Simplicity is different for everyone, but the process is always the same:
- Analyze what’s important
- Remove everything else
The first part is usually the easiest one, although not easy. The second one is a lot more challenging. It’s one thing to plan, it’s another thing to execute. The process of simplifying can be daunting and scary. It involves removing not only things but also people from your life.
Simplifying is a constant work in progress. Once you cross a certain threshold, everything becomes simpler, but there’s always work in maintaining the simplicity, or creating more of it.
This short list doesn’t focus on the complicated stuff, the one that takes weeks, months, years to figure out. Instead, it presents super quick tips that can ignite a “simplification spark” in your life right away, to maybe create a longer momentum that will take over in a positive way.
Let’s get to it.
Emails are really annoying. Most of them are unimportant, useless, but yet time-consuming and definitely cluttering. One super efficient tip is to automatically delete the emails that are over 1 month old and are not tagged as important.
Depending on which email solution you use, this is more or less easy to setup. I use Thunderbird, and it literally takes 2 minutes to do.
Go to Message > Tag > New Tag and create a tag named IMPORTANT.
Go to Tools > Message Filters, and click on New
Configure it like in the picture, with the dates of the current month and the month before:
Make sure you set it it to run on Getting New Mail (second checkbox). You’re done.
The only downside is that you have to update the date at the beginning of each month, but it literally takes 30 seconds. Don’t forget to tag messages you don’t want to have deleted with the IMPORTANT tag (Right Click > Tag)
Your newsletter subscriptions
You probably read less than 10% of the newsletters you’re subscribed to. Pick maximum 5, and unsubscribe from all the other ones.
If you want to make sure your favourites ones don’t get deleted because of the automatic deleting trick we just mentioned, you can also use your email software to tag your newsletters with IMPORTANT as soon as you receive them. It’s again super easy.
Your media consumption
You don’t need 90% of the notifications on your phone. You won’t believe how much time and focus you will gain by not checking your phone every 10 minutes because the screen lights up.
Remove all notifications, and make checking your phone a conscious decision. The day you take control of technology instead of letting technology control you, it will change your day, and your life.
You probably say yes to a lot of people. You can simplify the consequences of saying yes to an extent you wouldn’t believe, by saying no. Say no to events. Say no to distractions. Say no to late nights. Say no to one more drink. Say no to people. Say no to anything getting in the ways of your priorities, directly or indirectly.
Say yes only to the things that matter, and to the people who matter.
Training to say no takes a while. But the action of saying no takes 1 second, and gives you back 1000x in time. Try it next time something comes at you, maybe in the next 10 minutes.
Your internet browsing
SelfControl for Mac (alternatives exist for Windows) lets you block your own access to distracting websites (even your email if needed). Set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click Start. Until the timer expires, you won’t be able to disable it. Even if you stop the app. Even if you restart your computer.
Another tip to simplify your internet browsing: limit the number of tabs you can have open at the same time. TabCount for Chrome shows you how many tabs you have open. I tweaked it to trigger a popup every time I have more than 5. It keeps popping up until my number of tabs is back at 5 or below. Super efficient.
When I do my groceries, I log in to my online account, I go to my order history, and I copy the latest one to my shopping cart. Then, I add or remove items depending on what we need this specific week. The staples are always the same. After 10 minutes, I click on order, I get billed, and the food comes to my door the same day.
Online grocery shopping has so many advantages.
- You spend less. You’re not tempted by all the things you don’t need when you go to a physical store.
- You gain so much time. You don’t have to wait in line, you don’t have to commute or to drive to the store.
- You can easily filter food based on what you want. Vegan, vegetarian, organic, sugar-free… You don’t have to browse the shelves looking for things.
- You don’t forget things. You’re ordering from your couch so you have time to think of everything. You even have suggestions at the bottom of the cart, of things you usually get, in case you forgot to buy them.
Find out about online grocery shopping options in your area, and try it out at least one time. You might never look back.
Try to group your tasks so they make sense when you look at them together. It will help you get to work faster, and also create more motivation.
The most common, 10-min approach to sorting your tasks is to rank them by priority. There’s different ways of doing so. Here are a few of them, borrowed from different productivity masters.
Brian Tracy: ABCDE
A- The most important tasks. Highest priority.
B- Tasks with minor consequences.
C- Tasks with no consequences.
D- Tasks to delegate.
E- Tasks to eliminate.
Source: Eat That Frog! by Brian Tarcy
Stephen Covey: Time Management Matrix
Source: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Gary Keller: The ONE thing
Focus on ONE thing, the ONE thing you have to do, and split it in sub tasks, down to immediate action. Most of everything else comes after the ONE thing.
Source: The One Thing by Gary Keller
If you have a bit more than 10 minutes to work on organising your tasks, you can use more complex criteria to bundle them together:
- Time needed for the task
- Where the task is on your timeline (short-term, mid-term or long-term)
- Type of activity (finance, work, errands, family…)
- Recurring or not recurring
- Involving other people or not
When you cross data and have fun moving the categories and items around, you can find commonalities that you wouldn’t have thought of in the first place. This can help you not only to simplify your tasks, but also to make them work better together, or make you gain a lot of time.
- 18 Ideas To Simplify Your Life — makingsenseofcents.com
- The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life — becomingminimalist.com
- 5 Ways to Simplify Your Life — psychologytoday.com
- 21 Ways to Simplify Your Life in Five Minutes — bemorewithless.com
- 20 Ways I’ve Simplified My Life — simplyfiercely.com
- 25 Easy Ways to Simplify Your Life — theblissfulmind.com
- The 10 Most Important Ways to Simplify Your Life — buddhaimonia.com
- 10 Easy Ways To Simplify Your Life And Mindset In Under 10 Minutes — foranothertime.com
- 30 Rules to Help you Simplify your Life — scaleitsimple.com