Note: Today’s article is inspired by Leo Babauta’s book “The Power of Less.” It’s the 4th book in the LimitlessBOOK Club. You can get a copy of Leo’s book here.
I wish life was simpler.
This is something I’ve said to myself many times before and I’m sure you have too.
Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and unmotivated is often a product of our own doing. We try to do too much, too fast, and too soon.
Most of us are consumed by too many commitments and responsibilities that it can often feel difficult to breathe. The balancing act that we’re trying to master is nearly impossible. I liken it to being on a teeter-totter with nobody on the other side. You’re constantly having to run from one end of it to the other as fast as you can in order to feel balanced.
- Civic obligations
- Family & Friends
- Hobbies & Leisure time
- Significant others
- Side work or projects
These are just a few things that take up some of your time, energy, and focus. Being happy and content with everything can be a tall task to tackle (say that three times fast, what a tongue twister).
The quest to simplify my life led me to a book by Mr. Zen Habits himself, Leo Babauta. The book is called “The Power of Less” and it’s the 4th book in the LimitlessBOOK Club.
I want to share with you some of the strategies Leo covers in his book so that you can simplify your life, have more energy, and be more productive. I’ve also added a few of my own tweaks to emphasize health and fitness.
I’ve got to say that this book really changed my thinking and definitely influenced the direction I plan to take Limitless365 and live my life in general.
Ok, lets simplify!
THE KEY TO A LIMITLESS LIFE IS IN SETTING LIMITS
Life isn’t about doing what you want, when you want, and however you want. That’s not realistic, those of you with a family, significant other, or other responsibilities know this. It’s about focusing on the essential things and eliminating the rest.
Most of us want and need limits in our lives. They help to keep us focused, engaged, and effective in what we do.
- Imagined if you never set a limit to the amount of food that you ate
- Never set a limit to the amount of money that you spend
- Never set a limit to the amount of kids you had (or wives or husbands… YIKES!)
- You’d be extremely overweight, in debt up to your neck, and stressed out beyond belief.
The key to living a life without limits is in setting limits to what you do and consume.
To do this Leo recommends doing the following:
- Identifying the essential things in you life (most important to you)
- Eliminating the rest
Trying to do too much at once usually means that you’re doing more unimportant stuff.
For example, I sometimes catch myself spending hours trying to make tweaks to the website design when I should be using that time to research, write, and produce better content and products for you.
Leo wanted to quite smoking but he also wanted to get in better shape, build his writing career, spend more time with his family, the list goes on. It wasn’t until he put the majority of his energy into quitting smoking that he finally accomplished it.
Once he did that then he moved on to the next thing.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED LIMITS?
As mentioned earlier we all need a certain amount of limits otherwise our lives would be in shambles.
A quick cheat sheet to figuring out if you need certain limits in your life is this:
- Do you feel overwhelmed?
- Are you struggling with energy?
- Are you stressed?
- Do you feel like you have no time?
If you answered yes to any of those then examining where limits might be beneficial is a good idea.
I have a severe case of a disease that plagues many these days. It’s know as “Yesmanitis” (Yes-Man-Itis). It’s classified in the medical world as saying yes to EVERYTHING, thinking you can do it all, and wanting to be everything to everyone one in every situation. #surefirwaytostressandanxiety
I’ll try and write too much, work on too many projects at once, take on too many coaching clients, and volunteer to help others with tasks. #surefirewaytoburnyourselfout
What I’m doing here (and you’re doing if you’re the same way) is not respecting your time and priorities. And if you don’t respect your own time no one else will.
I need to learn how to set limits… how about you?
HOW TO SET LIMITS
Now you might be thinking that setting limits is as easy as “do this,” don’t do that.” Well, if it where that easy we’d all be ripped – sexy beasts, with plenty of money in the bank account, tons of great friends, and amazing relationships.
However, we stink at setting limits 🙂 . But Why?
Again, we try to do too much at once, try to be too perfect, and expect change to happen over night. We lack patience, discipline, and struggle with delaying gratification.
In order to overcome these things the best way to start setting limits for yourself is to start slow and small – And if that doesn’t work start slower and smaller.
