The antidote to a cluttered life – Simplify

Best advice heard last weekend in a sermon preached by Ps Lim Lip Yong. I believe many will concur.

Our lives are too cluttered. The solution? Simplify.

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

That got me to evaluate my life and think about what I can simplify, what can be cut down or removed. Here are some things I think we can do, including some advice from the sermon.

 

1) Cut Down Kids’ Enrichment Classes/Programmes

In Singapore, it has become the expected norm rather than the exception for kids to have their days filled with classes and enrichment programmes – tuition for the various subjects, piano, violin, ballet, hip hop (??), swimming lessons, Mindchamps/Adam Khoo’s classes, various classes on training your brain to work harder and think better. In other countries kids will also have sports and dance classes but probably spend half the time on these than our children in Singapore.

Is it really necessary to send them to every possible enrichment class in order to “give them a better future”? What if they grow up unhappy and contribute to Singapore being the “most unhappy country in the world”?

 

2) Cut Down on Reading Online Articles

Reading is good. Acquiring knowledge is good. But we really don’t need to read everyone’s status on Facebook, neither do we need to read the articles our friends on Facebook have just read and liked and shared. I know I spend too much time doing that. Especially these days when people seem to post less about themselves and more articles and videos. I have since turned off my Facebook notifications on my smartphone. I will go on Facebook when I have the time or need to wind down, but I do not have to go on Facebook EVERYtime I receive a notification.

And honestly, sometimes just scrolling down Facebook exposes us to graphic images we don’t really want to see… Your eyes are the entrances to your mind. Allow bad images in and you basically start a battle in your mind. Which is unncessary.

 

3) Cut Down on TV

How many are hooked on Korean dramas or Running Man? Please don’t raise your hands. I’m glad I never got started on that. But we do spend a lot of time watching TV. I think we need to be selective in what we watch. Reading is more edifying. Since work has lightened up somewhat, I have been able to get back to reading and I find that a lot more fulfilling. It’s like choosing to eat fruits instead of fried chicken wings. Hmm, a food analogy?

 

4) Keep Things at Home Simple

I actually learnt this ‘by accident’ on Tuesday.

I was starting to prepare dinner and wanted to make roast potatoes and carrots with my baked chicken. We really like those. But it will take maybe an extra 45 minutes to work on that. And this was after a workday. All of a sudden, I realised there’s no need to make those today, my kids would rather I spend time with them than to disappear into the kitchen. I can always make them on days I’m not working or am not so tired. So we went to the playground. 🙂

This, I realise, is also a way to Simplify!

 

5) Prioritise

At the end of the day, our time is spent more constructively when we prioritise. How do we prioritise what we need to do for the day? I think our decisions should be made based on these considerations:

a) Our values

What is important to us? If our list of what’s important goes like this: God, Family, Friends, Work. Then how we spend our time and what we choose to do first can be decided accordingly. If it has to be a decision between hanging out with our girlfriends at Bakerz Inn (for that chocolate cake I’ve been dreaming of) or taking the kids to the playground because they have a day off from school, I would choose the kids. Or take the kids out with the friendies (who most likely won’t mind)!

b) The urgency of completing the specific task

If you are like me and have a To-Do list waiting to be… well, done, you’ll always have it at the back of your head and be stressed over it until it’s done. A few tips I’ve learnt to apply in order not to be stressed, is to write them down. After I write them down, they don’t have to stay in my head. So if you sneak a peek at my Notes on my phone, you’ll see To-Do lists, shopping lists etc. Do what’s important (according to your values) first and then get back to checking tasks off the list.

Another tip I’ve read this year is to start off each day with 3 things you have to complete that day and do them first. Then get on with other tasks. If you can’t complete the other tasks, it’s ok. At least you’ll have completed the 3 tasks. It may seem like a small thing, but you’ll be surprised how often we go from task to task and checking email and facebook and not even completing 3 tasks in a day! So if you see laundry unfolded in my home, just know it wasn’t on my Big 3 for the day. Hee.

 

Wow, it seems ironic that this post is on Simplifying and I’ve written this much. I hope I haven’t made things more complicated for you! I’ll end by sharing a really meaningful story that has been widely spread and had different versions written but here’s one.

On the first day of term, a university professor stood in front of his philosophy class with an empty jar.

Without saying a word to his students, he removed the lid of the jar and filled it with golf balls. When no more golf balls fit he closed the jar with its lid. He then asked his class, “Would you say that the jar is now full?” His students observed the jar and concluded that the jar was indeed full.

The professor then proceeded to open the jar up and started inserting marbles into the jar. The marbles started to fill the gaps between the golf balls. After sealing the jar, he asked his class once again if they thought the jar was now full. The class concluded that the jar was indeed now full.

The professor opened the jar a third time and started pouring in sand. Obviously, the sand started filling the gaps between the golf balls and the marbles. He then sealed the jar and asked his class a third time if the jar was full. His class chuckled and replied in unison, “Yes, it is now full!”

The professor opened the jar and emptied two small cups of coffee in the jar. The liquid had completely filled the gap between the golf balls, the marbles, and the grains of sand. He then began his lecture.

“I hope you realise that life is very much like this jar. The golf balls represent the important things in life, like God, family, loved ones, health, things that you care intimately about. If we lost everything else in life, our lives would still be ‘full’. The marbles are the other things in our lives that are important, but our happiness shouldn’t depend on them. Things like our work, our house, our car, etc. Finally, the sand represents everything else; the small stuff.

“If we were to have filled our jar up with sand first, there we wouldn’t have had enough room for the marbles or the golf balls. If we use all our life and energy on the small stuff, we won’t have any room for the important things.”

 After a brief moment of silence one of the students asked, “Professor, what does the coffee represent?”

 “Ah, I’m glad you asked,” replied the professor. “It means that no matter how full your life is, there is always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.”

Let me know your suggestions on how to Simplify. I’m sure it’ll benefit us all. 🙂

Have a good day today and perhaps find time for coffee with a friend or loved one.

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