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“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

The spirit of this quote rings true: We humans have a tendency to manufacture complexity.

We make progress in our lives—personally or professionally—and decide that the best way to celebrate that progress is to sprinkle on a new bit of chaos.

It’s a rather frustrating (and hilarious) species-wide trait:

  • We book the relaxing vacation, only to fill every moment of it with activities that leave us more drained at the end than we were at the beginning.
  • We get the promotion that will reduce our money stress, so we celebrate by buying the boat that is constantly in need of servicing and repairs.
  • We feel busy and stressed, so we cut something out of our lives, only to feel stressed about not feeling busy, so we add something back in.

We can all come together and laugh at our “complexification” of life. But after we have that good, hearty laugh, let’s talk about ways to simplify it.

Here are 50+ short, timeless insights for simplifying your world—”hacks” for your life, careers, relationships, health, money, and more…

Life Hacks

Make a rule to never think twice about investments in yourself. Books, quality food, fitness, and personal development all fit into this bucket. These investments pay dividends for a long time. Think about material purchases instead—wait 48 hours to complete an order to see if you still want it.

If you want to get better at anything, do it for 30 minutes per day for 30 straight days. It’s easy to over-engineer progress—a bit of dedicated effort each day is all you need. 900 minutes of accumulated effort is enough to make dramatic improvements at literally anything.

Learn one funny or good dance move that you can reliably bust out when you inevitably get pushed into the center of a dance circle at a wedding or event.

Reread your favorite books annually. You may read thousands of books in your life, but there will only be a few that deeply change you. Reread them every single year. Your experience with the book will change as you do—you’ll pick up new perspectives. It’s beautiful.

In your 20s and 30s, do a few things that you’ll be excited to tell your kids about someday. Go on an adventure, train for some wild event, get your hands dirty on a crazy project, whatever. Create a few stories worth telling.

Be bored for at least 15 minutes per day. “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal. We’ve completely forgotten how to be bored, but it’s a tremendous unlock for creativity and mindfulness.

Take yourself out for a meal alone once each month. Carry a notebook and pen, bring your favorite book, and leave your phone in your bag. Let your mind run free. Flex that boredom muscle. It’s insanely freeing—a meditative experience.

If you’re about to say yes to something on the assumption that you’ll have more time for it in the future, say no instead. We tend to believe that we will have more time a month from now than we do today—this leads to accepting commitments that we later regret. Just say no.

Send a letter to your future self once each year on your birthday. Reflect on the present, changes you want to make, and goals for the future. Use an online tool like FutureMe to have it sent in 1-5 years. You’ll benefit from the reflection in the present and the smiles when you open them in the future.

Have at least one thing in your life that you are bad at (but love doing). Ambitious, driven people tend to do everything with some specific end in mind. It’s wonderfully refreshing to do something just for the sake of doing it.

Do one hard thing every day when you could do it the easy way. Take the stairs even if the elevator is working, run up the hill even if there is a flat route home, take the cold shower even if the hot water is working. When we do hard things, we train ourselves to embrace friction and build resilience. Hard things compound.

As a rule of thumb, don’t consume the news unless you’re highly confident it will matter one month from now. Consuming more news has become a reliable way to understand less about the world. Focus on smaller doses of high signal content vs. a constant drip of the “BREAKING NEWS” that has become the standard of the industry.

Write down three things you’re grateful for every single night before you go to bed. Say one of them out loud every single morning when you wake up.

Stop trying to be interesting and focus on being interested. Interested people are prone to giving their deep attention to something to learn more about it. They open up to the world—they ask great questions & observe. Being interested is how you become interesting.

Stop trying to remember things and just write everything down. Use your phone notes app—or better yet, carry a small pocket notebook and pen. The old fashioned way still works wonders.

When trying to break a bad habit, wear a small rubber band on your wrist and snap it (lightly) on yourself each time you do the thing you’re trying to stop. The action creates awareness that starts the breaking process.

When faced with a difficult decision, ask yourself what your 80-year-old self and 10-year-old self would want you to do. Your 80-year-old self is most concerned with the long-term compounding of the action, while your 10-year-old self will remind you to have some fun.

Career Hacks

Spend 15 minutes on Sunday evening preparing for what your first focus tasks are going to be on Monday morning. That 15 minutes will save you 2 hours and a whole lot of stress. Don’t over-engineer it. Get one small thing done that makes the next morning look and feel easier.

When you’re starting your career, “swallow the frog” for your boss to get ahead. Observe your boss, figure out what they hate doing, learn to do it, and take it off their plate. It’s an easy way to add value, put up a win, and build momentum.

Set your emails to have a 60-second delay before sending. You notice most mistakes immediately after hitting send—the delay allows you to catch them. Also, if you’re sending an email in the heat of the moment, the delay lets you cool off and reassess if it’s worth it before it enters the world.

Batch email processing into condensed windows. Depending on your industry, it may be anywhere from 1-3 windows per day. Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Force a time constraint on low-value tasks to get them done efficiently.

When you’re trying to learn something new, attempt to teach it to a friend or family member. See what questions they ask and how those questions expose the gaps in your knowledge. Study more to fill in those gaps. The act of teaching is the most powerful form of learning.

