EDITORIAL. In the search for ideas on how to simplify life, I decided to do some reading. My chosen research method is simple: a Google search and I would only read what is on the first two pages of results. As I said: simplify.

So I googled “simplify your life”

Now that I have been reading on the subject, I am starting to realise it is a big subject. With lots of variation in motivation and meaning. Most of the ideas seem to follow some common sense. Many are also easy to avoid or put in the “get-it-done-when-I-have-time” list. Like going to the dentist or choosing a new mortgage lender. I already have a long list of and do not want to add to it.

Here are some themes that resonated with me initially and reoccur regularly in my (totally biased) research:

  • Declutter – Both mental and physical clutter is a cause of anxiety and bad procrastination apparently. Some healthy decluttering is a good thing and methods are plentiful – as in these links here, here and here for example. And just to be clear, not all procrastination is bad and can be good for productivity. I personally rather enjoy some procrastination, just try not to over do it.So the decluttering helps with making decisions by simply having less to chose from, and leads to less time making the decision and more time doing what it is you originally wanted to spend more time doing. That is the aim anyway. By the way Mark Zuckerberg is a fan.
  • Unplug (even if for a little while) – Spending less time using social media, email and other connective technology is good if you want to speak to the person next to you. Unplugging is also linked to clutter apparently as we fill our time with more connections . And FOMO. And insomnia. Not to mention the dreaded “bill shock” while travelling – pertinent for upcoming trip we are going on.
  • Learning to say “no” – Saying no to doing things can be really hard – yet it is probably one of the simplest ways to increase your time available to spend doing what you want to do or controlling who you spend your time with. Obvious, but for many of us really hard to do ( See FOMO above as a case in point). Items 8 and 9 in this list seem a good place as any to start. I have a suspicion this is one we can all work on, and learn to do it gracefully.

My first conclusion is that just starting is a good thing. The motivation for wanting to simplify is probably a big part of where to start. There are always very compelling statements in the reading I did about “wanting to spend more time with family and loved ones” or similar. I also found many of the suggestions being spruiked related to time. It appears we are generally not good at managing our time, such an important and finite resource, let alone adhering to a simple work life balance strategy.

Maybe this is the point. It is so simple we discount the potential impact of some of these changes or ideas almost immediately – “sounds good but probably won’t work for me because my life is too complicated already.” There is the challenge – Start somewhere.

I need some pointers on how to start. Luckily there are plenty on the first two pages of my Google search results. I think my favourite on the first two pages of results is this one from Zen Habits – I am going to use this list as a starting point for two reasons – It was number 1 in the results list and I like the idea of being more zen.

In truth I am not advocating for people to completely disconnect, say no to every invitation and exist with a wardrobe of a single colour and style. It’s more about learning about what makes you happy, or provides stimulation in a way that maintains that happiness as opposed to diminishes it.

My next piece will take a closer look at how to wade through all the information and extract a actionable practical approach for myself and my family.

By David Parkington, Geographer and Technologist