How to Make Life Simple Again


Angel Chernoff

Life gets a lot simpler when you clear the clutter that makes it complicated. Bring your attention back to what’s important, and move forward with your life.

Your days fill up so fast, and they are so rushed and packed with distractions—sometimes they literally seem to be bursting at the seams.

I know exactly how you feel. This used to be my life too.

Before I started simplifying my life, I was being pulled in dozens of different directions every day and never had enough time to get everything done. Naturally, I wanted to do a great job with each obligation I had, and somehow I had convinced myself that I could do it all. But the reality was I was stretched way too thin, and thus I was doing a lousy job at everything and completely stressing myself out in the process.

This feeling of being mind-numbingly busy and overbooked is a huge source of stress for most people, and stress is perhaps the single most important determining factor of whether we’re healthy and happy, or sick and tired, in the long run.

Unless you want your health to decline and your stress to continue to skyrocket, you must start simplifying.

So how can you simplify your life? It’s not as hard as you might imagine…

1. Know what your perfect day looks and feels like.

Visualizing your perfect day is important not necessarily because it will be a recurring reality, but because it’s crucial to understand what a “simple life” really means to you. It’s different for everyone—for me, it means practicing my morning gratitude meditation, quiet writing and reading time, and spending a few quality hours with Marc and our son, Mac. For others, it’s a long morning walk, afternoon yoga, a productive day at the office, and a hot bath before bed. And for others, it’s simply lots of time to focus on an important life goal, while still leaving enough time to get a good night’s rest.

Take a few moments now to visualize what a “simple day” means to you.

2. Determine what’s most important to you.

Besides the art of getting things done, there is the often-forgotten art of leaving things undone. The simplicity and efficiency of a day relies heavily on the elimination of non-essentials.

The foundation of simplifying is this:

  • Identify what’s most important to you.
  • Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.

So take time to identify the most important projects, people and experiences (5 at most), and then see what activities, tasks and commitments fit in with that list.

3. Say “no” to unnecessary commitments that do not support your priorities.

Once you’ve identified what’s important—your priorities, along with your vision of the “perfect day”—you need to start saying “no” to things that do not support what’s important to you, and that are getting in the way of your perfect day.

The best thing you can say “no” to is an unimportant commitment. Think about it…

Today you say yes to a Facebook party invitation, tomorrow you say yes when a neighbor asks you to help him move some furniture, then you get asked to a quick lunch meeting, then you decide to volunteer at your son’s youth group. One yes at a time, and soon your days are too busy and complicated and you don’t know where you went wrong.

List and evaluate your commitments (professional, personal, civic, etc.), especially the recurring ones, and say no to at least one of them today. It just takes a quick call or a short email, and you’ll instantly feel a weight lifted.

4. Limit your daily tasks.

Take time every morning to identify 1-3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) for the day, and cut out the rest as much as possible (not counting little, necessary things, like tying your shoes or dropping the kids off at school). Address your other obligations right then and there, and tell the associated people that you really want to help, but your plate is full today. You can’t serve them well, so regretfully you must say “no.”

Once you’re down to a manageable list of tasks (1-3 is ideal, but certainly don’t try to do more than 7), it’s best to give each some allotted time—a few hours for one, and then a few hours for another, etc. Instead of being in a stressful task-switching state of mind, just take your next task, let everything else go, and just be in the moment with this one task for the allotted time.

Do this, and you will notice a difference. Limiting your tasks like this helps you focus and embrace the reality that you’re not going to get everything done in one day.

5. Schedule at least one distraction-free time block each day.

Once you know you’re actually working on the right tasks, eliminating all distractions for a set time while you work is one of the most effective ways to get things done. So, lock your door, put a sign up, turn off your phone, close your email application, disconnect your internet connection, etc. You can’t remain in hiding forever, but you can be twice as productive while you are.

Do whatever it takes to create a quiet, distraction-free environment where you can focus on what’s important.

6. Do ONLY one thing at a time.

Again, let yourself be immersed in the task at hand by letting go of the feeling that you need to quickly rush through it—that you need to move on to the next task waiting for you. There will always be a next task, because that’s the nature of TO-DO lists—they’re never-ending. So let those later tasks come later. Just be 100% in this one task, like it’s your entire world.

Bottom line: Slow down. Breathe. Review your commitments and goals. Put first things first. Do one task at a time. Start now. Take a 5-minute break in an hour. Repeat. (And remember, results are more important than the time it takes to achieve them.)

7. Batch the smaller, less important tasks.

There are a lot of little tasks you need to do throughout the day. Don’t let them disrupt the more important stuff. To be more productive, batch them up and do them all at once, preferably later in the day. For example, instead of checking your personal email throughout the day, handle all of it once a day, perhaps at 4pm as the day is winding down. Do all your miscellaneous paperwork at once (bills, forms, etc.). And once you’ve completed a batch of small tasks (like processing all your email), cut yourself off and move on to the next small thing if necessary.

