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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

Why Is Life So Complicated For You? 5 Reasons Why

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Why Is Life So Complicated For You? 5 Reasons Why

“Being simple is the most complicated thing nowadays.” -Ramana Pemmaraju

We live in a world where constant change and disruption is a given.

Our lives were suddenly turned upside down by a world pandemic. We had no control, and our power of choice was taken away from us. To survive we had to accept and obey the laws set by the government to eliminate a virus that could potentially destroy our society as we know it.

I found it difficult to adjust to living a life with no social contact apart from those living in my bubble. I quickly realised that to get through living with COVID-19 regulations and rules, I had to keep my life as uncomplicated as possible. The more complicated I made my life, the more frenetic, anxious and fearful I became. This was not an easy task, and every day I had to work on overcoming the biggest obstacle ever: my mind.

So, if you are feeling that your life is complicated, here are 5 reasons why this is happening to you. The good news is that if you address these 5 obstacles, you will have a much better chance of living an uncomplicated life.

1. Focusing on the Complexity of Life

If you were to ask Confucius if life is complicated, his reply would be, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

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The most difficult and anxiety-creating activity I found during Level 4 lockdown was doing the weekly shop. Adjusting to a new way of shopping where you had to stand in long queues to get into the grocery store while still maintaining a 2-meter gap outside and inside the store was exhausting.

One person per household was allowed to go to the grocery store, and that task was allocated to me. I began to dread the weekly trip, and I had to work really hard to manage my anxiety. I soon realized that if I continued to believe that this shopping exercise was complicated and challenging, then guess what? It would be.

It’s easy to see something as complicated when it forces us to shift our lives in some major way, but it’s often useful to first work on seeing this change in a more positive or simpler light. What will this change teach you? Can you incorporate it into your routine without too much upheaval? Do your best to make it as straightforward as possible.

The Complexity Bias

The complexity bias is a reason why we humans lean towards complicating our lives rather than keeping things simple. When we are faced with too much information or we are in a state of confusion about something, we will naturally focus on the complexity of the issue rather than look for a simple solution. In a recent article, the author explains, when “we succumb to complexity bias, we are focusing too hard on the tricky 10% and ignoring the easy 90%.”[1]

When you are dealing with a situation that you feel is complicated and overwhelming, try to focus on coming up with solutions or strategies that are simple. Ask yourself this question: If I take the simple, straightforward approach what will be the outcome? More confusion or perhaps a solution? I think you know what the answer would be!

2. Being Constantly Worrying

As humans, we are emotional beings. When we are stressed, angry, frustrated, or unhappy, our thoughts and emotions can have a significant influence on how we react and behave.

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Constantly worrying about your problems and what lies ahead in the future can drain your energy and cause physical and emotional distress in your life. The more you worry, the more complicated your life seems.

Looking for a silver lining or the best option in a bad situation does not come naturally to us. It takes work and continuous effort to navigate our way around the challenges and curveballs that life throws at you.

Fortunately, there are many strategies that can help you calm your worried mind and ease anxiety. Try the following to see what works for you[2]:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Cardio exercises
  • Journaling
  • Yoga
  • Listening to music
  • Talking to friends

3. Trying to Control Everything in Life

We live in a complex world, and it can be very hard to find the answers to the challenges we face in our lives. We are all afraid of something, whether it is fear of failing, dying, or losing a loved one. Striving to have control over one’s life is an attempt to bury your fears so that you don’t have to face them.

If you are making decisions about your life from a place of control, then you need to stop. Striving to have control in your life is a sign that you are living your life in fear. You need to break free of your fears and learn to accept that there are things in life that are outside of your control.

Once you accept that life is all about your navigating your way through it rather than controlling it, you will find that your outlook on life will be more positive and not so complicated.

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“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.” -Charles R. Swindoll.

4. Basing Your Happiness on Others’ Happiness

Your life will always be complicated and difficult if you hinge your happiness on other people in your life. Your happiness does not come from others, it comes from within you.

If you rely on another person’s happiness to live life, over time the complications of life will overwhelm you and you will lose your sense of self. You will find that you will be constantly trying to please others and trying to keep them happy — this is exhausting and detrimental to your wellbeing.

