We're almost to the end of January and while you may have set some of your best resolutions about 30 days ago, you may feel that they're no longer top of mind.
Not because you don't want to keep them there, mostly just because life happens and even this far into January stuff starts to bombard our day-to-day. While a new year brings so much goodness along with it, pesky things like push notifications, unfinished tasks, house clutter, over-use of social media, and struggling to get your time back can distract you from achieving goals and increase feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. (And I don't know about you but I refuse to feel defeated 1/12th of the way into the year!)
To clarify, the things outlined in this post are not meant to replace any resolutions. They're more like the quiet background music that plays during your morning commute - they're included in this post to help you pace yourself. They can help you keep a steady drumbeat of sanity and serenity while you think about things like family, career, self-improvement and those 2018 resolutions.
So here's a list of three things your future self would want you to simplify this year.
Queue the drumroll.
1. Simplify Your Approach to Simplifying
Don't get bombarded by all the things you think you need to declutter or organize this year. Start small first. Work on one area that you feel you could benefit the most from and think about streamlining it. If you see that you can tackle one small thing, you'll notice that you can tackle more and eventually more. I know too many people who have started in on a major 8-hour decluttering project just to find that 4-hours in they aren't done. And they're burned out. And just like that, "simplifying" leaves a rather sour taste in their mouth.
Take little steps toward simplifying. It's not going to happen overnight and that's ok! Take baby steps and you'll feel a lot less like this:
Simple and intentional living blogger, Jennifer of Simply + Fiercely shared with me her view on simplifying things both physical and non-physical.
"I use the same decluttering system for everything, from my closet to my to-do list," she said. "Once you know your values and personal vision, you can ask yourself if the task/item/etc. is taking you further or closer to the life you want most. And of course, if it’s not, it’s time to let go!"
She went on to say:
"Decluttering is really just learning a new way of decision making—but admittedly, it can take some time to learn. Personally, I found it easier to start with decluttering my physical stuff and as I got better at it, I naturally started to apply these skills to my schedule, relationships, and more."
If simplifying seems hard for you - know that you're not alone. It just takes a little guidance and some practice. If you'd like to meet other simple-seekers, come on over to my new Facebook group. The more the merrier!
2. Decrease Time Spent on Your Phone
YouTuber JP Sears shared a rather hilarious clip about being addicted to our phones. The "How To Be More Addicted to Your Phone" video is not only spot on, it illustrates how addicted we really are.
As JP (and research reports) point out, millennials check their phones nearly 150 times per day.
That's right. 150 TIMES PER DAY.
If you're a parent, then this topic may hit close to home.
I have a smartphone and I am also a mom. I use it to talk to my friends and family and in many ways it's been a wonderful tool to keep my out-of-state family close and in touch with my little guy.
On the flip side, I get slightly terrified when I consider how often I check my phone or how often it interrupts my day. At 15 months old, my son doesn't understand what those things mean. What he does understand is the attention I do or don't give to him.
In a TIME Health article from last year, the topic of cell-phone distracted parenting was studied and researched:
"Few things require more hands-on attention than a young child. And there’s little that’s more distracting than the constant bleeping of our cells phones. When these two things compete for our attention, the results can be sobering."
The article went on to say that research shows children need reliable, quality attention from their parent. Specifically, the kind of attention that is free from endless distractions because distractions can impact our little ones on an emotional level.
It was at that point in the article that my ears really perked up. Yikes. I don't want to ruin my kid! Especially not because I'm interested in being the first to respond to a text-message ding or meaningless social-feed update.
The study was eye opening and it has got me looking for ways to improve my own attention and focus.
If you're not a parent, I think it's safe to say that adults can very quickly get a sense for where our attention is or isn't if it's that obvious to a child.
So... let's all do our loved ones and friends a solid and vow to look up more!
3. Quiet the Noise
According to Reset.me:
"Few people would argue that modern life provides a nearly overwhelming amount of sensory bombardment in the form of noise, crowds, traffic, clutter, and the demands of ever-present electronic devices."
Is the TV always on? Try keeping it off for longer. Are you addicted to binge-watching your favorite shows (as so many of us are)? Challenge yourself to do new things during your downtime. Experiment with limiting your Netflix intake. I can tell you from personal experience that it is doable and it feels good to get personal time back.
Do you play a variety of uplifting music or dull replays of songs you've heard a million times that lack any significant mood-boosting ability?
When all is said and done, are the sounds in your life (that you can control) encouraging and uplifting? Calming or enlivening? Educational or melodic? Or is it all just noise.
TV and music aren't the only sources of noise. What's more of a challenge is noise pollution that's much harder to control and that surrounds so many of us who live in big cities.
According to an article in Harpers Bazaar, noise pollution is proven to be harmful to our health:
"A constant gush of stress hormones actually restructures the brain, contributing to tumor development, heart disease, respiratory disorders, and more. And of course, our hormonal endocrine systems haven’t had time to learn that car stereos aren’t out to get us..."
The article goes on to share that noise pollution can be worse for women, too:
"Women are more field-dependent, meaning they take in the whole picture, while men are more focused on what they’re doing, so they don’t notice what’s in the periphery...”
Noise does have an impact on us - even if we don't realize it. It's helpful to consider where and when we can lower the volume. The article shared ideas related to noise fasts (apparently it's a thing), choosing quieter appliances and using things like earplugs and white noise machines to muffle the sound.
Now, you might be thinking something like, "ok great. You've shared some interesting stats that have me thinking about these three things but where do I go from here? Where is the glimmer of hope?
Jennifer of Simply + Fiercely shared the following sage advice for those starting in on their simplifying journey and I couldn't agree more:
"... start with self-reflection. What are your core values? What matters most to you? What are your priorities, hopes and dreams? Don’t assume you know the answers; instead, really invest time into exploring these questions. Then once you’re done, use your answers as a benchmark to help you evaluate what does (or doesn’t) belong in your life. And remember—the more you know what you want out of life, the easier it is to see what doesn’t belong."
Remember, your version of simple may not be my version of simple and that's the kind of thing that makes the world go round!
Look for what matters most to YOU and go from there.
In the meantime, I encourage you to try pacing yourself when it comes to simplifying, try spending a little less time with the smartphone and try muffling the unnecessary noise this year.
I'll be working on these things, too. Please keep me posted on your progress and thoughts in the comments section!