How to Simplify and Prioritise

Note: the strategies I’m presenting here have proven very efficient for me in the past, and keep working consistently as I move forward. However, everyone is different. Most of the advice given in any field of expertise usually needs to be adjusted to each and every one’s personality. Simplicity and prioritisation can be done in a lot of different ways. Here is how they work for me. Take out what you don’t want, apply what you need. What matters is the results.

Simplicity: minimising friction

Simplicity is making things easy. Making things easy is removing friction as much as possible.

Friction is the natural resistance you will experience when trying to put together and/or execute a plan. It’s the thing that makes everything harder. Friction comes in a lot of varieties, it is unavoidable. But it is definitely manageable.

How we create friction in our lives

There are tons of ways we create friction in our lives on a daily basis. Small things that will get us out of our way and make us lose our focus, temporarily or on a longer timeframe. Here are the most common ones:

#1 Surplus of things

The more you own, the more you’re likely to:

  • Lose things
  • Spend time fixing those things
  • Spend money fixing those things
  • Get annoyed by all those things
  • You’re also a lot less mobile

All these things create friction because they will likely slow you down at one point or the other, while it could have been avoided. Enough friction comes from factors you can’t control, so you might as well take action you can.

In the case of things, simplicity means reconsidering the way you spend your money on them.

You don’t need 90% of what you wish you had. Click To Tweet

#2 Relationships

Probably the most overlooked point of friction. Unnecessary relationships are part of our life on a daily basis.

Relationships take a huge amount of time and energy due to different factors:

  • Arguments
  • Compromise
  • Feelings
  • Opinions

The list goes on. All this is interesting, but it is only relevant to share with people who matter in your life. It is not about looking down on people who are “not allowed to hang out with you”. It is about prioritising the time you spend with people. You mathematically cannot have time for everybody and work on your long term goals at the same time.

It is okay to not partake in after work fun, in weekend parties and other social events, if you don’t see the point. It is a lot more interesting to spend 3 hours of quality time with a good friend than 1 hour at a party you don’t even want to attend.

Meeting up with people simply because they ask you to shouldn’t be a valid reason to hang out with them, especially when you know you have better things to do. You need to feel like people are adding value to your life.

#3 Lack of organisation

The more organised you are, the less friction you will have in your environment. One of the reasons organised people reach their goals is because they’re really good at, well, organising. That is:

  • Putting together a plan
  • Following the plan while getting as little off track as possible
  • Handling unexpected hick-ups on the way without getting off track

A good way to train yourself to be more organised is to put together a detailed plan of a day, and follow it as rigorously as possible.

Next, try with a couple days, then with a week. Put everything in a calendar, and follow what it says. Things will come at you, trying to get you off track. It always happens. But it won’t be a problem if you know how to handle those unexpected events. How do you handle them? With prioritisation.

Prioritisation: managing friction

Prioritisation is correlated to simplicity. You can’t have one without the other, they’re interdependent.

If you start with prioritising, you’ll automatically bring more simplicity into your life. If you start with simplicity, you will have no option but to prioritise. Click To Tweet

How to prioritise

There are simple tricks to apply prioritisation to the 3 areas of life we just talked about. The secret is to remember the principles so you can apply them in the right situations. Practice makes perfect.

#1 Surplus of things

Prioritise what you buy. Everytime you want to buy an item, think of whether or not it is a smart purchase. Here are a couple questions you can ask yourself to help you do that:

  • Do I really want this?
  • Do I really need this?
  • Am I going still going to be using this thing 6 months down the line?
  • Am I not going to feel like upgrading this item in a year from now, for no reason other than the hype?
  • Do I not already have something at home to do just what this thing would enable me to do?
  • Will this purchase make me happy for more than the first 24 hours after I buy it?
  • Is this adding value to my life?

And here are couple rules to consider along with those questions:

  • Everytime you buy an item, make sure you get rid of one you have at home
  • If you don’t need this and are buying it just because, don’t buy it
  • If you won’t even remember you bought this thing in 3 months, don’t buy it
  • If deep inside you know this is not a smart purchase, don’t buy it

#2 Relationships

  • You need to be with people who push you up rather than drag you down
  • Relationships are the heaviest components in your life
  • You are an average of the 5 people you spend the most time with
  • Being alone will never cause as much loneliness as being in relationships that weigh on you
The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships— Tony Robbins Click To Tweet

Think of people you hang out with. Do these people contribute to your development. Do you contribute to theirs? A relationship works both ways.

When considering moving forward with a relationship or not, ask yourself those questions:

  • Do I learn anything from this person?
  • Do I teach this person anything?
  • Throughout this mutual exchange, do I sense we are both on the same wavelength and happy to interact?
  • Although we might disagree on certain things, do we tend to find common ground?
  • Do I trust this person with our conversations?
  • How much am I willing to open to this person?
  • Do we talk about different subjects, or do we tend to always have the same old conversations?

#3 Organization

Prioritising organisation means making more time to:

  • First: change the way you do things in life
  • Second: keep the change in the long term

How do you make more time to organise and think of organising? By using a simple yet amazing word: No.

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything— Warren Buffet Click To Tweet

The word No is an amazing tool to bring more simplicity in anyone’s life. Here are examples of questions where No solves the problem right away while providing a positive outcome for your productivity:

  • Should I go for a drink tonight?
  • I really want to buy this new item I saw online. Should I buy it and forget about it in 2 weeks?
  • I should finish this thing I started, but I have this other project I want to try. Should I do it and drop the other thing?
  • I told myself I would only buy what’s on my grocery list, but maybe I could indulge in a Snickers?
  • I should get back to work after an hour of watching Netflix, but this next episode looks great. Should I watch it?

No is an extremely powerful tool, but don’t take a too radical approach to it. You can polarise. You might say:

“No, but maybe Yes in 6 months.”

You will never get anywhere if you say yes to everything in the present. No embodies self-discipline, prioritisation, and goal-setting. It’s a simple trick. Just say No to people, say No to yourself, say No to things. Keep your target in mind and work on it.

Say yes sometimes, but ask yourself the right questions before using the yes formula. Yes can get you a long way off your path to success. No is a lot more likely to keep you on track. Weigh the pros and cons.

It takes a lot of hard No’s to fix one easy Yes Click To Tweet

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