Are you struggling to simplify your life? Does it feel impossible to do the thing you most want to do or to create the kind of work and life you crave? Maybe, instead of making progress it feels like you are skimming your life, treading water to stay afloat.
I get it. You’ve got a lot on your plate. You have a bunch of tasks, to-do’s, appointments, interests, and issues. You may also be dealing with fatigue, confusion, uncertainty and other left over pandemic symptoms. Same here. Maybe we can do it all, but we can’t do it all at once. And frankly, maybe we don’t want to do it all. I don’t.
Everything can’t matter at the same time.
It can’t all have your attention.
Seth Godin wrote that only ten words of the 1000 we write will get attention. I’ve already written more than 140. Are you still reading?
If you notice that you’ve been skimming email, books, blog articles, social media or other things in your life, consider what you are allowing in — into your life, into your brain and into your heart. You may discover you are skimming your entire life because there is too much going on (inside and out) to do it any other way.
Next, think about what’s most important to you right now. Where does that fall on your list? Is it even on the list?
If you let less in, could you give more of yourself to what’s most important.? Could you trade some of the time you are skimming your life for a deep dive?
How might that change your life?
If you want to simplify your life, dive into the most important thing.
Think about the most stressful area of your life. If you could simplify that one thing, it would likely simplify everything else. I haven’t read this book yet but I think that’s the premise. Give this one thing more of your attention instead of diluting your efforts by picking away at 50 things.
Here are a few things that might be stressful in your life. Pick one. If you struggle with all of them, still pick just one.
Then dive in.
5 ways to simplify your life, reduce stress and actually make a difference instead of skimming your life
1. Consider your health.
I probably don’t have to tell you that when you feel good, things seem easier. When you don’t feel well, you may as well be trying to do your life underwater. It’s harder, more frustrating and ironically continues to wear you down. Health includes mental and physical wellness. There’s no difference. They work together. Here are a few articles to help you focus one of the most important things for all of us.
- 12 Things To Remember When You Are Overwhelmed
- Why I Decided To Quit Drinking And How I Did It
- 8 things to consider if you are sick and tired.
2. Declutter your space.
While decluttering often feels like the most overwhelming step on a simplicity journey, it quite literally removes obstacles and clears the path for you to simplify further. I recommend starting with one of these decluttering articles.
- Decluttering 101: 10 Rules To Help You Live With Less Stuff.
- 7 Regret-Free Ways To Declutter Your Things
- 52 Things To Declutter From Your Life Today
3. Change your work.
The most stressful thing about your life right now may be your work. It may be easier to ignore it because it feels impossible to change it. Take it from someone who did that for years, once a change in work becomes your primary objective, it’s possible. Here are a few things that may help.
4. Clean your closet.
It sounds like a simple recommendation but I know it’s not. I wrote a whole book about it. Until I cleaned out my closet and downsized my wardrobe, I had no idea the stress that was caused from my shopping for clothes, collecting wardrobe items, storing and saving clothes and thinking about what was in my closet. The decisions around what to wear seemed endless and overwhelming. If you feel the same way, try Project 333 for three months or use these 10 steps to create a capsule wardrobe. If the only thing you want to focus on right now is a practical closet clean out, this will help.
5. Simplify the way you spend your time.
If how you spend your time, or that feeling of never having enough time is the big stressor today, give it your focus and attention. If you want more direction and inspiration, read How To Resist The Seduction Of Getting Things Done or 3 Compelling Reasons To Do More Nothing. You may prefer to focus on here setting boundaries to get your time back or figuring out how to spend way less time on your phone.
Start with one of the resources above and make that one thing your priority. Feed that change every single day with tiny steps. Choose consistency over intensity. Don’t worry about how long it takes. Dismiss your self-doubt and negative feedback from the people around you. Dismiss it and dive deeper.
We (you and me) need to hear this over and over again.
I originally wrote most of this almost four years ago. Then, I forgot my own advice. I’ve had two conversations this week reminding me that I forgot. Maybe it was the pandemic, or this weird time of coming out of it, trying to move past it, still not really feeling solid ground under my feet. Maybe it’s the relentless stream of information coming in the form of emails, social media, text messages and other things that make me feel over stimulated and under inspired.
It’s likely a combination of EVERYTHING. Too much everything. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to skim through my life, manage a zillion surface level relationships or try to work the way everyone else is working.
Instead, I want to unsubscribe from the “new normal” and the status quo. I want simpler, slower, softer. I want long stretches of time to write … really write, to daydream, to connect and disconnect. I feel fortunate that my personal simplicity journey put me on the right path to enjoy much of this but I’ve been a little off track over the last three years.
While I’ve been a little off track, I haven’t been completely out of touch. I’m aware of how privilege, different life stages and time and energy availability factors in to how accessible focusing on the most important thing is. You can’t dismiss your day to day responsibilities you have to clean out your closet, write a book or fulfill a life long dream. You can however become more discerning about the important things, cut out the things that aren’t serving you and give as much of your extra attention to one thing that matters.
Because I trust myself, I’m going to take my four-year old advice and take my life and my work back (again). I’m going to give more of my attention to what matters to me and remove the things that are removing me from my life. I’ll do it over and over again because it matters. I’ll do it with intention. I’ll do it slowly and softly and unapologetically. I hope you’ll join me.
If you did skim all of the above only to land here, here’s what we really need to know, the permission we crave and the relief we seek.
Skimming doesn’t serve you. It distracts you.
Choose deeper over wider and immerse yourself in what matters to you.
Get lost in what you care about. That’s where you’ll find everything.