Are you often overwhelmed by so many different choices and things to do that you end up not doing anything at all?
Look around you, there are countless articles, books and opinions on living simply in order to create more time for other parts of life and this often involves finding the time to read these publications in the first place.
Just take a look at this title: The Joy of Simple Living, Over 1,500 Simple Ways to Make Your Life Easy and Content – At Home and At Work.
1,500 ways! That’s not simple is it? I mean 10 ways is simple but 1,500? Now, that is too complicated for me.
I am not saying that it’s a bad book, I haven’t read it; possibly because thinking about 1,500 ways of simplifying my life simply overwhelms me.
There are also many other publications that talks about how getting rid of stuff will enrich your life in so many ways which sometimes oversimplifies (if I dare say so) the complicated minds of people who lead very cluttered lives.
Often the need to have clutter is replaced by the need to have an organised environment, and whilst I am a neat person I think we need more than an organised knickers drawer to feel better about ourselves and lead a more enriched life.
Living simply is not just about having less stuff, it is about making better decisions.
Living simply to me is not a matter of living a minimalistic, clutter-free life or even just having a mind free of cluttered thoughts, whatever that means.
I think that living simply means simplifying the way you approach things in life and looking at things that you do in a non-complicated way.
Every action that we take is preceded by a decision that we make which is preceded by the choices that we have.
What if you simply limit your choices so that each decision process is significantly shortened and easier?
So my theory on simple living is this: Limit your options.
Why would something this short be the key? Well, limiting your options provides you with the following:
You will feel less overwhelmed because you do not have as many options to choose from.
Imagine if you went to Dropbox today and they give you no less than 20 different plans with different pricing because they figured that everyone has different needs and these plans will surely satisfy one of these needs.
Will you bother with comparing 20 different plans then purchase one or will you go check out another cloud storage facility provider with 3 simple plans to fit either your personal use or an enterprise plan for small businesses or big businesses?
Limited options will allow you to make better decisions throughout the day.
Two words: decision fatigue.
A social psychologist called Roy F. Baumeister conducted some experiments involving undergraduates which demonstrated that self-control or the act of making better decisions involves a limited store of mental energy.
In these experiments, the students found themselves less able to resist other temptations when they have had to fight off the allure of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and when they forced themselves to not shed a tear during a tearjerker movie, they surrendered pretty quickly in tasks afterward that involved any form of self-discipline such as a geometry puzzle.
In essence, they make not so optimal decisions to give up or give in when they are forced to make too many other decisions.
Having less options keeps you objective.
It’s simple: by having less options to choose from, you will not be overwhelmed by so many temptations that you lose track of making the right decision.
I mean, think about a buffet or a menu with three dishes to choose from if you were on a diet, will you be able to choose the healthiest dish out of three dishes easily? Of course you would.
Less to weigh up, less to overwhelm you.
Here’s how you can limit your options and simplify your decision-making process
Now that you know the benefits of limiting your options here are 3 simple approaches you can take when thinking about any decisions you have to make:
1. Simplify the options in your daily life
Think about the daily things you do like dressing, eating, commuting. How can you simplify these routines?
The simplest way when it comes to dressing, for example, is planning what you want to wear over the course of the week or even having clothes that you will match in a fixed way so that you don’t have to think about what goes with what.
Think Steve Jobs (jeans and turtleneck), Mark Zuckerberg (grey t-shirt) or even the Queen (her ensemble always consists of a dress and a complementary brooch).
Or how about the meals you eat, would it help you and your waistline to have meals planned for the week so you don’t need to carry out the routine of, “Oh, I don’t know what to eat… so I’ll just order a take out.”
2. Identify the factors most important to you
This applies to many big decisions and small ones too. Say for example you have two similar job offers — one is located near your home and the other requires an hour and a half commute one-way, and there is a slight pay difference. Which would you choose?
For me, commute is a major bug bear of mine so if the difference in pay is only slight and offers me a similar opportunity I will take the job closer to me. No sweat.
In many major life decisions, we already know what we must absolutely have and what is negotiable so once you identify them, you can easily remove those options without, leaving you free to make your decision.
3. Imagination can play a part
I have a secret to decisive food ordering: I would actually imagine what my food tastes like at that moment and decide whether that is the taste I want.
Or I would sometimes imagine how my belly feels after eating a certain dish, the imaginary feeling of the discomfort of belly-bloat and lethargy for the rest of the day is often enough for me not to order a big bowl of pasta for lunch.
You can also do this with many other decisions, say for example you want to choose between a career of freelancing or fulltime employment. Some people enjoy the idea of freelancing because of the freedom, but bear in mind you will need to drum up your own business — so what if you can imagine the feeling of the stress or the excitement of drumming up your own business?
If it is stress you feel, then perhaps the freelancing route may not be the step for you.
Think about opposing scenarios in different situations and imagine what they might feel like, you might just surprise yourself.
Yes it is true that we have many decisions to make but often we choose to inundate ourselves with so many choices that we choose nothing at all.
As Confucius said:
“Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated.”
We tend to give up on making any decisions for ourselves because we overcomplicate the choices we have, the decisions we need to make and this very often leads to an unfulfilled life.
What if simplifying the decisions you need to make is the first step to creating the life you want?
Take the first step to creating the life you want by simply following a plan.