In our American society of excess and not enough time, more and more of us are embracing how to create meaningful progress in life.
The greatest business leaders, entrepreneurs, inventors, moguls, authors and productive creators across all walks—they all learned the secret, one that takes practice and discipline throughout an entire life span.
The secret is intentionally simplifying your life down to what’s important.
Without intentionality, aspects of life will start to overwhelm you, physically, digitally and mentally. The intricacies, complexities and miscellaneous will consume your time, the only finite resource that you can never get more of or get back.
Simplifying down to the basics means eliminating the clutter, ridding the time-wasters, reducing the amount of decisions needing to be made and systemizing the frequent tasks. The most productive masters of their craft know this to be key to their ability to focus on the important projects, create the products they are passionate about and live the lifestyles they love.
Here are 3 concepts you can implement today and throughout your lifetime to simplify down to the foundations that truly matter.
1. Get rid of the unimportant excess
Life is much too precious to spend it on physical items or activities that don’t add meaningful value to your life. You will be amazed at how free you will feel when you start taking away the physical and experiential clutter.
For items, this includes what you don’t use, need and love: pitch them, donate them, white elephant them. Whatever you do, get rid of them.
Any item you allow into your life takes energy, space and time away from you. With sentimental items, if you don’t ever use it and must keep it, you may want to consider showcasing it as a decorative piece.
If it’s not show-worthy, take a picture of it and let it go. If that’s not possible for you, store it in an organized place where you keep similar sentimental items—although you can easily stockpile too many keepsakes in that way!
If you don’t love the item and don’t use it (at the very least once a year) or need it (while you may not ever use your fire extinguisher, it’s a necessary safety precaution), you know what to do.
How you spend your time is even more important; it is your actual life experience being used up, never to return. Spend your time on what you care about.
If you aren’t attracted to the work, don’t waste your time and energy. While you may achieve monetary and material success in doing what you don’t love, you will find these outward signifiers are not meaningful enough to matter in the long term.
In past years, I choose money, security and for a while, advancement. Like many others before me, and thankfully after a number of years in the single digits instead of decades, I left those conventional pillars behind to pursue what truly matters to me.
No amount of money or social status will ever feel enough to someone who mistakenly prioritizes the outward results over meaning.
The concept also applies to extracurricular or social activities. Those who are self-aware realize time is far too precious to spend it on anything else than what’s personally important.
2. Minimize your decisions
We all know how it feels to be exhausted at the end of the day, with minimal energy, capacity and self-control.
The ability to critically think, hypothesize, analyze, monitor, restrain, solve, create; the power that feeds these capabilities comes from the same source.
Marketers prey on the diminished state—decision fatigue—with late-night infomercials and advertisements, and now with mobile phones, tablets and computers, there are even more avenues available for influence.
Focused thought and creation requires an immense amount of mental resource. This is why so many thought leaders in their field don’t waste their energy or time with what they deem trifling matters.
What to wear is a popular example of how many busy and productive people minimize their decision-making by having the same outfit each day. A different, albeit less popular, example is eating the same thing every day. Soylent (also referred to as People Chow) is one food option you can choose to mix up and drink to get most (not all) of the essential nutrients you need.
The same thinking can be applied across many other areas of your life. By limiting your options across necessary but unimportant areas of your life, you increase your energy to spend on the more crucial tasks and projects.
3. Create systems for the routine tasks
The majority of your life is routine, whether you realize it or not.
We all sleep, eat, work and repeat in similar ways. We all, hopefully for the sake of others around you, have a certain hygiene routine we follow regularly. Our bodies have systems that work automatically to keep us alive and well. As creatures of habit, we become incredibly efficient when we establish systems that help us instead of working against us.
These systems include the steps and set-up to more efficiently accomplish a task like laundry, cleaning, organizing or processing the daily physical mail and e-mail that flood in from external sources. Little things like placing items you need for a certain task together in one designated place or having a separate hamper for whites will save you time over the long run.
The idea is to automate and make the tasks as easy as possible so you’re not wasting additional energy on these minute but necessary components of your daily life. Perhaps you even outsource to other people or companies who specialize in those areas.
In setting up systems for yourself, be realistic on your strengths and preferences. A system that works for someone else may not work as well for you. Seek out examples for inspiration but remember to adjust the process for what works best for you and your family.
In implementing these 3 concepts, you’ll free up more time and resources to create meaningful progress —your unique design— in your life.