Leo gives the example of an email-check-a-holic. You check email 10+ times per day afraid you’re missing out on something, information, or are just doing it because you’re not sure what else to do.
If you’re not an email-check-a-holic you may be a smart-phone-check-a-holic, Facebook-check-a-holic, instagram-check-a-holic, or insert your own “check-a-holic” right here.
This happens a lot when I work with people trying to improve their eating habits. They want to go from fast-food to perfect paleo overnight. That’s a tough task to tackle. (try saying it again, did it get easier?)
Any who, instead of trying to go from checking email 10 times per day to zero you might want to commit to checking 5 times per day or maybe 3 times per day, once in the morning, once at lunch, and once in the evening.
If you try this and it isn’t effective for you at first then make the change less daunting. Instead of going from checking meal 10 times per day to 5, just go to 9.
I never ask clients to eat perfectly overnight, instead I have them focus on one healthy habit at a time. For example, not drinking your calories for a week or two and tracking how consistent you are with this habit is one of the first tasks in the course.
I use to try to sit down for hours non-stop and write articles. Now I use the Pomodoro Technique and work super hard for 25 minutes, rest for 5 minutes, and then go back to it. I’m way more effective this way and my brain appreciates me not burning it out.
One important step you can take to setting better limits for yourself is to ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how confident you are that you can accomplish what you’re trying to do?
If you’re not at a 10, re-evaluate the limits that you’re setting so that you can get to a confidence level of 10.
DISCOVER WHAT’S ESSENTIAL?
What’s essential for you might be different for what’s essential to me.
To figure out what is essential in your life just ask.
What behaviors and actions will have the biggest impact or long-term effect on your life?
- Is checking email for the 10th time today essential?
- Is being of Facebook every hour essential?
- Is skipping your workout to watch your favorite show essential?
I’d like for you to take a moment and think about the following:
- What are your values?
- What are your goals? (short-term and long-term) and do those compliment each other?
- What do you love to do? Who do you love to spend time with?
- What is important to you (spending more time with family, exercising and eating well, growing your business)?
If you need help discovering your values, goals, what you love, and what is important you, click on the links for some free resources.
When thinking about these things remember to ask yourself what things will have the biggest impact on your life.
Make sure to distinguish between needs and wants.
You may want a million dollars but in order to be happy and satisfied you might only need 50,000 a year.
You may want a Tesla but you probably only need a Yaris to get you to and from work.
To help you get started here are a couple of things to think about:
- What are 2 to 3 things tops you can do daily that will have the greatest impact on your life? For me it is exercising/eating Paleo and having a good conversation with someone.
- What 2 to 3 things if accomplished this year would dramatically change your life, happiness, the lives of others?
6 STEPS TO SIMPLIFYING YOUR LIFE, FEELING LESS STRESSED, & GETTING MORE DONE
6 is my lucky number… just wanted to share that with you.
Anyhow, 2 of the 6 we already covered.
- Set limits
- Choose the essential
If you can nail down those two things then the rest of these will be much easier.
- Create habits
- Start Small
Leo goes in-depth in his book explaining what how to accomplish each of these in his book but here’s a little LimitlessSPIN on it for you.
For me this means reducing the amount of decisions that I have to make on any given day. Decision fatigue leads to decreased willpower, low motivation, and confusion/overwhelm.
Some of the worlds most successful people use this strategy to help them be more effective on a daily basis. Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama have both discussed how they like to where the same clothes often so that they’re not constantly trying to decide what to wear. Both stating that they have much bigger decisions to make daily and that they prefer to focus on those things.
I like to eat the same meals day in and day out. It keeps me from always trying to figure out what I’m going to eat next and searching for recipes.
One way I practice this is by taking an hour or two every Sunday to plan out my meals for the week and batch prepare them.
BOOM! I’m not thinking about what to eat and thus avoid fast food windows or opening packages.
Now this is one area that I struggle with. I want to do some much and actually believe I can do everything at one time. What usually ends up happening is me getting stressed out, exhausted, and delivering piss poor results.
I’m changing this by evaluating my values and priorities and taking a look at which of the things I feel the need to get done will have the biggest impact on my life.