The key is to make sure you don’t let the small things get in the way of the big ones. Do NOT get stuck on one small thing all day, or even half a day.

8. Leave space between everything.

I may sound like a broken record at this point, but it’s crucial to understand that overcommitting is the biggest mistake most people make against living a simpler life. It’s tempting to fill in every waking minute of the day with tasks. Don’t do this to yourself. Leave space.

The space between the things we do is just as important as the things we do. So leave a little space between your tasks. Take a break to stretch, take a short walk outside, drink a glass of water, perhaps do some simple deep breathing exercises. Enjoy the space, and breathe.

Your overarching goal is living a life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, leaving you with space for what truly matters. A life that isn’t constant busyness, rushing and stress, but instead mindful contemplation, creation and connection with people and projects you love.

9. Practice gratitude.

A simpler, more positive mindset can be created anytime and anyplace with a change in thinking. That’s right, frustration and stress come from the way you react, not the way things are. Adjust your attitude, and the frustration and stress evaporates. The simplest secret to doing this is letting every circumstance be what it is in the moment, instead of what you think it should be, and then making the best of it.

It’s about being grateful for what is, and then working WITH it, not against it.

This kind of humble gratitude always makes life easier to deal with. Because happiness comes easier when you stop complaining about your problems and you start being grateful for all the problems you don’t have.

The floor is yours…

If you’re up to it, I’d love to reflect on #1 for a moment with you:

What does your perfect day look and feel like? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.

Why Love Goes First


Family Life Radio

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

─  John 13:34-35 NKJV

God is love. His grace, an overflow of His love for us, is what makes God desirable to those that don’t know Him.

Sadly, we’ve all met people who claimed to be Christians, but the outflow of their life didn’t represent the attributes and character of God. Perhaps you’ve even sat in a church that criticized and judged you because you didn’t conform to their specific list of rules, definitions of what a Christian should be, or even what a Christian should act like.

Our own negative words and actions can push others away rather than compel them to experience the love, grace and mercy of God. Jesus said everyone can recognize someone who follows Him simply by the fact that they have love. True Christ followers obey the Lord’s commandment to follow His example and love first, above all else. 

When we demonstrate His love to others, they gain insight with a glimpse of the grace and mercy He’s made available to them. That’s why love should go first in all we do. That’s why our responses to everything in our relationships should flow out of God’s love for us and for others. 

Today’s One Thing

Here are four ways to demonstrate God’s love. Set a goal to do all of these at least once today.

  1. Perform an act of service for someone with no strings attached.
  2. Offer a smile to everyone you see today.
  3. Steer conversations away from negativity – encouraging positive topics.

Deliberately compliment your family members.

Make Your Toxic Relationship Healthy


Kyle Benson

Love is a dance of connection and disconnection. Some of us need more connection, others need independence.  What if I told you there were only two roads to making a toxic relationship healthier?

Road One is breaking up and finding a more secure partner.

Road Two means viewing the problems in the relationship as a slingshot for growth.

Even if you fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, the relationship can work!

But the only way it can work is if you both see problems as a catalyst to understanding and respecting each other’s differences.

If you don’t, holding hands quickly turns to pointing fingers.

If your partner’s idea of closeness makes you feel like you’re suffocating, or if you feel like your partner intentionally ignores you, the best thing you can do for your relationship is to talk about it.

By examining moments of disconnection, both partners will gain profound insight so they can begin learning how to give each other what they need.

I’ve put together these four exercises to help turn your toxic relationship into a healthy one.

Exercise 1: Talk about it.

If one of you is feeling ignored or overwhelmed by your partner’s needs, use the exercise below to understand each other better.

Instructions: Think of the last argument you had. Rate the following feelings on a scale from 1 (100% felt that way) to 5 (0% felt that way).

A toxic relationship is full of confusing feelings

During our fight I felt:

  • Defensive
  • Sad
  • Misunderstood
  • Hurt
  • Criticized
  • Neglected
  • Like leaving
  • Like my opinions don’t matter
  • Worried
  • Lonely

Now explore what triggered those feelings.

Rate what triggered those feelings on a scale from 1 (100% felt that way) to 5 (0% felt that way)

  • I felt unimportant to my partner
  • I felt cold toward my partner
  • I felt rejected
  • I felt overwhelmed by demands
  • I felt excluded
  • I didn’t feel attraction
  • I didn’t feel affection
  • My sense of dignity was compromised
  • I couldn’t get my partner’s attention
  • My partner was dominating

Answers: There are no right or wrong answers here.

