Life seems to feel busier and often more overwhelming as we get older. When we’re managing a demanding career, being responsible to family and juggling the limited time left for our own hobbies and social life, we sometimes allow things to become more complex and more difficult than they really need to be. When this happens, we’re usually less happy and fulfilled.
Simple living can be an antidote to the overwhelm that catches up to us in daily life. As Jodi Wilson from Practising Simplicity suggests, maybe we can overturn the conventional notion that ‘time is money’ and instead, embrace the mindset that ‘money is time’. The way we spend our precious hours is closely related to how content we are.
If you’re being pulled in different directions and feeling the pressures of modern life – do more, spend more, be more – take a moment to step back, review the areas of your life that are cluttering your mind, and see if you can find a way to simplify.
Here are five simple ways to start simplifying a busy life.
1. Re-appraise your life
Evaluating your life is the first step towards deciding what aspects are draining or overly complicated. Begin by taking stock of the different areas and make a note of anything – big or small – that clouds your mind or feels overwhelming.
Is your office a mess? Are your finances out of control? Relationships unhealthy? Are you putting yourself under too much pressure to achieve? Are you taking care of your physical wellbeing? Are you saying yes to everyone?
Create a list and start prioritising the areas that need your attention. Withdraw your attention from any commitments that are taking up space without adding value. Give yourself time to get your personal ‘house’ in order.
2. Carve out a peaceful space
In this material world, most of us accumulate more ‘stuff’ than we will ever need. Even if you claim that you’re happy in an untidy environment, research suggests that we feel more relaxed if there’s at least one area of our homes that is clutter free.
Spend a few hours creating physical space in your life to create breathing space for your mind. Leo Babauta from zenhabits has some great tips about how to get started.
Don’t have hours to spare? Try a 15-minute speed clean. Set the timer, focus on tackling one small area, and tidy in small steps. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can achieve in a concentrated time slot.
If your home or office space feels so cluttered that you don’t know where to begin, head outside before you begin. Immersing yourself in nature is great for your mental and emotional health and a few minutes outdoors can be the oasis you need to quieten a sense of overwhelm.
3. Create reserves, so your cup is never empty
Running on empty is the fastest way to burn out. Often when we’re busy, we find ourselves stretched for time and expending too many resources at the cost of our health. The more stretched we feel, the more likely it is that things become more complex than they need to be.
Allow an extra ten minutes to get to appointments so you’re not always rushing. Create space in your diary between meetings. Plan a commitment-free weekend (or take a ‘mental health day’ from work). Keep a few spare meals in your freezer. And if you can spare the money, open a ‘rainy day’ savings account to cover unexpected or emergency expenses.
4. Track your time, so it doesn’t run away from you
Look back at your diary over the past two weeks. Where did your time go? If you can’t tell at a glance, start time tracking for a week or so. Record everything you do in half-hour blocks so you know which activities need more time allocated and which activities you can let go of.
As tedious as this sounds, it’s a great way to help you notice patterns of behaviour that affect how productive you are with your time. It will also help you recognise where you procrastinate or engage in activities that don’t really align with your goals. Use this as a basis to re-shuffle your diary and optimise your time and your energy.
5. Fine-tune your finances
Researchers say that once you’re earning an average salary, financial wellbeing is not about the size of your bank account but rather, feeling in control of your money. It means being empowered, informed, and organised about how you manage your finances.
Streamlining your finances is the first step to simplifying your relationship with money. Scott Pape from Barefoot Investor has some excellent tips here to help you get started.