My overarching intention for 2017 has been to simplify.
In January, I decided to focus on simplifying two areas: my possessions and my thoughts.
I’ve gotten rid of what feels like an amazing amount of clothing. And I cleaned out the closet of my childhood bedroom, a task I should have completed a decade ago.
I’ve started a regular meditation practice. And I’m building the habit of recognizing when my thoughts are getting out of control. I try to observe them, figure out where they’re coming from, and change course.
But it’s going to take all of 2017 to KonMari my apartment. And rooting out negative self-beliefs will be a lifelong pursuit.
I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in my two areas of focus, AND there are so many other ways I can simplify my life. Some of them are unexpected but highly effective.
Here are 7 of the most unexpected ways I’ve found to simplify my life this year.
7 Unexpected Ways to Simplify Your Life
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1. Clean out your inbox.
When we think about simplifying, we don’t always consider digital clutter. But my eyes go to my phone dozens of times a day when I get promotional e-mails that I haven’t gotten around to unsubscribing from.
Those e-mails aren’t taking up any physical space, but they do take my time, and they distract me from the really important e-mails in my inbox.
Consider unsubscribing from and deleting junk e-mails. Or use an app like Unroll.Me to help you out.
2. Pare down your schedule.
“Just say no” is my motto these days. Keeping my scheduling free of social clutter also keeps me sane.
That doesn’t mean that I turn down every invitation I receive. But if I don’t feel 100% about an opportunity when it first comes up, I know that I won’t have convinced myself that it’s worth it by the time I actually need to attend.
So help yourself – and potential hosts – out by prioritizing only the social engagements you really want to attend. Leave your time free for self-care and standing engagements with close friends.
3. Capture your schedule in a system and use it.
When I say that I need to simplify my thoughts, I mean it. I have a busy brain, and there are about one thousand thoughts and ideas bouncing around in there every second.
It’s impossible for me to successfully store my schedule in my mind.
My best advice is to create a predictable and replicable system where you can write everything down. That way, you won’t miss the super important social engagements you’ve actually said yes to.
4. Create a routine you love.
My mornings (and, often, my evenings) used to be really hectic. During my first few years of teaching, I didn’t get much sleep. I would wake up late, not know where anything was, and leave for work way more stressed out than I needed to be.
But creating and refining a morning and evening routine (described in this post) was a game-changer for me.
It is so nice to wake up each morning and not have to decide what I’m going to do, eat, or wear. It’s all part of the routine. This leaves time for me to work out, meditate, and take a leisurely shower. By the time I step out the door, I feel like a real person, and I’m ready to hang out with 30 11-year-olds before 8 in the morning!
Some parts of my routine have happened organically, but intentionality was important for most of it. I began developing my home routines by asking myself these questions:
- What do I need to accomplish during this time?
- What are some additional things I want to be able to do during this time?
- How do I want to feel throughout this routine and at the end of it?
- How much time will each part take?
- When do I need to begin my routine to leave/go to bed at X time?
5. Streamline your goals.
In June, I wrote a post about goal fatigue. It came at a moment when I was burnt out on goals and felt like I was constantly failing my own expectations.
We live in a goal-oriented culture, and growth is one of my core values. So I can’t imagine giving up on goals entirely (nor do I think that would be healthy).
But limiting the number of goals I allow myself to pursue has been a helpful tool in simplifying.
For the past few months, I’ve been setting goals and intentions in my journal for that month. There are always fewer than ten, and they range in intensity from “work on my body mindset” to finishing a particular book.
Setting specific intentions each month has helped me know exactly what I need to focus on. Then, I can set aside other goals that pop into my head throughout the month until it’s time to renew them.
6. Follow a workout plan.
I need to exercise every day, and I really like switching up my workouts so I don’t get bored.
But I’m not a fitness expert, and it’s hard for me to ensure that I’m covering all of my bases with exercise.
Following a workout plan has helped me simplify because it takes the guesswork out of exercise. I know that I’m working out all parts of my body. And I get injured less often because I’m not overdoing any one type of exercise.
It saves me time because I don’t have to plan or search for workout videos. I just check the plan the night before so I know how much time I’ll need in the morning.
I really love Tone It Up because of their community’s infectious positivity. They’re always posting new videos, and they do a few live workouts on Instagram every week. And it’s easy to switch workouts around to different days if I need to.
7. Automate payments.
Everyone else is probably already doing this, but it wasn’t until this year that I decided to set up automatic payments for my bills.
Fiscal responsibility is really important to me, so I like to pay attention to where my money is going. I used to think that I needed to log in and manually pay all of my bills to do that.
But it stressed me out to have to remember all of the different payment dates. It was an extra bit of anxiety that I carried in the back of my mind at all times.
So I finally decided to simplify that process by automating most of my bill payments. I make sure to check the amount when the e-mail notification comes in. But I don’t have to worry about missing a payment.
When I set this intention at the beginning of this year, I didn’t realize how many ways I would find to simplify my life beyond cleaning out my closet.
How do you bring more simplicity to your life?