Growing up, my parents were always late. Late for every family gathering. Every Thanksgiving dinner. Every show or movie or event that was occurring. It was maddening and embarrassing. But I had no choice, I couldn’t drive myself to these gatherings.
As adults we often model our parents’ worst and best behaviors- smoking, committing suicide, being religious, being kind to our spouses, etc. So, for much of my adult life I was late to everything. Everything. It drove people crazy, put me in some serious binds, and made my life a lot more difficult and stressful. In my 40s, I’ve finally realized, I DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY ANYMORE.
So I started radically simplifying my life- focusing on faith, family, and self-improvement- and started arriving a little bit early to appointments and dinners and meetings. And I couldn’t believe how great it felt to do so. I could sit there, take a few breaths, and be free to focus on other things.
Plan ahead and plan well. Makes life a lot easier.
The modern world is enormously complicated. It can be like waking up in a whitewater kayak racing through rapids every day. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are 7 tips to help you simplify your life:
Embrace a spiritual or religious practice. So many folks dismiss religion as a quaint notion in this hyper-informed modern world. But there is tremendous wisdom in the world’s great religions. One of the major benefits of this is simply the routine or habit of it. Atheism and secularism don’t offer any structure.
Purge your life of too many belongings. Empty out those closets and storage units and unfinished basements. A lot of that crap you’ve completely forgotten about anyway.
Keep the sabbath. This can be an absolutely wonderful addition to a person’s life. Having a quiet Saturday or Sunday on the schedule every week can be a wonderful period of quiet for an individual or a family. Learn to be with yourself or with others, but not racing to a practice or event of some sort. I love my sabbath. Sometimes I voluntarily give it up, but I miss it when I do.
Express gratitude at every meal or, preferably, MORE often. Your actions follow your thoughts. Think good thoughts. Think grateful thoughts. For even in our worst times, there are always many more people who have it worse.
Limit your time with screens and when you do, make it useful. My parents used to refer to the TV as the “idiot box.” They were right. Now, we carry idiot boxes around in our pockets. Try to cut out the time wasters that squeeze the rest of your valuable time. Or when you do, read something that teaches you something or makes you think. There are billions of options.
Take a regular phone fast. I like to have lots of people over to my place and I tend to be very welcoming of all kinds of folks. So, occasionally I encounter someone who comes from a culture that is a bit more permissive of distractions and interruptions. In fact, it really pisses me off when I’m socializing with people and someone whips out their phone while I’m talking to them, even if it is to look up something that pertains to our conversation. So I’ve pretty much banned the use of phones in my house. I treat it like smoking. Go outside and do it. Another option is to set a time, say 8 pm, after which you do not look at your gadgets. Helps to have a partner in this.
Say NO to too many activities. There are a million ways to spend your time. Driving all of the time should not be one of them. Factor in whether an activity is going to complicate your life or your child’s life in such a way that it puts a burden on the family and try to avoid that. Too often we are tyrannized by the idea that we or our children should be continually accomplishing something. Overall, yes, they should, but not every minute of every day.