How to simplify your life to make room for the important things

16 minutes reading time

You should be super happy and grateful; you live in the best times ever. Violence levels are the lowest in history, poverty is declining fast, you’re free to design your life completely tailored to your needs, and the average person today owns more cool stuff than a king or a queen did a few hundred years ago.

But there are also a few big downsides in today’s world. Information overload. Uncertainty. Market complexity. Unrealistic expectations towards life and the tyranny of choice, to name but a few.

There are so many things to choose from, there are so many things to do, own and experience, that you can quickly get carried away by wanting too much at the same time. You know, much like if you eat too much chocolate at once and then your stomach suffers.

As I teach in my blog posts, you always have to be one step ahead of life. You always need to have a superior life strategy in place. The solution for the tyranny of choice in today’s times is to simplify your life. It’s one of the most freeing things you can do. Subtracting instead of adding things into your life.

The best cure for the tyranny of choice in today’s times is to simplify your life.

By simplifying life, you make more room for the really important things (health, relationships, wealth, a smile …), you increase your margin (the space between your work capacity and workload) to not drown in work, and life in general becomes so much easier. Even more importantly, by simplifying your life you can finally make room for happiness.

By being exposed to all the ads, technology, numerous distractions, possibilities, options, products and changes, you can quickly start feeling overwhelmed. We all do. And it’s time for you to get ahead of this downside.

In this blog post, you will learn how to simplify your life, so that you can get back the freedom, time, energy and other resources you need to live a happy and really productive life by being focused on the things that really matter.

So let’s start exploring the options you have for simplifying your life.

Less is more

How you can simplify your life

There are several ways of how you can simplify your life. They aren’t rocket science and they aren’t hard to do – rationally. You see, simplifying your life is an emotional challenge, not a rational one. The two strongest emotional challenges you have to face are the fear of missing out and the fear of losing something valuable to you.

Simplifying your life is an emotional challenge, not a rational one.

Because it’s an emotional challenge, you have to start with small steps and see that you can survive with one project less or by throwing away that thing you haven’t used for months. Things will get much easier when you simplify your life and doing it will make room for the important things.

I was scared like a little puppy when I sold my car and when I ditched my mobile phone. But after experiencing all the benefits a few days later, all the fear was gone, and the benefits were so huge I was just asking myself why I hadn’t tried it earlier.

Knowing that to simplify your life, you will have to deal primarily with your negative emotions and fears, here are a few options you have to start simplifying:

  • Automate – social media marketing, tasks, production …
  • Cancel – subscription, event, appearance, travel, visit, meeting …
  • Delegate – tasks, commitments, chores …
  • Delete – task, functionality, files, online account …
  • Donate – clothes, money, things you don’t need anymore …
  • Downsize – company, number of relationships, car, house …
  • Forget about it – issue, problem, person …
  • Let it go – emotional problem, emotional issue …
  • Minimize – workload, number of daily decisions, options …
  • Optimize – chores, processes, decision-making …
  • Opt out – newsletters, projects, commitments, meetings …
  • Refocus – reset priorities, define your True north …
  • Remove people from your life, functionalities, options …
  • Set limits – for mental masturbation, TV watching, the number of things you do simultaneously …
  • Throw away – clutter, things you don’t use…

Above are listed 15 ways of how you can simplify your life, and I definitely haven’t listed all of them. It’s up to you to decide which option is the best for the different situations you have in life. The important fact is that if you don’t systematically and strategically simplify your life with all the options you have, you’re going to stay right where you are.

Now let’s dive deeper into a few best options of how you can simplify your life fast by using above mentioned tools.

  1. Simplify your schedule
  2. Simplify your meals
  3. Simplify your style
  4. Simplify your relationships
  5. Commit to the minimalistic lifestyle
  6. Cancel projects you aren’t really committed to
  7. Use fewer apps
  8. Simplify your goals
  9. Simplify your soul
  10. Other ideas for simplifying your life

Simplify your schedule

You probably know very well that meetings, excessive socializing and spending too much time on email are the biggest time wasters for most people. Email can be real work, but only for rare occupations. For the majority, email and meetings are great ways to kill time and feel productive, even if you aren’t.

