How many times have you heard or said that things are just too complicated? I know I have said it many times and I can’t count how many times my clients have said it. As we move forward along our paths, things seem to get muddier and more complex. It can get quite overwhelming. How do we simplify things?
- Identify what is really important. You can ask this question many different ways. What are your priorities? What do you value most? And on and on. These questions are valid, but sometimes hard to answer. If the answers to those questions are clear, you’re set. If they’re not, try to think about what and who you would take with you on a deserted island or try to grab if your house was burning down. When we start thinking about catastrophic change, we’re more able to find what we really can’t do without. Why do this? You want to get very clear about who and what you want in your life as well as what is non-negotiable. These must be protected in our simplification process. For example, if one of your greatest joys is your dog, even though he takes a lot of time and is messy, it would be ridiculous to simplify your life by either giving up your dog or delegating all of his care to a dog walker. When we know what is most important to us, we can let almost everything else go.
- Identify what is not important. I should probably also add to identify what is not useful to us. We can get so caught up in what we’ve always done or what’s expected of us that we don’t evaluate if what we’re doing is truly important to us. People can be bogged down by obligations to people or organizations that they don’t truly care about or that provide no value to them. It can be hard to say no or to get out of established routines. I fall prey to this myself. Remember that you are better served in spending your valuable time and energy on things that are meaningful or useful to you. If you don’t, you can find yourself working on some project for hours and hours for someone you dislike with no foreseeable benefit to yourself. This wastes not only time, but emotional energy. How much time do you spend feeling bitter that you have to do this thing or feel unappreciated or disconnected? If you focus your efforts on things that are truly important, your life will become much simpler.
- Refocus your attention. When you have clarity on what is important to you and what is not, refocus your attention (read: time) on those things that you value. Do a time study if you need to, but figure out how you can spend most of your time doing the things you most value and being with the people who are most important to you. I’m not saying to abandon your responsibilities. I’m saying to focus your attention on what you value. For example, if your favorite thing is dancing, but you need to have a job to support yourself, you must find a way to balance that out. You must keep your job, but you don’t need to volunteer for extra projects or do more than “good enough.” Maybe you can find ways to have a more flexible schedule or decrease your hours without losing income, but the primary concern is to remember that time you spend toiling at work is time you aren’t dancing. I was recently reading a book by Timothy Ferriss, who writes about ways to earn money while whittling down your work week to four hours (http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/). Now, earning enough money to live off of in four hours may be out of range for most of us. I get that. However, if we remember why we’re earning money, it can help us to keep our work life contained into the time we allot. For some of us, it may seem hard to do less than our best at work, but if dancing is more important, we just might want to settle for good enough and get more time on the dance floor.
- Avoid traps. Okay, that sounds pretty dramatic, but I wanted to add something about maintaining simplicity once you’ve established it. So, imagine you have designed your life in such a way that what you do is in alignment with your values and priorities. You have let go of the things that are just not important to you, giving yourself more time with cherished activities and loved ones. Now, in comes a frenemy who has a project or activity you “just can’t say no to” or you read on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter (you get the idea) about some drama that isn’t directly related to you. Say no! Don’t allow others’ drama or desires cloud your ability to stick to your priorities. Take a breath and hold off on jumping in. Evaluate before you engage: is this mine? is this important to me? is this useful to me? This may sound selfish, but if you fall into someone else’s drama or plan for you, it does no one any good. Your misery will find its way into your valuable relationships (that moment when you realize your friend or spouse has glazed over listening to you vent for 2 hours) and leach into other areas of importance to you (you call out sick from work because you spent so much time and energy on something that drained you). Just say no to anything that distracts you from what is truly important!
Pursue and focus on what is important to you. Let go of the things you don’t need and don’t value. Find your path to simplicity! -Katie
If you’d like help simplifying your life, please don’t hesitate to contact me: email@example.com; 424-241-3205.