Simplify. Don’t you love that word? That concept? I sure do. I love the idea of a simpler life.
Simpler doesn’t mean simple or boring. No. For most of us, life will always be anything but that. To me, simplifying means to move from a “busy, overwhelming, or stressful” life to a “full, rich, and meaningful life.”
Ask yourself, “Is my life busy? Too busy? Overwhelming? Stressful?” “Is my life full? Rich? Meaningful?” Where do you fit in this spectrum? Do you need to make some changes in your life? Simplifying your busy life is all about time—first and foremost, it’s about taking the time to implement strategies that lead to a simpler life. Then, it’s about using your time efficiently and effectively so the end result is a healthier, happier you.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with international time management expert and host of “Getting a Grip on Time: Do More With Less,” Robyn Pearce. Boy was she full of excellent, practical tips for making the most of your time! Our discussion not only produced a great radio show, it inspired me to want to share a few things I’ve learned about simplifying life, too.
Listen to “Simplify Your Busy Life” on Motherhood Radio, or watch the “Simplify Your Busy Life” interview on my YouTube channel.
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10 Ways to SIMPLIFY Your Busy Life
Here are ten of my favorite ways to simplify life, to get out of the “busy,” “overwhelmed,” and “stressful” life and into the “good,” “happy,” and “abundant” life!
1) Slow down and get still.
This is my number one. If we don’t make time to slow down and be still, we won’t know the truth—the truth about where we currently are, the truth about where we desire to be, and the truth about what we really need from life right now. We miss life when we fail to slow down. We miss opportunities for spiritual connection, opportunities to hear and follow the whispers that lead to a more meaningful life.
Make stillness a priority. Start with 5 minutes. Then, build up to 10, 15, 30, or more. Use your time to ponder life, to pray, to study inspiring books and scriptures, to meditate, and to get in touch with what matters most to you.
2) Decide what matters most.
If you want to simplify, you simply must know your priorities. What’s most important in your life?
What are your values? What are your top five things that matter most? You may value family, faith, work, play, relationships, fun, cleanliness, or a host of other things. Getting still can help you get honest and remember what matters most to you.
First, list all the things that are important to you. Then, narrow your list to your top five. List them on a sheet of paper, in a journal, or on your smartphone.
3) Prune by priorities.
Now, are you spending your time according to what matters most to you? For instance, if you really value family time, do you spend the most time with your family? If not, then why not? If we want to simplify life, we need to live according to our priorities. Stress, overwhelm, busyness, and emptiness come from living out of line with our priorities–from living a life of distraction, trying to keep up with others, chasing fame or fortune, or perfectionism.
Write down how you’ve spent your time over the past week. Be honest, and write down all the different kinds of things you did. Now, compare this list to your list of what matters most, from above. Do the two lists compare? If not, then start pruning. Start to look for the things that don’t measure up to your priorities and prepare to let them go.
4) Plan ahead, and schedule your time.
We schedule work, appointments, and activities with other people, but what about your top priorities? Are they on your “to do” list? Are they in your schedule? If you value exercise, sleep, and good health, are these things on your daily schedule? If you know you need stillness in your life, is it a part of your daily routine and plan? The truth is that if we don’t plan and schedule the most important things, then we probably won’t get to them.
Plan ahead to make sure you are focusing on the most important things in your life. Schedule time for you. Schedule time for relationships. Schedule time for exercise, sleep, and healthy eating. Schedule time for play. Oh, and remember to keep your appointments with yourself just as you would with someone else!
5) Do the most important things first.
This is so important when it comes to simplifying life. When you do the most important things first, then the rest just falls into place. You start to feel more balance in your life, and you find you no longer waste as much time and energy on distractions and unimportant things.
When you make your daily “to do” list, be sure to put your “things that matter most” on your list. Then, write an “A,” “B,” or “C” next to each item on your list. Make your priorities “A” items, along with the most important family, home, faith, work, and personal activities. “B’s” are the things you need to get to, but aren’t essential today. “C’s” are “would be nice to do” items. Then, cross off the “C” items. You’re not going to have time for them, and they aren’t important today! Then, cross off your “B” items. You’re probably not going to have time for these either, so just simplify your list and get rid of them. IF you happen to get to a few “B” items after your “A’s” are complete, then yay for you! But in the meantime, you’re taking the pressure off and simplifying your day.
