10 Ways to Simplify Your Life
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1. Decrease TV Time
We all know tv wastes time. But do we realize how much time? Simplify your life. Try to NOT watch tv for 5 days – what happens? What if someone asked you to not turn on the tv for TWO days? If you are thinking – “NO WAY” – then Houston? We’ve got a problem. I suggested to my son a few months ago to listen to a podcast instead of watching tv. He said, “Well what do I do with my eyes.” Um…
For me, tv watching increases obsessive behavior. Did I (ok, DO I?) really need to watch 17 seasons of Law and Order: SVU, Forensic Files, Snapped, Killer Couples? (do you see a theme here?) The answer was “Yes. I had to finish the series.” I didn’t even WANT to! I just HAD to finish. I would have preferred to been listening to a podcast or an audiobook while knitting. And what would have happened to me if I didn’t watch it to the end? Nothing you say? Absolutely nothing? That is correct. If I didn’t have to COMPLETE a tv show, nothing would have happened.
2. Budget, Budget, Budget
Being out of control with your money and not knowing exactly where your money is or where it is going is dangerous. It leaves you open to charging purchases on credit cards – getting home equity loans – anything to just pay for what you WANT. This is without having to sit down, look at the numbers and figure out whether or not you can afford it as well as if you really need it.
It’s important to know that if you save $100 today, and continue to do so once every month? If you put those $100 savings into a low-cost index fund that has an approximate rate of return of 7%? After 20 years it becomes $52,092.67. After 30 years your $100/month will be $121,997.10. It DOES make a difference. PAY YOURSELF FIRST. You are worth it!
3. Stop Multitasking
Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? It states that 20% of the good “stuff” (successes) comes from 80% of all the “stuff.” In other words, 80% of your productivity comes from 20% of the things you do. And In other words, PRIORITIZE. If your list is long – think Pareto Principle. Only 20% of this list will give you 80% of your success. Which 20% is it? DO THOSE FIRST!
Use concentrated time. Try not to keep your email open all day long so that you can respond as they come in. Turn off the notifications telling you that you have new mail. Set a concentrated time for it. I love Tim Ferriss' idea in his book The 4-Hour Workweek. He suggests batching your emails and looking at them once or twice a day. He automates responses so the people emailing him receive notice that he only checks once/twice/day. If you would like to read more of The 4-Hour Workweek click below.
There have been psychological studies explaining the difference between “goal shifting” and “rule activation” – where we turn off the “rules” for one task and turn on the “rules” for another, AKA, multitasking. The research claims that although the switch between rules may be tiny, they add up, and can cut your productive time (as much as 40%!)
Start small. If you are like me you want everything done NOW. It can’t work that way, and the sooner we realize that the better off we will be. If we keep that M.O. that it all has to be done at once, it will never get it done. Start SMALL. One room. One cabinet. One drawer. Just one. (hint: simplify)
I LOVED the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – but it is intense for a beginner! If you don't mind going hog wild getting rid of what feels like EVERYTHING? Go for it, read it! I had a hard time asking a shirt if I loved it – but – still thought the book was interesting and a useful tool for decluttering. If you are a beginner or think that asking a mug if you love it or not will make you RUN from decluttering? Then I would highly suggest the book What's a Disorganized Person to Do? by Stacey Platt. The book is easy to read, visually pleasing and has a non-overwhelming quality to it. If you haven't used something in a year, say “BUH BYE!” (slowly, and with a deep raspy voice.) We need to stop saving things for “what ifs” and “just in case.” Life is lighter, your shoulders relax, and there is less to clean and take care of when you have less “stuff.” Declutter. Start small. Go get 'em!
5. Sleep Well
We’ve heard it all before. Get sleep. I personally have to stop drinking coffee by 4 pm or my sleep is disturbed. When is your cut off time? If you don't have one, figure one out. (and if you are one that says, “I can drink a cup of coffee right before bed and it doesn’t affect me – think about it – do you sleep well?) Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime (IT REALLY DOES HELP!) Try to make a bedtime routine. Have a cup of tea, take a shower – get into comfy pajamas! Read something interesting.
6. Stop With Perfectionism
Perfectionism is paralyzing. It freezes you up. For me, if I have a lot to do, and it seems overwhelming, instead of just starting one piece at a time, I concentrate on how to get the WHOLE thing done, and then NOTHING gets done. Eat that Frog. Heard of that? Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
So that frog, signifying the most difficult item on your list of things to do – this is the one you will procrastinate the most about, so tackle that first. It could have the biggest impact on your success (think Pareto Principle!)
So. In layman’s terms? Do the hardest thing first. Period.
7. Prepare Lunches the Night Before
While making dinner, prepare lunches for you to take to work and for the kids to bring to school. I know, I know – meal planning is something I still struggle with – but lunches that are made the night before making a HUGE difference in the morning. Just do it. I went for years thinking, “But I just worked all day, and now I’m cooking dinner – I don’t want to make lunches too.” But if you do this to simplify your life you will DEFINITELY thank yourself in the morning – I PROMISE! Get the snacks in the lunch bags – the cold stuff in a section of the fridge. Simplify your life! You’ll want to give yourself a huge hug in the morning.
8. Get Rid of Debt
There is nothing new to say here except that as dire as your straits may seem – you can do this! Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money is a great place to start. Dave Ramsey is where I learned about the cash envelope system of budgeting – my favorite!
His 7 baby steps are:
- Baby Step 1 – $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
- Baby Step 2 – Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
- Baby Step 3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
- Baby Step 4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
- Baby Step 5 – College funding for children
- Baby Step 6 – Pay off home early
- Baby Step 7 – Build wealth and give!
Listen! Pay YOURSELF first. Stop borrowing.
9. Don’t Complain, Be Grateful
Someone once said to me when I was (apparently) complaining… “wah wah wah – call the
We always read things like, “wake up and list 3 things you are grateful for” (or do it before bed.) Well you’re too tired before bed, right? And the mornings are too rushed? Listen, it takes MILLISECONDS! Just do it! It feels GREAT! It makes a difference. Choose when you want to do it, and set a timer on your phone. 7 am – “grateful time” – when your alarm goes off? Think of three things/people you are grateful for. Done.
10. Digitize Paper Clutter
Get rid of it! This may be my favorite on this list. I am almost paperless and it’s liberating beyond belief. Evernote is my BFF (best friend forever.) I am down to ONE folder/
Yes, the initial scanning of documents is a big job – but nothing you probably can’t do on a weekend. Because in all honesty – couldn’t you really just shred most of the paper you’ve been saving? Do you need it for taxes or is it really something you will never ever need to go back to? If you can shred – shred, shred, shred. If you need to save it, scan it. My life changed exponentially for the better – in terms of clearing the mind and the clutter once I digitized my paperwork. The most effective way I achieved this is by using Evernote and a Fujitsu ScanSnap – MUCH more discussion on that soon.