28 Mini Rules That Have Drastically Simplified My Life
For the month of January, we’re exploring how to live with intention — how the small choices we make every day impact our lives and happiness in the long run. Click here to read more on this topic!
Have you ever thought about how many choices you make in a given day? It’s insane. From work to health to relationships to finances to business to friends — there is always so much going on. Sometimes, the solution is to push through. Other times, the solution is to simplify the crap out of your entire life. Here are the top 28 ways to simplify your life that I’ve used to seriously get rid of all the clutter — and make my life so much better.
1. Learn from one teacher at a time
Make a rule that you only learn from one teacher at a time. There are so many books and courses out there, it can become overwhelming if you don’t regulate yourself. The way it works is that if you want to learn something, buy the book or the course, go through the entire thing, then implement it all. Once you’re finished learning it all and implementing it, only then can you then move on to the next course or book. This saves a ton of time and money and reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed. I do this in my life and love it!
2. Set one goal at a time
Instead of setting three to six goals at a time, try just setting one big goal. Going “all in” on one goal and focusing every ounce of your energy on something is awesome. It leads to crazy good results and is far more motivating. Next time you want something, immerse yourself in it. Don’t dabble in a bunch of areas. Get committed.
3. No emails before a certain time / No emails after a certain atime
While most of us communicate for work via email, the rule of “no emails before…” mostly applies to your days off. No emails “after” applies to all days, as you probably shouldn’t be checking emails in the middle of the night. If possible, put a rule in place in your life where you don’t check email (or social media) until a certain time of day. For a lot of people, your morning hours are when you are most productive, so saving email and social media until later in the day reduces the chance for other people’s agendas taking over your day. Also, consider
4. Reduce screen time (including TV)
Put a rule in your life that you don’t have any screens open during certain times of the day. Example: no screens after 8 PM, including TV, computer, and phone. You can feel pretty bad after so much social media, so limiting screen time is a great way to be present instead of escaping through someone else’s life.
5. Schedule 15 minutes of alone time every day
Depending on how much is going on in your life, 15 minutes of alone, quiet time every day may seem like a lot, or it may seem like a little. Either way, make sure you have at least this much time alone where you can be with just yourself.
6. Journal for five minutes a day
Writing is one of the best ways to organize your thoughts. When anxiousness creeps into your life, write down exactly what you’re thinking for a couple minutes. The more often you write (even for just a short time), the more you’ll get clarity about your thoughts. And clarity with your thinking is key to solving for overwhelm. Check out which journaling method best suits your personality.
7. Only wear certain colors
Implement a constraint in your life where you only wear certain colors. You can do this with any colors — I do it with neutrals. I like to dress nice, but I used to hate the effort required. So, I implemented a neutrals-only policy. I only wear and buy neutral colors. It saves me time, energy, and money. My clothes always match, and it’s super easy to get dressed every day.
8. Set a baseline in your life
When it feels like you don’t have time for everything you want to do, figure out what the bare minimum you can do is. For example, you may prefer to work out for one hour every day at your favorite workout class. Instead of doing nothing on the days you can’t make it, set a workout baseline in your life that no matter what, you run for 20 minutes. Setting a baseline for various activities in your life help keep you on track with a bit less effort, rather than skipping a workout altogether.
9. Get a new email address
Email overload? Instead of unsubscribing from everything, how about taking the plunge and getting a totally new email address? Sounds crazy, but it works. If you really want to clear things out and start fresh, a new email can really help. To do this, you can put up an autoresponder telling people to reply if they want the new email address. This way, you’ll only get replies from people with real emails.
10. Separate the ‘faux’ from the facts, when it comes to your thoughts
We tend to make circumstances mean so much more than they actually do. The next time your life feels like it’s getting to be too much, or when something happens you don’t like, separate out the facts from what you’re thinking about the facts. So often our thoughts about the facts are what’s making our lives crazy — not the facts themselves. Start to watch your mind and how you think. Are you making your life crazier than it is? When you have a clear mind, you have a clear life.
11. Intentionally choose your relationships
So many of us are spread way too thin. Instead of spending .256 seconds with 15,000 people, try to spend more time with fewer people. Your life is only as good as the quality relationships you keep.
12. Ask yourself these two questions
When you’re making tough choices and deciding what to do in a certain situation, ask yourself…
- What would my future self in five years decide?
- What is the end goal I want from this?
Sometimes life seems busy or stressful because we’re sitting in confusion in our heads. Whenever I feel this way, I ask these questions, and I usually get the answer I need.
13. Create a list of three priorities for every day (do this the night before)
Instead of keeping crazy to-do lists, create a to-do list at night for the next day with three priorities for the next day. List them in order of importance. This way, anything beyond the list is extra.
