20 Ways To Simplify Your Life in 15 Minutes

20 Ways To Simplify Your Life in 15 Minutes

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”
~Henry Wadsworth

We spend too much, own too much, and want too much — it’s the human condition — and as long as we aren’t aware of it we’ll be a slave to the cycle. Being the ingenious little critters that we are, we’re able to learn, and adapt pretty well. In other words, all hope is not lost, we still have a chance.

The truth is that many of us are overworked, sleep deprived, and generally not content with our lives. If we were content, would we be wanting more money, more stuff, more, more more?

There is a way out of this cycle, which involves decluttering, simplifying, and concentrating on what’s important. We each have our own demons to battle, but many of them fit into a cookie cutter template that we can all relate to. Do less, live more.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”
~Henry David Thoreau

  1. Do nothing. See you’re so task oriented that you automatically wanted a list of things to add to your todo list. Take some time to do nothing, just sit there and be with yourself. It’s so hard for most people that being left to do nothing is a severe form of torture.
  2. Throw something out. Look into a drawer that you haven’t opened in awhile and pick an item to throw out based on the fact that you know you won’t use it again. We are natural hoarders, but this just adds unnecessary complexity to our lives.
  3. Clean your desktop. Sitting at a desk with no clutter will keep our minds clear and thinking about the task at hand. Start becoming distraction free in the seat you spend most of your day in.
  4. Clean your desktop, again. This time I’m talking about the one on your computer. Get rid of all those icons and organize the folders in which you keep all your programs. Give yourself something visually simple to look at in order to keep a clear and focused mind.
  5. Make your bed. Many of us don’t make our bed the first thing after we get up. Sometimes this gets neglected completely, unless we’re expecting company. Make it first thing and look forward to climbing into something neat and comfy at the end of the day.

    “The main purpose of science is simplicity and as we understand more things, everything is becoming simpler.”
    ~Edward Teller

  6. Clear your inbox. I love gmail’s archive feature, it let’s you put things away, and keep your inbox clean. Reply to everything you need to, delete everything else, and keep your e-mail as a focus point, not a clutter point.
  7. Eat slowly. Do not treat eating as one of life’s little inconveniences. Instead, eat slowly and enjoy each bite as if it were your last, and if it were, know that you got the most out of it.
  8. Drive slower. There’s no need to speed race, talk on your cell phone, eat, and take notes all at the same time. Treat driving time as a time for decompression, meditation, and decluttering of your mind. Turn off the cell and enjoy these quiet moments of solitude.
  9. Laugh out loud (lol). You really can trick your body into being happy by laughing out loud. If you don’t believe me, I’ll make a believer out of you. Spend the next 3 minutes laughing out loud, as hard as you can, making the sounds and body motions. You will be happier.
  10. Talk to people. Instead of being absorbed in newspapers and television shows find a person to talk to. Discuss goals, dreams, aspirations and none of that self-pitying or past tense thinking.
  11. “Simply the thing that I am shall make me live.”
    ~William Shakespeare

  12. Pick most important things. Sit down with pen and paper and decide on the 3 things that are most important in your life, and how you can drop everything else to achieve them.
  13. Drink water. Forget the sophisticated and often complicated drinks and stick to the most essential of all — water. At least 8 cups of this stuff a day — a bit less if you eat a lot of fruit — and a bit more if you exercise or sweat heavily.
  14. Go for a walk. You don’t even have to put on your fancy bubble sneakers and hit the treadmill. It’s enough to go for a nice walk — at least 30 minutes (yes, that’s 2x 15, you’ll thank me for it one day) — and let some blood pump through your body. It’s recommend to do this 3 times a week to stay healthy, but my personal recommendation would be to make this into your daily routine.
  15. Clean your closet. Do your laundry, put away all your clothes, and than take a good look at your closet. What do you not wear? What is not essential? Put the answers to these questions in a box and donate them.
  16. Plan your meals. Eliminate the guess work of where will you eat next by planning, if not the whole week, than at least this entire day, as far as what and where you will eat. I guarantee that planning will allow you to make healthier choices while going easier on your wallet at the same time.
  17. “Nature is what we know – Yet have not art to say – So impotent our wisdom is To her simplicity”
    ~Emily Dickinson

  18. Visit nature. Bask in the beauty and serenity that nature has selflessly provided us with. Go to a forest, park, or simply sit under a tree, and do nothing, read a book, or chat with a friend. While out walking I saw a kid sitting under a tree with his laptop; while not the most effective use of nature, it still beats doing the required homework inside the house on a beautiful day.
  19. Play catch. You won’t find too many activities easier than tossing the ball around between two people. It’s great exercise, it’s relaxing yet invigorating, and a great opportunity to talk and bond.
  20. Eliminate distractions. Whether you’re working, reading, doing homework, or spending time with someone it’s important to give it your full attention. Turn off the phone, television, and any other distractions that can pop up unannounced. Be present.
  21. Say ‘No’. In an effort to simplify, do not accept new commitments that you don’t want to accept. Say no to your boss, spouse, kids, and friends. Explain to them that you need some time to concentrate on the tasks at hand in order to simplify your life and increase your happiness, productivity, and vitality.
  22. Read daily. If you were to take out 30 minutes a day to read (another 2×15), you will have spent 4.5 full work weeks reading by the end of the year. You would be very smart.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
~Albert Einstein

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Photo by Okko Pyykkö

Posted by in Productivity | April 29, 2008 | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumble | Print | 20 comments

  • http://www.notjohnchow.com Not John Chow

    I think that this is a great post. People always want to get more done everyday. Maybe they should do less and reap the benefits of having more.

