The first week of August is the National Simplify Your Life week, and it reminds us that less is more.
Cut the clutter
Choice is good: We love freedom and choice gives us more. But at what point does too many options lead to complexity and stress? How often have you stopped at the grocery to buy a couple of items before eventually finding your shopping cart overstuffed with a dozen purchases. Supermarkets on average carry over 42,000 products, according to the Food Marketing Institute—reflecting the myriad choices we’re forced to make each day.
“Paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices,” says psychologist Barry Schwartz in this popular Ted Talk presentation. Schwartz, who is the author of The Paradox of Choice, explains that too many options—i.e., complexity—lead to people feeling overwhelmed. And according to his research, that causes non-participation or delay in taking action.
Here are key considerations for simplifying your personal life.
1. Decide what matters (and what doesn’t)
Clutter prevents you from getting organized and being efficient. Simplifying is an exercise of prioritization—so as you focus on what’s important, you’ll ignore what doesn’t matter as much.
Be specific in what you’re trying to accomplish each day and remove all items and activities that serve as distractions. That may mean doing any of the following:
- Cancel irrelevant magazine subscriptions
- Delete apps that waste your time
- Consolidate your accounts
- Unfollow people on social media who flood your feed
- Limit your technology to ones that are actually useful
- Use all-in-one applications that present most or all of your personal information
- Donate or sell items that don’t add value
- Eliminate clutter and organize useful belongings
If you need help, here’s a free app that prioritizes your goals and to-do lists in a priority matrix. And a similar app, Prioritize Me!, lets you select which of your goals are most important.
2. Focus on the 20 percent.
Follow the 80/20 rule which states that 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes. In layman’s terms, that means 20 percent of your activities lead to 80 percent of your effectiveness. If you’re a homeowner, 20 percent of your possessions are associated with 80 percent of your activities. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, we wear just 20 percent of our clothing. Perhaps it’d be prudent to donate or sell the rest.
If you want technology to help you simplify, the Tody app lets you organize and prioritize tasks. And to keep you on the right track, the mobile app will prompt you when a chore is due.
3. Be practical.
Love life and personal finances are the two most challenging areas to simplify, according to the July 2016 Simplify Your Life survey by Capital One. A majority (60 percent) of over a thousand respondents said a practical approach is the best way to simplify their finances:
- Practical (sensible and straightforward): 60%
- Mindful (reflective and introspective): 14%
- Optimistic (positive and hopeful): 14%
- Ruthless (strict and unrelenting): 6%
- Creative (unique and unexpected): 6%
According to the same survey, 41 percent said a mobile app—with access to all account information—was their must-have tool. Most smartphones are littered with random apps. However. it’s essential to know which ones boost your productivity. For example, one tool that comes with Capital One’s Quicksilver and Venture cards and consolidates your account information is Capital One Wallet. It’s a mobile app that allows you to keep track of all your purchases in real-time.
The paradigm of simplicity requires attention to important matters, and treats the rest as noise.
When it comes to purchasing decisions, consumers often succumb to buyer’s remorse because of unmet expectations, says Schwartz. Moreover, people often have unrealistic beliefs that better alternatives exist—even if the original selection of a product was a great one.
Our gadgets and possessions should guide us toward our goals rather than distract and steal our precious time. It’s interesting to note that in the Simplify Your Life survey, only 6 percent of Americans surveyed said that creativity is the best approach to simplifying their financial lives.
So forget the fancy methods. Rather, do the important stuff and weed out what no longer needs to be done.