Each answer depends on your reality.

The goal of the exercise is for both partners to understand each other. The only way to do that is to recognize one vital element that makes relationships last.

That vital element is…

Both points of view are valid. 

When partners believe there is only one truth, they fight for their own position. That belief is a dead-end.

There is only one assumption that will make the conversation about disconnection or too much closeness beneficial: that in every fight, there are always two points of view, and both are valid.

Once you and your partner accept that idea, it’s no longer necessary to argue for your own position.

Now you can focus on understanding your partner’s position, and work together to find a mutual solution thereby creating a less toxic relationship.

There are always two sides to every conflict.

Once you understand and acknowledge this, you’ll quickly find that reconnecting comes naturally.

Exercise 2: Revisit the past.

Now that we’ve identified your emotional reaction, it’s time to get in a time machine and revisit your past.

We may repeat unhealed patterns from our past relationships in our present ones.

See if you can find a relationship between earlier traumas or behavior and your current reaction.

Note: If you’ve been sexually harassed, raped, or experienced any other trauma your partner is unaware of, now is the time to bring it up. In my work with others, I’ve found that sharing our deepest pain with our partners truly helps them understand us. It also gives them the ability to gently work with us on traumas so we can begin to heal together.

This list will help guide you.

Old patterns may replay in future relationships

When I (or my partner) turned away, it reminded me of:

  1. An earlier relationship.
  2. Past traumas or hard times I’ve had.
  3. The way my family treated me growing up.
  4. My deepest fears and insecurities.
  5. Unaccomplished dreams I have.
  6. Events I have not emotionally dealt with yet.
  7. Ways other people have treated me.
  8. Things I always believed about myself.
  9. Nightmares that keep me up at night.

Take time to discuss each other’s answers.

Ask open-ended questions so you can understand each other better.

This isn’t about who feels worse or who is more right. It’s about taking the time to truly understand each other’s insecurities and deepest fears.

When your partner tells you something that shocks or surprises you, say, “tell me more about that.”

You’ll learn more in one answer by truly listening than you will in years of trying to guess why your partner does what they do.

Exercise 3: Write it out.

Now write out a short summary of your point of view in the disagreement, followed by your partner’s point of view.

If you did the exercise right, you’ll quickly see that your views of what happened and why they happened in the way they did are not matters of “fact.”

All of us are complicated people whose emotional reactions are determined by a lifetime of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and memories.

Exercise 4: What’s your role?

It’s our natural setting to make distance and loneliness our partner’s fault.

We might even decide our partner is to blame entirely for a toxic relationship.

But no one is to blame.

To break the pattern that is causing the emotional roller coaster in the relationship, both partners need to take responsibility for the problem—both need to admit playing some role.

To help you, read the list below and rate things that may have contributed to your feelings of needing more affection or more space.

Note: Do not try this if you are still upset. 

When our emotions are tense, fighting becomes nonsense.

When partners try to resolve a conflict when they are upset, they are more likely to say regrettable words that will harm the relationship.

Taking a 20-minute break and focusing on the positives of your relationship will do wonders for coming together to solve the problem.

Step 1

Use the list below to take some ownership of your contribution.

Rate the following on a scale from 1 (100% felt that way) to 5 (0% felt that way)

Toxicity in a relationship ends when partners reconnect
  • I’ve felt highly sensitive lately
  • I haven’t expressed a lot of appreciation toward my partner lately
  • I’ve felt very stressed and irritable
  • I’ve been extremely critical lately
  • I haven’t shared much of what has been going on in my life lately
  • I feel depressed
  • I may have a chip on my shoulder
  • I haven’t been very affectionate lately
  • I haven’t focused on being a good listener lately

Step 2

Now write out how you contributed to this problem.

“I can now see that my contribution to this problem was…”

Step 3

Now take a minute to write out some ways you can change the situation in the future.

“When an event like this happens in the future, I can make it better by…”

Step 4

Offer your partner one tip so they can avoid this problem with you.

“To avoid this problem in the future, my partner could…”

The more you work through the exercise, the more you will turn towards each other when the relationship hits a rough patch.

Instead of using conflict to push each other away, you can use it to bring you closer.

The emotional bond in your relationship will deepen, and you’ll cultivate a profound friendship that can handle any problem the world throws at you.

That doesn’t mean you’ll never have arguments again. You will. It just means those arguments will no longer undercut the relationship and render it toxic.

These four exercises will teach you a lot about your partner and yourself. It’s going to take courage to stay vulnerable and open when you are frustrated, hurt, or angry.

When a couple seeks safety in withdrawal or in the blame of the other for not getting close, it is not love that has failed; it is they who have failed love.

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