Meetings, emails and urgent tasks are also a great way to make your calendar and working day super complex and super unproductive. Having hundreds of items in your calendar every week can make you feel like you’re a super busy person, but the feeling is often fake.

It’s shocking how many people are lying to themselves with a fake feeling of progress, doing tasks that are urgent, but not important.

To avoid a fake feeling of progress, you need to set clear outputs and metrics for your work and then make sure you’re really getting the important things done. In more than 90 % of cases, that means you have to simplify your working day and make room to work in the flow on the things that really matter.

Simplifying your calendar can be really life-changing for your productivity and happiness levels at work. The tools for simplifying your calendar are timeboxing and setting strict limits.

Timeboxing is a way to proactively set what you’ll spend your working time on in advance, while limits help you set strict boundaries to make sure that distractions and “urgent” tasks don’t make you stray from your plan.

For example, you can simplify your calendar with a framework where you timebox two working flows per day, you plan to check email only once a day and you have a maximum of two 30-minutes meetings. An exception is Friday, when you may have more and longer meetings as well as spend more time on email.

You may also have a no-interruptions Tuesday, when you do 4 working flows with zero distractions, no email and no meetings. In that way, you finish 10 working flows and focus on what’s really important. A strict schedule framework helps you more easily make decisions on when and how to spend your time. You can take everything even further by having no schedule at all.

Here is one more alternative suggestion how to organize your calendar with timeboxing:

Example of Highly Productive Calendar

Here is an example how your calendar should be organized for maximum performance.

Life experiment ideas

Simplify your calendar by:

Simplify your meals

Food is an important part of life. You probably eat 3 to 5 times per day and it takes you between 20 – 60 minutes on average to prepare the meal and eat it (or even more). That sums up to 2 – 3 hours of eating every day.

There’s nothing wrong with that. As I mentioned, food is an important part of life. Who doesn’t love food and eating. Not only do you need it for survival, it also gives you a feeling of safety, pleasure, and sharing a dish can be a great social experience.

But it doesn’t have to get more complicated than that. In fact, there are many ways of simplifying your eating habits and still fulfilling all your nutritional and foodie needs. You can prepare a standard weekly shopping list. You can simplify the meals you cook. You can optimize how many dishes you use. You can standardize the types of meals you eat at different times of day.

I have a few standard options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I try to keep my meals standardized, simple and within the caloric limits that fit my macro-nutrition plan. At first, I put some effort into experimenting with different options and finding the optimal meals for me (taste, preparation time, nutritional values etc.).

Now, I update and add new options every quarter or so, just to make sure that my diet is constantly improving and things don’t get too boring. But I try not to spend hours and hours thinking about what should I eat for my next meal.

Well, simplifying your meals doesn’t mean that you don’t try new dishes from time to time. It doesn’t mean that you don’t go to a restaurant and order something different and non-standard from time to time. You don’t want to deprive yourself of pleasures in life.

Simplifying your meals only means that you decide to have the best of both worlds. On the one hand, you try to simply, standardize and optimize your life and on the other hand, you’re constantly experimenting with new things. Keeping the balance between the one and the other is usually more art than science, but with time and by listening to yourself, you start making the right choices.

Life experiment ideas

When it comes to food, here are some suggestions for how to simplify your life:

  • Standardize your weekly shopping list and have groceries delivered to your home.
  • Plan a standard weekly eating schedule and update it from time to time.
  • Eat meals more or less at the same time every day.
  • Have 5 – 10 favorite types of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that fit your macro-nutritional needs.
  • In each of your favorite restaurants, have a dish or two you always order.
  • Simplify your meals with fewer different types of food. You will consume less calories and food will digest more easily.
  • Optimize food preparation and how many dishes you use.
  • Constantly improve your diet and try new things from time to time.
  • Have healthy snack options when emotional hunger hits you.
  • Absolutely enjoy food, but try not to complicate your life too much with meal choices.

