7 Ways to simplify your life

by | Personal Effectiveness

We are being severely over-stimulated by all the impulses in our Western society.

We want to have, know and do everything, all at the same time.

And it’s only after we simplify and try to do less instead of more, that we realize how much we have actually been missing.

Until quite recently, I hadn’t given this issue much thought. Even though I had been meditating on and off for several years, I still experienced many daily moments of restlessness.

My mind never seemed to get a break. Whenever I would be home by myself, there would always be random thoughts, ideas and urges popping up. Leaving me with the task of trying to organize them.

Also, focussing on one single task seemed impossible. There were always other important things that needed to be addressed too, like writing down unrelated stuff in my notebook, answering incoming email or adding to some discussion on my Facebook wall about snorkeling (which I have never even done).

I didn’t know any better. I had just accepted this as the reality of my life.

It was only when I started adding moments of ‘not responding to any stimuli’ to my day, that I noticed that maybe my brain wasn’t the cause of my restlessness. Maybe the cause was all stimuli that it received.

This was the moment when I realized that I had to make a change and simplify my life.

These are 7 ways that I have found to be effective in doing exactly that.

1. Limit input

The main problem is that we get way too much input all the time, not just from ourselves but from our surroundings!

Our mobile phones are constantly buzzing with notifications. We receive new messages, are reminded of appointments, informed by newschannels of every single person who seems to have ebola symptoms and reminded even of the recent dancing cat video uploaded by some YouTube-persona that we have subscribed to.

Cool right? No, it’s not. Not when you let all these unimportant notifications take over your life.

I’ve had great success with putting a limit on social media, turning off all (buzzing or sound) notifications on my phone and minimizing the amount of virtual contact that I have with people.

When I left my phone at home today and walked around town to go write this article someplace I almost felt like being on vacation. There were new things to be experienced everywhere.

Start being right where you are, without trying to be somewhere else. Being present in the moment is extremely pleasant and opens you up for new experiences.

2. Mono-task

Ever watched Dr. Phil while listening to Ben Howard’s new album, working on your laptop and texting your brother (who is seated 20 feet to your right), all at the same time?

I’ve lived this and still see people do this way too often.

If you work in such a way, it is much harder to have enough attention for any single task. And as a result you will lack the focus to get the task done right.

Next to that, I’ve been noticing that many people don’t overload themselves with stimuli because they like it but because it’s a necessity for them.

They need music in the background, they need to be able to look up anything and see their favorite series, they need to be in constant contact with all their friends or they might feel left out.

People fear missing something and because of this fear they miss everything.

Do you recognize this? Try doing just one thing at a time for a while. Once you’ll get used to it, you won’t even miss the life of multitasking. Moreover, my bet is that you will never want to go back.

3. Get your priorities straight and focus

“I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.” – Steve Jobs

You need to prioritize; you can’t do everything at once. And if you do try, you’ll never finish anything, have permanently elevated levels of cortisol, never get any sleep and will eventually befriend a guy named Tyler Durden (OK, that would actually be pretty awesome).

Decisiveness is something that should be actively exercised. It can be scary to stop doing, or not pursue something but it’s way scarier to realize that by pursuing everything, in the end, you will accomplish nothing.

Have one or maybe two priorities in a certain period of your life, and when you are satisfied, change them again. It will give you much more positive and long lasting results.

4. Make the road that you want to follow the most accessible

The easiest way of getting yourself to do something, is not by trying harder, but by making the alternatives less attractive.

Why are we always trying to strong-arm ourselves into doing stuff?

People make improvement so damn hard for themselves.

If you don’t want log on to Facebook every few minutes, don’t just try not to do it, this will drain your willpower. Instead, delete the app (from your phone) and block the website.

There are even website specific time-limiters available for your favorite browser. (You can download StayFocusd for Google Chrome here and find alternatives for different browsers here)

If checking your facebook is as easy as typing an ‘f’ in your address bar, it is inevitable that you will do it eventually.

Ever visited Facebook within 5 seconds of clicking it away, only to realize that you already checked everything? Yeah, me neither.

Be smart, not just strong.

5. Take a moment to do nothing

You should have moments each day where you are consciously not following any urges you have.

Moments where you just enjoy where you are, listen to birds chirping and sit without a purpose. You may even notice something about the interior of your house that you usually don’t, like a key lock in your back door that you had never seen before (true story). Try it, you’ll like it.

One great way of applying this is by taking small breaks in between workintervals. For example, I often use the pomodoro technique, where I work for 25 minutes without distractions and then have a break for 5. This 5-minute break is perfect for doing nothing!

6. Meditate

Without going into this one too extensively; if you are not already doing it, start doing it. It can have a positive influence on everything you do and will eventually allow you to live more mindfully during the day. You owe it to yourself to try it.

One of the best apps I’ve found for this is Headspace. You can find a free 10-day trial here. Headspace makes meditation easy and fun, you just need to sit down, put on your headphones and follow Andy his voice. There are even some rewards for following the course for several consecutive days, which makes you think twice about missing one.

It is also a good idea to check out Julian’s article ‘How to take charge of your life by using your hidden power’ which covers meditation in more depth.

7. Be more mindful by reminding yourself during the day

This can be as easy as decorating your house with a few reminders, like: “Be mindful”, “Let go!”, “Breathe” or “Monotask!”. You can write them on your whiteboard or hang a note on your door, on your fridge or wherever you may think of.

Running into these notes will serve as soft taps on a brake pedal; your mind will stop racing for a second as you return to your breathing. Just being reminded of the fact that there is calmness to be found inside of you, is very liberating.

Being more mindful during the day is one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself. It will improve your quality of life by relaxing your mind and opening you up for new experiences.

Make life simple again and reap the benefits.

Now that you have learned about several ways of simplifying your life, let us know what you think in the comment section below. Do they work for you? Do you have any other ways of simplifying? We would love to hear from you!

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