By Leo Babauta
Life can be a huge struggle, most of the time, and for years it was a struggle for me.
I’ve gradually been learning what causes that struggle, and what works in making life easier, better, smoother.
Life can feel effortless, like you’re gliding along, if you learn to swim smoothly, to glide, to stop fighting the waters of life and start using them to buoy you up.
I stopped thrashing and fighting, and started gliding and enjoying the swim.
I’ve written a new book on this topic, called The Effortless Life, which I’ve now published digitally. Some interesting things about this book:
- It was written publicly, on a public Google Doc, while the world watched. That was tremendously fun — normally writing is a solitary act, but with technology I was able to make it a public act.
- I allowed the world to edit it, as I wrote. That was incredibly scary, giving up control as a writer. When I was done, I had written it in a blur, as everyone edited it … and so I had no idea what changes had been made. I thought I should figure out what changes were made, and whether to keep them or not … but then I just decided to go with the wisdom of the crowd, and kept it as is.
- It’s a compendium of some of the most important things I’ve been learning recently. It builds on some of the things from my previous books, The Power of Less and Focus, but takes them further.
- I’m allowing readers to buy it at any price you like. Pay what you think it’s worth, and what you can afford.
Today, I thought I’d share a few things you can do now, to make life feel more effortless.
Take what you want from this list. I find these things work, but your mileage will vary.
1. Do less. This is my productivity mantra, and it’s counterintuitive. I actually don’t believe in productivity, but instead believe in doing the important things. Do less, and you’ll force yourself to choose between what’s just busywork, and what really matters. Life then becomes effortless, as you accomplish big things while being less busy.
2. Having less is lighter. Start asking yourself if you really need everything you have, or if you just have it out of fear. Start to let go of what you have, so it doesn’t own you. And then, as you have less, you feel lighter. It’s wonderful.
3. Let the little things go. People who struggle often fight over little things. We obsess over things that don’t really matter. We create resistance instead of letting things glide off us. Let the little things go, breathe, and move on to the important things.
4. Clean as you go. I haven’t written about this for a long time, but early in the life of Zen Habits I wrote about the habit of cleaning as you go. Instead of letting the cleaning pile up, put things away when you’re done. Wash your bowl. Wipe the counters clean as you pass them. Sweep up dirt when you notice it. By cleaning a little bit at a time, as you make messes, cleaning up becomes a breeze, and it’s never difficult. By the way, this applies to everything in life, not just cleaning.
5. Make small, gradual changes. Most people are too impatient to follow this advice — they want to do everything at once. We have so many changes to make, but we don’t want to wait a year for it all to happen. As a result, we often fail, and then feel crappy about it. Or we don’t start at all, because so many big changes is intimidating and overwhelming. I’ve learned the hard way that small changes are incredibly powerful, and they last longer. Gradual change leads to huge change, but slowly, and in a way that sticks. And it’s effortless.
6. Learn to focus on the things that matter. This is implied in the items above, but it’s so important I have to emphasize it. Swimming (or any physical activity for that matter) is best done when you do only the motions that matter, and eliminate the extraneous motions. Stop thrashing, start becoming more efficient and fluid. You do this by learning what matters, and cutting out the wasted activity.
7. Be compassionate. This makes dealing with others much more effortless. It also makes you feel better about yourself. People like you more, and you improve the lives of others. Make every dealing with another human being one where you practice compassion.