How to Simplify Life and Manage the Chaos

Tricks & Tales articleBy Lorie Rosenberg

These days, life is incredibly chaotic. There are so many more choices and opportunities available to us and it can be difficult navigating through all the many responsibilities we have…especially during the holiday season and other times of the year when we pile up even more on our plates.

Simplify? Yes...No...or Maybe?

The key is to simplify! Most of us have a difficult time doing that. We think we can do it all and that we “need” to do it all. The problem is the more we get…the more we have to take care of!

There are also a lot of expectations by others in our lives to “do what we’ve always done!” But many times, it’s really our own expectations that create the desire to do more, even though it adds a lot of stress in our lives.

So how do we simplify when there’s so much that we want to do and only 24 hours in a day – minus 7 to 8 hours sleep - to do it?

Manage Yours and Everybody’s Expectations!

You can’t do it all. If your schedule is already jam packed, then you probably don’t want to sign up to manage the PTA or serve on a board…even though these might be good things for you to do. You may need to say “No,” to that extra obligation that your friend really wants you to get involved with, even though you’d like to help her out. If you can’t say “No,” then your “Yes” is meaningless, because you won’t be able to truly deliver on your commitments at the level you’d like.  Sometimes you have to make the choice that it’s not the right time for you to add another responsibility. If it’s going to add a lot of stress and pressure to get it done; and if you’re like me, you don’t want to let people down when you can't follow through on your commitments.

When you decide to say no to something you’ve always done, the person you’re involved with will probably express disappointment. There’s not much you can do to get around that, but you’ll just have to explain to them how sorry you are but this year, you’re just going to have to step back.  There are other more pressing issues that you need to take care of, and you simply do not have enough time to do it all.  Now if it’s your boss that’s telling you to add an additional responsibility, you may have more difficulty explaining your reluctance to do it. But the point is that you are only one person and you have to manage expectations and set priorities.

Determine What’s Truly Important to You!

When you take an inventory of all your tasks, activities and responsibilities, you’ll find that you really do a lot each day. I know when I wake up in the morning, from the time my feet hit the floor until the time I lay down to sleep at night, I’m busy…going from one thing to another. I put all the things I need to get done on my calendar and most days, there’s more than I can ever get done…because everything seems to take longer to do that I thought it would.

Most of the time when I’m managing my calendar, I make sure I prioritize the activities that have deadlines or are most important. I get those done first and then work on the others on the list. The ones I don’t get done get moved to the next day or whenever I can fit them in the schedule.

Perhaps more significantly, it's important to manage your life like you do your calendar. You should attend to the most important items first and then try to fit the others in. A lot of times, urgency gets in the way of importance. An urgent task may need to get done right away and may get in the way of your working on a more important goal. Hopefully you can put it in the schedule for tomorrow and try to work on it first!

The objective here is working on what’s important to you! Because when you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll be happier. When you work on something that’s an obligation and nothing more, you’ll be more apt to feel resentment because it’s keeping you from what you like to do best!

Decide if Smaller, Lesser, or What You Have is Good Enough!

Part of simplifying is determining if what you have right now is good enough. It’s about deciding if you can live with less and still be happy.

I think the pattern with the first part of your life is that you’re programmed to accumulate. I know we did. First you rent and then you decide to buy a house, then you get new furniture. You get a dog or a cat, and then add some children. After that, you may decide to get a boat or a second home. There is always something you’re striving for and suddenly you have so much that it’s overwhelming to take care of it all.

That’s exactly what happened to us…except for buying a second home! And we got to a point where we weren’t enjoying it all...because we were constantly working to manage it.

That’s when we decided to simplify. We sold our house and bought a townhouse. Our daughter now has our dog most of the time. And fortunately we had to get rid of a lot of stuff because it didn’t fit in the townhouse. But now we don’t have to take care of the yard and it’s a lot easier to keep the house clean. Now we have time to do things that are more important to us.

Ask Yourself If It Will Add Value to Your Life

There’s supposedly a general rule of organization that when you buy a new item of clothing, you throw one out. That way your closet never gets so packed that you can’t find anything in it.

I think that is kind of the way you need to think about the activities you add to your life. If you do “this,” is there a “something else” you can get rid of so that you’re not over committed.

It’s important to decide if it will add value to your life. Will it contribute to your health and well-being? Will it let you help others in a meaningful way? Or will it be just one more thing you need to do on your already busy schedule.

Do You Manage Your Life…Or Does it Manage You?

Are you being pulled in multiple directions every day and can’t seem to get it all under control? Or are you managing your life, your expectations, and what you do each day?

Even with the best of intentions, life can become chaotic. But when you work towards simplifying it, when you make choices about what you value and what you choose to do because you’re passionate about it, you’ll be a lot happier. Circumstances in life won’t be controlling you as much, because you’ll be in charge of how you live it!