We all do it. Rush through tasks trying to do them as quickly and efficiently as possible, without pausing for breath (or food, rest, or fun). We’re so busy trying to do it all, that we don’t seem to be doing anything at all very well. This article is all about learning how to simplify life and get rid of stuff on your to-do list.
I’ve written a lot about simplicity, and minimalism, and I talk about the importance of balance. But then it’s go, go, go, and I forget to take a minute to figure out what’s most important in this endless cycle of busyness. Firstly, it’s you. Self-care is the most important thing because if you’re neglecting yourself and your needs, things start slipping through the cracks.
Like when you rush around the house looking for your keys, only to find them in your handbag where you always keep them. Or put the salt in the fridge and the butter in the cupboard, or any number of things that make you start thinking you’re losing it.
We need to learn how to simplify life and get rid of stuff
I was recently reminded why I need to simplify life and let go of stuff (again) when I was simultaneously writing and releasing a social media campaign that required 25 posts featuring companies selected for a mentorship programme. As I was researching and writing each post on the campaign, adding hashtags, tagging affiliated companies, and alternately direct posting and scheduling, I was feeling pretty stressed – each post was to be released every 15 minutes throughout a 6-hour period. As you can imagine, this is quite a tight deadline.
I was so busy getting it done, that I didn’t stop to think about why I was doing it or if there was a better way of doing it. Even though I’d been briefed to do it like this, (hindsight being the best teacher) I could have split the posts over 2-3 days instead. I’d be giving myself more breathing room and getting to some of the other tasks that I had planned to do that day. I’d also be demonstrating some strategic thinking because flooding any social media channel isn’t that effective. Instead, I spent all day doing social media posts, feeling stressed and barely moving a muscle to eat, drink or breathe.
Reacting vs responding
This is just an example (and I’m pretty sure you can think of many more in your life), where you’re so caught up in what you’re doing (reacting) that you can’t think about a way of doing it better (responding). You’re so caught up in the future (this has to be get done) that you’re not actually present in the current moment.
At the end of the day, you’re so burnt out, stressed, and exhausted that you can’t sleep, which means the next day you’re repeating the same cycle with even less energy and focus. Clearly, you need to learn how to simplify life and get rid of stuff that’s bogging you down.
So how do you slow down and become intentional in what you’re doing?
Blue-footed booby success formula: How to simplify life and get rid of stuff on your to-do list
- Take a deep breath. Look at the task you have to do and try to break it down. Is it really that urgent? Is there a better way of doing it or spreading it out?
- Narrow it down. Accept that your life is too full and that you wouldn’t be able to accomplish most of what you had on your list even if you could clone yourself. Get real with yourself. Stop writing hope-to-do lists and write down absolutely-have-to-do lists. If you normally try and fail to do 6 or 7 things, do 3 absolutely-have-to-do things instead. You’ll feel that glow of satisfaction that comes from doing what you set out to do instead of feeling like you’re failing at almost everything.
- Take some time to figure out what is the most important thing on your to-do list for the day. Is there something on there that’s important to you (something that’s going to help you grow in the direction you want to) or something that’s important for you to achieve (for your company or your client or whatever it is you do to earn money)? You need one thing for you (growth) and one thing for productivity! Write down one of each on your absolutely-have-to-do list.
- Stop being a time optimist! Leave enough space between tasks or appointments so you have a cushion for when things take longer than planned. Don’t schedule things back-to-back so you’re always feeling like you’re rushed and stressed. Being rushed and stressed creates unpleasant feelings and sensations that stay with you all day – without making you any more productive.
- Slow down and enjoy every single task that you do throughout the day. Whatever you’re doing, take the time to be deliberate and to intentionally enjoy doing it. For example, when you’re brushing your teeth, take your time. Consciously try to enjoy the process of carefully brushing each tooth and knowing you did a good job. Be in that moment. Even if you hate it – you can enjoy the hating of it. So, let’s say you’re doing something you dislike, like admin or taxes, put some music on and try to enjoy something about this process, like the fact that you’re getting it done or that you’re going to have a small reward after you’ve completed the task.
You can also spend some time doing nothing, or doing a few simple things in your day that make you happy, like enjoying 5 minutes in the sun, watching a funny youtube video, or cuddling with your cat to break up your day and make it more enjoyable. But keep it simple and you’ll find that you’re doing more in the time you have – and you’re doing it better.
Whatever the tasks, do them slowly and with ease, in mindfulness. Don’t do any task in order to get it over with. Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation
It’s a common thread in mindfulness, in psychology, in meditation and even business coaching. If you learn how to simplify and to get rid of stuff that’s distracting you from being your better/most productive self, you’ll actually be more productive and happier. If you need to find out more about using your time wisely, read this!
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Lastly, remember to join the blue-foot flock! We’re always looking for thinkers, questioners and zen finders like you to be part of our little clan.