There’s no magic bullet to eliminate all your stress, get everything done, and make every day great, but there is one thing that can help:
Following are seven things you can do to simplify your day, feel less overwhelmed, and get more done.
1. Segment Your Day
The best way to simplify anything is to break it into smaller segments.
Rather than treat each day as a 24-hour chunk of time, think of it as a collection of smaller chunks of time and approach each individually.
An easy way to do this is to use your meal and work schedule as natural segmentation points.
My day breaks into these seven segments:
1. Morning before I start work
2. Morning work until lunch time
4. Afternoon work until the end of the work day
6. After dinner until bedtime
This may seem basic, but segmenting your day enables you to plan and assess each segment individually and prevents a whole day from going off the rails just because one bit of it didn’t go as planned.
If my morning work time goes badly, it doesn’t mean I’m having a bad day — it means 1/7th of my day went sideways.
This segmentation mindset makes it easier to regroup and helps you course correct throughout the day.
It also simplifies planning and time management because the smaller the chunk of time, the easier it is to manage and measure.
2. Choose Three Things That Matter Most
If you accomplish your three most important tasks for the day you’ve had an incredibly productive day…even if you do nothing else.
It’s not the number of things you accomplish that matters, it’s the importance of them.
This crucial mindset shift will not only simplify your day, but make you more effective in your work.
Your to-do list is an infinite document — you’ll never “finish” it and it will always regenerate itself.
That’s a fancy way of saying you’ll never get everything done so don’t hold that up as a goal for yourself.
What you can do is ensure each day you complete the three most important things on your list.
Choose them, do them, and feel good about doing so — regardless of whether you get the rest of your (less important) stuff done.
3. Do One Thing At A Time
Multitasking is the opposite of simplifying.
If you want to simplify your day, then don’t complicate it by juggling multiple projects, tasks, or even ideas at once.
Pick one thing to do —your most important thing — and give it your complete focus. You’ll get it done quicker and better than if you spread yourself too thin.
4. Get An Early Win
Momentum matters so look for a way to get yourself an early accomplishment.
This doesn’t mean you have to wake up at four in the morning or have some elaborate morning routine.
It means whenever you start your day and in whatever day segment you’ve decided will begin your important work — get yourself a quick win.
For example, if I have something important I need to write I’ll typically write it first thing in the morning — before I answer emails or do other work.
By getting it done first, I give my day momentum and simplify the rest of my day because my most important work is already done.
It removes the pressure and no longer looms over my head throughout the day.
It simplifies things.
5. Limit The Access People Have To You
Your phone. Your email. Your social media accounts.
Nothing complicates your day more quickly than those three things because they are inputs you can’t control.
An unexpected (or unwanted) phone call interrupts your work.
An email creates a (potentially false) sense of urgency about a new project or challenge.
And social media hooks you in an endless loop of feed scrolling and can distract or depress you.
These tools aren’t evil and you can’t avoid them completely, but you should look for opportunities to limit their access to you.
The world won’t end if you turn your phone off for an hour while you work, you don’t need to immediately reply to every email, and there’s nothing happening on social media that can’t wait.
If you don’t want to complicate your day, then limit the opportunity these things have to complicate it.
6. Create A Boundary Between Work And Non-Work
Just like you want to break your day into different segments, you also want to segment your time into distinct work vs. non-work hours.
Clarity is simple. A lack of clarity of complicated.
If the use of your time becomes muddled — you read fantasy football articles in your office and respond to work emails at the dinner table — your day will become complicated.
It’s easy to allow work to bleed into personal time. The more clearly you establish a boundary, the simpler your day will be to manage.
This doesn’t mean you can’t do work at night or on weekends if you want — it’s not about the time of day, it’s about the intention you set for that time.
For example, I love to do creative work at night when most people are asleep, but what I don’t do is allow work to intrude on non-work time.
If I’m hanging out with a friend, I’m hanging out with a friend.
If I decide to take a break from work during the day, then I take a break from work during the day.
Use your time however you want, but be clear with yourself (and others) about how you use it.
7. Do One Thing You Love Every Day
You’re reading this post because on some level the idea of having a simpler day appeals to you.
There are many reasons for that, but one of them is likely you feel your days are filled with too many things you don’t love and not enough of the things you do.
That’s why I want to end with this suggestion.
Make a list of things you love doing and do at least one of them EVERY DAY.
No matter what happens with your to-do list, hectic schedule, or productivity, you’ll never regret time spent doing something you love.
It’s just that simple.