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For some people, holiday blues continue into the new year. This is often caused by leftover feelings of disappointment during the holiday season and being physically exhausted. The blues also happen for some people because the start of a new year is a time of reflection, which can produce anxiety.

Here are some ways to begin thinking about how to simplify your life, and hopefully minimize any symptoms of depression and anxiety, as suggested by Elizabeth Handley, MSW.

Most people say they want to simplify their lives because they feel like they have lost control of their time. They want to have more time to do the things they want to do, both at work and at home. Every few weeks, there is another newspaper or magazine story about how people feel they aren’t spending their time on things they enjoy. A recent poll, for example, found that 65% of people are spending their free time doing things they’d rather not do. Isn’t that amazing? It’s great if you have created a full and interesting life for yourself, but how frustrating if you don’t have the time to enjoy it!

The 80/20 Principle

The 80/20 Principle, first stated by Vilfredo Pareto in 1897, says that 20% of our effort produces 80% of the results. This means that a small number of resources are highly productive—and a large number (80%) are not very productive at all. Here are a few examples:

  • 20% of the things in your house are used 80% of the time.
  • 80% of the things in your house are used 20% of the time.
  • 20% of your activities give you 80% of your satisfaction.
  • 20% of the stocks in an investor’s portfolio produce 80% of the results.
  • 20% of the books in a bookstore account for 80% of the sales.

The challenge is to identify those few vital items that produce the greatest value for you. Focus on the activities that result in satisfaction, such as money, better health, or more free time. At the same time, identify those many trivial items that don’t lead to things like satisfaction, money, better health, or more free time. These unprofitable activities are taking up 80% of your time. Doesn’t it make sense to deemphasize them in favor of the vital 20%?

Suggested Reading:
Richard Koch, The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More With Less. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1998.