You need to take a breath, look inward, and then make a choice. Do you want to live a life valuing and believing in yourself the way you deserve, or do you want to live your life based on the happiness of others? I know what I would choose.

5. Feeding Into the Drama of Life

By feeding into other peoples’ drama, you are making your life more complicated than it needs to be. Drama and having toxic people in your life is a recipe for living an emotionally exhausting and complicated life.

There are certain types of people who live their life through drama and catastrophe. They choose to respond to life’s challenges in a way that is not productive. Stay away from them. If they do come to you with their drama, take a breathe and give yourself some time to work out how best to manage the situation without falling into the trap of taking on board their negative energy.

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It won’t happen overnight, but the more you work on your self-acceptance and self-belief, the more courageous and confident you will be. With this courage, you will be able to step up and eliminate negative drama from your life. Once you have done this, your life will be less complicated and so much easier for you to navigate your way through life’s challenges.

Final Thoughts

“If you accept life in all its fullness and ambiguity, it’s not complicated; it’s only complicated if you don’t accept it.” -Marty Rubin

You will always have challenging times in your life, and the more complicated you make it, the more difficult your life will be.

The more you focus on quieting the voices in your mind, keeping calm, and listening to yourself breathe, the less complicated your life will be. This is a very simple recipe to living a fulfilled life.

More Tips on Living a Simpler Life

Featured photo credit: Nick Karvounis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on October 18, 2021

9 Practical Ways to Achieve Work Life Balance in a Busy World

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9 Practical Ways to Achieve Work Life Balance in a Busy World

When I worked in college housing, I found myself in a position that made me so uncomfortable, I had some big choices to make. I could continue to do things the way my supervisor wanted me to, or I could look for another job. In favor of more balance, I chose the latter.

This was a big choice for me. I was basically giving up a (rather) stable job that made me unhappy for the unknown.

And you know what? Focusing on balance was the right thing to do.

It was also the impetus that led me to FINALLY finish my book, Making ‘Work’ Work for You. I absolutely needed to take my work/life balance into consideration and make some drastic changes. I’ve done that. And I’ve found that this message is resonating out there in the world of higher education and many other fields.

I wanted to share some of the tips and hacks that I’ve developed and learned over the years. These are strategies I’ve used to make the work day more palatable and improve my attitude about balance.

1. Be Intentional on How You Schedule Your Time

You may have one of those jobs in which one could easily be in meetings for a full day, leaving very little time to actually get your work done. Staff meetings, senior management meetings, committee meetings, supervisory meetings (also called One-on-One’s), disciplinary meetings…this list goes on and on. Where’s the balance?

During my years as a Manager and Senior Manager, I was in meetings all the time and felt entirely too much pressure to stay late, work on the weekends, or god forbid you try to multi-task in those meetings! I’m blessed in my current position that I don’t have that problem – but I think a person can be much more intentional about time is scheduled during the work day.

In the first place, you know the saying, “if you don’t control your calendar, it will control you.” So control it (I have a great planner for that!). You need work time? Schedule it. Call it just that: WORK TIME.

I currently hold blocks of time as work-time and in the “location” section of Outlook, I write down what I want to get done during that section of time:

  • work on the science grant
  • clean up email box
  • web site changes
  • clean desk

And I try to do this at least one full week in advance so that I don’t get overwrought with meetings before I save time for me.

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However, don’t fill your entire calendar lest you get in trouble for not being available. I look at my recurring meetings first – which days are my busiest meeting days and which days are very open. I usually schedule a 2 to 3 hour block at a time, at least 2 to 3 times each week. My current supervisor actually really likes this strategy and has begun to try it for herself.

If you are working for a company who schedules a great many meetings, you may need to speak with your supervisor regarding your need to schedule more work time; especially if those recurring meetings are frequent.

Give yourself a month to get used to the meeting schedule, and then you can approach your supervisor about options you have to delegate or remove some of those meetings from your calendar.

2. Deal with Additional Priorities and Opportunities

Working in higher education, I haven’t always had the luxury of getting to decide for myself what’s important. But in considering how you are spending your time, think about the extra things you take on in addition to your regular work.

I’m going to be the first person who tells you that getting involved outside of your job is super important – for the professional development, making friends, networking, etc. But you may have to limit that involvement or consider that it’s part of your free time instead of your work time. And make choices that sustain this.