  • http://stanleybronstein.com MrAchievement.com (Stanley Bronstein)

    These are great ways to decompress. What I try to do is find little 5 minute “gaps” in my day where I relax. I walk around, I play with the dogs, whatever. Just little 5 minute rests along the way.

    Those 5 minute rests make it possible to go right back to work and crank out a ton of stuff.

    Attorney, CPA, Author, Blogger & Professional Motivational Speaker

  • http://www.guidanceforthemotivated.com/ G.Davis

    #21 – Stop going to the grocery store. There’s too many choices there and too much processed food that’s terrible for you. Instead, enjoy the simplicity and communal befefits of the farmer’s market.

    Oh yeah!


  • http://sunnyislandbreezes.com/ Nancy

    I’ve really enjoyed this post. I’ve been working at a more simple lifestyle. Less is definitely more. Thanks for helping us slow down and focus on more meaningful aspects of life.

  • http://flimjo.com Flimjo

    Great list. It illustrates that slowly eliminating a lot of the clutter in our lives (both physically and mentally) will make us happier.

  • http://thesocalledme.net Jenny

    I just threw out A LOT of stuff. But I’m not any happier.

    • http://www.alexshalman.com Alex Shalman

      Stop choosing to be unhappy. Ask yourself a simple question… What really amazing things are happening in your life and what awesome things are you looking forward to? Then make a decision to be happy and stick with it.

      • http://thesocalledme.net Jenny


    • Doug Rosbury

      Dear Jenny, Please know that you are loved and that means you are lovable. Happiness is as
      happiness does. In order to be happy, you have to stop being unhappy. Unhappiness is a habit
      And we just get used to it without realizing that we actually can do something about it.
      What can we do about it? I focus on thoughts of God and how absolutely wonderful He is and the fact that He knows who I am and where I am and what I’m doing and what I need and He, the great and powerful and all knowing spirit Is my personal friend. Well, that’s my attitude and it works for me. But Another way to be happy is to practice unusual kindness toward someone in your circle of friends and family. By unusual, I mean very direct and purposeful and surprise
      them with your attention. That works wonders for me. We spend most of our time in depression
      and we don’t get out of ourselves in order to offer support to others. But when we take the time to actually do that. we discover that we are very powerful influences and we can lift others up and ourselves along with them. Be bold and assertive when you do this . Take a chance and don’t
      be afraid to make yourself vulnerable to rejection. Become a powerful person and remove the feeling of powerlessness from your life and the lives of others. Good luck. be happy about how beautiful you are and others too.—Love,—Doug Rosbury

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  • christy

    Enjoy the moment- easier said than done when life is coming at you at incredible speed. Yet, I understand this is the key to a lasting happiness. Like you said, stop “choosing” to be unhappy. That’s always the easy out. GREAT article!

  • http://www.justmekatesp.blogspot.com kate

    Just wanted to say thank you – i read quite a few blogs and have read quite a few of these kinds of lists, but yours i liked! It really rang true for me, thank you 🙂

  • Doug Rosbury

    Alex,— I like you. You make commonsense a healing experience and I’m a happier person after reading your ideas and opinions. If I can contribute, Please let me know. I have my own talent for writing, and I would like to be a part of disseminating helpful wisdom to our society of seekers.
    Let’s you and I have a dialogue. That’s my favorite format. Let me know what you think about that idea.—Fond regards,—Doug

  • http://www.managemytimenow.com Maya

    Hi Alex,

    Amazing tips! Here’s my favorite:

    Eat slowly. Do not treat eating as one of life’s little inconveniences. Instead, eat slowly and enjoy each bite as if it were your last, and if it were, know that you got the most out of it.

    You couldn’t have it said better! Eating slowly also seems to cut the cravings for me when I get to enjoy what I’m eating. Plus, it also helps me take small breaks from working at the computer all day long.

    Brilliant tips!


  • http://www.womansfieldguide.com/ Ruth

    This is a great list! I’m printing it out for the bulletin board here as a reminder to myself to always keep things simple. I especially like tip #20. I go nuts if I don’t have at least an hour or two to read every day.

    Thanks for a wonderful post!

    (currently reading The Woman’s Field Guide To Exceptional Living by Corrie Woods)

    • http://www.alexshalman.com Alex Shalman

      Enjoy it! =)

  • http://www.onsimplicity.net Sara

    Play catch! No kidding… I wouldn’t have thought of it, but you’re right. My husband and I always walk away smiling and happy after playing catch with each other. (It’s the best way to wear the dog out, playing Monkey in the Middle!) The rhythmic nature of it and the need to stay focused on the ball does tend to push other thoughts out of my mind. Great list.

  • http://www.vedasun.com Gina

    Hey Alex,
    Love this post. It’s similar, in a way, to an article I wrote on my blog. It’s great to have these reminders and even print them out and put them somewhere (like on the fridge) so you can check in with yourself on a daily basis. I have to work on #’s 3, 6, 7, 11, 18….hmmm, I think I should print them out…I have a lot to work on!
    Thanks for a great post.

  • http://www.vegetarianvitality.com Janet

    I enjoyed reading this post because of its down-to-earth tone. These simple points are a good reminder of how much we can do for ourselves each day. Thanks Gina for mentioning it on your blog. Given what I do I would tend to focus on points 7, 12 and 15 but I’ll also be working on the 1st four points …
    Many thanks for this useful post.


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