Up until a year ago, I was always looking to squeeze more and more into my days because I thought that was the only way to be productive. Just do more. But somewhere in my attempts to do more, I lost touch with the things I valued most.
Now I'm experimenting with a simpler way of living—one that's less stressful and more fulfilling. I am by no means immune to getting caught up in the crazy pace of our culture, but I'm improving every day. Here are 30 of the most helpful tips I've picked up on the art of simplifying:
1. Select your top five.
What are the five most important things in your life? Have you ever found yourself at the end of the day feeling like you haven't done anything you really cared about? Decide what you value most and commit your time to those things.
2. Say no.
We often agree to take on more than we can handle. Create some boundaries on your time. When you know your major priorities, saying no becomes easier.
3. Switch off notifications.
Have you ever almost been asleep and then received an email, Facebook, or Instagram alert that woke you up? Switch these notifications off and check them at a time that works for you, not as they come in.
4. Limit media.
Rather than turning on the TV as soon as you get home, write down what you're looking forward to watching and turn it on when that show starts.
5. Simplify your wardrobe.
Great fashion is not found in owning more clothes but in owning the right clothes for you.
6. Spend time alone.
Solitude can be uncomfortable initially. When we slow down, we can hear our inner anxieties and stress more clearly. Rather than ignoring these, listen to what they have to say.
7. Eat slowly.
If you're anything like me, you may see eating as a distraction from the wonderful world of productivity. Buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hanh's guidebook How to Eat (Mindful Essentials) is packed with some great tips on how to slow down and find enjoyment in every meal.
8. Clear your desk.
Our physical space is symbolic of our mental space. Do you really need the 25 pens, 12 highlighters, and two staplers? Clear your desk of the nonessentials. Think about what you use, and discard the rest.
9. Establish routines.
Routines can provide us with a focused time to commit to specific actions. Check out a few routines from well-known figures throughout history to get you started.
10. Live frugally.
Take the time to consider your purchases. Once I started thinking more carefully about my shopping habits, I realized I didn't need as much as I was used to buying.
Life is easier to operate with less. Read this.
12. Don’t tolerate debt.
Stop spending more than you earn. Pay cash, and enjoy the freedom that comes from being debt-free.
It's incredible how much more room we have when we're careful with the things we bring into our home. When you own less, you don't need as much space.
14. Discover enough.
"More" is not an answer. What point are you trying to reach? Let's figure out what enough is for us, so we know when to stop mindlessly accumulating.
15. Declutter before organizing.
Organization doesn't have to mean neatly packing away everything you own. The best way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it.
16. Find a place for everything.
Have you ever been about to leave your house only to realize you can't find your keys, your wallet, and your phone? Have one place for everything, and save yourself the stress of trying to remember the last place you left it.
This practice will teach you not to let your emotions drive your decisions and ultimately save you a lot of unnecessary stress.
18. Do yoga.
Mental stress is associated with physical tension. Yoga is a way for us to focus on our breath and stretch our muscles, leaving us with a sense of flow in our bodies and minds.
When done regularly, walking can be a form of meditation that relieves stress and boosts alertness.
20. Stop multitasking.
Focus on one task at a time. Regardless how talented you are at taking on multiple tasks, you'll perform better when you focus on the one at hand.
21. Say no to ads.
If it's advertised, you don't need it. Don't let companies steal your mental space by shouting at you about what you need to stay relevant.
22. Do nothing.
Our business can be a form of laziness since it keeps us from focusing on what's most important. Sit still from time to time, not to read or meditate or paint or draw. Just to be. It's amazing how much appreciation you can muster when you just sit down and listen for a moment.
23. Quality over quantity.
We don't need a lot. Rather than buying more, consider buying fewer goods that are better quality.
24. Read "Simplify Your Life."
This book inspired this post, and it's the best guide to simple living I've ever come across.
25. Check emails once a day.
Many of us love the feeling of being busy but set an allocated amount of time each day for checking personal emails to keep a clear mind.
26. Ban credit cards.
If you can't pay for it in cash, you don't need it right now. Get rid of your credit cards and save up for what you really need. In the process of saving, you'll realize how many impulse buys you used to make.
27. Take a rest day.
Though it can be hard for our ego to accept, the world doesn't fall apart when we take a break. At the end of each week, switch off your phone and computer, close your diary, and enjoy some downtime.
28. Get rid of unnecessary costs.
Unused gym memberships, the latest iPhone plan, Netflix, coffee each day from the local cafe, the expensive car repayments, the oversized house...these are just a few examples of indulgent expenses. Think about how you can limit the excess and enjoy the freedom that comes with having more money to spend on what you really value.
29. Eat simply.
Don't let an abundance of choice distract you from a healthy routine. Eating should be simple: Eat foods from nature, and repeat daily.
30. Take an annual retreat.
Create time during the year to leave your day-to-day commitments behind and take a trip. It doesn't have to be expensive. Camping, a cheap cabin, or an organized retreat can all leave you feeling refreshed.