What’s the best way to simplify your life?

What's the best way to simplify your life? by @NelaCanovic

Answer by Nela Canovic:


Depending on which area of your life needs the most improvement, you can pick from any of these 7 tips. Or, if you think your life has turned into one big mess, you might want to try them all!

Tip #1. Start the day with only ONE goal in mind.

When you wake up, ask yourself one short yet powerful question: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today? There are many benefits to doing this. You train your brain to focus on what’s important by not wasting time on things that are trivial, irrelevant, or distracting. You also gain a sense of purpose: when you are focused on personal commitments, it gives your life meaning and helps you understand you have something of value to contribute. Finally, you save time: knowing in advance the work you need to accomplish means that you don't waste hours evaluating multiple priorities throughout the day.

How to do it:

  • Put it in writing. Write your question in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall.
  • Read it out loud as you start your day (as you’re brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or getting dressed), and come up with an answer on the spot.
  • Follow up by taking action and by reminding yourself throughout the day about the commitment you made.

Tip #2. Get your focus on.

When you are focused, you can actually complete the most difficult mental tasks such as analyzing, writing, and problem-solving. That’s called doing deep work: you allow your brain to perform analytical tasks during uninterrupted blocks of time.

How to do it:

  • Create a dedicated space for work: at home, it can be a desk or chair in the corner of a room; if your home is too noisy, try the library.
  • Block off time to focus: for best results, try to do deep work early in the day before things get too busy. It’s also your brain’s optimal time to do analytical thinking, based on your circadian rhythm.
  • Make your computer work-friendly: close or hide all tabs in your browser that are irrelevant to your work. Create a playlist of music that can help you concentrate better: it can be classical music, sounds of nature, or other similar chill out tunes.

Tip #3. Create one small habit that can simplify your day.

Habits are beneficial in the sense that they can help to structure your day and time better. When they’re small, they’re also more doable so that you can be consistent while practicing them. And that’s the goal: make a habit as easy as possible, devote a little time to it in the beginning, and keep at it.

How to create small habits:

  • Set a bedtime alarm to help you unwind in the evening: it can go off 30 minutes before bedtime so you know it’s time to turn off the TV and do something relaxing to help you transition into sleep mode more easily.
  • Make a unique morning alarm that is you-friendly: it can be energizing music or a song that makes you happy. To avoid hitting the snooze button, put your phone or alarm clock farther away from your bed which will force you to get up faster.
  • Create a morning routine to jump start the day: do a 15-minute workout for a burst of energy, make a 5-minute breakfast to get you going, and have a plan in place for what you need to accomplish that day (which you can write down the evening before).

Tip #4. Don't overwhelm yourself with too many choices.

When you force yourself to choose between many things, from picking an outfit to wear in the morning to choosing where to go out to dinner with your friends, you aren’t improving the quality of your life. Instead, all you’re doing is ensuring that you’ll feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and maybe even unhappy from evaluating all those options.

What’s the big deal?

  • The more options we have, the more time we will need to pick one: a good example is spending 30 minutes discussing the pros and cons of eating out in different restaurants with a friend when you’re really hungry but not sure what to choose.
  • We drain our willpower on making one decision (especially if it is not that relevant, f.ex., debating which outfit to wear) when we should really be using it to choose what’s more important (estimating how much time it will take to complete a project).
  • We reduce ourselves to just being reactive (“Look at all this work I have to do today! How will I manage it all?”) instead of getting proactive and being in the driver’s seat (“All right, I have a lot of work to do. Now I’m going to prioritize and see what needs to be done first.”).

How to simplify this:

  • Reduce your number of options to two: eliminate anything that is unnecessary, or is likely to cost you more (either in time or financially).
  • Go with your gut: if you feel that you gravitate towards one thing as opposed to another one, just go with the feeling.
  • Don’t second-guess yourself: be committed to the decision you made; this will teach you to trust yourself in the long term.

Tip #5. Don’t waste time on toxic people and social media.

Both can significantly impact your focus in a negative way by taking your attention away from what’s important in your life.

  • Toxic people may claim they are your friends, but they are not. Why? Because they don’t support you, they don’t listen to you, and chances are they won’t change just because you want them to. How can you avoid them or minimize the time spent on these types of people? Be very selective who you spend your free time with, and next time a toxic person wants to monopolize your time, just say no. Tell them you’re busy. Don’t engage in negative banter. You're better off spending free time on your own doing something that makes you relaxed and happy.
  • It’s easy to spend hours reading your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter updates. There are so many news happening each day! And it may seem to you that your friends’ lives are more exciting than yours, or more “perfect” than yours. But why should you take everything you read for granted? Try this: take everything you see and hear with a grain of salt. Chances are that the pictures and updates are not your friends’ reality; it’s the version of their reality they want you to see. What to do instead? Focus on what you have going for you in your life: it can be a great friendship, a job that helps you feel independent, a home you feel safe living in.

Tip #6. Turn off distractions.

It’s next to impossible to focus on what we are currently doing because our attention moves to things happening around us. You know what that feels like: you start multitasking and next thing you know, you’re reading emails while trying to finish a project for work, but you’re also obsessively checking your Facebook updates to see what your friends are up to. Did you know that multitasking can lower your IQ by 10 points? When you turn off your distractions, you have a better chance to actually do what’s important to you.

How to do it:

  • Set your phone to Airplane mode when you need to focus on your work. Even if it’s just for two hours, you’ll notice a big difference in how much you can accomplish during that time.
  • Set expectations with other people by letting them know you won’t be available in the next few hours, so they don’t interrupt you with their requests, questions or suggestions on how to spend time doing something else.
  • Check your email and social media apps 2–3 times a day (around midday, later in the afternoon, and evening). Schedule this time in: do it during your lunch break, for example, or when you have a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news firs thing in the morning. Leave these activities for later after you've completed what you need to do.

Tip #7. Find the time to listen to yourself.

Do you know the phrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen”? It means that often the number one reason things get complicated is that there are too many opinions and too many decision-makers in the mix. You’ve probably experienced this many times: people talk to you, they give their opinions, and next thing you know, they’re telling you what you need to do either in your personal or professional life.

What’s behind it, really?

As James Altucher often says, advice is autobiography. In other words, the advice you hear throughout your life is biased; it is given through the filter of life experiences, cultural upbringing, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions of the advice giver. But they don’t really know your life. Nobody does, except for you.

How do you spend less time listening to others and more time listening to yourself?

  • Don't just follow what others say; instead, build your critical thinking muscle. When you receive someone’s advice, ask yourself these questions: Does the advice align with my personal values? How would I benefit from following this advice? Or, can I come up with a better solution, perhaps by asking someone else who is more experienced in that particular field?
  • Set aside some time every day to shut off the noise. Switch off the distractions, turn off your computer and your phone, and listen to what your inner voice is telling you. Having the time for yourself is a habit that will not only simplify your life, but will help you lead a life that is more balanced and happier in the long run.

What's the best way to simplify your life?

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