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This week I thought instead of writing a typical post (although I hope my posts are not all that typical), I’d simply kickstart a virtual brainstorming session. The quality of comments on the past several posts has me thinking that the real brains behind this blog is YOU, not me. I want to tap into that amazing brainpower.

Many of us seek more balance in our lives. Wouldn’t it be awesome if balance was a single action we could take? However, balance is not an action itself. It’s the result of many choices we make and many actions we take (or don’t take).

We’ve been led to believe that balance is possible if we just stay in the middle of everything, if we just manage our time better, or if we carpool to soccer practice. But the real problem isn’t the way we distribute and attend to the stuff in our lives, it’s the amount of stuff we’ve accumulated. And by stuff I mean ALL the stuff — the physical stuff, the activity stuff, the relationship stuff, the emotional stuff, the financial stuff, etc.

Most of us now have more “stuff” than we know what to do with, and it makes us feel overwhelmed (another way of saying “out of balance”).

There is only one way to create a more balanced life: simplify it. It is so much easier to stay balanced when you only have to manage the stuff that’s truly important.

Simplification comes in many shapes and sizes and commitment levels. Here are a few examples of how I’ve simplified my life over the past several years:

  • I am debt-free. This has had the single greatest impact on my life, and the life of my entire family. It was also a multi-year process, so it’s definitely on the more difficult end of the spectrum.
  • I block my entire calendar. Instead of having an open calendar, I consider my calendar completely blocked. That way when someone asks for a meeting or I’m invited to an event, I have to ask myself if it is important enough to me to give up my time. I find myself saying no to a more things this way, and that’s good.
  • We make our bed every day (we take turns). This sounds almost silly, but it makes our bedroom feel so much cleaner and less cluttered. And on those days when life is bit out of control, being able to retire to an uncluttered, peaceful bedroom is awesome.

I could seriously make a list a mile long because I am always finding new ways of simplifying my life. But I would rather hear from you. How have you simplified your life, or an area of your life? What do you do to de-clutter, manage your time better, or stay focused on what’s truly important?

Leave a comment below. I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

 

Enter weekly our comment contest!

We’re encouraging your comments with comment contest! Everyone who comments gets entered into our weekly drawing for a prize giveaway.

This week’s bribe, I mean prize, is a copy of The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks AND Standout by Marcus Buckingham. With these two books in your brain, I believe you can conquer the world.

Our most recent winner was Darcy Spangler! Congrats, Darcy!

 

About mark henson

Mark is the founder of sparkspace...the most inspirational business retreat center on the planet. His blog is read by thousands worldwide each week. Mark's passion is sharing ideas that help people live and lead a rockstar life.

  • Anand Sridhar

    I learnt this technique from my wife and have just started implementing it. So far it has helped. It is called Presencing. Every day, take 5 minutes – whenever it may be (morning to noon is best). Retreat into yourself and become aware of how you are feeling. Angry, Frustrated, Happy, Despondent…etc. Ask yourself if you want to shift from that mindset and which mindset you want to shift to. And just say it internally – that you want to go from “Frustrated” to “Calm” or “Relaxed”. It works more often than not and my wife says with practice you can snap out of any emotion quickly before it overpowers you. And it also helps you cultivate awareness – both self and external.

    • Anand, that is a great technique. I will definitely give it a try. When I’m feeling frustrated or angry, I often try to squash it or distract myself from it, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re describing. Not surprising that what I do doesn’t really seem to work now that I’ve heard your idea. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kate Kimble

    Excellent read as usual! We’re getting ready to move across the country. While we aren’t doing it specifically to unclutter our life, it’s been a fantastic opportunity to examine what we’re bringing with us. What do we reeeally need? What can we thank for its presence in our lives and donate for someone else to enjoy? We’re paying for every pound that goes on the moving truck, so that’s good motivation to think long and hard about what matters to us.

    When we move into our new (smaller) place, we have to look at everything we take out of a box and decide if we want to give it a place in our new life. We get to start fresh in our relationships, extracurricular commitments, and everyday priorities. As a military brat, this reincarnation was a great time for letting go of old baggage (literal and emotional) and starting fresh. This is a terrifying and awesome life cleanse, and I’m really excited to wash away things that hold me back.

    • Nothing like moving or inviting everyone over for Thanksgiving to get your house in order, huh?

      I hope what’s taking you across the country is a big opportunity. Enjoy the adventure!

  • disqus_ZksdFxRBO6

    I have blocked negativity out of my life and it is so freeing. I love Facebook, I am on it every day as it is a way for me to stay in touch with my friends and family overseas. Some people use it to dump their negative thoughts or bash others, so I chose to block those people from my life and it has made me a happier person and I don’t get caught up in the drama.

