A great way to reduce stress and find more time for the things that matter most is to simplify your life. Here are the 11 most important things you can do to simplify your life:
1. Make a list of your top 4 or 5 core values.
This can help you focus on what’s most important and eliminate distractions. Your values might include family, health, fun, travel, adventure, and learning. There are hundreds of different values you could have so it is worth taking the time to think about what is truly most important to you. What would you do if money were no object and you could spend your days doing what you love?
You can prioritize your values by considering how much time and energy you spend on each one. Are you truly living in alignment with what is most important to you? If your health is truly a priority, do you spend more to buy organic healthful foods? Do you invest time to exercise first thing in the morning or go for a daily walk? If your life isn’t in alignment with your values, you either need to change your top priorities or get support (see tip 11 below).
2. Set clear and specific goals for yourself.
Having specific, achievable goals can help you stay focused and simplify decision-making. For example, you might set a goal to save a certain amount of money each month to become financially free, run a marathon by a certain date, organize a family reunion, or clear the clutter from your bedroom nightstand. I like having a theme for each year. One year I might focus on creating space, another year I might focus on travel and having adventures. With a busy family, having a single theme that I come back to throughout the year helps keep me on track.
3. Streamline your possessions.
Getting rid of clutter and unnecessary possessions can help simplify your living space and your life. You could start simplifying your closet by getting rid of clothes that you no longer wear or that don’t fit or by creating a beautiful capsule wardrobe that mixes and matches effortlessly so you can create different outfits without having lots of clothes.
Consider creating a uniform for work to make your life even easier. Steve Jobs is famous for his black turtleneck just as Armani is famous for his black cashmere t-shirt. If these successful leaders can get away with a uniform (and Armani is a fashion designer!) then you can too! Start by decluttering the area that you find the most stressful or the most visible so that you get a double win. As Francine Jay, author of The Joy of Less, says, “Ideally, you should be able to get dressed in the dark and still look fabulous.”
4. Simplify your schedule.
Look for ways to streamline your daily routine and eliminate unnecessary tasks. Can you find ways to combine errands or tasks? I’ve decided to book all of our dental check-ups for the same day after school to save multiple trips to the dentist. You will be more efficient if you schedule your appointments in blocks of time rather than spreading them out throughout the week or year. Keep white space in your daily schedule for those unplanned emergencies and for creative thinking. Creativity is a function of space. If you want to be more creative, carve out more space for yourself to potter about and let your mind wander.
5. Just say no.
Saying no to requests that don’t align with your values or goals can help you simplify your life. Politely decline social invitations that don’t thrill you or requests for help or favors that you don’t have the time or energy for. Part of saying no is putting in place stronger boundaries. You can learn how to let others know what your boundaries are in a gracious, firm manner with this simple 4-step Communication Model.
6. Delegate tasks, especially the time-consuming ones.
If you’re trying to do too much, see if there are tasks you can delegate to others. Ask a co-worker to take on a project that you don’t have time for, or you might hire a house cleaner to help with household chores.
7. Get organized.
Taking the time to get organized will save you time and effort in the long run. Create a simple filing system for your important documents and declutter your desk so it’s easy to find what you need. I use Dana K. White’s “container concept”—you can keep what comfortably fits in the allocated container for that stuff. For example, I can keep books that comfortably fit on the bookcase. Once I start double stacking or piling books onto the floor, I’ve surpassed the available space for books and need to give the books I’ll no longer read to friends or donate them to the library or local charity shops.
8. Simplify your diet.
Eating a simple, healthy diet can save you time and improve your overall well-being. For example, you might try eating more whole, unprocessed foods and fewer packaged or convenience foods. In the short run, convenience foods seem simpler, but in the long run, you’ll have more energy and better health.
One of my coaching colleagues didn’t enjoy cooking but wanted a healthier diet so she hired a professional chef to cook home-made nutritious meals and deliver them frozen each week. What surprised her was that she not only saved time cooking, but she also saved money because she was no longer buying take-out food on the run or letting groceries spoil in her fridge. Last year I joined Wildfit to lose weight and dramatically simplified my diet in the process by eating a completely natural diet. I thought I was healthy before, but this really changed my mindset.
9. Practice mindfulness.
Focusing on the present moment can help you simplify your thoughts and reduce stress. Try meditating or practicing deep breathing techniques to help you focus on the present moment. I love doing yoga as it not only feels good but also calms the mind and massages the internal organs as a bonus.
10. Take breaks and schedule downtime.
Taking breaks and scheduling time for relaxation and leisure can help you recharge and simplify your life. It’s important to make time for self-care and rest in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Schedule a vacation or a weekend getaway, or you might set aside time each day for relaxation and leisure activities like reading or exercising.
One of the tips In my book, Coach Yourself to Success: 101 Tips to Accomplish Your Personal and Professional Goals, is to show up 10 minutes early to every appointment. This is a simple way to eliminate the stress of rushing to show up just on time or worse, late. By arriving early to all appointments you’ll be building in some time for mini-meditations throughout the day. This one simple change will help you shift from running about like a headless chicken, to being calm, cool, and collected.
11. Get support.
Surrounding yourself with supportive, encouraging people can help you simplify your life and achieve your goals. Consider joining a support group or hiring a life coach or mentor to help you achieve your goals and live a life that is truly in alignment with what is most important to you.