Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

5 Rules for Living a More Manageable Life That Even the Busiest People Can Follow

Ever have one of those days when everything seems like a mess? Whether it’s dealing with an overbooked social calendar or literally de-cluttering your desk at the office, we could all use a little help making our lives more manageable.

Luckily, some very smart people took to Quora with their recommendations for making life simpler. So I hope you’re ready for things to get a lot easier, because these nuggets of wisdom will inspire you to make some changes.

1. Learn to Say No (the Right Way)

Learn to say no and learn to say it skillfully. Most people will agree that saying no will drastically simplify your life. But saying no unskillfully actually ends up complicating it even more in some cases.

Odanga Madung

Saying no can feel like you’re giving up, letting people down, or allowing a great opportunity to slip away. And trust me, I know that figuring out how to break the news to someone is not fun. But when you do it for the right reasons, it’s so worth it.

If you need a little help, writer Alexandra Franzen has a great universal script for dropping the big, bad no.

2. Make Time to Do Nothing

People are often caught up in what they think they need to do and what they have to do. This to-do is like a basket. Even on the day of your death, that basket will still not be empty. You know why? ’Cause as a human being, you always want to be doing something, otherwise you get bored.

Shravan Venkataraman

Take 30 minutes out of your day to do absolutely nothing—or at least not do “work.” Whether that means meditating, reading, or watching reality TV, take a step away, and remember that there will always be something you should be doing instead. By actively choosing not do a task on your list, you’ll instantly feel much more in control.

3. Be Less Accessible

Reduce the number of ways people can reach you. After you’ve checked SMS, WhatsApp, voicemail, e-mail, your second e-mail account, Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages, Twitter mentions, Twitter DMs, Quora messages, snail mail, and Slack for the third time in a given day, you’ve lost the opportunity to actually, you know, get anything done. Narrow down the number of communications media you use, and batch process the messages that arrive, to reclaim your day.

Patrick Mathieson

It’s easier said than done—social media and apps are addicting (not to mention essential nowadays)—but it’s crucial for your wellbeing to know how to step away from technology. The easiest way to do this is to consolidate the number of accounts you check regularly throughout the day. Save some for the end of the day, save others for just once a week, and save the least important for just scrolling through when you’re stuck in line at the grocery store.

Do you feel like you have an internet addiction? Writer Molly Donovan lists some great tips for not letting technology take over your life.

4. Make Your Priorities Known

Keep a note for yourself to write each of your objective for the next day. Always update the note with the tasks you need to do the very next day before going to bed. This will help you to organize your work based on your priorities.

Aravind Unnikrishnan

This is an oldie but a goodie: Write your priorities down so that you have a better chance of sticking to them. Starting each day knowing what’s coming will make it feel much more manageable.

5. Embrace the Journey, Not the Destination

Don’t associate with the outcome; you’re the effort. So when you try new things in life, you will fail. Many times. Over and over again. Then you’ll fail once again. Once you’re through that part, you’ll succeed. But surviving the failure phase is only possible when you don’t associate with the outcome of your actions. When you fail, it means you need to work more and maybe find another way. That’s it. What counts is your effort. So focus on that.

Oskar Nowik

By focusing on what you can control (your effort), you can make your life feel much more manageable and less reliant on external factors. Taking control of failure is liberating.

Have any other tips for living a simpler and more manageable life? Tweet at me and let me know!

Photo of man at sunrise courtesy of Shutterstock.