- Does what I’m working on have an impact beyond this moment?
- Does it extend long-term?
If it does, I then put the majority (80/20) of my energy into that one activity.
Leo did this when he decided to quit smoking, Tim does this when he’s writing a book, and many others do this as well.
In order to be more effective in life you have to make things feel almost automatic.
- Brushing your teeth
- Tying your shoe
- The route you take to work
These things feel so easy right? You never have to think about them.
If your health is something that you’re looking to improve you have to create healthy habits. In this post we talk in-depth about the art of creating habits but try this one step trick.
Attach any habit you’re trying to establish to another habit that you already have.
For example, I drink a cup of coffee every morning. If I want to start bringing my lunch to the office (if I had one) I would want to make it while drinking my cup of coffee.
When there’s something you really want to accomplish you most likely get really excited, highly motivated, and jump all-in. You go from couch to one hour in the gym 6 days a week, and fast food twice a day to chicken and broccoli at every meal.
Enthusiasm shortly dies down and you give up entirely. There is however a way to beat this all-in mentality.
I was listening to Ramit Sethi on the Tim Ferris Show and he gave such a great example of how most of us operate when we really want to achieve something. (Start listening around 42:30)
The example he gave was of an email exchange he had with someone. He asked what was one thing they really wanted to accomplish but haven’t got started with.
The person said run that they wanted to start running 3 times per week. Ramit then asked this why not just start by running once per week. This person responded by saying what for, running once per week won’t do anything.
“The point is that most of us would rather dream about running 3 times per week than actually running once per week.”
If there is a larger goal that you’d like to accomplish making getting started easier on yourself by shrinking what you actually do.
- Want to run a marathon? Start with a walk around the block.
- Want to eat perfect Paleo? Start with breakfast first.
And if it still feels like too much then shrink what you need to do even more.
APPLYING THIS TO YOUR HEALTH
Do you know why most exercise and nutrition plans don’t work?
- They’re too complicated
- They’re too restrictive
- They start out too challenging
- They’re designed for the short-term
- They don’t take into account the rest of your life
To simplify your health there are three things you can do now that will dramatically increase your success rate.
1. Change Your Environment: Make doing the good things easier on yourself and the not so good things harder.
- You could perform a kitchen makeover at home
- You could take a different route home so you don’t pass by your favorite fast food place
- You could workout at home so you don’t have to commute to work
- You could exercise first thing in the morning to reduce the chances that you skip out later in the day.
How can you make doing the right things easier on yourself?
2. Batch Your Nutrition: Cook your healthy meals once or twice a week. I like taking Sunday to prepare my meals up until Wednesday and then on Wednesday preparing enough meals to take me up until Sunday.
This way I’m never trying to figure out what to eat, when to eat, and how the heck I’m going to get food.
3. Practice The Art of Intent: Trying to rely on motivation to get healthy doesn’t work. Motivation is a fleeting emotion, it comes and goes. Instead practice the art of intention.
In a study conducted by the British Journal of Health Psychology researchers discovered what made people more likely to exercise over a two-week period.
They took 248 adults and split them into three groups.
The Control Group was asked to record how often they worked out over a two-week period. Right after being asked to do this they were given three paragraphs of a random novel to read.
The Motivation Group also kept track of how often they worked out over a two-week period but right after being asked this they were asked to read a pamphlet on the benefits of exercise for improving health and reducing the risk of heart disease.
The Intention Group was also asked to keep track of how often they exercised over a two-week period but they were also asked to come up with a specific plan that answered the question below.
During the next week I will do 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on _________ (day) at ________ (time of day) at __________ (place).
After the experiment here are the results.
- 38% of the Control Group exercised at least once per week
- 35% of the Motivation Group exercised at least once per week
- 91% of the Intention Group exercised at least once per week
So no more talk about not being motivated to workout. Start practicing intention instead. Every Sunday write down the days, times, and where you’ll be working out that week. Carry it around with you as a reminder or set up a reminder on your phone.
What are some areas of your life that need to be simplified?
- All of the above 🙂
What is one small step you can take towards simplifying one of those areas? Post to the comments below answering that question.