In the digital age, the amount of information the average person consumes in a day — even in a single hour — can be overwhelming. Your brain is probably filled with all sorts of junk that will never really impact your day-to-day life. Take the news, for example: Maybe you were hung up on what was happening with the Titan submersible. But when you stop to think about it, what difference does that actually make on your one wild, precious life?
If you’re drowning in information, feeling distractible, or experiencing high levels of stress or brain fog, something needs to change. You need to figure out how to trim the unnecessary garbage out of your mind and your physical space. Whether at home, work, or both, there are plenty of ways you could be living a more relaxed, focused existence. Here are some ways to get started on decluttering your head, home, and office.
1. Manage Your Time Better
One of the most impactful ways to start streamlining your life is to reassess how you spend your time. Consider what you do with most of your hours or days, and how those actions match up with your values. For instance, maybe you value time with friends, family, and loved ones, but spend 80 hours a week at work. Or you love creative projects, but instead of working on your art, you fill your evenings with dates and parties.
To reconfigure your time, start by plotting out your most important actions on a calendar, just as you would for work meetings. Block off your morning walk, your dance class, or your writing group as a “high priority” appointment with yourself. If you freelance or hold lots of appointments outside office hours, use a calendar management tool to cross-reference work and personal agendas. This way, you can see clearly whether you’re really making enough time for your priorities.
2. Reduce Physical — and Digital — Clutter
If you’re not clear on where to prioritize your time, try starting by reducing the amount of stuff in your life. “Stuff” can take the form of ill-fitting clothes, broken electronics, and other knick knacks taking up space in your home. Or it can be digital stuff, like tons of useless screenshots on your phone or old files on your computer. Whatever it is, having a whole bunch of it around certainly isn’t sparking joy.
Getting rid of old junk doesn’t just free up space in your home and on your hard drive (or phone memory). It also helps you clear your mind and determine what’s currently most important in your life. By making hundreds of tiny decisions about what to keep and what to toss, you narrow your focus to what really matters. Getting rid of whatever doesn’t add value to your life can show you who you are and how to spend your time.
3. Order, Subscribe, and Automate
Don’t just get rid of junk items and files; get rid of junk processes in your life. With AI, apps, and subscription services, there are a million ways to outsource or automate mundane tasks. At work, you can use AI assistants or email services to draft repetitive, boilerplate messages. At home, you can set all your bills to autopay or use a voice assistant to simplify your routines.
Also consider ways you can use technology to eliminate certain physical tasks from your to-do list. For example, don’t underestimate the time suck that shopping and running errands can be on your life. To save more time for the important things, consider a meal subscription kit or grocery delivery service. Ordering toiletries, cleaning and pet supplies, and all other household items can also mean more time for more fulfilling activities.
4. Try a Capsule or Other Simple Wardrobe
Simplifying your wardrobe can save you time and headspace to focus on the more important things in life. Just think of all that Steve Jobs was able to do by wearing the same turtleneck, jeans, and dad sneakers every day. Plus, the less clothing you have, the more space you have in your closet and the less time you spend staying organized.
You could try a super-minimalist capsule wardrobe, with only 10 or 15 items of clothing to mix and match. But paring down this much can take a lot of work, and isn’t really realistic for every kind of lifestyle. An easier option is to find a few items and styles you love, and purchase them in several different colors. Brands like Uniqlo and Lululemon specialize in simple clothes in many colors and patterns, and it’s easy to order duplicates online.
5. Set Social Media Limits
Social media could be taking up more of your time than you realize, and giving you that distracted, brain-foggy feeling. It’s probably even worse if you’ve fallen down the TikTok rabbit hole, watching endless videos. Regardless of your social network of choice, breaking your social media addiction — or at least reducing your dependency — can have numerous benefits. It can improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and improve your productivity and overall quality of life.
Still, don’t count on your phone’s screen time limit settings or other app blocker programs to help you stay off social. Most people just end up overriding them or finding workarounds and continuing to doom scroll regardless. A better method is to cultivate your own sense of self-discipline — a skill that gives back in all aspects of your life. Purposely turn on Do Not Disturb, put your phone in another room sometimes, or choose set hours not to scroll.
Learning to Say “No”
One major skill you need in order to do all of the above is the ability to say “no.” “No” to social activities you don’t particularly enjoy and mundane tasks you actually hate. “No” to hoarding loads of extra junk you don’t need. And an especially big “no” to always comparing yourself to every person in your life or on the internet.
Cultivating the ability to say “no” can be hard, especially in a society that values people-pleasing and “going with the flow.” But it will pay back dividends when you find yourself living your most joyful, present life.
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