6) Manage your time and your energy
“Time management is really energy management.” This was one of my favorite tips Robyn gave in our radio interview, because she is so right! It’s really about making sure we have enough energy to not only fulfill our responsibilities, but to live the life we desire. As Robyn writes, “Around the world I’m hearing the phrase ‘energy management’ more and more. Think of your energy levels as your filter or indicator as to whether you’re doing the right things. Sluggish energy is a powerful clue – if something isn’t flowing smoothly there are almost always ways to either change activity or improve things. A good filter question: ‘What’s blocking my energy here? What can I do about it?’” (Read more in “Eight Top Time Management Tips”.)
One thing to keep in mind is how much time you’re spending on social media, the internet, TV, etc. It’s so easy to hop on Facebook in the morning or to check email, but how often does that suck you into a time warp and before you know it, it’s been an hour, or longer? These things, though “fun” or entertaining in the short term, can actually be energy drains, distracting your precious energy away from the most important things. Be on the lookout for things that take your time and energy away from your top priorities and push them off until later. Or, set a timer for yourself and then, mind it! Also, seek to do the hardest or most important tasks when you are most energized. For example, I’m a morning person, so I know that if I write or tackle chores in the morning, I’m much more efficient and far less stressed!
7) Learn to say a loving “no.”
Saying no is not a horrible, mean thing. In fact, it may be one of the most loving things you can do—for yourself and for others. Years ago, I learned that saying no to something is really saying “yes” to something better. Instead of focusing on saying “no” to helping a friend, think of saying “yes” to being there when your child needs you. Perhaps saying “no” to a night out with coworkers is really saying “yes” to building your relationship with your spouse.
A good tip is to only say “yes” to things that energize you—if you really have time and space in your life to do those things. Be honest with yourself about that! Sometimes, even the things that energize us need to wait until a better time. Then, be sure to say “no” to things that zap energy. You can say “no” in a kind, loving way. And saying no helps others, too, by setting healthy boundaries and helping them have realistic expectations.
8) Eliminate physical clutter.
We all know the concept of “a clean house is a sign of a clean mind.” While I’m not advocating for spending unnecessary time on housekeeping, it definitely helps to reduce the clutter at home.
Clear out one closet, cupboard, or room a couple times each week until things feel more organized. Develop a system that helps you stay clutter free. As Robyn suggests, “Instead of saying ‘I’ll just put it here while I think about it’, get into the habit of letting go. The reality is, even if you do think about it again, why would you want to?”
9) Eliminate mental/emotional clutter by practicing letting go.
Just like the physical clutter, we often hold on to mental clutter that weighs us down. Past hurts, heartache, depression, grief, sorrow, fear, worry, anger, anxiety—the list goes on, and it only makes life more complicated, heavy, and miserable. Simplifying your busy life means dealing with your mental and emotional “baggage” so you can stop carrying it around all the time.
This article, “5 Steps to a Clutter Free Mind (& Life), is a great place to start. Then, practice letting go. FEEL the emotions that come, and then let go of them a little piece at a time. If you’re feeling grief over the loss of a friend, for instance, you might first let go of the sadness of not being able to see them at work anymore. Then, let go of not being able to go out on the weekends together. Eventually, you can let go of the pain of not having them to be there for you, and so on.
10) Build in “sanity gaps.” Robyn mentioned the concept of “Sanity Gaps” in our interview, and I love it. It’s a great way to reinforce the fact that we need time for fun, for relaxation, for rest, and replenishment. “Think of taking regular time off as a defrag of your brain,” Robyn says. “You’ll come back fresher and you’ll also produce better results (just like the computer!)”
Be sure to schedule “sanity gaps” into your days and weeks, and to keep your “sanity appointments!” They are just as important as any other important, in fact, perhaps, more so. They are the little things that keep you sane. What could be more important than that? (Read Robyn’s “Eight Top Time Management Tips” here.)
Learn more about Robyn Pearce, and get her FREE “How to Master Time” Report and FREE Time Resources Pack, on her website, www.GettingAGrip.com.
Be sure to check out my New show, “Motherhood,” on WebTalkRadio.net!
Link for this episode: Simplify Your Busy Life
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