10 Simple Steps to Life Simplification

Source: fly again on Flickr.

A more accurate title for this post is “The First 10 Simple Steps to Life Simplification”, but long titles aren’t displayed completely in Google search results, so in the spirit of minimalism, I stuck with the simplified version.

The other day I was staring violently at my computer screen, willing Google to give me the information I needed. I clicked, and grumbled, and tapped, and stared, but for all of my effort, nothing seemed to be working. 

Then it hit me. It wasn’t the words, or the order of words I typed into the search bar. It was the topic itself, and my expectations that didn’t match.

I wanted specifics – cold hard facts, steps to follow – and all the Internet had to offer was broad and generalized philosophical regurgitation of the same articles, over and over again.

I realize that the topic of minimalism and life simplification can be the same way, so I’m trying to hone in on more specifics – philosophy and overviews are good, but when you want to start taking action on the principles, it helps to have concrete examples or steps to follow.   

This post is for people who have heard the philosophy of minimalist living, and are ready to take action pursuing the art of minimalism.

The First 10 Simple Steps to Life Simplification

1. Pinpoint Priorities: Write a short, simple list. On this list, write out the top 5 activities you would spend your time pursuing in the most ideal conditions. This will put things into perspective and help you begin the process of time simplification. Time is the most valuable commodity, and that’s why this is the first step – You’re focusing on what’s really important so you can weed out the things that aren’t. Example: Write something like this (hopefully not in this order):

Time Priorities                                

1. Fish a lot.                                                                                 

2. Watch Firefly                                     

3. Spend time with kids                   

4. Spend time with wife                   

5. Stay in shape                                  

2. Know your enemy: On the other side, list the top 5 problems that keep you from each of those activities. Briefly address each problem – cross out and replace a problem if it’s an unsolvable problem at this point in time. Often, the original problem can be replaced by a problem that keeps you from eliminating that original problem. For example, if your problem is working too much, and that problem can’t be solved because you have to work a lot to keep up on the bills – list “to many bills” as your new problem.

This is what your list should look like at this point:

Time Priorities                         Problems

1. Fish a lot.                                              1. Distance to lake                                   

2. Watch Firefly                                      2. I work until 6, the show comes on at 6

3. Spend time with kids                        3. They go to bed at 8, I get home at 7, eat at 7:30

4. Spend time with wife                        4. Not enough time in the day, after work I do yard work and fix the house/car.

5. Stay in shape                                      5. Not enough time in the day, after work I do yard work and fix the house/car.

3. Choose 3 problems to simplify: Simplification should be done in a simple manner. You can spend all day coming up with subcategories of problems that need to be addressed – don’t. Choose 3 and stick to them. Example: On your list, you have “spend time with wife” as one of your top priorities – let’s say one of the obstacles between you and more time with my wife is the 2 hour round trip commute to work. That problem can be one of the 3 problems to simplify.

3 Problems to Simplify                                                         

1. Distance to the lake.                                                      

2. I work until 6, the show comes on at 6

3. Not enough time in the day; work…

4. Write out your solutions: A good rule of thumb is to only eliminate when you benefits outweighs the costs. Keep this in mind as you work out solutions to your 3 problems. Keep steps 5-8 in mind as you plan your solutions.

3 Problems to Simplify                                Solutions

1. Distance to the lake.                                                      1. Find a closer fishing hole saving time and gas money.

2. I work until 6, the show comes on at 6                     2. Switch shift with someone that day

3. Not enough time in the day; work…                          3. Use money saved in solution #1 to hire someone for some maintenance. 

5. Post your lists: Out of sight out of mind – Your brain isn’t designed to be an alarm clock reminder. Post your lists somewhere you’ll see them every day – on the fridge, on doors, walls, computer screens, tv screens, etc.

6. Eliminate wasted time: If your problem keeping you from fishing is a long commute to the lake, find a closer fishing hole, or choose a more efficient route if possible. If you work too much, negotiate for better hours, or get a new job. Simple as that – don’t be a slave to your occupation.

7. Cut your expenses: Most of the time finances are the root of the problems that shorten your day. Cutting your expenses will free up time that you can spend elsewhere.

8. Reduce your social obligations: If your priorities mean more to you, than you may want to consider balancing your life by reducing time spent in social activities and responsibilities.

9. Declutter: Less is more. The more things you get rid of, the more peace of mind you’ll have, although at a certain point anxiety may start rising up again – there’s a point of equilibrium, and that point is different for different people. 

10. Replace the inefficiencies with your priorities: This is the most important step because if you don’t immediately plug in the newly made time gaps with the things that mean the most to you, that time slot will be replaced by something else before you realize it.

I hope this list will help you take your first simplification steps on the path of the minimalist. Once you complete the first 3 solutions, address 3 more problems – keep repeating these steps and you’ll begin noticing the life changing effects in no time.