Do you ever feel stressed? That’s probably a stupid question. I think we all feel stressed at times. Research indicates that the top causes of stress in 2012 are work, money and the economy. Go figure.
Psychologists suggest that one way to reduce stress is to simplify your life. But how?
I like the way Leo Babauta puts it:
- Identify what’s important to you
- Eliminate everything else.
For several years, I’ve been studying and experimenting with ways to simplify my life and reduce stress.
This resulted in a three-pronged approach:
The concept of disconnecting may scare some of you. But I’m not suggesting you eliminate all communication, just set healthy boundaries.
Over-communication is a major cause of stress in our constantly connected world. We don’t want to be out of the loop so we’re constantly turned on. We text, we call, we email. Many companies provide cellphones but then expect you to be available 24/7. So how can you stay connected yet allow yourself some margin?
Here are some tactics I have tested for taming communication overload:
- Avoid email first thing in the morning. Instead use that time to focus on important projects.
- Don’t check email constantly during the day.
- Turn off all pop ups and notifications on your phone and email.
- Check email at specified times. I like 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.
- Set rules to automate email sorting. I have three mailboxes: Important, Starred for Later and Everything Else. I check Important throughout the day but Everything Else only gets checked once a day or every other day.
- Don’t answer your phone in meetings or during your most productive times.
- Don’t give your personal cellphone number to work associates. I use a Google Voice account for my business calls then forward the calls to my cellphone.
- Screen all calls.
- Don’t answer your phone after 7 p.m., that’s family time.
Ask yourself how much stuff is enough. Remember, more stuff = more activity. You have to clean it, maintain it, repair it, store it and so on.Which is less time focusing on important things.
Tip #1 – Buy less stuff.
Stop buying things just because you can. Always ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Always consult with your husband or wife about larger purchases and set a mandatory waiting period of 24-48 hours. This will allow proper consideration time and help you avoid embarrassing buyer’s remorse.
Also, bigger quantities are not always better values. All that warehouse shopping mentality is a bunch of crap. I did some serious comparison shopping and learned shopping at Sam’s or Costco is rarely a bargain.
A favorite saying of my wife and I is, “It’s just stuff.” The point is we don’t need things to be happy, they don’t define us. I once heard a man say, “It’s great to have stuff as long as the stuff doesn’t have you.” Simple yet profound.
Tip #2 – Get rid of stuff.
Room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, shelf by shelf, challenge yourself to justify why you’re holding on to things. Games you don’t play, clothes you don’t wear. I’m personally guilty of holding on to technology. The other day I found a Palm Pilot in one of my drawers! No love lost there. I tossed it straight in the recycle pile.
And don’t just dispose. Donate and recycle what you can. It requires more effort but it’s more rewarding.
Clothes are a no-brainer. Bag ‘em, tag ‘em and take ‘em to Goodwill or another local charitable organization. It’s time-consuming but liberating. And you get a sweet tax deduction if you follow the proper guidelines. Every time we clean out a closet or file we feel more freedom and less stress.
Make a list of the five things that are most important in your life. This can be challenging. Most people don’t take the time to actually write down what is important. They have some vague idea but never take the time to document in writing what is most meaningful to them. But I’m a firm believer that nothing exists until it is written. Some examples are:
Not surprisingly, money will rarely appear on this list. Money is important only to the extent that it helps you achieve your top five.
Once you have your top five, restructure your time, effort and money to achieve those things.
Life is too short to waste emotional energy on stress. Not to mention the adverse effects it has on your health. So take time to simplify your life. The rewards will far exceed the time and effort you invest.