By Leo Babauta
One of the great joys of my life is living simply, and every now and then finding ways to return to simplicity.
Life tends to get complicated with time, and so I find ways to simplify.
I’ve done lists with 100 ways to simplify, but obviously that’s not very simple! So today I’ll share five ways. These aren’t the “best” ways or the “right” ways but some of my faves.
Here they are in short form, I go into more detail below:
- Curate your day.
- Start living in fullscreen mode.
- Weekly clearing ritual.
- Eat simple foods & move.
- Slow down & enjoy quietude.
Curiosity piqued? Let’s look at each one.
Curate Your Day
This process starts with identifying the things you want in your day, as if you were curating a small but thoughtful collection.
What handful of things would make your day amazing? For me: meditation, reading, writing, calls with team & clients, time with loved ones, simple foods and movement (more on the foods & movement below).
What would your list contain? Yoga, calls with family, drinks with friends, tea, a bath? Whittle it down so your day isn’t overly full.
Then start to let go of everything not on the list. Let go of social media and news sites and other distractions, if they don’t fit into your curated day. Let go of doing too much, leaving space so that the curated lovely activities feel spacious and not rushed.
Actions/tools: A simple document or notebook page where you make a curated list of what you want in your life will suffice. Take 20 minutes and really give this your attention.
Live in Fullscreen Mode
My favorite way of going through my day is to do every activity in fullscreen mode. When I can remember. That means if I’m answering emails, I give myself full space to read and reply to each email instead of having a thousand tabs open. If I’m writing, I’m just writing. If I’m eating, I’m just eating.
Of course, I don’t always do this, but when I do, my life feels so much more simple. Each activity is generously given its own space, and I enjoy each more.
Fully be present for every activity, from brushing your teeth to washing a dish to reading a book.
Actions/tools: I like the Onetab extension for the Chrome browser, to clear away all the extraneous tabs and give full attention to one thing. Fullscreen writing apps. Close all apps on your phone but the one you’re reading. Turn off devices when you’re doing something analog.
Weekly Clearing Ritual
Each week, you might consider a ritual where you clear everything out. Sunday is a good day for it, but so is Friday.
Spend a short time clearing out your various inboxes, getting them to zero. Clear out your desk and computer desktop/download folder. Get your todo list and calendar in good shape. Clear out clutter and papers.
This clearing ritual feels fantastic! You are ready to take on the world.
Actions/tools: Set aside an hour on your calendar each week for a clearing ritual. Go through everything you can and get your digital and physical life cleared. Bonus: have a ritual for finances as well.
Eat Simple Foods & Move
Health can be such a fraught area of our life, for so many reasons. So I find it calming when I can simplify.
I start with movement. Go out for a walk or run. Drop into a squat position, move around like an animal. Stretch, hang, pull myself up, push myself up. Lift some weights, play some sports, play with the kids outside. I enjoy simple movement that doesn’t require a ton of equipment.
Then I fuel my body with simple food:
- Lentils and kale (with lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil, nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper)
- Bean tacos with guac and salsa and veggies
- Beans and brown rice, tahini sauce and all kinds of veggies
- Oats and berries with nuts and cinnamon
- Coconut meat, avocados, berries, dark chocolate, tea
The food is simple, whole, and delicious. It fuels the temple of my body, doesn’t cost a crazy amount, doesn’t impact the earth much, and doesn’t harm animals.
Actions/tools: Make a list of simple foods you enjoy, and base your eating on these. Don’t be crazy strict about it, it’s about eating simply not being rigid. Move every day, throughout the day.
Slow Down & Enjoy Quietude
You don’t need any material things in order to slow down. You just do less, and savor each activity. Take some breaths, and give yourself more space. Leave space between things, and enjoy that in between space.
Notice when there are moments of quiet, and savor that as well. Create moments of quiet if needed.
This is the benefit of living a simple life, this slowness and spaciousness, but it can also be a path to the simple life. Slow down to simplify.
Actions/tools: This week, put a physical note for yourself to slow down, and see what that practice might be like for you.