I figured out what emails I sent the most and created templates. Yes, you’ll have to customize them a bit, so you don’t look like a robot, but they do save time and energy rather than creating them from scratch every time.
8. Use free time for learning
Utilize the free time in your life to learn something new. Whether it’s on your morning commute, when you’re getting ready in the morning, when you are waiting at the dentist, or ten minutes between meetings or classes, there are several informative podcasts or audiobooks to listen to. Always be looking for ways to obtain new information – intentionally. Carve out 10 minutes each night to read a few pages of a book. Take five minutes each day to learn a new language on free apps like Duolingo or Memrise. In the twenty-first century, the world is at our fingertips, and there is no reason to not be a life-long learner.
9. Separate facts from emotions
Have you ever worried about something that didn’t even end up happening? Or have you worried about someone, and your mind went down the rabbit hole of anxious thoughts? I have been there more times then I can count. The difference is today I can recognize when my mind begins to go down that rabbit hole and remember facts versus whatever drama I am drumming up.
Simplify your mind by separating the facts from your thoughts about the facts (aka the dramatic stories that don’t exist). Don’t make circumstances mean more than they do. We can’t change the facts, but we can control our emotions regarding the facts. Don’t let your mind run away with you. Stay grounded and watch what you think. What we think significantly shapes what we can do and achieve. Mindset is key to living a simple life.
10. Get your money right
Money. This is a crowd favorite to boo and hiss about. The truth is money is vital in our American culture, and we need to make peace with it to succeed with it. I am a huge believer we all have attached a story we learned at some point in our lives to money. I am poor. Money is evil. I can never catch up. Money is my most valuable asset. Mo money, mo problems. I never had enough growing up. People with money are greedy.
I highly recommending reading You are a Badass at Making Money. Jen Sincero takes you through all of the steps on how to change your money mindset for the better. Can’t afford to buy this book? Be sure to check it out at your local library for free.
Until then, consider taking a financial course with your partner. Kris and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and crushed our debt of $80k in two years. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but it was one of the best decisions we have ever made. If I can do it, so can you. Getting your money mindset and financials squared is a crucial step to simplify your life and gain freedom.
11. Don’t stay stuck
Mindset, mindset, mindset. Refuse to indulge in the mentality of “I don’t know” or “I don’t know how to get out of my current situation.” You are never stuck unless you believe you are. Every time you feel stuck, swap your thought to, “I’m going to figure it out.” This small change in self-talk will make a massive difference in your life.
12. Less is more
Finally, less is more. If you are feeling overworked, tired, or generally exhausted, instead of adding more to your life (I need to be more disciplined), start by subtracting from your life (What isn’t serving my best self right now?). Worry less about being busy and more about being productive. Cut out what is no longer serving you. You will have more energy, feel better, and live a better quality of life by standing by the motto of less is more.
Following twelve steps will not only help you simplify your life, but they will also help you get more life out of your days. Let me know in the comments which of these steps is your favorite and why. You don’t have to do all of this overnight, but remember that making small changes can lead to significant improvements.
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