How to Simplify Your Life When it Feels Like it's a Circus 🎪🎟️🤹‍♀️

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Did you know the first week in August is Simplify Your Life Week? Of course, it's also International Clown Week, so there is a little bit of wiggle room...

What’s the first thing you think of when someone talks about simplifying their life?

  • Creating systems
  • Reducing commitments
  • Having time to do things

I assume you’ve already tried those things. How did it work for you?

We both know we can try every system under the sun and promise ourselves we’ll try to say “no,” but it’s only going to last until something too important or exciting pops up on our radar.

The reason for this is we’re treating the symptoms instead of the illness.

Leo Babauta, from Zen Habits, offers a list of 77 Ideas to Simplify Your Life and Feel Better on lifehack.org. I’m sure his heart is in the right place, but wading through 77 suggestions sounds exhausting. — I did it and it was. 😒

Like so many other articles about making life easier, many of Babauta’s suggestions involve a lot of self-reflection and creating new systems.

It’s kind of the opposite of simplify.

And it’s not just him. Every article I looked at involved a list of 5, 10, 20 or more tasks that each had their own list of things the reader had to do to achieve a simpler life.

It’s overwhelming and doesn’t address the question of how did we get here?

Our calendars have become a proverbial clown car which makes sense when you consider our lives have become a circus.

It’s a given that we all have too many commitments and we try to cram too many activities in a finite amount of time. The question is why and when did this become okay?

I suspect it’s a generational thing.

Gen X and Millennials were the first generations that had technology. While our parents and grandparents could clock out at 5:00 PM, our work followed us home.

We joined the workforce at a time when companies were downsizing. Instead of doing the work of two people, they expected us to do the work of three or four.

They told us we were lucky to have a job and pointed to technology as the solution to our time management issues.

As we all know, if you say something often enough, you’ll believe it.

Once we fell down that slippery slope, we started justifying. We need to buy more because we work more. We have to work more because we need to buy more.

It is a cycle of destruction that perpetuated the idea that we do this because we deserve it.

It’s a lie.

My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression. My grandfather worked two jobs and my grandmother worked full-time their entire adult lives. Even when their kids were young. They still had time for hobbies, parties, and going out with friends.

How many of us can say that?

At a time when we should enjoy the many benefits of modern life, we’re overworked and overburdened.

It’s time to jump off the merry-go-round

Now that we know how we got here, let’s talk about how to fix it.

My suggestion is to rip off the band aid.

If you are serious about seeking a simpler life, you’re going to have to make some hard decisions about what is important to you and let go of the things that aren’t.

There is always going to be another client or project that demands another piece of your day.

Instead of trying to portion out more minutes to get more things done, pick three things you have to do this week. Break them down into bite-sized portions so you can fit them into a reasonable work day.

Designate a start and end time for your workday, and be firm.

If you’re so far down the rabbit hole you can’t see daylight, take it one day at a time.

Choose one thing you have to do today. Not start to finish, just one thing you have to work on so that the project has moved forward by the end of the week. — I like to block off a five-hour period for the things I have to do, so I still have time to take care of anything that pops up.

It may hurt for a while. You might have to renegotiate a deadline or walk away from a new project, but your sanity is worth it.

Don’t forget to apply the same technique to your personal life.

Simplifying your life is about letting go of the chaos and embracing the things that are important to you.

As Babauta says, simplicity is “a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward.”


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