The messiness of life is part of its charm.
As much as we’d like to tame the erratic flow of events and have it under control, we can’t guarantee a smooth sailing. Unexpected situations, emergencies or accidents are bound to happen.
However, we can reduce some of the chaos by eliminating from our lives the sources of distraction and overwhelm that can drag us down even more.
Here are x ways to simplify your life, without having to overhaul it completely.
(One note: there are endless article of this kind on the Internet. I tried my best to only include ideas that will truly make a difference.)
1) Create a tech-free zone in your home. This is a place where you get to have a break from your devices and unplug. A perfect place to spend your leisure time.
2) Keep time-based to-do lists. Keep a list of 5-, 15- and 30-minute tasks that you need complete during the day/week. Whenever you have the respective time amount free, try to tick off an item from the list.
3) Unsubscribe from unwanted emails. Few things are more overwhelming than a cluttered inbox, overflowing with ads, unmissable offers or product announcements.
There are a few services that can automate the process; especially if you have a large number of subscriptions, it would be worth having some help. But it’s easier press the Unsubscribe button yourself whenever you spot a newsletter you don’t wish to receive anymore.
(P.S. If you have room for one more newsletter in your inbox, consider subscribing to mine. No ads, no fluff, no spam.)
4) Back up your digital files! (Yes, I’m that passionate about this that I used an exclamation point.) It doesn’t matter which provider you use – Google, Microsoft, Apple – it’s more important that you do it. I learned my lesson when I had to redo a presentation because I didn’t back up the document.
Also, if you’ve built a personal knowledge management system, you know how precious those notes are. So, do yourself a favor and back them up.
5) Learn to Say No. Practice setting boundaries and saying no to commitments that don’t align with your priorities or values. By being selective about your commitments, you can focus on what truly matters to you.
I don’t entirely agree with the hell yeah or no philosophy, because some things maybe need time or practice to shift from the “no” to the “hell yes” category. That being said, you can use your gut instinct and be right about your choices most of the time.
6) Plan your workouts in advance. You can do this by checking your next week’s calendar and seeing how many movement sessions you can fit in, when, how long they’d be and their type (strength, hiking, walking, cardio, etc). I like to do this ahead of every month, so a larger time interval, but a week works too.
7) Establish a few “drop everything and” rules. The concept is simple: you pair a situation and a nonnegotiable action, so you get to do what’s meaningful to you, even when life gets hectic. For example, you can have a “drop everything and” rule for every Monday at 6pm to go on a walk. Whatever* you may be doing, you’ll drop everything and honor your rule.
A few notes:
- Credit: Andy Galpin on the Huberman Lab Podcast. Here’s the video link.
- *Privilege-check. It would be irresponsible not to address this. Some commitments are by their nature “un-drop-able” and we can’t afford to skip or pause them. So this rule applies when there is some leeway in our life and responsibilities.
- I’ve written more about this concept in this newsletter issue.
8) Have a go-to outfit for important last-minute meetings. There are times when you’re in a hurry or receive a last minute invitation to an event you don’t want to miss. Rather than enter panic-mode because you don’t know what you’re going to wear, or maybe the appropriate clothes are in the laundry, you can prepare an outfit in advance and have it as your “emergency solution.” Pick something smart and presentable, wash it, iron it, then store it in your wardrobe until that unexpected event arises.
9) Have a quick capture system for your thoughts.
10) Use IFTTT. IFTTT is a service that can help you automate repetitive or mundane tasks, to help you save time and reduce friction. You use it set up a system to automatically add the songs you like on YouTube to your Spotify playlist, or save tweets from a certain person to a spreadsheet. The possibilities are endless. Pretty neat.
11) Practice single-tasking. The negative effects of multi-tasking are well documented, that’s why experts advise us to focus on one single task at a time. This way. we’ll be less distracted and won’t suffer the “task switch cost” that happens every time we change from one activity to another. This may mean setting a Pomodoro timer or resolving to only have one tab/document open: the one you’re working on.
12) Plan your meals in advance. This is a no-brainer but it makes all the difference. You may not have 3 hours to meal prep at the end of the week, but even planning your meals will be a significant time saver. If you set aside 20 minutes Sunday night to plan all (snacks and everything) your meals for the upcoming week, you won’t find yourself hangry wondering what’s for dinner that day. And you’ll know exactly what groceries you need to buy.
13) Declutter stuff you haven’t used in one year. It’s good to do a House Audit once a year and go through all your possessions, deciding what is no longer needed. You don’t need to follow any fancy rules or ask your clothes whether they spark joy, just apply your own judgement and criteria for what stays vs. what goes.
14) Unfollow social media accounts that bring no value to your life. Just like we overgrow people, we also do social media profiles. Whether someone you actually know or an “influencer,” if that account isn’t relevant to your life in any way, let them go: press Unfollow.
15) Delete distracting apps from your phone. Do you know why I don’t spend 1h doom-scrolling on *insert social media app* every night before sleep? Because I don’t have any social media apps on my phone. But maybe your problem isn’t social media. Perhaps you’re distracted by all the discounts from your favorite shopping app or an addicting game. In this case, the sensible thing to do is uninstall what’s keeping you hooked. It’s like a band-aid that you rip off. It may hurt temporarily, but it’s better in the long term.