I was very active in my professional association once I moved to California, and I carried that with me a great deal. I chose to have much of my social life connected through that organization…and I chose to be involved rather than going to a movie or doing other social things on the weekends. When I became a runner, I had to further alter some of these choices of how to spend my time outside of work – I saw fewer movies and was less involved in my professional association. And then, during times when my volunteer work was really busy, I just was not training for races.

But sometimes you really do need to make a choice between the extra work/responsibility and your home life. Saying “no” means that you can say “yes” more often.

“Instead of saying, ‘I don’t have time,’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority’ and see how that feels.” –Courtney Carver

Figure out what projects mean the most to you. Which extra responsibility will you enjoy the most? Which project will aid in the advancement of your career, or help you to work with someone new and influential? Really consider this before taking on a new project or committee. It’s better to do a couple things really well than have mediocre performance in a ton of things.

Of course…there’s always the “other duties as assigned” clause in many of our job descriptions. You know what I’m talking about, they’re usually at the very bottom of the page, that “catch all” which seemingly gives your supervisor or other managers the option to throw extra projects at you. This can be tricky to navigate, especially during times when you are short staffed and surviving budget cuts. Be honest with your supervisor if you feel overwhelmed. Remember that you must communicate with peers and committee members who are sharing the workload with you.

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It should also go without saying that you ask permission to take on professional association committee work before you volunteer. It’s a common courtesy. It gives your supervisor the chance to assist you with skill sets and/or connections that could assist in your new project or committee work. If they’ve been in your field for some time, they could even have great suggestions and recommendations for you.

3. Find Portals for Flexibility

If you have the luxury of a flexible work day, then you can make room for longer breaks. You can be creative with your lunch hour or come in later/leave earlier when you need to.

Do you have the ability to work from home now and then? Will your supervisor allow that? Are you lucky enough to have one of those gigs? Make sure you keep it in perspective and get your things done. Don’t take advantage or take for granted, because you might lose it!

The flip side of this is having no flexibility – zero, zilch, none. Your work day is rigid and you have meetings, meetings, meetings. That’s tough. You may need to build in buffers between your meetings. Don’t schedule back to back meetings. Start a meeting at 9am, and if it’s over at 10:30, don’t schedule another meeting until 11am.

Don’t go back to the office and work before the next meeting. Take a walk, get a cup of coffee, and breathe. Control your calendar, or it will control you.

4. Put Your Work Day into Perspective

You know what? It’s just work. It’s meaningful for you – you put your heart and soul into it. But it’s just work. If you can’t draw the line between where your job ends and you begin….that might be a problem.

The big thing for me was being able to realize that I was no longer going home angry. That was a beautiful thing. I took my work home – in an emotional manner – for such a long time. I would be so frustrated with the tough day and/or negative students and/or a rotten staff meeting…I’d internalized so much of it and it made me angry.

So I needed to draw that line and say, “I’m going home and I’m going to be me.” That’s it.

5. Find a Buffer

You may need a buffer from your work day into your home life. If you are a live-in professional, this can be difficult. I’m lucky to have figured this out for me in my current vocation.

For two years, I was a walking commuter and listened to podcasts on my walk to and from work. Currently, I commute by car but the travel time is about the same. I still listen to podcasts but have been on a mad audiobook phase for the past three months. Jen Sincero just rocks. This usually clears my mind from any daily funk and puts me in a lighter mood when I get home.

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Some of you may have very long commutes and so, time in traffic further complicates your transition time. Loud music may turn into road rage, so I recommend podcasts (again – I’m a big fan), audiobooks, comfortable/slow music. Even something that you are familiar with and can sing along. But any drive home can feature these things, and you really only need a few minutes to make it happen.

During that transition time (otherwise known as your commute home), let go of everything that happened at work that day. The work day is over. What are you looking forward to once you get there? Spouse or significant other? Family, kids? Dogs? Someone making an amazing dinner for you? A very nice glass of wine and a fire?

Focus on one of those things to think about while you let your work day go…and SMILE — even if you have to force yourself to smile. Because even just smiling will brighten your mood.

