How to Simplify Your Life On One Sheet of Paper

Why Simplify?

One of the biggest fears I deal with during my initial consultations with clients is the fear of having more to do. Many new clients worry that they won’t have the time or energy to meet the demands a coach or trainer might put on them. Often I know they have this fear before they express it, because I see it in their eyes when they walk in the door.

And I get it, if you look out at most self help, personal training, and life coaching approaches out there that is what they offer. They want to help you free up energy so you can do more: more exercise, more work, and more activities. They paint this picture of the do everything, be everything, man or woman who is a titan of industry and a master of their lives.

Of course, this ideal has a certain appeal. I mean who wouldn’t want to have wealth, fame, and power. And how else are you going to get there without being able to do everything all while looking like a model and eating a perfect diet?

But what I’ve found again and again is that although this image is appealing it’s not one that actually speaks to the hearts of most of the people I meet or work with. Sure it appeals to our egos’ and to the media’s image of success, but it rarely equates to the deep satisfaction that people think this idealized lifestyle will give them.

Finding Deep Satisfaction

Instead, I’ve found that deeply satisfying lives are often the opposite of this ideal. Deep satisfaction comes not from doing more but from doing less. Not from being perfect or looking perfect, but by embracing our imperfections and humanity. Not from conquering the world, but living in a peaceful relationship with it.

Of course, this is easier than it sounds. There is a lot of cultural energy pulling us to always do more, instead of doing less and being ourselves. So I want to offer a few of the many reasons why I think it’s so important to simplify your life in order to find the peace, happiness, and meaning so many of us long for.

Simplicity Helps You Focus

Imagine you walk into a bedroom filled with many things. There are a few items in this room that matter more than anything to the person who lives there. But as you look at the room, it’s hard to pick these items out. All you see are lots of items and while some might seem more important than others. The sheer number keeps your mind from knowing for sure.

Now imagine you walk into a bedroom filled with just a few things. In this room, the few things you see are obviously important. They stand out against the background of the space that surrounds them. In just a few moments, you can easily determine the things the person who lives here cares about.

Our lives are very much like these rooms. When we have many things in our lives it becomes harder for us and for others to tell what matters. But when we empty our lives of things we don’t need it’s so much easier to focus on what’s really important.

Simplicity Helps You Connect

Imagine you walk into an office. The receptionist seems to be sending a fax and also answering a phone. She puts her finger up and asks you to hold on a second without making eye contact. Next, she writes down a note, curses at the fax machine, and then looks up to ask you what she can help you with.

Now imagine you walk into that same office but this time the receptionists looks up immediately and smiles at you. He waits for you to come up to his desk and says hello. He asks you what he can help you with.

They way we greet people when we are overly busy and when we are present is just like these two receptionists. When I get stressed, I find that if I try to connect my ability to be present with others is limited. But when I slow down I see people, I really meet them, and that helps me form stronger bonds with them.

Simplicity Helps You Be Happy

Imagine you have 20 things to do today. Each of them is tightly scheduled, then on your way to your first meeting of the day you get a flat tire. As you wait for a tow truck, your anxiety level rises, knowing that this blip is going to throw everything off.

Now imagine you have just 4 – 6 things to do today. Each of them is important, but you’ve left some space in your schedule so you can have time to focus on each one. Then you get a flat tire. Sure you’re bummed but you realize that while your day may be a bit more hectic you’ll still have time to get much of what you wanted to get done completed. You are able to enjoy a few minutes in the car just relaxing as you wait.

I’ve found that when I over plan or over schedule I create a very limited set of circumstances that will let me be happy. But if instead I create space and focus on what’s important, I am more open to dealing with life’s little hiccups.

Simplicity Heals

Of course, there are many more reasons I could offer for why simplicity can make such a huge difference. It can save you money, help you live longer, and help you be more honest. But the reason that simplifying is so powerful is that as we let go of what’s extra our lives become lighter.

Instead of carrying around all these obligations, fears, stories, and ‘shoulds’ simplicity helps you walk with only those things you need the most. And even though the work you do to simplify your life can be difficult the results are amazing. Which is why despite the pull that each of us feels to be more busy, to do more and to be more I encourage people again and again to pick up what matters and let go of what doesn’t.

How To Simplify

Ok so by now you know why you should simplify, but the next question is how. Well I could give you a long complex set of steps, but just so I’m practicing what I preach I’ll give you a very short simple one.

  1. Take out a piece of paper
  2. At the top write: Things I don’t need.
  3. And then start writing, list possessions you don’t need, obligations you don’t need, people who suck your energy you don’t need and anything else that comes to mind.
  4. Then look at your list and choose one of those things.
  5. Your tasks for today is to take one concrete step to let go of that thing.
  6. If it’s a physical object then take it to goodwill, throw it in the trash or put it in your car so you can get rid of it.
  7. If it’s an obligation write an email explaining why you can’t do it.
  8. No matter what the step is keep it simple.

Continuing Practice

So obviously, this one small act won’t change everything, but it’s a start. A very small simple start. The key to bigger and bigger change is not to make this more complex, but to repeat this task again and again. Sure there will be obstacles, sure things will get hard, but those things are what you need to experience to get to the simple life you want.

Need to Know More?

If you want to know more or have questions shoot me an email. Next week I’m going to do an all questions answered posts where I answer any questions my readers have about anything I have ever written or done. Just remember to keep your email simple 😉