“Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
The older I’m getting the more I admire simplicity. I have the urge to simplify my life. By that I mean I only want to spend my time on what is important for me. The first question is: what is that? And the second question is: how can I do it?
Sounds easy, but sometimes living a simple life is actually not that simple to achieve. As soon as we do something meaningful and hopefully successful in our lives, a once simple idea becomes more and more complex. Somewhere along the road we need to simplify again. If we forget to simplify, life gets more complex, confusing and most likely stressful.
What is Simplicity?
I really loved the interview of Apple’s head of design Jonathan Ive, who worked closest to Steve Jobs, explaining how Simplicity isn’t simple: ”Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that’s a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object…”
Simplicity is all about essence. And purpose. It is what is left when we intelligently take away all that is not necessary. It means to simplify as much as possible, but not more- to reduce it to it’s essence.
But how do you know what is essential for you? And what is your purpose in life?
The most simple answer: It’s what is most important to you. And nothing much else.
How to Simplify Your Life
In general there are two ways to simplify. The first is to get clear and to focus on what is really important to you. This means to do more of what makes you truly happy, what you feel you have to do on this world. The second way is to remove as much distraction from your life, so you actually can live a purposeful and fulfilling life.
The following steps will be a guide to simplify life:
1. Turn Down the Noise
“Hutchison’s Law: Any occurrence requiring undivided attention will be accompanied by a compelling distraction.”
Noise is irrelevant information. It is distraction, even chaos, and in a way the opposite of essence. It certainly does not lead to simplicity.
So here is the advice: Turn off the TV, close facebook, stop chatting about nothing. You don’t need that. The need to being constantly entertained and distracted may mean that you are running away from yourself.
Face your reality and ask yourself: What really makes me happy? How can I improve my situation? Then use your own thoughts to create that reality for yourself.
2. Clarify What You Want and Need
“For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.” ~ Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
To reduce unclarity you can also set goals that express what you really want. A clear goal helps a lot to get to and to stay on the right track. The moment you set a goal you make a decision that this is more important to you.
3. How to Do Less without Losing Anything
“Do Less. Get More Done.” ~ Leo Babauta of Zenhabits
Doing less may seem pretty hard at first. After all, there is all this stuff on your to-do list, right? The only real thing to ever worry about is not how much you’ve managed to do, but have you done your top priorities? That’s all you have to really care about.
And to make things simple, start to systematically get rid of the tasks that just don’t fit in with what matters to you. You will be surprised with how little you actually can have a big impact. The key is to know what that little is (see point 2. above) and then to focus your attention there.
So you won’t lose much by doing less. In fact you will gain a lot: more joy, less stress, more recognition and more success in what you do.
4. Say “No” in Order to Say “Yes”
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.” ~ Alan Alexander Milne (Haha!)
You probably need to say “no” more often than you do now. It is just necessary in order to say “yes” to the few things that matter most to you. All time-management in the world will not help you if you just have too much commitments to fulfill.
Saying “no” with confidence, possibly with a brief explanation why, will probably get you more respect than saying “yes” and not being able to deliver. And a strong and focussed “yes” is the key to your success in any way.
“The things you own end up owning you.” ~ Tyler Durden in Fight Club
Decluttering your environment helps to live a more simple life. It creates more space for creativity and makes room for new thoughts. It also helps to get more structure into your thoughts and to avoid being distracted by things that should have gone for good.
Here are some practical tips to declutter:
- Clear your desktop of all the things that don’t belong there, create a folder for material “in the works”.
- Clear your computer desktop and put things into folder you can reach easily.
- Avoid things to clutter your space in the first place (do I really need this?)
- Have an “un-cluttered” space for things, where they belong and are easily found again, in your real and digital life.
- Last but not least: don’t overdo it, stressing you out. There is something like creative chaos ;-)
- If you are really into decluttering, check out Unclutterer.com (these guys are pro Unclutterer…)
6. Invite Silence into Your Life
“Do not speak- unless it improves on silence.” ~ Zen Saying
Have you ever noticed how energizing and refreshing it can be to do absolutely nothing? Learn to spend quality-time with yourself.
“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.” said May Sarton. Solitude means to deliberately spend time alone. Use it to do deep self-reflection and to clear your mind of all the impressions you get constantly. That way you create space for yourself to refresh and to renew yourself.
Final Words on Living Simple
To live a simple life is not an easy task in today’s world of constant distraction and information overload. It needs some work and self-discipline on your side. With the 6 things outlined here I think you and I are on a good way to simplify our lives and to live a more purposeful and successful life.