The avalanche of wants, luxuries, and desires keeps us trapped in the realm of the material world where we jump from the fulfilment of one to the other without finding satisfaction in anything. The truth is that unless we learn to be satisfied with what we have and understand the difference between a need and a want, we will continue to be a slave to things that promise contentment but actually rob us of that feeling. Misguided priorities stemming from difficulty in setting boundaries, being assertive, doing things to please others, and trying to get better at everything at once are also responsible for complicating the path of simplicity.
Simplicity is the art of walking the journey of life by investing your time and energy in people and things that deserve the utmost attention and care. Isn’t this much better than working towards those activities that will provide you with momentary or short-term satisfaction? Isn’t it more important to invest finite resources and time in things that bring meaning to your life?
Simplification enhances our ability to make space for things we value. Filtering the things that need to be done from things that are neither urgent nor important lays a blueprint for investment of time and energy in the key relationships, commitments, and tasks for self-growth. It also helps in recognising the values and beliefs you align with. When you learn to simplify, you set priorities and commitments based on what truly matters to you and aligns with your core values. When the concentration is scattered in too many directions, none of the tasks receives due attention. You might be doing task A while worrying about task B. Such processing happens in a repetitive and automatic loop. The need for simplification comes in to ensure unwavering focus so that the result or experience is profound and worthwhile.
What we do on an everyday basis also define the extent to which we have simplified our life. This brings to light the significance of ingrained patterns that define our habits and how we carry out day-to-day tasks. Each day you wake up with limited energy, it is a finite source. Mental exhaustion and fatigue are experienced when the energy is not used wisely. Overthinking, talking too much, negative self-talk, gossiping and judging, and battling over pity issues soak up a huge amount of mental energy. Implicitly, the things you might be doing on daily basis like investing energy in selecting clothes, keeping things required every day (specs, keys, wallet, etc) in different places, speaking too loudly while communicating with a person in an enclosed space, and listening on a high volume can also impact the limited reservoir of energy.
Simplifying life through everyday habits
The first step towards simplifying your life is to change the habit of investing energy in small day-to-day decisions. There are certain decisions you make every day. For example, what to wear, what to eat, or what to do during the spare time. Though this decision-making process seems insignificant, it consumes or even drains mental energy. To simplify, for example, have the closet organised in a way where separate colors are grouped in the same pile.
All the whites in one place, blacks in one place, and likewise. You can have specific colors allotted to each day. So if it’s Monday, you know you have to pick from the pile of whites or whatever suits you. Another way could be deciding on the clothes the night before. For food choices, except on weekends or holidays, have a diet chart to follow based on your requirements. The meals should include natural food like fruits, vegetables, soaked nuts, seeds, sprouts, or salads as these things prevent the body to become restless, sleepy, or tired.
Stop doing several tasks at once
The second step is to not do multiple things at one time. It is good to have multiple goals but doing multiple things in a short period can divert the energy and focus in different directions which can slow down progress. One-pointed focus (ekagrata) is a strength highlighted in yogic scriptures ages ago. Concentrating with such energy comes with practice. If you have three things to do every day, the hours can be managed according to priorities.
But if you have nine unrelated tasks to accomplish every day then the outcome will not be efficient or you may not be able to do all.
Get some clarity about your priorities
Thirdly, not having clarity about priorities can create a chaotic life. If you find it difficult to prioritise tasks, try to jot down long-term goals and divide them into small chunks. This is the easiest way to break down overwhelming tasks. The process of prioritising doesn’t mean pondering over what has to be done all day. You have to take some action that will give you clarity and direction. Various methods and principles can help you to manage and prioritise. A few principles that are helpful in prioritising tasks include:
Write down the list of tasks and assign those to each category. Prioritise the urgent and important tasks as they require some action right away. The second category includes tasks that deserve time and attention but are not urgent, for example, working on some project or paying the bills. The third quadrant is for tasks that are urgent but not important and can be handed over to someone else. The last quadrant includes things that are neither urgent nor important and thus can be eliminated from the schedule. For example, watching TV shows or scrolling through social media.
Eat the frog first
Eat the frog first technique involves identifying the challenging task and doing it first in the morning. It may involve a task that you mentally resist but gives you a sense of accomplishment after you have achieved it. Delaying the difficult work will cause the will to wane and decrease motivation.
Another principle to simplify life includes setting boundaries and skipping over the things that are not aligned with your schedule or goals. Assertiveness is the skill of stating your perspective and taking your stand without being disrespectful. You are not bound to say yes to every outing or a glass of beer, and neither are you bound to make false commitments. There is always a free choice of saying no. Conforming behaviour might creep in when people fear losing relationships. Relationships rooted in a lack of mutual understanding will do no good in the long run. The right people in your life will understand and respect your decisions.
Clean your surroundings and accumulate less
Clean your environment, remove the clutter, get rid of things that are not used but have been there forever, and donate stuff you don’t use anymore. To have mental clarity, journal and self-reflect to release troubling emotions and thoughts. More clear the space within and around you, the better your mind and body feel. To get over materially driven choices, analyse if it aligns with your values and aspirations, evaluate pros and cons, question whether it is a necessity or just another luxurious thing you want. The less you accumulate, the more sorted you feel.
Hopefully, this article gives you an insight about simplifying your life. Aimlessly chasing all the things that give you satisfaction will not fulfil the endless desires. So, pause and contemplate your life to know what gives you meaning and a sense of purpose. Then choose according to the answers you get from your inner voice. Simplify by subtracting one thing at time and you will start to make time for things that take you closer to your ideal self and truly matter to you.
I often hear people say they have such busy lives. The answer lies in the simplification of our life. Most people do too much. Narrow down to the most important people and things. Simplify. Simplify to the key people and things in your life ~ Dandapani