Simplify your style

Personal style is very important, it’s one of the power signs and the handiest option to express your taste, values and uniqueness. Nevertheless, having and managing good style takes time, effort and mental bandwidth. That’s why Steve Jobs wore the same clothes most of the time and why Mark Zuckerberg does it nowadays.

On the one hand, expressing personal style is important, but on the other, it doesn’t make sense to spend hours and hours in front of the mirror and an open closet, choosing what to wear. Obviously it’s a lot harder for women and many professions (like modeling) to not invest heavily into a unique and impressive personal style, but there are definitely some limits you can set.

What to wear

Life experiment ideas

Here are a few ideas for how you can simplify your style:

  • Find a few clothing brands that fit you well and shop only there.
  • Regularly take one day per month to update your wardrobe or do it only twice a year (like I do), but then make more purchases.
  • Get a stylist if necessary, to unburden your mind over whether you fit the new fashion trends.
  • Donate clothes you don’t wear. It’s probably half of your wardrobe.
  • Buy seven pairs of the same jeans, t-shirts and hoodies, and forget about your style.

Simplify your relationships

I’m a strong believer that you must have complex, multidimensional, deep and diversified relationships in order to grow and experience the richest life possible. At the end of the day, close relationships matter most.

Simple relationships are definitely helpful when you want to relax and enjoy life, but they rarely bring out the best in you and push you to new levels of awareness.

But there are definitely many ways of simplifying relationships in your life. First of all, if you follow the “no assholes, no bozos, no crappy people and no haters” rule, you’ll clean up your life in terms of relationships to a great extent. You can simply decide not to deal with that kind of people at all.

You don’t think about them, you don’t talk about them, you don’t gossip about them, they just don’t exist for you. What a simple and effective solution.

The second thing you can do is to choose your battles very carefully. Even by ignoring all the shitty people, relationships are often battles, because of a lack of outstanding communication, clashes of interest or many other things.

Never go to war, not with others, but especially not with yourself.

But there are battles that are important in your life, and others you often engage in only because of your ego. So simplify your life by choosing your battles very carefully. There are many battles you don’t have to engage in; you can simply smile or move on.

In the same way, you can simplify your most precious relationships by initiating honest communication as soon as a problem appears. As soon as there is bad energy present, you can take a step towards transforming it into a positive one.

A hug, a compliment, a nice word, sitting down and starting to communicate is always a good first step towards switching from the negative to the positive. By being proactive in relationships, you can simplify your life to a great extent.

Life experiment ideas

To sum up, here are the ideas for how to simplify your relationships:

  • Have fewer relationships and those ones really deep. There are six extremely important relationships to nurture in your life – spouse, family, friends, boss, coworkers, mentors. Put quality over quantity in these relationships.
  • Follow the “no assholes, no bozos, no crappy people and no haters” rule.
  • Don’t engage in battle with every person who doesn’t agree with you, has a different opinion or doesn’t know how to drive. Instead observe, listen and learn. Choose your battles very carefully.
  • Don’t have unrealistic expectations about relationships. Relationships are like glass, but the glass is already broken.
  • Be proactive in relationships. When a problem appears, solve it immediately, especially with honest communication. When engaging with people, always respond active-constructively.
  • Always be yourself and don’t lie at all.

Simplify your life

Commit to the minimalistic lifestyle

The more stuff you own; the more stuff owns you. Every item in your life takes up place, time and energy. Having less of quality stuff is some of the best advice for simplifying life. A lot has been written about minimalism, so I won’t go deep into it, but there are a few key important points I have to emphasize when writing about simplifying life.

You don’t want to go into the extreme of living an ascetic life, owning almost nothing. That’s often a sign that it’s too painful for you to deal with the material world. Don’t try to escape from reality. You need to be constantly fulfilling your needs to be happy and that also includes fulfilling materialistic needs.

But that doesn’t mean you need to have a cellar full of junk, hundreds of clothes you don’t ever wear, dozens of clutter drawers, three cars, two TVs, five tablets and hundreds of souvenirs catching dust on your shelves. Be an emotionally healthy minimalist.

