Tips to simplify your life

Tips to simplify your life

Do you wonder how life got so complicated? Does it seem that there are not enough hours in the day to do all that you want or need to do? Have you been feeling pulled in too many directions at once? If so, you are not alone.

Many people feel like they have lost control over their time, doing things they would prefer not to do and not doing the things they do enjoy.

The 80/20 Principle (Vilfredo Pareto, 1897), says that 20 percent of our effort produces 80 percent of the results. This suggests that 20 percent of your activities give you 80 percent of your satisfaction. The challenge is to identify those few vital items that produce the greatest value for you, focus on them and reduce or eliminate the 80 percent that are trivial and unsatisfactory.

Some people say, “I can’t slow down because everything is important.” Do some reality checks about what really is important to you at this point in your life.

Below are some practical tips for simplifying your life:

  • Keep a log of how you spend your time for a week. Review it to give yourself a reality check about how your time is spent and to help you determine what is and is not working for you.
  • Identify how much time you need for the daily necessities and add in other activities only if you still have time left. For example, each of us gets the same 24 hours of time daily. If I need eight hours of sleep and I work eight hours, that only leaves eight hours for everything else. If I try to cram in anything more than that, I am going to feel extremely stressed.
  • Multi-task. For example, exercise with other people to get both activity and social time. Pray while you are stuck in traffic or a line at the store.
  • Monitor your screen time – computer, TV, phone, etc. Recent studies suggest that many people lose hours daily focusing on unimportant screen time.
  • Learn to say “no” to commitments. Saying “no” gets easier with practice.
  • Get rid of things you do not use. Maintaining all of that “stuff” can be very time- and energy-consuming, and it adds to feeling that life is “cluttered.”
  • Schedule time – actually put it on your daily schedule — for yourself, and protect that time.

Simplifying your life takes an initial investment of time, but the pay-off can be worth the investment.

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3 Comments

  1. “If I need eight hours of sleep and I work eight hours….”

    And I need to commute two hours and I need half hour a day to eat and another half hour to get ready in the morning and I need to spend a couple hours a day with my kids, not to mention that 30 minutes a day you say I need to spend exercising and another 30 or so working on my mindfulness. Add in some laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, lawn mowing, car repairs…. So, yeah, easy as pie.

    “Monitor your screen time”

    What if screen time is something I find relaxing? Great, I can give that up.

    “Learn to say “no” to commitments.” Yeah, like my job and my kids. I hear unemployment and losing custody are quite relaxing things.

    “Get rid of things you do not use.”

    Right, because I have so much time to do that.

    Sheesh.

  2. Interesting that you write about a “principle” wrtten by a 19th century Italian economist who had servants to complete most menial tasks, a principle embraced by management teams who push to make systems the most productive for the least amount of capital or resources. I would think that an argument espousing values and value driven priorities might be more compelling.

    • Because a principle is from the past does not make it invalid. How old are Geometry and Algebra and their principles still hold true? Occam’s razor is still an important principle for “keeping things simple” and it comes from the 14th century.

      We can always find reasons to not try something; that’s much easier than actually doing something about what’s not working in our lives.

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About the Author

Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn
Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn

Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with Advocate Medical Group – Behavioral Health in Normal, Ill. She has helped her clients through a variety of issues for more than 20 years.

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