ways busy people can simplify their lives, Joe Girard, ProductivityI hear it all the time –  “I’m too busy!” What does being too busy mean? Some people I speak with are looking for ways to lead a more simple life. Some just want to get control of their schedule. Some just want to get rid of all their technology and live off the grid.

Well, I think you don’t have to simplify your life to make your life more simple. You can BE busy and still feel in control…

Are you letting your life control you or are you in control? Perhaps it’s time to take back control of your life and enjoy your days more.

From teacher to winery

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a lovely woman who had bought a winery a few years back. We got talking about the business and what she enjoys most about it.  I asked her what made her decide to buy a winery and what was the process and journey that she went through.

She told me that she used to be a teacher for many years and was just going through the motions of life. She wasn’t feeling fulfilled, not really present with her kids, and not enjoying the work anymore.

That changed when she too a trip to Africa. While she traveled, she met some farmers there and noticed how happy they were. They lived a very simple life and seemed to have great relationships with those around them. When she came back home, she decided to purchase the winery and ever since, she has found that her life was so much more simple. I thought, “Good for her.”

I don’t want a simple life

When I was talking to this winery owner, I realized that for me, personally, I am not really interested in living a simple life like that.  I like the city, I like being busy, and I like all the cool stuff I am doing. While I admire what she is doing, it just wasn’t for me. It got me thinking about all of these articles and books I have been reading lately about people downsizing, “down-shifting,” and disconnecting form technology.

Simple doesn’t appeal to me. I like busy.

I also think about my sister and her family who have a beautiful property in sunny Penticton with a massive garden, riding lawn mower, and more yard work than I would ever want.  It’s not for me either.

But why do we, as busy people, feel guilty when we say we don’t want those kinds of lives?

We get to choose what kind of life we want to live, so stop feeling guilty about living a life that others don’t. My sister LOVES her life. The teacher turned winery owner loves her life.  I love MY life. And you should find a way to love yours.

Today it’s all about changing our mindset about what a simple life is.

As I said, “You don’t have to have a simple life to make your life more simple.”


Ways busy people can simplify their lives

1) Group your activities

This is probably one of the easiest ways to get back time each week. Most people don’t think of their schedule in blocks of time or activities. I wrote recently about the myth of multitasking, what happens to our brains, and how we can lose up to 40% of productivity from task-switching. People that pride themselves on multitasking are out of their minds. 

To gain back time each week, try and look at your schedule as a group of related activities and put them together. Ideally, chunk things in 90 minute segments or more. And anything that is not in that block, eliminate it. Eliminate distractions as much as you can and avoid the task-switch. That way, you can get into the zone on one thing before you move to the next. This goes for both your personal as well as your professional activities:

  • Grocery shopping and food prep: How often are you eating out each week, or trying to prepare meals on the fly? Even something as simple as pre-cutting all your veggies for the week on a Sunday can knock 15 minutes off each day’s meal prep time.
  • Client meetings: How often do you have to travel back and forth between meetings, then perhaps to home, the office, etc? Try and group all your downtown meetings back to back, and give yourself that dedicated office time on its own. I see countless people flying all over town and adding unnecessary hours to their days of travel time. Once you hit the big time and have a driver so you can do work in your limo, then you can switch this up.
  • Emails twice a day: This is a tough one for most people. Technology should be there to support your efforts and make your life easier, not consume you. The trick is to let everyone know that part of your productivity is replying and sending emails twice a day and they will begin to expect that. If they need to get ahold of you…perhaps they should call.
  • Entertainment (aka Facebook): We all like Facebook, and some of us use it for business, so I am not saying cut it out. I am saying that maybe you should block off specific time for it.
  • Errands: Read Getting Things Done by David Allen and the advice he gives on productivity. One of the best tips is to have a place where you put any of the tasks you need to do when you are out. I have a folder that is just called errands. When I go out and have a bit of time, I can do it all at once.
  • Calls: Also in David Allen’s book, he talks about grouping your calls. Those that can be short, like 5-10 minutes, and those that may be longer. When you are in between activities and have a few minutes, rattle off a few of those shorter calls.

Once you start identifying ways to group similar activities together, you will notice a dramatic jump in both productivity AND sanity. You will cut out HOURS from your weeks and have more time to do things you enjoy.

If you are working crazy long hours, ask yourself if you really need to, or if you are just inefficient. What would you do if you clawed back two hours for yourself each day? Could you write that book, start that business, or spend time with loved ones?

