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In Search of Simpler Times

A Personal Perspective: How to make modern life less frenzied.

JoeFoodie, Flickr, CC 2.0
Source: JoeFoodie, Flickr, CC 2.0

Today, when you ask someone, “How are you?” you may hear a perfunctory "fine." But you may well hear: "Hangin' in." "Tired." “Slammed.” "Overwhelmed." Indeed, like many of my clients and friends, I find our modern times challenging.

In the supermarket, I saw a can of Simpler Times beer and thought, “Hmm, that's appealing.” Here are some thoughts on how to create a simpler time for ourselves in today’s far-from simple world.


Can you find a simpler approach to some tasks? Sometimes, thorough is needed, but, for example, the fatter a report, the less likely it will be read, let alone its findings implemented. Sometimes, we choose to be thorough as an insulator against the fear that our work isn’t good enough. But a document’s weight often doesn’t indicate its utility. Before tackling a hairy project, breathe, and think about whether there's a way to do it more simply while ideally, it being more impactful.

That applies also to helping professionals. For example, although I ask my clients to complete a rather probing new-client questionnaire, I encourage them to give first-reaction, brief answers. Not only does that make it easier on them, but it also tends to filter out the unimportant, leaving the important easy to see. That which ends up important usually is top-of-mind.


Should you better curate who you spend time with? High-maintenance and otherwise difficult people are draining. You may need to do more to reduce your involvement with such people and instead spend more time with those who are simple and pleasurable to interact with.

When you have to deal with difficult people, the difficulty can sometimes be easily trimmed. Don’t bring up anything likely to trigger them. And if they assert an opinion that’s not worth the engagement, you can often mollify them without needing to agree by using just two words: “I understand.”

Pick your battles. No matter who you’re dealing with, remember that most debates, especially the political or religious, result in more heat than light. Search for common ground.


Many people go on vacation and end up more stressed: cramming work before and after, finding a dog- or plant-sitter, atop all of travel’s other hassles. It's easier to get your recreations in small local doses: Day trips and simpler recreations. For example, hiking out your door is easier than getting to and from the gym.


Fortunately, simple is usually healthier—salads, veggies, broiled meats, fruit. Want something more complex but without the work? That may be a time to eat out or take out.


Keep your favorite clothes and give the rest to Goodwill. That gets you wearing what you like best, easily and visibly, not buried amid a closet and drawersful of lessers. Plus, you save time and money from not having to shop. Also, your gifted clothes benefit needy people.


Morning, work, and bedtime routines simplify life. The repetition allows you to keep improving your routines until optimized for time, effectiveness, and ease. Also, while novelty can be fun, routine is comforting.

The takeaway

When someone asks you how you are, perhaps some of these ideas will help you say “fine” and actually mean it.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

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