Busy has become the new badge of honour. When people ask how we are, the typical response used to be, “Good” or “Fine”. Now, it’s replaced with “busy”. But busy doesn’t mean that life is better. It usually means we’re tired, overwhelmed and constantly feeling like something is missing.
So, we try to find what’s missing by doing more. We do this by working longer hours, socializing more, putting our kids in more activities, buying stuff we don’t really need and buying a bigger house just to fit all of our stuff.
But there is an alternative to being busy and worn out. Instead of trying to do more, start by doing less. Simplify your life so you focus on what actually matters. Eliminate everything you don’t need, so that you can spend more time with the people you love.
How do we do that? The quick answer is two simple steps:
- Identify YOUR priorities.
- Eliminate everything else.
So, that was the short answer. It’s easy to remember, especially when you’re faced with multiple decisions in your day-to-day life. But a guide or a road map that shows you how to do that – now that is a bit more useful. So, with that introduction, I present to you a guide on how to simplify your life.
1. Identify Your Priorities
When you know what’s important, you’ll know where to focus your time and energy. Your priorities are NOT what other people expect from you, but what your HEART truly wants. Go through the following areas of life and write down what that category looks like to you.
- Health and Fitness
- Growth and Learning
- Emotions and Psychology
- Close Relationships with Family
- Social and Friends
- Relaxation and Fun
- Giving Back to Others
Then strive to have balance in these 10 areas. Balance doesn’t mean that you have a little bit of each one every day. It will actually be focusing on only a few (2 or 3 perhaps) every day. What you focus on each day will change. Balance is then achieved over the long run.
2. Analyze Your Commitments
Start by looking at what your life looks like now and what you have committed to doing. This includes work, social engagements, clubs, kids’ activities, taking care of elderly parents, hobbies and other projects. Make a list of all your commitments and rate them based on three criteria. If they meet at least one of your criteria, then keep them. Otherwise, it’s time to let go.
- Do they add value?
- Do you love doing them?
- Are they in line with your priorities that you identified above?
3. Analyze Your Time
Do you ever use the excuse that you don’t have enough time? Maybe the problem isn’t having enough time, but how you are spending your time. Take a moment to think about what you do during the day. If you need to, track your time for a week to see how you are really spending it. Find more time by eliminating or reducing things that don’t add value. This will free up your time for what’s really important to you.
4. Design Your Dream Life
Once you know what your priorities are and how you are spending your days, take some time to design your dream life. Yes, you still need to work. But a dream life should also include time to exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep, relax and spend quality time with friends and family.
Think about activities that you enjoy doing. Exercising could look like nature walks, bike riding or even dancing. Relaxing could look like spending time on hobbies, reading or going to the beach. How can these activities be incorporated into your daily life? Okay, maybe going to the beach every day isn’t realistic, but going to the beach every other weekend in the summer may be possible.
Steps 5-7 are all about bringing you closer to your dream life.
It’s easy to fill up a house. Buying something may give us a quick happiness boost, but then we’re left with stuff that just sits on a shelf or in a closet. Go through everything. Do you use it or love it? If not, get rid of it by selling it, donating it or throwing it out.
After you have finished decluttering your house, it’s important to keep it neat and tidy. A quick tip is to do a 10-minute tidy up every day. As the old saying goes, “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place”. This makes it easy to find what you need, so that you don’t buy duplicates.
6. Live Below Your Means
When you’re living pay cheque to pay cheque, your options are limited. If you hate your job, you have to stick with it because you need the pay cheque. But, if you can live below your means (a.k.a. spend less than you make), then you have true freedom. You can quit that job and take time to find another one. Or you can volunteer for causes that are important to you.
I do have to acknowledge one point: the lower your income, the harder this rule can be to apply to your life. But for all income levels, think creatively about how you can live below your means.
7. Learn How to Say No
It can be hard to say no. There are a variety of reasons for this – we don’t want to upset the other person or we may feel that saying no makes us look “bad”. But when it doesn’t align with your priorities, it is not adding value to your life. Here’s a thought to ponder: every time you say no, it frees up your time for something that is aligned to your priorities.
“It’s easy to say no when you know what your priorities are. If it doesn’t align to your priorities, then say no.” – Sheri Riley
Until my next blog post, here’s wishing you lots of joy and happiness!