2) Get up early

I am a big fan of getting up early and starting your day right. I also know that in order to do that, you must make sure you set yourself up for success tomorrow morning by planning for it tonight. How often do you hit that snooze button and then get out of bed with just enough time to get ready and go?

I have found that over the years, I have come to truly cherish my mornings. It becomes MY time to claim back my calendar. Now that the sun is shining more, I enjoy a 15-20 minute walk to get my mind organized and set my intentions for the day to come. Do you take the time in your morning to get yourself settled and prepared?

If you have organized your week, perhaps you have the right fruits and veggies ready in the fridge for a nice smoothie. And you can take some time to read or journal or do some research for the day to come. Whatever you want.

People often ask how I find the time to get up early. I tell them that after I have built that habit of getting up early and seeing the benefits, how can I NOT find the time? It just takes practice. Even when I am at my busiest and tired, my mornings change everything. Having some quiet time for reflection, especially when busy, allows you to create a simpler life.. Find YOUR time.

3) Learn how to say NO

This is a big one for busy people.  One of my posts recently that got quite a few people talking was about the idea of saying no to coffee meetings. With all of the ideas from the previous two points, you can get excited about claiming more time for yourself, but with that extra time may come things to fill it with, right?

One of the habits I would suggest getting yourself into, along with grouping activities, is planning out the kinds of activities and volume you want to do each week. That way, YOU determine your own capacity, and what you should say yes and no to. Look at all the activities you currently do and what an ideal balance would look like if you were at capacity. Make sure you include the friendly coffees, your free time, and business stuff too. List it all.

Then determine an ideal mix of activities and hours each week. When you are at or close to capacity, let people know that you are happy to help, however it may be next week. Teach people to respect your time, and through osmosis, they will learn how to be more productive as well.

There are always people that are going to need you TODAY. What was that quote that is on pretty much every office wall?

Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency for me.

Value your time and teach others to do the same. By learning to say no the right way, you can simplify your life and actually create better relationships with others.   Try it.

4) Be proactive with everything: No surprises

Most high performers understand that time is money. They place a different value on their time than others do. That’s why they can justify costs for certain things that others can’t.

For example, I have recently been working with an interesting business and met Dr. Robert Bouliane who owns the Natural Living Health Center. He did a “Dinner with the Doc” event and I learned a ton about what healthcare should actually be about.

He is a chiropractor and, of course deals with patients with back pain. But Dr Rob is working with a new kind of patient. A patient who doesn’t have any pain at all. He works with entrepreneurs, busy executives, and athletes.  All of whom, don’t have the time to waste in the traditional health care system going from appointment to appointment, and only when they are sick or hurt.

You see, busy people should look at themselves like a high-performance automobile. One where you make sure that everything is in perfect working condition. Dr Rob understands the cause-and-effect nature of health and has built a practice as a complete solution, for people who value their time. Those that cant afford to take time off, be sick, or be injured. pro-active people. And his team knows their stuff. Check them out. 

The same should go for your finances, your nutrition, your relationships, and your schedule. Be completely proactive and ensure you don’t get any surprises. Even if it costs you a few bucks more, plan accordingly.

5) Find a way to be happy every day

To simplify your life, you don’t need to do less. But you DO need to give in to whatever you are doing fully. Eckhart Tolle talks about this in his book, “The Power of Now” and it reminds us that whatever we are doing, be completely present for it.

Even if you are being lazy, give into it completely. 

Here is a recent story. I love golfing. And I am very busy. So what happens? When I go golfing, I feel guilty about the work I am not doing. And when I am working, I feel bad about not being able to have recreation time. Sound familiar?

Or you feel like a nap, and then feel guilty whether you have one or not, right?

As busy people, we have to understand that we will always have other stuff to do. We must take our minds of the other stuff and enjoy the NOW. If I am golfing, I make sure I am totally into it and not thinking about projects. that way, when I do projects, I have a blast doing them and enjoy the process.

The key to simplifying your life, therefore, is not about doing less. It is about enjoying everything you do, when you do it.  You don’t need to live off the grid, or move to a farm, or buy a winery. But whatever you do, go into it fully.

Look into people’s eyes when you talk to them. Really listen to them. When someone needs you, be there for them. When you work, love the process. When you play, GO PLAY! When you rest, breathe deeply and make it your own.

Simplify your life in your mind first. Enjoy the day. Teach others to do the same.

Hope that helps all you busy people.  How do you find ways to simplify?  Leave your comments below and remember to share this post!

Joe Girard
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    4 replies to "5 Ways Busy People can Simplify Their Lives"

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