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Overwhelmed By Too Many Choices? Here’s How To Simplify

Overwhelmed By Too Many Choices? Here’s How To Simplify

National Simplify Your Life week occurs during the first week of August and it reminds us that less is more.

Simplicity is an age-old practice. Proverbs 14 states that “the simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” That is, an effective person prunes out the unnecessary in order to forge a better path. Islam teaches Muslims that there is “dignity in humility and grace in simplicity.”

Cut the clutter

Choice is good: We love freedom and choice gives us more. But at what point does too many options lead to complexity and stress? How often have you stopped at the grocery to buy a couple of items before eventually finding your shopping cart overstuffed with a dozen purchases. Supermarkets on average carry over 42,000 products, according to the Food Marketing Institute—reflecting the myriad choices we’re forced to make each day.

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“Paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices,” says psychologist Barry Schwartz in this popular Ted Talk presentation. Schwartz, who is the author of The Paradox of Choice, explains that too many options—i.e., complexity—lead to people feeling overwhelmed. And according to his research, that causes non-participation or delay in taking action.

Here are key considerations for simplifying your personal life.

1. Decide what matters (and what doesn’t)

Clutter prevents you from getting organized and being efficient. Simplifying is an exercise of prioritization—so as you focus on what’s important, you’ll ignore what doesn’t matter as much.

Be specific in what you’re trying to accomplish each day and remove all items and activities that serve as distractions. That may mean doing any of the following:

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  • Cancel irrelevant magazine subscriptions
  • Delete apps that waste your time
  • Consolidate your accounts
  • Unfollow people on social media who flood your feed
  • Limit your technology to ones that are actually useful
  • Use all-in-one applications that present most or all of your personal information
  • Donate or sell items that don’t add value
  • Eliminate clutter and organize useful belongings

If you need help, here’s a free app that prioritizes your goals and to-do lists in a priority matrix. And a similar app, Prioritize Me!, lets you select which of your goals are most important.

2. Focus on the 20 percent.

Follow the 80/20 rule which states that 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes. In layman’s terms, that means 20 percent of your activities lead to 80 percent of your effectiveness. If you’re a homeowner, 20 percent of your possessions are associated with 80 percent of your activities. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, we wear just 20 percent of our clothing. Perhaps it’d be prudent to donate or sell the rest.

If you want technology to help you simplify, the Tody app lets you organize and prioritize tasks. And to keep you on the right track, the mobile app will prompt you when a chore is due.

National Simplify Your Life Week
         July 2016 Capital One Simplify Your Life Survey (1,000+ U.S. respondents, ages 18-54)             

     3. Be practical.

    Love life and personal finances are the two most challenging areas to simplify, according to the July 2016 Simplify Your Life survey by Capital One. A majority (60 percent) of over a thousand respondents said a practical approach is the best way to simplify their finances:

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    • Practical (sensible and straightforward): 60%
    • Mindful (reflective and introspective): 14%
    • Optimistic (positive and hopeful): 14%
    • Ruthless (strict and unrelenting): 6%
    • Creative (unique and unexpected): 6%

    According to the same survey, 41 percent said a mobile app—with access to all account information—was their must-have tool. Most smartphones are littered with random apps. However. it’s essential to know which ones boost your productivity. For example, one tool that comes with Capital One’s Quicksilver and Venture cards and consolidates your account information is Capital One Wallet. It’s a mobile app that allows you to keep track of all your purchases in real-time.

    The paradigm of simplicity requires attention to important matters, and treats the rest as noise.

    National Simplify Your Life Week

      The takeaway

      When it comes to purchasing decisions, consumers often succumb to buyer’s remorse because of unmet expectations, says Schwartz. Moreover, people often have unrealistic beliefs that better alternatives exist—even if the original selection of a product was a great one.

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      Our gadgets and possessions should guide us toward our goals rather than distract and steal our precious time. It’s interesting to note that in the Simplify Your Life survey, only 6 percent of Americans surveyed said that creativity is the best approach to simplifying their financial lives.

      So forget the fancy methods. Rather, do the important stuff and weed out what no longer needs to be done.

      Featured photo credit: Stokpic.com via stokpic.com

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      Marvin Dumont

      Entrepreneur, Disruptor

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      Published on September 17, 2018

      How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

      How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

      Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

      With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

      So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

      1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

      It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

      You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

      So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

      2. When you want something big, wait

      Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

      It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

      We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

      A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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      So, you get the itch.

      You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

      Here’s where you have to take a step back.

      Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

      Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

      It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

      The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

      3. Live smaller than you can afford

      You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

      You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

      That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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      Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

      Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

      The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

      But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

      4. Practice smart grocery shopping

      Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

      But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

      Create a grocery budget

      Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

      Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

      I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

      Make a list… and never deviate

      Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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      You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

      These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

      Eat before going grocery shopping

      It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

      If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

      After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

      Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

      However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

      This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

      5. Cancel your gym membership

      Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

      The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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      Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

      I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

      Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

      Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

      For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

      Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

      There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

      It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

      I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

      Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

      The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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