These are common headlines we seem to see lately. It seems that “simplifying one life” is the new crash diet of the eighties. Dieting ones tasks and objects to in turn “simplify”.
Crash dieting: throwing out all the junk food.
Toss out the TiVo, throw away the pile of magazines, donate your Starbucks card to a homeless man. But just what does it really mean to ‘simplify’ ones life? Is it even possible?
Look at the today’s societal challenges marching against us….. (Ahem…) …..Cell phones, mini video cameras, triple venti extra-hot iced soy vanilla lattes, iced mochas with and without whip, twenty-seven check-out stands at Whole Foods, take-out delivery past midnight (3am on weekends), TiVo, reality shows, a thousand channels of cable, Secretary’s Day, doormen, tipping, public transportation schedules, airline security, Internet identity theft, opentable.com, $200 True Religion jeans, Prada, High Fashion, Paparazzi, 24 hour CNN, Howard Stern, Hugh Hefner, Hillary Clinton, Britney Spears, Gordan Ramsey, Brandgelina, terrorists, bomb threats, hurricanes, earthquakes, school shootings, the Cheesecake Factory menu, pregnant teen stars, Paris goes to jail, the closing bell report, soup of the day, movie tickets online, TMZ, PerezHilton, The View, Fox News, Pro Sports, nutrition facts, HGH, mobile web, and all things Mac– (did I miss anything?)–this world is not getting any simpler anytime soon. But instead of tossing our Prada heels into the street and booking a one-way ticket to Fiji…I offer a different approach to rethinking this so-called process to “SIMPLIFY ones life.” These are five easy steps to help you RETHINK SIMPLIFICATION.
RECENT HEADLINES INDICATE….
The recent article from Parenting.com preaches easy steps to simplify–asking, “What Does it Take to Simplify?”
In this article, the author asks, “What Does it Take to Simplify One’s Life?” Suggestions include to: “Say NO.” “Ask for Help.” “Plan Ahead” “Let Yourself Off the Hook.” and “Do One Thing at Once.” Instant reaction to these suggestions: what are we? Guilt-infused, obsessive compulsive, sobbing adults who overwhelm ourselves with tasks we can’t get done on our own and then fall into a depressive slow-down in response to our failure? Well maybe…but here are MY FIVE EASY STEPS TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE—or re-think simplification altogether.
NUMBER ONE: Simplify Your Goals, Not Your Tasks.
“They” suggest you should cut out, aka, “simplify” your tasks when you are feeling overwhelmed. I disagree. Instead…cut down–simplify– your goals. Figure out those top few things in life that you want really really bad. Those top goals that drive you to push harder and further everyday. Then do whatever it takes to be successful at those things.
Examples of goals: getting a promotion at your job, being a good mom, spending enough time with your spouse.
Or: Moving to a new city in the next year, developing your creative hobby into a business, caring for your pet.
Or: Traveling more this year, buying a new house and fixing it up, practicing a healthy lifestyle everyday.
So instead of obsessing about tasks–focus on what you want–not on how much you have to do to get there.
Any good goal will require hard work and discipline–and a lot of tasks to achieve.
NUMBER TWO: Say No. (But Only to SAY YES.)
The article calls to SAY NO, more often. Gee, how original. I hate this advice. I picture a stressed out mother at her desk in her sweats and slippers, screaming “No!” into her cell phone, cancelling all her appointments and lunchdates and once her schedule is FREE (cue the angels singing in background) …she cowers in her dark bedroom left alone-sobbing at how guilty she feels for letting everyone-including herself- down. Most people end up feeling guilty when they Say No. So while I think we should practice this action of saying no to unwanted tasks and appointments–every time you say no–say YES to something worth your time. Say no to a long lunch with distant friends or co-workers, so that you can say yes to putting in an extra hour workout to tend to your healthy lifestyle goal. Say NO to seeing that new movie right away, to say YES to spending the afternoon reading books with your spouse. Say NO to reading TMZ and YES to writing a post on your blog.
NUMBER THREE: Don’t Prioritize!!! It only leads to guilt….
Yes that’s right–stop prioritizing!! Its like running on a treadmill–it gets you nowhere. Now if you have your top goals in line–as in step number one–you have no need to “prioritize tasks” Lets face it–maybe your job is number one, but your Jcrew credit card bill is due tomorrow–are you going to stay at your desk and finish an un-urgent report–or rush to the post office to mail the bill? If you “prioritize” all the tasks that make up your day–you will be running on that treadmill. Anytime you get something done, you will be left feeling guilty for the things you have yet to do that you thought were your “top priorities” Sometimes we have to take out the garbage even though we want to skip ahead to our enjoyable tasks.
NUMBER FOUR: Admit that humans (you) are COMPLEX: And SIMPLIFY your things.
Unless you are living on a desert island with nothing but your coconut count and suntan to stress over, I can pretty much assure you that your life is only going to get more complex the longer it is lived. True, you may learn to manage stress, tasks, goals and people better–but still–it will be more complex–even if you don’t notice it because you are managing it so well. Just think back to the days when your greatest worry was whether to spent Friday night with your best friend Sara or go over to Bobby’s house for pizza. All while trying to finish your book report on “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Simple as sunshine to you now right?
So my advice–stop “simplifying” yourself–because it’s not possible–and simplify your things. Cut down your purchasing or new stuff until you sort through the old stuff. Cut down on the “miscellaneous” category of things in your life. If you can’t say “I LOVE this!” about a thing–maybe its not worth keeping around.
NUMBER FIVE: Re embrace CHAOS!
I love this last tip. We are a generation of OCD pill-poppers and Desperate Housewives. We bow down to Martha Stewart when she showcases her fifty-five types of butter cream frosting cupcakes and twenty ways to poach an egg. We adore our folders which organize our computer, our labeled drawers and “Container Store” mentality of life. Well I say….STOP IT!!! Stop the obsessive organizing that is “simplifying and organizing your life.” This type of mentality only leads to an obsession for perfection. A quest for perfection muffles creativity, dampens happiness and squelches the possibility of stumbling upon inspiration. Embrace chaos once in a while–leave your desk messy and have an unplanned long lunchbreak. Spend an hour walking the long way home simply to give your brain a vacation from predictability. Enjoy the chaos that occurs during rush hour–a crowded subway–beating the closing doors to “make the train”– find joy in the final minutes before a big presentation-with last minute changes and tweaks to be made– smile at the after-work supermarket chaos with clogged aisles and customers crunching on un-purchased chips as they wait in line. Chaos stimulates the brain–and who knows what creative idea may pop out of your mouth when you give it a little squeeze or two of CHAOS.
SIMPLE END POINT: CRASH SIMPLIFYING YOUR LIFE IS LIKE CUTTING OUT CARBS ON A CRASH DIET…..IT SOUNDS LIKE A SOLUTION, BUT ITS REALLY JUST PUNISHMENT. STOP DEPRIVING YOURSELF OF CARBS–AND COMPLEXITY–IT WILL MAKE LIFE A HECK OF A LOT SIMPLER.