How to simplify your life right now: 6 best tips
Small changes can have a big impact – here are 6 ways to simplify your life right now and start living like a minimalist.
Let me let you in on a little secret. I'm terrible at habit formation. The good news is that I don't have an addictive personality and so don't struggle with many negative habits. The bad news is that it is very difficult for me to establish good habits when I want to.
If this resonates with you then I'm sure you've tried all types of tactics in the past to establish a routine, be more productive, and streamline different areas of your life. And if you're like me then you've likely kept it up for a few days before losing steam and returning back to your default way of doing things.
However there is hope. The key is to look for little ways to make big changes in your life. There are some things you can do that take a minimal amount of effort but bring about powerful results.
When it comes to simplifying your life, in particular, I've experimented quite a bit and have come up with a list of six tactics that have improved my life beyond belief, despite only taking a few minutes to incorporate.
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CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
These are my six best ways to simplify your life right now. The easiest way to try out these tactics is to practice implementing one per day over the next week.
- Plan out your day
- Organize your essentials
- Say no when you must
- Fix the nagging issues
- Automate repetitive tasks
- Avoid useless conflict
TIP 1: PLAN OUT YOUR DAY
In my own life I’ve observed, fairly consistently, that how I start my day is indicative of how the rest of the day will go. If I’m feeling frazzled before even getting dressed then I know it will be a long and arduous 24 hours if I don’t course-correct.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to start the day and feel a sense of control over how it flows is to spend a few minutes the evening before putting a game plan in place and then reviewing that plan throughout the day to stay on track.
This “game plan” is just a short list of must-do tasks and activities that you can quickly compile using the Eisenhower principle. This principle gives you a framework for how to easily prioritize your list:
- Important and Urgent — do first
- Important but Not Urgent — do later
- Not Important but Urgent — delegate
- Not Important and Not Urgent — eliminate
It takes me about 10-15 minutes right before bed to look at my list and sort within one of the buckets above.
Bucket 1 items are given a designated time to address the next day. Bucket 2 items are scheduled some time later in the week. I usually don’t have many Bucket 3 items but try to outsource (using a virtual assistant) or think of ways to automate if I see a repetitive pattern. Finally, I delete Bucket 4 items (my favorite part of the exercise).
Carve out a few minutes before bed this evening to organize tomorrow with this method. You’ll be surprised at how much time you typically spend on things that don’t matter — and relieved to find a guilt-free system that gets them off your list.
Two additional resources — here and here — will help you learn more about the Eisenhower principle and how to apply it.
TIP 2: ORGANIZE YOUR ESSENTIALS
This idea came to me randomly observing people in public places trying to pay for things. I started noticing how some folks would hold up lines by fumbling around in their bag looking for their wallet and then sifting through their wallet trying to find the right card.
I was amused at how something so important and essential to their day-to-day could be so utterly disorganized — so much so that it actually caused frustration (to them and others) when in use.
Your essentials are things you heavily rely on during the day. It can be an item like your bag or wallet, a space like your home office, or even the app you use to take notes.
But if that thing, whatever it is, is so overrun with junk that it fails at its duty then it’s time to put it back in order.
Your simple task is to take a few minutes to identify an essential that needs to be organized such as your wallet, desk drawer, or digital file storage. Then, if you can’t do it then and there schedule a date and time to
The simple act of clearing, cleaning, and properly arranging has strong psychological effects. If you struggle with this exercise it may be worth deeper introspection and a more concerted effort to maintain order in your life and space.
TIP 3: SAY NO WHEN YOU MUST
Easier said than done? No! Easy to say and carry through and I’ll explain exactly how.
We often get ourselves in trouble by gut-reacting with a resounding yes to commitments we haven’t properly assessed.
There’s a time and place for spontaneity, but in many cases we need to think before we speak or act and there are two ways to do this:
First, avoid confirming spontaneous requests (or making in-the-moment decisions) until you’ve had a moment to evaluate their importance. Clear context puts you in a better position to make sound decisions.
Second, don’t say maybe when you really mean no. We often do this when we feel obligated to please or appease the requester.
The issue here is that the request will linger in the back of your mind, you’ll likely delay making a decision, and then you will either begrudgingly go through with it or eventually tell the person no (causing them disappointment because you didn’t manage their expectations well).