    • I love that little arrow in the upper right hand corner of every Facebook post, don’t you? So glad it’s there. Sounds like you really give it a workout, ha ha!

      Great tip!

  • One Voice Worship

    So this post made me cry. At my desk. At work. Which is awesome LOL. But, it’s exactly what was needed to affirm what my heart has been prompted to do in every area of my life – realign priorities, rebalance “stuff” (the physical stuff, the activity stuff, the relationship stuff, the emotional stuff, the financial stuff, etc.), cut the clutter and just, well, simplify what I take in and what I give away in every aspect of life. I don’t feel like I have much to offer in suggestions or what’s worked for me, because I am in a season of needing to take these measures in my life. What I can share, however, is that learning to play the grace card when needed helps me be successful in doing all of the aforementioned. Whether it’s lowering expectations of myself or others, giving room for failure or disappointment, allowing myself to shrink my to do list, giving myself permission to say “no”, allowing others the freedom to respond as they choose, or letting myself actually take a break to relax and recharge when the laundry needs folded or the dishes need washed, playing the grace card is a hand-changer in the game of life when you’re working through a tough season. Receiving grace enables me to extend grace, just like pouring into myself provides a well from which to pour into others. So, I guess my suggestion is to give yourself and others grace to keep trying, falling, failing, getting back up and moving forward towards success and simplified balance once tiny step at a time. God didn’t create the universe in a day; He took His time and was intentional and structured about every detail, taking great care of that which He had at that time in order to keep creating. And yet I pose perfect and divine expectations on myself. How much more do I need to be unrushed and thoughtful as an imperfect human being? Yes, play the grace card.
    Thanks for another inspiring post, Mark!

    • Nobody ever died from unfolded laundry.

      That’s my mantra and I’m sticking to it.

  • Nanette Richardson

    Many people would call this complicated, but for me, making a 2-week menu for dinners at home simplifies life for us tremendously. We have a plan; the budget is happy; our waistlines are happy (because home-cooked food is usually far more healthy than picking something up on the way home); my evenings are planned and easy to execute for the dinner hour.

    We also make our bed every day. (I taught the habit to our children as they were growing up. As adults, it stuck with 2 of our 3.)

    • I love the idea of having 2 weeks planned out (although I’m a horrible planner). I’ve always thought that when I reach gazillionaire status, I will hire someone to just plan and prepare all my meals for me. Do you just plan them out, or do you pre-make any meals?

      • Nanette Richardson

        Most weeks, I do some prep work on Sunday afternoon. I enjoy cooking, so it’s a relaxing afternoon for me to chop and mix and prep. I don’t completely make all of the recipes, because then they feel like “leftovers” when it’s time to heat them up. However, I will do a lot of chopping and pre-cooking and then when it’s time to put it together after work, the complicated stuff is done.

        This is not to say that I’m inflexible about this whole menu thing… or that I am perfect at the execution, but the weeks that I’m more purposeful go so much better!

        • My wife will sometimes write down a a very simple plan for the week, like Mon: Tacos, Tues: Grilled Chicken, etc. Even that basic planning helps a lot. Since I get home first, I usually cook dinner. I LOVE not having to think about what to cook at the end of a work day.

  • Lindsay Madaras

    My advice to simply life: get a dog. I know this may sound crazy because dogs can also be a lot of work and responsibility. But ever since I got a dog (2 years ago) I am FORCED to take a break from my everyday life for a nice 45-minute walk through my neighborhood. This gives me time to reflect on my day, plan ahead for tomorrow, and most importantly — enjoy the beauty around me by living in the moment. Plus, I get to spend quality time with those most important to me (my partner and my dog!). Happy National Dog Day by the way. 🙂

    • Happy National Dog Day to you, too! Dogs are the best. We have a cat, too, but I’ll be honest, I love my dogs more.

  • Christina Beargie

    Set up the automatic timer on the coffee maker the night before. The impact that has on my morning, and thus the rest of my day, is huge. And it really only takes 2 minutes to do before going to bed.

    • Christina,

      I’ve heard other people talk about how life-changing that practice can be. I use a Chemex brewer, which is totally manual and exactly the opposite. I use the Chemex as a way to slow myself down a little bit in the morning instead of hitting the ground running at 100 mph. I call it my morning coffee zen ritual. I focus on nothing but making my coffee, smelling the aroma (especially when you first get the grounds wet), and just being in the stillness of my kitchen for a few minutes. Plus the coffee is always darn good.