The second important point is that the best way to live a minimalistic lifestyle is not to buy stuff in the first place. Wait a few days before making minor purchases and a few weeks for bigger purchases. You’ll be surprised at how often you change your mind and foresee that at the end of the day, maybe you don’t need that thing that you wished for so much.

To simplify your life with a minimalistic lifestyle, it’s also very important to do regular cleanings, at least twice per year. Sell stuff, donate stuff, throw stuff away. For every item that you haven’t used for a month or so, ask yourself if you really need it. If you don’t, get rid of it.

Life experiment ideas

The main ideas for how to simplify your life with the minimalistic lifestyle:

  • Do regular cleanings every 6 months or so. Know that being a minimalist and throwing stuff away is more an emotional challenge than a rational one.
  • Avoid emotional buying. Wait a few days for minor purchases and a few weeks for the bigger ones, and observe if the emotional pressure to buy that things fades away.
  • Everything you want to buy, multiply the price 7 – 10x. That’s the real price, considering the opportunity-cost in 10 years if you had invested the money in an EFT with average market return.
  • By owning less, there are fewer items to use, fewer items to move, take care of, clean, do software updates or whatever. Remember, you don’t own stuff, stuff owns you.

Always have the key objects in the same place

Key holderThere’s a part of your brain called the hippocampus and it’s dedicated to remembering the location of things, if they are consistently in the same place. That leads to a simple tip for productivity and simplifying your life.

Always have the things you own in the same place. Your keys, glasses, perfumes, whatever. This life hack will save you a lot of time and brainpower.

Cancel the projects you aren’t really committed to

Every year, there are probably a few projects in your professional or even personal life (redecorating the bathroom etc.) that you said yes to, but only because you somehow didn’t have the courage to say no. And now you aren’t meeting your commitments and you probably never will or you’ll just deliver a half-finished output.

Gather the courage and be honest with yourself and others, and cancel all the commitments that you know you won’t deliver or will perform poorly; or that aren’t projects with the highest impact in your life or projects where your contribution is irreplaceable.

Life experiment ideas
  • Simplify your life by not having too many projects, too many activities and too many commitments.
  • Work only on projects where your value added is high and you personally grow and learn.
  • Free yourself of the emotional burden, where you committed to something you will never deliver.
  • Simplifying life is always about saying no. Learn how to say no.

Use fewer apps

One of the best ways to really simplify your life is to use fewer applications – on your computer, tablet and mobile phone. There are so many applications to install and it’s so easy to do it, all you need is one click or touch of a screen. It takes a few clicks and you can have hundreds of apps on your devices.

From 10+ chatting apps to 10+ news apps and then you have all the productivity apps, entertainment apps, the list is endless. Every app takes up space, time, energy and adds complexity to your life. And new popular apps are being released every single day, just begging you to install them.

Instead of installing one more app, go into the opposite direction instead.

Life experiment ideas
  • Limit yourself strictly to 30 or something apps. If you want to install a new app, you have to delete one that you’re currently using. It’s a tricky rule, you’ll see.
  • Have one app for chatting, zero apps for news, maybe one or two productivity apps and one to relax you.
  • Delete all the apps you haven’t used for more than a few weeks.
  • But digitalize as many things as possible. You can simplify your life to a great extent by organizing a digital brain for yourself.

Simplify your goals

If you’re trying to achieve too many goals at the same time or trying to implement too many changes at once, you usually implement none. Thus you can greatly simplify your life by reducing the number of goals and improvements you want to achieve in a specific time period.

You absolutely need to have a life vision, you absolutely need a list of what you want to experience in life, what you will create and what an awesome person you will become – the best version of yourself.

But not everything can be achieved at once. You have to strictly limit your work in progress (WIP) if you don’t want to overwhelm yourself.

Limiting work in progress is one of the best ways to simplify your life.

One big improvement and one big goal, together with a few small goals and improvements is probably the upper limit. Or here’s an even better idea – one of the best ways to focus yourself is to choose one life area you want to dramatically improve in one year and then work every day hard to really improve that area. Only one area, nothing more.

