Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

What would you do if you had more time? According to a recent survey, 65% of Americans say they are spending too much time doing things they’d rather not do. They want more time to enjoy life. People often ask me for tips to make life simpler and more fulfilling. This is the first in a series of action plans to help you Simplify Your Life and use your time in more productive and satisfying ways.

Step One: Identify What’s Truly Important to You.

The Pareto Principle, often referred to as the 80/20 rule, states that 20% of our efforts will produce 80% of the results. This suggests that 80% of the time we spend is not very productive at all.

So, how do we improve on that? By first identifying and then focusing on specific high value activities that will generate the most satisfaction, such as spending time with family, travel, or more time for yourself. Start by creating lists of both high value and low value activities. Where are you spending your time? Work to eliminate distracting, less beneficial behaviors.

Step Two: Take Time and Act

Some people avoid seeing what they don’t want to see by keeping their lives going at a furious pace. If you truly want to find more time, you will need to find time to plan and to take action. Having trouble getting started? Read Stop Procrastinating – Here’s How!

Start small. Make an appointment with yourself for just 30 minutes each day for the next 30 days and prepare to learn some remarkable things. If you miss a day, just continue the following day. During that time, carefully review your lists of productive and unproductive activities. Make notes of what you think can be changed or eliminated. After just 30 days, you will be amazed at what you have learned about how best to allocate your time.

Step Three: Reduce Responsibilities

Most people think the answer is to get more help. Keep in mind that if you hire someone or ask for help from a friend to get things done, you may be adding another responsibility that will make your life more complicated. Do you really need more help, or just fewer responsibilities?

Step Four: Learn to Say No

If you want a simpler life, you must learn to say no sometimes. Most people get into trouble when they agree to do things they really don’t have time to do because they feel obligated. This leads to a constant state of overcommitment. If this is a problem for you, read How to be Assertive.

When you are invited to participate in something, ask yourself if it’s truly important. Schedule time for yourself every week and don’t be afraid to say no because you have a prior commitment or the timing is just not right.

Step Five: Clear Clutter

Look around and make a list of things you don’t use or don’t need anymore. Consider how others might benefit from your donation to charity. Keep a trash bag or container somewhere to put items you intend to donate.

Put specific days on the calendar to donate or throw. Watch how letting go can simplify your life. For more ideas, read Simplify Your Life: 5 Easy Steps to Declutter Your Home.

Wishing you the best always,

Dr. Dale Simpson (The Every Day Psychologist)

Dale Simpson, PhD, is the father of five children. As a practicing psychologist for more than 37 years, he has counseled children, teens, adults and couples and currently practices in Venice, Florida. Dr. Simpson was a cofounder and publisher of an educational magazine, wrote the Inside the Family column for the magazine, served as a featured speaker at numerous parenting and homeschool conferences, and is the publisher of Learning for Life Press.

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