Over recent months, I have been getting curious about the question, “What differentiates things that feel complicated from those that feel simple?” My answer… Having a clear vision, a clear process, and making the process a habit. That’s it: clear vision, clear process, new habit.
Do you want to simplify your banking?
Dinners and menu planning?
There are so many things in our lives that become way more complicated than they need to be because we do not yet take the time to (a) create a clear vision of how we actually want them to be and (b) define a process to follow to produce our desired results. Instead…. (and I have certainly been guilty of this!), we flounder around completing these routine tasks as though it is the first time we have ever done it.
I have personally lived both the ‘overcomplicated’ experience and the elegantly simplified experience many times.
One thing that used to drive me crazy was looking for my keys. Each time I would find myself frantically running around my house searching for my keys as the clock ticked on, I was frustrated. What a ridiculous thing to spend my precious time doing. Eventually, I decided I needed to simplify.
My vision was always to know where my keys were and never lose another minute searching for them. This was clear. Then, I needed a process that could produce this result. I came up with one. First, I hung a key hook next to the door, and I learned to hang the key on it the minute I entered it. This took care of the location of the key when I was in the house. Second, I identified the one place in my handbag where I would always put the keys, and I decided to use this one bag almost all the time (instead of changing bags). This took care of the location of the key when I was on the go—no more wasting time searching for my keys!
I used similar thinking to manage my banking and meal prep, and eventually, these tasks became pretty simple.
I have recently observed that as aspects of life over which I have less control become more complicated, I am craving more simplicity in other areas. Can I simplify what I wear each day? Can I simplify my bookkeeping? Can I simplify how I book travel? I have a list!
Step #1: Create a vision for what something will look like or feel like when it is simplified
The truth is, I can, and so can you. We can simplify much of what we do by first creating a vision for what something will look like or feel like when it is simplified. Our minds are masterful at coming up with many reasons why things cannot be simple. For example, you might think you cannot simplify meal planning because everyone likes different things. However, the primary barrier to simplifying your planning here may be the feeling that you need to please everyone with dinner every single night. What if everyone was a little less pleased with dinner, but there was more time to be together, more relaxed during and after dinner. Or maybe the challenge is that you worry people will be bored eating the same menu every week? But what if they’re not, or what if it doesn’t really matter?
The truth is, if there are tasks that need to get done that are causing you stress, simplify them and see what it might feel like to enjoy the benefits of feeling less stressed.
Step #2: Identify the repeatable, simple steps you can take to achieve the vision.
Creating a vision of the simplified version is the first step; then, you need to identify the repeatable steps you can take to make your vision a reality. Things always feel simpler and become simpler when there is a clear, repeatable plan. Items that are easily repeatable remove the high cognitive demands of doing the task each time as though it were the first time. Repeatable things become habits, and routine habits take much less effort.
Here are some possible examples.
- Hang the keys on the hook every time.
- Make burritos every Tuesday.
- Set your bills on autopay.
- Create a standard shopping list.
- Have two laundry bins for colors and white – or better yet, teach everyone to do their own laundry!
- Create a meal plan for the week.
- Create a profile with the airline for easy booking.
Simplicity truly is elegant.
Step #3: Form the habit.
Our minds love a good habit. Think about it, how much effort does it actually take to wash your hair, brush your teeth, pull the car out of the driveway, and throw clothes in the washing machine. My guess is minimal for most people. It is because we do these things the same way all the time, repeatedly, so our brain has put them on autopilot. As a personal growth professional, I have often discussed how a brain on autopilot can be problematic if we have repeating negative thought patterns, but this is a case when autopilot can work for you! Put the habit that simplifies something in your life on autopilot, and life becomes easier. It’s just how it works. So:
- Begin by making a list of things that you ‘waste’ time on that drive you crazy.
- Identify a vision of how you could elegantly simplify your tasks.
- Make your plan.
Then….Breathe a bit easier.
Simplicity is a Practice.
Curiosity is a Practice.
Practice with us this month in Curiosity Crusaders