In five to seven years, you can completely change your life with that kind of an approach. One year, one area. Just don’t try to follow too many goals at once. You have enough time, all you have to do is to be patient and work steadily on your priorities every day. Very limited priorities.

Life experiment ideas

Here are a few ideas for how to simplify your life regarding goals:

  • Have only one big goal and one big improvement you want to achieve at once.
  • Even better: make it a New Year’s resolution to take one life area to a whole new level and then focus on that area 100 %.
  • Don’t overestimate what you can achieve in a month and underestimate what you can achieve in a few years.
  • Limit the number of goals, work in progress, and don’t forget to enjoy life.

Simplify your soul

The last thing you can do is to simplify your character. I call it simplifying your soul, but that includes everything around you as a person. You can simplify your emotions by smiling most of the time; by enjoying the present moment and flowing through life like a river, calmly facing every obstacle on the way.

To stop resisting and being flexible means greatly simplifying life.

It’s easier said than done, but it’s definitely the most rewarding simplification.

You can simplify your character if you stop being a perfectionist and start accepting a good enough state. You can simplify your soul if you stop being greedy, needy or stuck in any other negative emotion or excessive need. You can greatly simplify your life by focusing on what you have and not on what you lack.

You can simplify your life if you stop torturing your soul, stop doing things that aren’t your true north, things that you don’t enjoy and got somehow stuck in. You can simplify your life by facing your irrational fears and making more room for love. You can simplify your life by accepting the truth no matter how hurtful it is and having realistic expectations towards life.

Here is how you can simplify your life by simplifying your character:

  • It doesn’t have to be perfect, good enough is just good enough.
  • Keep the (inner) smile as your default emotion 80 % of the time.
  • Don’t overanalyze and overthink things, learn to live in the present moment.
  • Deal with negative thoughts and cognitive distortions with emotional accounting and cognitive reframing.
  • Stay lean and agile on how you will achieve your goals, stop resisting life.
  • Focus yourself on what you have in life, not on what you lack.
  • Accept the truth and stop asking yourself why life is as it is, instead learn to master it.
  • Face your fears and make room for love instead. There are many types of fears, but there is only one love.

Keep it simple

Other ideas for simplifying your life

I think you got many ideas for simplifying your life. You know it’s better to implement one thing than to only read about 50 recommendations. So choose a few of your favorite life simplifications and make sure you really implement them.

Life experiment ideas

But if you’re really enthusiastic about simplifying your life to the full, you can find additional ideas below.

  1. Limit different communication channels you use (IM, paper mail etc.)
  2. Don’t read news at all
  3. Don’t go to conferences
  4. Rent instead of own
  5. Simplify the furniture in your rooms
  6. Have one day when you spend time all alone
  7. Don’t own a car
  8. Downsize a car or a home
  9. Create a system (for mail, paperwork, chores)
  10. Have fewer drawers
  11. Clean your desk
  12. Don’t multitask
  13. Don’t use your phone when you’re talking to other people
  14. Create a not-to-do list
  15. Every day, have three tasks you must do, forget the rest
  16. Enjoy doing nothing
  17. Simplify your RSS feed
  18. Move closer to your office
  19. Never be late
  20. Use email templates
  21. Use fewer words
  22. Take time away from technology
  23. Prepare yourself for a new day a day before
  24. Always go to sleep early
  25. Create more white space
  26. Slow down
  27. Don’t bitch, whine and complain at all
  28. Consolidate bank accounts
  29. Shop only once per week
  30. Work from home when possible
  31. Automate administration (bill paying, savings, etc.)
  32. Rearrange your browser’s bookmark bar (delete bookmarks)
  33. Mind your own business
  34. Don’t be overly sensitive
  35. Forgive
  36. Drink only water, tea and the green drink
  37. Ask for help when you need it
  38. Eat only healthy food
  39. Don’t act out of ego, search and mind the environment’s feedback
  40. Always tell the truth

As you will see, by simplifying your life you’ll finally make room for the important things. And your stress levels will drop dramatically. You’ll finally get the opportunity to really live life.

Simple living, high thinking.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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