Over the last couple of years I’ve been on a kick trying to streamline and simplify my life in any way possible. I’m a firm believer in “less is more” and while I’m no minimalist, scaling down has been a breath of fresh air.
Along the way, I found I was following a similar process for everything I wanted to simplify, from cleaning out my closet to adjusting my living expenses.
My intent to make it easier for me to put my time and energy into the things that were most meaningful to me.
Some of this might sound familiar if you’ve read The Four Hour Workweek, though I assure you this process came about before I ever read the book. However, I did make better use of the process after reading it, and it was reading 4HWW that helped me to recognize that what I was doing was, in fact, a repeatable process.
The process is simply: Eliminate > Automate > Delegate > Execute
How to Simplify Your Life (or Anything) in 4 Easy Steps
Step 1: Eliminate
Start getting rid of things (physical & virtual) like unnecessary bills, things you aren’t using, people you didn’t really enjoy spending time with, etc… In my case I even sold my house and moved into an apartment in the Uptown Dallas area where I was spending most of my time thereby eliminating a LOT of driving.
Other things you can eliminate include email you are never going to get around to reading, subscriptions to magazines and sites you didn’t really read… you get the idea. The main thing is to get ruthless about getting rid of anything that isn’t really necessary to you.
This step is all about “deletion.” If you catch your self saying “I might need this when…” but haven’t used it in the last 3 – 6 months… it’s gone! It can be hard to get started throwing stuff out but once you do it can also become addictive!
Now, if something really can’t be eliminated you then…
Step 2: Automate
Automate anything you can that’s left. From paying bills to email auto-responders, auto-tweeting a blog post to filtering email, a lot of things can be set to just “happen” so you don’t have to manually “do it” every time.
Using alerts are a good example of automation since the technology “watches” for something and only let’s you know if something is found based on specific criteria and action is required. For example, you get an email or sms when your website goes down (I use Site Sensor for this). The guideline here is that if it’s repeatable it can be automated.
Then again, there is no reason you have to respond to the alert. If it really can’t be automated and requires human intervention you can…
Step 3: Delegate It
Are you sure you can’t eliminate or automate it? If not, hand off what you can to someone else who can do it cheaper, better, faster or can do it when you can’t (like when you are sleeping or at work).
In the physical world that might be cooking, cleaning or lawn-care. In the virtual world it might be things like video transcription, customer support, research, etc… The point is you don’t have to do everything and with all of the things most of us having going on you probably can’t. Take your sanity back and let someone else do the tedious stuff.
Finally, if you can’t or don’t want to hand it off to someone else you…
Step 4: Execute
That’s right, whatever is left after the first 3 steps is what you do. Ideally what remains are only the things that require your special knowledge, skills or presence (like a speaking engagement); or, that you personally just happen to really enjoy doing.
This list should be pretty slim but it should also represent the few things you do that deliver the most impact to whatever it is you are streamlining and the things you most enjoy doing.
Follow the four steps in as many facets of your life as you can, work, home, business(es), blogging, whatever, and get as granular about it as you can. Even if your execution isn’t 100% perfect you’ll likely find that when you simplify your life it becomes a richer one.
I’d love to hear your stories of simplification and what it meant to you, leave us a comment and let me know how it’s going.