5 Rules to Simplify Your Life

For some of my friends it seems so simple. They can go to work, hang out with their family, spend time with their friends on the weekends, have a vacation here or there, and be happy. They are content.  I rarely hear them talking about dreams and ambitions. I definitely don’t hear them talking about quitting their job and starting a business. And usually conversations fall around different hobbies and interests that we all share.

I’m not like that.

I’m always thinking of something. Something that is going to change the world. Something that is going to make money. Something that is going to help my family. Something that will change my life. Something that will change the lives of those around me… I’m always doing something. Writing. Creating. Making. Failing. Speaking. Collaborating. Reaching out.

I’m never waiting. And I’m also rarely content.

Taking Time To Live Simply

This is “who I am” and I don’t want to change. But sometimes I wish I could live the simple life. The past couple of weeks I’ve had opportunities to relax and disconnect from everything.

I went camping with my family at a State Park that had no cell phone service. For two and a half days we hung out with friends, ate warm food by a campfire, skipped rocks on a creek, and just talked. It felt good to disconnect from the world around me, and really connect with the people in front of me. I was completely “present” with my life, and it was easier.

My mind didn’t turn off though. I was still thinking about new ideas, and day dreaming. But the lack of a constant online connection forced me to actually think deeply instead of think and react automatically.

I began to really wonder what it was like to live when my dad was growing up, or my grandparents. There life was so different because it was simpler. Not simpler in the sense that the problems were any bigger or smaller, but simpler in the fact that they had less distractions. There was no “feed” to take them down the internet rabbit-hole. There was one phone in a household. And plans that people had to keep. And meeting times that started promptly. And the list could go on…

Today, we are constantly wired. This produces amazing opportunities for growth, but also endless opportunities for distraction. I, much too often, get distracted when I supposed to be doing real work (work that I want to do). In order to stay productive, and to disconnect and have time to be “present”, I’ve been working on how I can live a simpler life.

5 Rules to a Simpler Life

These rules are for people like me that don’t necessarily live the simple life, and often find themselves distracted, off-path, or so overwhelmed that you miss out on what is important right in front of you.

Rule #1: Schedule Unstructured Time

It’s easy to schedule an entire day or week without ever giving time to just have fun, and do whatever you want. Take the chance to actually schedule in blocks of time that allow you freedom from your schedule. This way, when you get off task it won’t be a “hinderance” to what you were “supposed to be doing”.

Rule #2: Turn it off and be present.

The buzzing in my pocket can distract me from hanging out with friends and family, getting work done, or even watching a movie. When you are out of “work mode” or trying to disconnect do the easiest thing possible: turn off your phone. It pains me to say it, but my phone causes at least 75% of distractions throughout any given day. Eliminating those distractions is easy…if you just turn it off.

Rule #3: Use a checklist instead of a “to do” list

This is a recent change I’ve made. My “to do” lists were compiled of what I needed to get done that day. The lists got bigger and bigger as I didn’t meet my over ambitious productivity goals. Then I would delete items off the list even if I didn’t do them.

Now I created a “Daily Checklist” that has the same items on it every day. This way, no matter what other things life has thrown at me to complete, I’ll always focus on the big picture items I want to complete each day.

Here’s some examples:

My “To Do” list: Write and finish blog post
My Checklist: Write 1000 words

My “To Do” list: Call insurance company, doctors office, and phone company
My Checklist: Spend 15 mins making calls in the morning and 15 mins making calls in the late afternoon

My “To Do” list: Go for a 5 mile run
My Checklist: Workout for 30-45 minutes

My checklists are broad in “what I’m doing” but specific in the amount of time and “when I’m doing it”. It makes a huge difference.

Rule #4: Accomplish a little bit every day

Nathan Barry created an App called Commit. I highly recommend it. Commit asks you to “commit” to a daily task each day, and then it reminds (and scolds) you about that task until you say you’ve done it…or dropped the ball.  Sometimes my ambitions are way too big. Then I get stuck wondering how I’m going to finish everything I want to do. By accomplishing a little bit every day I can break down big tasks and constantly make progress.

Rule #5: Play

Charlie Hoehn wrote an amazing post on how he cured his anxiety. He’s now finishing up a book on the same topic. Charlie’s main point, “Play. Have fun.” We could all use this advice. Play with your friends, your kids, whoever. But just get out there and have fun every day. Laugh every day and be a goof-ball every day. It will keep you happy.

For those of us that can’t live the simple life, we need to make sure we don’t let this life pass us by. It’s worth it to enjoy this journey and take time to relax, reflect, and renew.

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