Our lives are increasingly busy in todays modern world. With jobs, housework, and children, we have a lot on our plates. Throw in homemade real food, tending animals and planting gardens and we’re overloaded. So how is the simple life so simple if there’s so much more work to do?
Well, it certainly depends on how you look at it, but also on how you manage it and learning to simplify your day is a good start.
Choose your to-do list management system
A piece of paper and a pencil is as simple as it gets as far as to-do lists go. If you’re more inclined to keep your to-do list on your computer or in the cloud (like I am) you need to choose an app that works for you. I use Dropbox for my file storage, Evernote to keep track of ideas and other random bits of info, plus Tick Tick and Google Calendar to organize my life.
Focus your attention
Don’t overwhelm yourself with everything that needs to be done this month or week. Instead, focus on just the things that need to be done today or just the things that need to be done before lunch.
Actually, how about just focusing on one task at a time? It’s helpful to know what’s on the list for the day but it’s not helpful to worry about getting it all done. Focus. Get the present task done. Then move on.
Be realistic to simplify your day
Realize that no one can “do it all”. To-do lists should be used to simplify your daily tasks, not complicate them. Most people don’t finish their to-do list every day and, instead, tasks simply roll over to the next day.
If checking off every item on your to-do list is important for you to feel accomplished in your day then don’t put so many things on it. That’s right. You don’t have to fill your to-do list everyday!
Put rest on your to-do list
If you don’t schedule it in, it won’t happen and it needs to happen. No, rest is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. No one can be productive without rest. In fact, we tend to be less productive when we overwork ourselves.
One study found that the best way to be productive is to take regular breaks. These breaks help to avoid cognitive boredom, which happens when we try to focus on one task for too long. It turns out it’s not a short attention span that could be the problem but instead, we get bored with one task and start automatically focusing on other things (like checking email or looking at facebook).
Building in rest time gives you a chance to be purposeful about your rest time which in turn allows you to be purposeful and dedicated in your work time. Pretty cool, huh? Go. Put rest on your to-do list right now.
Embrace each task and find joy in it
We tend to look at work as the enemy and that we need to finish it as soon as possible so we can get to the good stuff of the day. The funny thing is, often the “good stuff” ends up being watching TV or surfing the web, and is moderately satisfying at best. If we purpose to find joy in our everyday tasks instead of only finding joy in being entertained, we will have a more joyful life.
I love cleaning out my chicken coop. It’s a bit of exercise and a few precious moments to myself. I can’t say that I love doing dishes but I can find a bit of joy in the time to get lost in thought or I can find joy in knowing that cleaning up makes my home more peaceful and enjoyable to be in.
What seemingly mundane activities bring you joy?
Delegate and prioritize
Remember that you don’t have to be the main do’er in your home. Whether it’s housework, gardening, taking care of animals or whatever else, others can usually help even in a small way.
Even very young children can help with daily tasks and they truly love to help. No, they won’t do things perfectly or quickly but they love being able to help with laundry, sweeping, and feeding animals.
Teaching young children to be part of keeping daily life flowing will not only ensure they grow up knowing how to do those tasks but will hopefully help them to understand the benefits of work and to find joy in those activities.
Once tasks are delegated you can focus on the things that only you can do. When you wake up in the morning, tackle the most important (and probably least enjoyed) task first. You will feel accomplished and from there everything else you’re able to get done is extra.
Let it go
We all have expectations of how things should be and feel frustrated when those expectations aren’t met. However, sometimes the energy, time or money necessary to meet those expectations is more than we are willing to give. Sometimes we can find more happiness in learning to let go of our expectations.
There are times when my day feels way too full of things that have to happen. A few of my expectations are: a clean home, a variety of healthy food to eat, clean clothes (preferably put away), happy chickens, a years worth of vegetables growing in the garden, a well kept up blog, and children who are happy, clean, well fed, loved, and cognitively engaged with activities.
I have to ask myself (and you should too): What is most important? And then let everything else go. Worrying doesn’t help, so just. let. go.
You may think that scheduling your time will make your day feel rigid but, it doesn’t. In fact, you will find that you have more flexibility when your time is scheduled. A schedule doesn’t mean you have to do everything at the exact moment the schedule says to do it. Instead, having an idea of what comes next in your day, and that there is a time for each task, can greatly simplify your day.
If you have children you will find even more reward in having a schedule or routine. Kids thrive with predictable schedules.
Start by beginning a morning routine. It can be as simple as getting up at the same time every day, having breakfast, getting dressed and starting chores. Whatever your mornings feel like will affect what the rest of the day feels like. Work on creating a slow, peaceful morning (especially if your days are usually rushed) and you’ll find that the day goes more smoothly.