Modern life can be very busy and this might be distracting you from the life you actually want. Change is difficult and many people don’t know where to start. It’s also hard to know which activities are stealing away your focus. I’ve found change is more achievable by taking little steps, and setting small, manageable goals. This exercise asks you to take 20 days to make 20 changes that will allow you to focus on what really matters.
1. Start asking questions
Ask yourself questions to help you decide what is truly important in your life. Consider: Where is my time best spent? Do I need this? What’s more important? Questions along these lines can lead you to find clarity and help you move towards powerful and positive changes in your life.
2. Make a recipe list
Write a list of all the dishes you know and enjoy cooking, and then make an list of the ingredients required to make these meals. This is a good opportunity to reevaluate your eating habits and possibly expand your food repertoire.
3. Set up a meal plan
Using your recipe list, plan out what meals you would like to cook for a week. You can make a shopping list based on this plan. Planning like this can save you time and the hassle of deciding what to cook. You can also cook larger quantities of one dish and eat it a few times during the week. Knowing what you plan to eat can also help you cut down on the number of trips you make to the grocery store.
4. Enjoy eating at home
Planning your meals ahead of time allows you to enjoy eating at home. With the stress of deciding what to make removed, you can focus on the food preparation itself. In addition, home dining saves you money and invigorates the novelty of dining in a restaurant. Furthermore, if you eat out often, choosing a restaurant takes time, and agreeing on one with your fellow diners can take the fun out of dining out.
5. Set up automated savings
Set up a savings account that automatically assigns small portions of your income from your regular bank account. The amount doesn’t matter. This system automates the practice of monthly saving and helps you develop saving habits.
6. Pay all your bills on the same day
If possible, schedule all your monthly bills to be paid on the same day. This makes handling monthly bills easier. Adding up the total amount due allows you to calculate how much disposable income you will have over.
7. Make weekly accounts
This practice allows you to automate your weekly spending. Look at your monthly expenses and see how much your typical fixed and unexpected expenses are. Based on this figure calculate how much you should be spending per week. You can use a smartphone app (try Mint) or withdraw cash weekly to keep a handle on this.
Entertainment and technology
8. Unclutter your devices
If you have a smartphone or tablet, you often download apps you don't use. Your email inbox and your desktop computer also become cluttered with untouched items. This makes it difficult to use these devices for what you actually bought them for, so spend some time clearing these. Delete unused files and archive old emails. Look through your apps and uninstall those you don’t use frequently. You can also place less frequently used apps on a separate page so that they won’t distract you from what you want to do when using your device.
9. Unfollow and unfriend
A lot of your time, mental energy and sanity can be wasted on social media. Cull your social network and leave only those that add value to your day and really care about you. If work and family obligations make this difficult, at least simplify the settings so that it’s less cluttered when you first look at it. For example, you can unfollow these acquaintances, without unfriending them.
10. Cut down on TV
There are a lot of compelling TV shows on the air and sometimes they can suck away your time unnecessarily. Don’t schedule your time around the TV. Make a list of your favorite TV shows and pick your favorite ten. If some of them clash with activities, record them via TIVO or watch them online. TV can wait and should be watched when you feel like it.
11. Practice mindfulness
The reason you are simplifying your life is to find more peace and joy in the everyday moments. Quieting the mind from the chatter that overwhelms it is a practical solution to feeling at peace and less stressed by your thoughts. If you are not familiar with mindfulness, consider joining a group or watching a video on the practice.
12. Tackle things you've been putting off
Usually, there are errands or chores you have been avoiding, and although they only take a few minutes to do, they become a mental burden. This procrastination can stress you out unknowingly. Tackling these "action items" now, one by one, can prevent them from becoming a larger problem later on.
13. Keep a list of weekly activities that need doing
This is different from a to-do list. These are minor activities that need to be done, but having to remember them can distract you from important tasks. Keeping them on a list, written down on a post-it, or set as an alarm reminder will allow you not to worry about them, and also remind you to do them.
14. Simplify your goals
If you have dozens of goals, you’ll find you aren’t getting anywhere with any of them. You need to focus on a select few if you want to get anywhere. Take your goal list and reevaluate which ones are beneficial to you and truly worth your time. Some people abandon the term goal and use the word intention. For example, you can intend to work on your carpentry every day and have the goal of building a shed. This makes carpentry your focus, and the goal of completing a project secondary.
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15. Start single-tasking
Multi-tasking has been very trendy, but it doesn’t help calm the mind or get something done well. The mentality should be switched to getting several tasks done in a day with a single-pointed mind. When you focus on one thing at a time, without the distractions of a second task, you can give it 100% of your attention.
16. Delegate or ask for help
This is not passing off responsibilities to others. This point is about knowing how much you can handle. You can hurt yourself or the project you’re involved with if you overcommit or don’t know how to do something. By learning to ask for help from those who are better at the thing you need help with than yourself, you are helping everyone. Asking for help also helps you connect with others.
17. Give away things you don’t use
This task is straightforward. Having less needless possessions can free up physical space and mental worries. This one can take more than a day so be wise about how you approach this task. Choose a room or a storage area to tackle. Consider how often you use an object and how much you plan on using it in the future. You can also take into account whether it contributes positively, negatively or neutrally to your life.
18. Reduce time commitments
This relates to step 16, and being aware of your limits. Many people don’t like saying no to family, friends or work and overextend themselves. This can inhibit your own success and harm your overall well-being. Be selective with your time and carefully consider what activities are worth your energy.
19. Systematize important information
There are so many important pieces of information required to keep your affairs in order, such as passwords, paperwork and account details. This can be difficult to track. Set up a reliable system to deal with incoming info. You can opt for either a physical or digital system. For a digital one scan important documents and organize them into a folder with subfolders on your computer. Store it somewhere easy to find. If you prefer a physical paper system invest in an expanding file, which you can buy at an office supply store, and add labels to it. This process will simplify this annoying aspect of modern life.
20. Reevaluate everything
After 20 days of action, you need to sit and reevaluate how the simplifying process went. How did the changes go? Did some things not work well? Decide if further changes need to be made. Take note of the specific effects each strategy has had on your life. Only you know the answers. Many times the adjustments are just as productive as the initial action.