6. Unplug from Technology

Even as I’m writing this, I know good and well that I struggle with this myself. My husband and I have smart phones and tablets, and I often bring my work laptop home. So I myself am not the model of unplugging. Writing for The Bulletin, Sarah Comstock addresses the fact that technology has been a double-edged sword. Advances are helpful and convenient but “have placed an enormous burden of relentless pressure on people as expectations rise in parallel with the speed of technological progress.”

Computers and gadgets are suddenly able to do just about anything; as human beings, we need to recognize that we can’t do everything. Being able to get away from our devices and technology is paramount to finding work/life balance.

In the first place, the main reason we add our work email to our phones is for convenience and flexibility. Having that connection allows us to respond to certain requests maybe between meetings, or while otherwise occupied. It’s most certainly not meant to keep us from our families or friends or to occupy our down time. You pull out the laptop with the intention of doing some personal research or maybe you are checking your bank account, and the next thing you know you’re opening Outlook and responding to emails. Suddenly a 15-minute task turns into an hour, or two. Next, there’s the itching desire to “quickly check email” while you are at a restaurant with your significant other or friends and there you go again – you get caught up in an email chain of crap that clearly could wait until the next day.

Does any of this sound like you? It’s me too, much of the time. Some different strategies to consider include…

7. Do a “Detox” from Some of the Apps on Your Phone That Suck up Your Time

These apps could include social media, games, fitness, or sports viewing. Based on a challenge I learned about on the Rich Roll podcast, for the entire month of June 2015, I took all social media off my phone. I did not check in anywhere, I did not tweet or post on Facebook, there were no new Instagram shots in my feed.

That gave me some balance when spending time with family and friends – it was nice to just be with them and not otherwise occupied with distractions.

8. Tackle Your Cell Phone Stuff

Consider whether your employer requires you to have a department-issued cell phone; and if your institutional culture dictates that you have access to your email all the time. One of my previous institutions did require a department-issued phone with work email intact. I received compensation for this, but it was expected that email notifications be turned on and the focus be on staying up to date with all communication.

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Thankfully, that is not the current culture for me. I do have work email on my phone, but notifications are turned off; and, in fact, from time to time I think about removing work email from my phone because I’d just as soon not have to worry about it. But given that my boss has work email on her phone, I model that example. And our classified staff members are not required to have email on their phone.

If the culture of your institution or your department requires this – don’t be a rogue employee for the sake of balance. But consider other ways that you can insure that your work email doesn’t dominate your device. Are you able to turn off the work-related phone on the weekends or at night? Can you talk to your supervisor about expected response times?

No one can check email 24 hours a day and still expect to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the office. That is NOT work/life balance.

9. Set a Time You Spend on Checking Emails

Try to keep your email at the office from dominating your day. I’m doing the best I can to open, read, and respond/delete to my emails as soon as I get into Outlook, and then close the application until the end of the day. I try to be at “Inbox Zero” before I go home. This insures that I’m not wrongly multitasking during the work day (which, by the way, there is no such thing as multitasking) or spending too much unnecessary time on email when there are projects to complete.

A new strategy I’m employing is to not open my email until I return from my lunch break. This was something my current supervisor read about in an article, and I really love the reasoning behind it. When you start the day with email, you are letting others dictate your priorities rather than controlling these yourself. If the email truly is an emergency, that person will call you or come find you.

Hit up your main priorities in the morning, and then settle into the questions after you get some food. I’m enjoying the productivity of my morning and the peace of mind I feel because I’m not letting others dictate my work day.

Essential to unplugging and finding balance is the notion of separating. Don’t multitask your work and your life. Unless part of your job is posting to social media daily, leave all that stuff at home during the work day. Do you need Facebook and Twitter open on your computer while you try to write that report (or get your email to “Inbox Zero”)? In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport suggests “the overuse of social media unwittingly cripples our ability to success in the world of knowledge work.”

Social media is lots of fun, but in the office it’s just a diversion that’s keeping you from finishing your vital tasks. The sooner you get your stuff done, the sooner you get home.

If you must make a personal call, check in with your significant other, or connect with your family; you can do so by taking a quick break and making your call from the break room or outside.

The Bottom Line

You’re probably scratching your head by now because most of these tips seem SO easy. They are! You just need to make the commitment to yourself, make the effort, and then go for it. You can do this!

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Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

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