  • Jeanne Mock

    I make myself stop and READ YOUR EMAIL!!! I know it is going to be inspiring or have a fresh idea or get me thinking or get me laughing!! Every week when it comes I say “oh, I don’t have time for that “Mark Message” and then I remember my promise to take a deep breath and a few moments and read it and it does the trick. It makes me remember my priorities and truly simplifies my day! Hey, can you send one everyday? Hmmm. . guess that would make my life more simple and yours not so much. . . forget that idea!!

    • I have a 1-year series of emails that I created a few years ago called “The Daily Spark”. They’re short, like a single sentence or paragraph. Maybe I should bring that back to life just for you…

  • Stephanie Kessler

    I have been doing the “blocked calendar” trick ever since you taught it in a webinar a while back, and have shared it too. It sounds backwards, but it is actually much less stressful to look at your calendar as completely full, rather than completely empty. Great life hack!

  • Jessica Loraine

    Excellent topic! I have simplified my life by 1) ditching cable and opting for an antenna and a Roku. I barely turn on the TV but it’s there when I choose to watch it. 2) Subscribe to Amazon Prime and do the majority of my shopping online. I have a wider variety of options and it shows up on my porch two days later. 3) When I do shop for basic things I know I will need and use, I buy them in bulk. I love all the comments! Keep them coming!

    • Amazon Prime has their video service as well. I have that and Netflix and find so much of the same stuff on both I may cancel Netflix…after I finish House of Cards.

  • Martyn J Wood

    Another great post Mark. The way I have attempted to simplify my life.Instead of having so many little goals in various areas of my life.I am choosing to focus on one major goal until I accomplish this. The goal becomes my lens through which I can function; if I get pulled of course or if I am tempted to become overly busy; I go back to my touchstone and simply ask myself ;will this activity lead me closer or draw me further away from my goal; the cool part the accomplishments of the mini goals not only become small victories or road signs declaring I am closer but actually become spring boards launching me closer to reaching the big goal.
    Also I determine that I begin every morning with a time of prayer and reading my bible as it helps frame my mind and prepare me for the day ahead knowing that the truth and the choice of a giving, positive, grateful, attitude which was originated in the morning is not simply for that moment but is portable and may be carried with me and called upon when required to make my day and those I come across better. .

    • Thanks, Martyn! I try to start my day with my Bible as well. I have a “1-Year Bible” on my Kindle, although I’ll admit I’ve been reading it for at least 3 years so far, ha ha! I always find it interesting that no matter what I read in the morning, whether it’s the Bible or another book, there often seems to be a lesson I need to learn. Maybe I’m more receptive, or maybe God, the Universe, and my favorite authors just like smacking me around in the morning.

      To your idea of the the one major goal, one of my favorite books is called The One Thing by Gary Keller. It’s a powerful idea that really does help simplify everything. Here’s a link for anyone interested: http://amzn.to/1WSWXad

      • Martyn J Wood

        Thanks Mark there’s a phenomenal bible app you version it has so many cool plans and topical studies that is making and taking my reading times with God to a new level.

  • Dawn

    Detach. Like many women, I am caring and compassionate, tears well up in my eyes at the slightest emotional moment. I care about my family & friends, am connected to their lives. But, I have also taught myself to detach.

    It’s not as bad as it sounds. For example, my adult sister lives with my parents. A few years ago, she moved her husband into the house as well. I don’t approve. I have detached from the situation. I love my family and enjoy spending time with them. If events turn toward the living situation, I scroll through emails on my phone or play a game, just detach from it.

    Another example: the gal in the next cubicle has a toddler. The toddler is going through a biting phase. I express sympathy, but I offer no opinions or thoughts. I detach from it. Same with another co-worker whose youngest has just left for college. Of course, I feel for her. I’m just not getting caught up in it. Does that make sense?

    I look at the ‘stuff’ & clutter in my home, and I examine things from a detached perspective. Do I love it or need it? If not, then I get rid of it: donate, re-gift,
    trash. When I find myself in an emotional situation, I try to remember to stop and view the situation with a detached perspective, and formulate my response accordingly. A common response I have developed is a smile & a nod. My BF laughs at my new frequent phrase, “Not my circus, not my monkey.”

    Detaching, even if temporarily, has cleared up so much of the clutter and baggage that I was carrying. It allows me to focus on what really is important.

    • Men can be that way, too. 😉

      My favorite new line, thanks to you, is “Not my circus, not my monkey.” I am totally stealing that one!

      Any advice on how to step back when you start to get wrapped up in the circus?

      • Dawn

        I stole the line from a FB post. All are welcome. It’s an amazing tool. 🙂 A man at church heard me say it once, and now acts like a monkey whenever I see him.

