You don’t need me to tell you that we live in an incredibly busy society. Whenever I talk with friends or colleagues, they all tell me a different version of the same story: we are constantly jumping from one meeting, soccer practice, or class to the next, and it’s often a scramble to get it all done. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to slow that down.
I would like to start this journey with five simple steps.
Why simplify? For starters, simplifying helps uncover what you truly value in life. It frees up your schedule to spend time with those you love and (re)discover your passions. It helps you recognize your most important goals, and highlights where you should invest your energy.
Today I am sharing with you five ways that I’m simplifying this month. Hopefully over the next four weeks these practices become second nature, and we can tackle even bigger goals next month. Are you with me?
Here we go!
1. Make a list of the top five things most important to you.
This list can be anything. Perhaps it’s keeping a strong relationship with your partner, making time for your close circle of friends, talking with your family regularly, maintaining a consistent fitness schedule, and allowing time to learn Spanish. Whatever those top five things are, write them down and keep them at the forefront of your mind. This is your priority list. These are the five things on which you need to focus. Often times we fill our calendars with back-to-back activities or meetings that don’t necessarily enhance those five objectives. Instead, they suck you of your energy and leave you feeling drained. Don’t do this! Save your energy for what matters to you.
What does this mean? Next time that you’re asked to join another committee, take on an extra work assignment, or coach another year of middle school soccer, stop and ask yourself, “Will this strengthen one of my top five priorities?” “Do I actually want to do this?” If the answer is no, politely decline. You only have one life – fill it with the things you love as much as possible. This leads me to #2.
2. It’s OKAY to say no.
Saying no can be a very difficult thing for some of us – myself included. Perhaps we don’t want to disappoint a friend, perhaps we think, “If I don’t do this, it won’t get done!” Maybe we’re worried about how others will respond. I have a secret for you. It’s okay to say no.
As Rob Bell explains in one of his early Robcasts, “You can say no, because you’ve already said YES.” You have said YES to the top five priorities in your life. You already spend your invaluable time saying YES to enhancing those five things. That is enough.
3. Stop feeling like every minute should be productive.
This might sound strange coming from a blog who’s tagline is “Maximize your productivity,” (and even more strange if you know me personally) but hear me out…
How many of you find yourselves waiting in the checkout line for groceries and immediately pulling out your phone? You check your email, answer a text, scroll through Facebook…anything to keep yourself busy. (You can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand right now.)
After dinner is done, how many of you try and relax with your family but instead end up thinking, “I should really get something done right now…maybe I could do XYZ (fold the laundry, grade some papers, answer a few emails) during this downtime.” (My other hand is raised now, too)
NO! While we might think we’re being productive, in reality we’re wearing ourselves down and simply adding unnecessary stress to our lives. If you’re constantly striving to fill each minute of every day, you will inevitably burn yourself out. It might take a while, but it will happen. Trust me, I speak from experience.
I’m slowly discovering that if I create separate blocks of time for “getting things done” and “recharging,” I am more productive during those work hours. And this makes sense. By letting ourselves slow down and simply BE during our downtime, we allow our bodies and minds to reboot. Then when the work hours return, we’re ready to go. Give it a try.
4. Minimize choices and get rid of stuff.
I plan to dedicate a whole series of posts to minimalism in the next few weeks, but I want to touch on it briefly here. I can’t speak highly enough about getting rid of unnecessary stuff; you not only reduce stress-inducing clutter, but you also reduce your choices. Do you know what this means? Decision making just got So. Much. Easier.
Here’s a real world example: this past spring (Declutter 2017) I completely gutted my closet. I donated over 10 garbage bags filled with clothes, shoes, accessories, bags, etc. Guess what’s left in my closet. Only the things that I love. Yep, when I wake up in the morning and open my closet doors, I know I like everything in my wardrobe. Although this may seem like small step, I can’t tell you how much time I save each morning. And as an added bonus – all of my clothes fit in my closet with room to spare. Woah! (Did you hear that cheering? It’s my husband celebrating the his newly gained space.)
5. Create a weekly or biweekly dinner menu.
Question time. When 5:00 rolls around, how many of you think, “ACK! What the heck are we having for dinner tonight?” and then proceed to hunt through your refrigerator for something the whole family will eat? Been there.
Ryan and I recently started sitting down once a week to plan our meals for next 7 days. We try and keep them simple – no more than 30 minutes to prepare – and we take into account which meals will have leftovers, which nights we won’t be home for dinner etc.
By making this simple plan, I can go to the grocery store ONCE a week, get everything I need, and completely avoid the frazzled dinner rush. I’m telling you, 5 minutes of planning at the beginning of the week saves a whole lot of stress and wasted time on the other end.
So that’s it, friends! Those are the first five steps to simplifying your life. Will you try it with me?
What are your tips for simplification? Have you jumped on the minimalist bandwagon? Let me know below!