Our lives can get cluttered: appointments to keep, deadlines to meet, commitments to be prioritized. Our plates–they become overfilled.
Left unchecked, we can start to take on a little too much. This can lead to us feeling boxed in and our life becomes overly crowded. There’s no time for us. No time to do what we want to do.
When this starts to happen we need to recognize it and take some preventative action. Specifically we need to pare down—but paring down is tough. It means saying no. It means giving things away. It means not trying to do everything at once or be all things to all people. It means stripping away the excess.
Thankfully I’ve learned the benefits of paring down, and I wanted to share five ways that have worked for me:
1. Say “yes” to less.
Most of us say “yes” an awful lot. Society tells us this is a good trait–that we’re being helpful. This can be the case but sometimes we say “yes” too often and it ends up biting us back. We end up missing deadlines and letting others down. Worse, we’re left with no time for ourselves and those we care about.
To battle this we need to be more selective in what and who we say yes to. We need to prioritize our choices. If it’s not a “Heck yeah, I’d love to do that,” maybe we should be saying no. Which brings us neatly to no 2 on this list.
2. Get comfortable saying “no”.
Self-talk or pressure from others can mean many of us are programmed to believe that saying “no” makes us uncooperative or unsupportive. That’s simply not true. Recognizing when and how to say “no” are key life skills for anyone that wants to live a productive and happy life.
How we say “no” can often matter. Be clear and firm that you’re saying “no”, but do so in a polite way and if it helps, explain your decision. For example, “No, I can’t deal with this right now as I have other commitments to meet.”
3. Simplify decision making.
Another way we can pare down is to purposefully limit choices. We can simplify our diet by choosing to make meals from only certain core ingredients for a period of time.
We can limit our information sources, concentrating only on those sources that give us the most bang for our proverbial buck. We can choose to only repeat a core selection of exercises for a set period of time before switching them up. This won’t be easy at first and might require some discipline. However, we need to cultivate some selective ignorance for this to work.
In a world where so much choice is thrown at us, using the power of positive constraints can help us simplify and cut through the potential for decision fatigue. We can put the mental blinkers on instead.
4. Declutter regularly.
A good Spring-clean doesn’t need to wait until Spring. We can declutter regularly to ensure what is left in our lives is adding value.
We can declutter material possessions by adopting a one-in, one-out policy or, for the more adventurous, a one-in two-out policy. We can clear out drawers and rooms on a regular basis ensuring clutter does not build up.
We can also declutter mentally by adopting good restoration habits and making time for us. Walking, hiking, meditating, escaping with a good bit of fiction-there are many ways. Life improves with less clutter in it.
5. Embrace the power in less.
Paring down, much like minimalism and simplifying our lives in any way is all about reduction. In 80/20 speak, we reduce the trivial many so the vital few can breathe. We focus on less in terms of volume but we focus more deeply on what is truly important to us.
Embracing the power of the right sort of less is a necessary step for any of us to pare down and simplify life. In my own case, I have benefitted from paring down in several areas of my life.
In terms of my fitness, I have limited my exercise selection down to a small pool of big return exercises that suit my body, temperament and goals. I have also limited the fitness related information channels I read. Fewer blogs, fewer magazines, and being able to dig deeper into a few sources that I get most enjoyment and benefit from.
This has left me enjoying my workouts more, results in less confusion, and provides more focus in the end. It’s also resulted in improved outcomes in performance. A pretty good return for such a relatively simple change.
Exercise is just one example of where paring down has helped me, but you can apply it to many areas of life as you see fit. I know I have–it has a global power.
The payoff when we put some of these points in play, is that we get quality time back for ourselves. Time back for personal projects and passions. We get quality time back to spend with the people we care about most. Time we can spend invested in the important things.
Pare down, strip away, simplify until you’re left with what matters most.