14. Time and block off recurring weekly tasks
Anything you do on a regular basis can be scheduled into time slots that recur weekly. For example, I write blog posts every Sunday night (this is when I’m the “employee” in my business). The rest of the week, I’m working on other things. Having this time pre-scheduled is super helpful for being consistent.
15. Pick out your clothes and pack your lunch the night before
Did you have to pack your lunch and pick out your clothes the night before school? I did. And guess what? I still do it now! It works wonders for keeping a consistent routine that’s simple and easy.
16. Use downtime for learning something new
Create a routine where you listen to podcast or audiobooks during your downtime, like driving or getting ready for the day in the morning. This is a great way to free up other time for other things, so instead of reading a book, you can listen to it while you’re driving and free up that time you’d otherwise be reading. Here are my favorite books and podcasts.
17. Create a “follow up” folder in your inbox
Instead of letting your inbox be your to-do list and feeling like you need to reply to other people’s agendas, create a “follow up” folder in your email where you put emails that you need to reply to. Then, reply once a week. This is such a game changer.
18. Declutter like it’s part of your job
Decluttering is one of the best ways to simplify your life. When you’re organized and living with fewer things, you feel better, too. Start by giving away (or throwing out) one item every day. In one year, you’ll be in a completely different place. The key is to not feel overwhelmed by starting. When you choose to ditch only one item per day, it’s super easy to succeed.
19. If you have problems with certain foods, cut them out of your diet completely
This will make what you eat so much simpler. Choose foods you no longer want to eat and try avoiding those foods whenever possible. Sure, it’s so much easier than it sounds. But you probably already do this with some food that you probably don’t like. Personally, I don’t eat meat or dairy — ever. I never have to decide whether to eat them. The decision is already made.
20. Be clear about what your values are
Write down what your values are in the eight life categories (health, relationships, money, career, personal and spiritual development, environment, fun activities, and volunteer and service work). When you know what you want and what you believe in, decision-making and cutting things from your life is a lot easier.
21. Create buffers
Creating a buffer means putting leaving some room for error, or extra time if something takes longer than expected. You can do so by leaving some time in your calendar open. Also, give yourself some financial cushion in your checking account so you’re not strapped for cash if you overspend or make less than expected. Add a buffer anywhere you could feel overwhelmed if things don’t pan out as planned.
22. Use Google Calendar to plan your schedule
Use Google Calendar to plan everything. Create specific “calendars” for this. You can have a calendar for appointments, work, birthdays and anniversaries, bills, etc. I use it this way and it’s worth every second it takes to set it up. This is the best way to simplify your calendar, because it’s so easy to view and stay organized.
23. Practice saying “no” once a day
Saying no is one of the best ways to cut things from your life. The easier it is for you to say no, the more likely you’ll actually say no. The way to get good at it is to start small and to do it often. I suggest practicing saying no once a day for little things. Just do it intentionally and see how much easier it gets.
24. Refuse to indulge in “I don’t know” or being “stuck”
Instead of allowing yourself to sit in “I don’t know,” switch to “I’m figuring it out.” At least this gives you momentum. Like Wayne Dyer says, “You are not stuck unless you decide to be.”
25. Get your money right
If you feel stuck or overwhelmed because of money, it’s time to simplify your financial life. Here are a few ways to get your money right:
- Fix your money mindset
- Start using a minimalist budget
- Get out of debt
- Earn more money
- Start a side hustle
- Invest in the stock market
26. Improve your mindset from scarcity to abundance
At the heart of wanting to simplify your life is understanding that it’s all in your head. All the worry. All the overwhelm. All the busyness. All the confusion. If you do some internal work and improve your mindset, you can really feel your life simplify without changing any of your outward circumstances.
27. Ask, “How can I automate this?”
Any time something comes your way, ask yourself, “How can I automate this?” It may be that you can’t, but by asking, you’ll eventually automate a lot more than you have automated now. It takes more time to set up the automation, but by investing that time now, you’ll save time later. Things are simpler this way.
28. Start subtracting everywhere
If you need to simplify, it probably means you need to subtract. Think about what area is causing you the most pain, and start doing less in it. Less time spending on useless tasks. Less time worrying. Less overspending. Less overcommitting. You’ll have more energy and feel better when you simplify this way.
These 28 ways to simplify your life have seriously taken all the things out of my life that were creating noise. When life is simpler, life is better. My life may not look that different from the outside, but it has been night and day since I’m implemented these steps. Simple is better my friends.
If you are more of a visual learner like me, here’s a YouTube video about all the ways I’ve simplified my life.
(This article was originally published July 2018 and has since been updated)
Natalie Bacon is an online entrepreneur. Prior to this, Natalie practiced as a certified financial planner, at a firm that managed over $1B in assets under management. Before her financial planning career, Natalie practiced as a business attorney. Natalie has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, and other publications. Natalie is most passionate about helping young, professional women design their dream lives.
Image via Unsplash