Download a free focus app (I like Flow) to execute short sprints of focused work. The app will restrict any apps you want from being opened during your block. If you’re prone to checking your phone, put it in another room so that you physically can’t see or touch it.

Relationship Hacks

When you think something nice about someone, let them know. It’s a shame that we often wait until a person’s funeral to say all of the nice things we thought about them. The next time you have a positive thought about someone—tell them right then.

Tell your partner one thing you appreciate about them every single day. As time passes in any relationship, it becomes easy to take the good for granted. Don’t fall into this trap. Highlight the good!

Invest in personalized stationery and use it regularly. Emails and texts lack personality. Good penmanship and a handwritten note will always stand out. Handwritten notes are an “old fashioned” thing that should definitely make a comeback.

If you’re trying to make conversation with someone that you are intimidated by, ask what they’re currently working on that they’re most excited about. It’s a simple question, but it gets them talking and animated. Ask follow ups and listen intently.

When someone is going through hell, just saying “I’m with you” is the most powerful thing you can do. Advice, perspectives, or offers to help are minimally impactful. The notion that someone is with you is 10x more powerful. Be the “darkest hour friend” to those you love.

Record a video interview with your parents. Ask them questions and have them tell stories about their childhood, adventures, hopes, dreams, and fears. Our time with them is finite, but we often fail to recognize it until it’s too late. These recordings will last forever.

If someone tries to put down your accomplishments, cut them out of your life. These people are “boat anchors”—they try to hold you back and create a drag on your progress. Distance yourself from anyone who spends time bringing others down or dismissing their achievements.

If you’re torn on what gift to send someone, send a book. Flowers, bottles of alcohol, and other standard gifts are easy to forget—a great book that has special meaning to you will be remembered.

Carry a pocket notebook and pen with you everywhere you go. If you’re with someone and they say something interesting, take it out and write it down. It’s way more polite than taking out your phone, it’ll make sure you remember the thing they said, and it shows you’re actively listening.

When you meet someone, say their name back to them once in conversation. Once is enough to cement it in your mind, and if you do it more than once, it starts to sound phony.

Never keep score in life. When you’re with friends, pick up the check now and then—it all evens out if they’re real friends. Quid pro quo is a terrible way to live.

If someone regularly brags about their wealth, income, or success, just assume the reality is about 50% of what they say.

If you’re about to take an emotion-induced action, wait 24 hours. Many relationships have been broken by actions taken in the heat of the moment. Don’t fall into the trap.

The first time someone acts negatively toward you, assume they are just having a bad day. The second time someone acts negatively toward you, assume they are a bad person.

Give a stranger a compliment every single day. Say you like their shirt or shoes, compliment their haircut, whatever. Don’t use it as a conversation starter—say it and just continue on. Getting a simple compliment from someone can make a person’s entire day.

Health Hacks

If you’re struggling to fall asleep, try the 4-7-8 method: Breathe in through your nose for a 4-second count, hold your breath for a 7-second count, and exhale for an 8-second count. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers your body to turn to rest mode.

Go for a 15 minute walk every morning. You don’t need a fancy morning routine—just go for a walk. The sunlight, movement, and fresh air have a direct positive impact on your mood, circadian rhythm, metabolism, digestion, and more. Leave the phone at home. Let your mind wander.

To get your body moving to start the day, try the 5-5-5-30 morning routine: when you wake up, do 5 push-ups, 5 squats, 5 lunges, and a 30-second plank. You can do it while you are brewing coffee or right when you get out of bed. It will jumpstart your metabolism and give you a boost of energy to start the day.

To eat healthier, do all of your shopping on the outer perimeter of the grocery store. The outer perimeter typically has all of the fresh produce, meats, fish, dairy, etc. The middle aisles have all of the processed stuff. If you’re trying to eat clean, stay on the outside.

If you’re trying to lose weight or lean out, do 25 jump ropes between each set of exercises at the gym. It’s an easy way to burn an extra ~100-200 calories per day and doesn’t create the mental drag of boring cardio.

Money Hacks

Be frugal with yourself and generous with others.

If an investment or financial opportunity seems too good to be true, assume that it probably is. Remember: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Create an automated direct deposit for a small amount of money into an investment account every month. Never look at the account. Don’t pay any attention to it. A $100 monthly investment into the S&P 500 for the last 10 years would be worth ~$20,000 today. Let it compound.

Tip 30%+ around the holidays. Give a small holiday gift to any service industry workers you regularly encounter (delivery drivers, trash pickup, cleaners, etc.). It’s greatly appreciated by those on the receiving end of it. A simple way to spread some positive holiday vibes.

Treat your credit card like a debit card—assume the money is leaving your bank account when you swipe it. Pay it off entirely every month.

Tip the bartender at your local bar very graciously the first time you go. You’ll get better service and build a relationship that will last.

If someone uses a bunch of fancy words and jargon to try to sell you an investment or financial opportunity, don’t buy it. Then run the other direction, fast.

Conclusion

We can all strive to embrace simplicity in our lives. Leveraging these timeless insights is a start.

I’d love to hear from you:

  • What are your favorite tips, tricks, or hacks that have created value in your life?
  • What are your favorites from this list?