Saying no or I don’t know (instead of an automatic yes or half-hearted maybe) gives you the space to think. Then you can quickly use the Eisenhower principle, or whatever other tactic you prefer, to thoroughly evaluate the request.
For additional insight and ideas on why and how to say no read this.
TIP 4: FIX THE NAGGING ISSUES
I have a bad habit of ignoring little irksome things. I tell myself they are too small to matter or convince myself that I’m being petty by focusing on them instead of other more pressing matters.
For example, our kitchen waste bin irritates me because it’s too small, unattractively displays the trash bag, and doesn’t contain scent very well.
It would only take me 10 minutes to research an alternative and order it online but I’ve put it off for months.
If there are little things that are constantly nagging us that take less than a few minutes to address — then why don’t we just do it?
The issue could be that perfectionism is causing procrastination.
Like me, you may secretly fear not being able to do the task thoroughly or perfectly. You may have high standards and subconsciously believe that you don't have the time, money, energy, or other resource to meet the demands you’ve imposed on yourself.
Something as simple as replacing subpar appliances (in my case), making that customer service phone call, or running a quick errand is triggering undue feelings of inadequacy.
So you (and I) come up with some excuse to delay the task when we’re really trying to avoid the imminent failure we conjured in our minds.
For example, my situation is driven by a keen sense of aesthetic and strong desire to have order in my environment. I don’t want just any trash bin - I want the most beautiful and technically advanced trash bin.
But because my ideal trash bin is likely a $200 indulgence (that conflicts with my views on minimalism and would send my frugal partner into a frenzy) then I just choose to ignore it assuming a lesser option would be inadequate.
However, ignoring these little inconveniences won’t make them go away. In fact, many little tasks and issues can accumulate into one big problem and the only way to avoid that happening is to get them done.
So choose a little thing to fix right now.
Don’t assume you will be unsuccessful and don’t get hung up on having to have an absolutely perfect outcome. Don’t let personal preferences and ideals become overbearing internal dogmas.
Curb your expectations because in the case of little things it’s better to accept a good enough solution then let it linger forever while you wait around for the best solution.
And in case you are wondering about my trash bin woes know that I’m holding myself to my own advice and by the time I publish this I will have made that purchase.
TIP 5: AUTOMATE REPETITIVE TASKS
Repetitive tasks are things that you must do on a recurring basis that tend to have a fairly fixed schedule and method for completing, such as:
- paying the bills
- shopping for groceries
- cleaning your house
Though these types of tasks typically don’t require too much mental processing, they often consume a lot of time.
Automating or allocating them allows you to partially or completely remove them from your to-do list instantly increasing your productivity by allowing you to focus on more pressing matters.
Depending on the task, the setup or implementation only takes a few minutes. Here are a few tips, apps, and services to get you started:
TIP 6: AVOID USELESS CONFLICT
I learned a powerful lesson in my youth that has been a major contributor to the success I’ve achieved in my life: who or what I spend my time on will directly determine what I will become.
Useless conflict is:
- continuing an argument that’s going absolutely no where.
- wasting productive hours participating in office gossip.
- getting yourself involved in another person’s drama.
- allowing negative self-talk to permeate your thoughts.
There are many more examples of useless conflict but at the core of them all is giving energy to contentious and negative people, situations, or other things that don’t matter.
Not only does useless conflict add zero value to you because it doesn’t help you progress or achieve your goals, but it also has an unexpected adverse effect.
All that complaining, criticizing, and chastizing stirs up toxic emotions that lead to unnecessary stress, and too much stress damages your body and mind.
I learned a simple little trick that allows me to block negative people and situations: go away or go silent. I avoid useless conflict if I can but if I can’t then I refuse to participate.
This is not a matter of running away or hiding from all difficult situations. There will always be adverse circumstances that we need to face head on.
However, if you find yourself getting distracted or being hindered by senseless and futile thoughts, conversations, or situations, then you are not only complicating your life but potentially harming your physical and mental health.
So the next time you find yourself getting caught up in negative talk or thinking use the go away or go silent method. With enough practice it’ll become an effortless reaction to pointless pessimism.