        I’m not sure I have advice on how to step back. I’m a redhead with a quick temper, so the gauge for me is when I begin to feel emotional about a situation. If I feel upset or angry, if my face is getting warm or my heartbeat quickens. I’ve learned the hard way that emotional responses often end bad.

        At the end of most days, I find myself pondering the day and the things I’ve done. It’s at this time that I sometimes recognize that perhaps I’ve been too attached to some situation. Just being aware so that the next time I’ll remember to step back is helpful. A perfect example of this is a salesman at work that I just can’t get along with. Sometimes he is blatantly disrespectful. I used to respond. Being aware has helped me to remember to step back and let it go, since this is his personality issue and not mine.

  • Deb Clonch

    Besides making the bed, I empty the dishwasher and put my breakfast dishes in right before I leave the house. I also clean and shine my kitchen and bathroom sinks…and don’t forget to give the toilet a good quick swish before you leave or right after your morning bathroom routine. Helps with sanitizing everything, plus you come home to a clean sink to start dinner. I also clean as I go while cooking.

    • The WORST thing is coming home to a dirty kitchen and having to clean it up before getting it messy all over again with dinner. When our kids were little and we were both working crazy hours, my wife and I hired a college student who came to our house for 1-2 hours every day, ran the vacuum, changed out the laundry, and cleaned up the kitchen before we got home. Best money we ever spent (and talk about simplifying our lives!).

  • Lynnette Cook

    I think that in the same way we have to move a little bit every day, and eat healthy every day (ok, MOST days), it’s also important to expose ourselves to positive and supportive ideas every day. Whether it’s reading a motivating quote or looking over your own list of “This is What I Believe Is Important” – it takes like 30 to 60 seconds but it matters so much. First thing, maybe a hit mid-morning, afternoon, before bed. Keep coming back to what’s important to you.

    • Lynette, that’s great advice! Getting centered around your values, beliefs, etc. is a great idea. This world can sidetrack us pretty easy, can’t it? It’s good to have some guiding principles on paper, whether it’s a list of core values that you want to make sure you live, a favorite book or quote, or even the Bible. They more consistently we read & remind ourselves of these things, the easier it is to stay focused on what is important to us.

  • An idea that worked for me is to take an extended vacation, much like your recent sabbatical. It sounds counter-intuitive, but taking time away from my business has simplified my life and given me more time when I returned. Typically each time I take a vacation that is a week or two long, I have a tendency to work extremely hard to clear my desk and to do list before I go. When I return I work just as hard to catch up and tackle everything that has piled up while I was gone. In the summer of 2012 I took an extended, four-week vacation. I could not allow things to just pile up and go unattended. I had to make arrangements, delegate, and assign tasks to be addressed while I was gone. When I returned I informed everyone they should continue doing what they were doing. “Pretend that I am not here.” Taking an extended vacation was a great way to delegate the tasks I held on to far too long and simplify my life so I can focus on bigger and better opportunities.

    • I cannot express how important it is for business owners to take time off AND learn how to delegate effectively. I’m still learning this lesson, but I am light years better than I was 3 years ago. One of the secrets to my own balance is hiring great people, delegating (i.e., LETTING GO), and letting them do their thing. The lesson I’ve been learning lately is the difference between “better” and “different”. Very often my employees will do something and I will be tempted to change it, or ask them to change it. I have to stop and ask myself, “Is the feedback I’m about to give really going to make it better, or just different?” It can be really difficult for a leader to accept that just because an employee does something different than I do, that doesn’t mean it’s worse. It’s just different.

  • Cheryl L.

    Write down three things to be grateful for each day. You’ll find yourself starting to look for good things to write down later during the day once you start doing this a little while.

    • Love it, Cheryl. So, what are your three things today?

      • Cheryl L.

        My health, my home and my family

  • James Vincent

    I have mentioned this before, that a power-outage can do amazing things. My family was without power during one of the big summer storms a few years ago and we had FUN together (except for the freezer melting incident). We all are too connected – we use our mobile devices as an extension of our person/job, and that has made us UNbalanced. I contend that we need to create our own power-outages. Take a challenge and leave -everything- at home and just go outside for at least an hour, two or three times a week. Go for a walk, play with your kids, read a book (a real one, not a Kindle!), or write someone a letter with pen and paper! It is very hard at first because there IS a withdraw symptom of not having your ‘device’ at hand to check on things. If you are diligent and don’t cheat at it, I guarantee you will find better balance in your life. And I will bet within a month, you will be having multi-hour power-outages because it makes you FEEL better overall. And guess what – the world keeps going even if you didn’t check your email or Facebook every 30 seconds.

    • I might just flip the main breaker in my house once in awhile. Don’t tell my kids.