Simplify Your Life

A recent change in personal circumstances was a catalyst for me to me to consider change in my life or, perhaps more accurately, changing my life. I’m hoping to get ideas on ways to simplify one’s life – from tips regarding minimizing time spent on mundane everyday tasks to reprioritizing and overhauling one’s entire life.

While this topic may seem quite off topic for a running blog, I don’t think it is. Running and especially ultrarunning can be very time consuming. Once you start adding in work, everyday errands and tasks, personal and family commitments, maintaining a house, other hobbies, and on and on, it seems like one still wouldn’t have enough time in the day even if it was 48 hours long. With so many things to take care and the need to get at least a couple hours of sleep most days, even the most enjoyable of tasks (like running) can become a burden or something to “squeeze in.”

Below are some examples of the things that I have done recently or am in the process of doing to bring more order, simplicity, and efficiency to my life.


  • Remove self from junk mail and credit offer lists
  • Cancel unwanted catalogs
  • Mercilessly unsubscribe from unwanted email
  • Set up Gmail labels immediately for new contacts
  • Set up autopay for bills and stop entering bills paid in redundant Excel table
  • Prepare more food each time I cook
  • Set up soaker hose with timer to water vegetable garden automatically
  • Reduce number of occasions and total time spent checking blog stats/blog feeds


  • Establish regular bedtime
  • Shift towards morning runs to reduce stress when work days run long
  • Switch entirely to Gmail
    • No longer downloading and refiling email with Apple’s Mail application
    • All but eliminate use of legacy Yahoo account
  • Better organize house (including getting rid of “stuff”)
  • Contemplate what is most important to me
    • Do more of what is most important and less of what isn’t

I hope the above examples are only a start. For many of us, the best thing we can do to improve our running is to run more. By creating more time to run we are likely to run better and to enjoy it more, as well. Therefore, please share your ideas for simplifying or more efficiently living one’s life – you’ll be giving the iRunFar community training tips without even trying!

There are 16 comments

  1. Susannah

    Want to simplify? You're on the right track with your farm! Also read The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing. They were famous back-to-the-land pioneers from the 1930s-1980s in Vermont and Maine, but are little heard of now. Their last homestead is open to the public in Maine:<br />(and I worked there for a while, and still do their website).The Good Life is full of lying-by-omissions about the true costs of "living simply" (e.g. it helps to be born with money), but it's still a great read and plenty inspirational.I'm pretty sure Helen and Scott wouldn't think much of ultrarunning, perhaps seeing it as a waste of otherwise-productive calories, but we have to find our pleasures somewhere…Good luck on your simplification journey!S. Beck

  2. AnthonyP

    Oh boy…you know, I go through this all the time and never seem to get anywhere. Well, I can understand the difficulty being a young lawyer grinding out hours at a firm – it gets tough at times to fin time in your life for the fun things. For me, it had been very tough to simplify with the wife and 2 little girls.The biggest change to make things easier for me was learning how to be more efficient with my workouts. I've now programmed myself to rise at 4:45 AM during the week to get in my AM runs, and also set out my clothes and gear the night before, eliminating the time wasted banging into things in the dark. I will even do the same if I plan a PM run, so I can hop off the train and get home and get out.I also tried a little combo run/commute, but found it ultimately too difficult – I'd run to the train station in the AM and home from it in the PM. Home isn't too bad, but I got some nasty looks in the AM due to my odor !

  3. Buddo

    Don't obsess about nutrition. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're not. Also, on the weekend, cook a few large meals and freeze meal size portions. During the week, take one out and put it in a pot of water in the am. At night, when you get home, pop in microwave or oven. 5 minutes=dinner.

  4. Anonymous

    Farming? What in the world is susannah talking about? Living off the earth is as time consuming as life can get. Sell the house. Rent a cheap apartment near work. You will no longer need to work so many hours just to pay the bills and your commute time will be insignificant. All this other stuff you are talking about is just seconds, where what I am talking about gives you hours!

  5. Grae Van Hooser

    Maybe you could help us help you more if you listed what your priorities are? How many hours a week do you feel you need to work to do the job to your and your bosses satisfaction? What are your running goals. How important is racing? Or is just running daily for enjoyment your goal, not your results? What is your list of priorities in your leisure time other then running? Is money important? How important? You get the picture.I guess if you wanted an expert opinion on prioritizing your running, skiing, and golf to the top, give Meltzer a call. Anybody that can run 100's like it's a stroll in the park and golf as well as he can, has got to have something goin on!

  6. Mike Mason

    Goat's farm is actually a city house in Arlington, VA. It's about as farm-like as Central Park! This man ain't spending too much time on the tractor :)

  7. Trail Goat

    Susannah,I'm afraid Mr. Mason is mostly correct. Red Star Farms has all of 6,000 of open land. For the area, I have a large backyard and this year will grow beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beets, squash, as well as my own herbs. While I previously noted the fact that Red Star Farms is a bit of a misnomer in the comments to the "About Trail Goat" post, I'll update the post itself to better reflect my urban reality. That said, I've seriously considered adding goats and/or chickens to my yard and dream of a day when I can cultivate the land on a larger scale. Until then, I'll tend my vegetable garden, turn my compost, and happily munch away on the veggies my CSA program provides. :-)

  8. Trail Goat

    Tony,I'm torn between the run commuting and not. For me, I think it depends on how I would be getting to work if I didn't run. If I would otherwise be in a car, say riding in with a friend, I think I'd try and mix in as much run commuting as I reasonably could. On the other hand, I really do enjoy my time on the Metro. Sure, it's makes for a 30 minute commute with 20 minutes on the metro, but I almost always productively use those 20 minutes by dealing with email, reading professional publications, or getting some office work out of the way. So whether I commute via Asics or Metro, I'm making good use of the commute time, and in the end I think I prefer doing most of my running around North Arlington than my downtown to Red Star Farms route.

  9. Trail Goat

    Buddo,Right on about the eating. No obsessing about nutrition here… though I am working at making a lower percentage of my meals Chipotle burritos or take-out pizza. :-) As a vegetarian, the only thing I am conscientious about re food is getting enough protein, which is not difficult. Otherwise, the best nutritional advice is to eat a bunch of different foods.One of my favorite uses of Sunday evenings the past few years has been making up a batch up my bean and cheese burritos. From one batch, which takes all of an hour to make, I get 7 or 8 meal sized burritos. I wrap all the burritos up and eat what I can during the week. Come the end of the week, I freeze the burritos I haven't eaten yet. I also love making up big batches of pasta with veggies or stew. Yum!

  10. Trail Goat

    Susannah and Anon #1 (whoever you are ),While my post discussed simplifying one's life, it actually covered a few different types of simplification. I think you two both take valid positions, just regarding two different sides of the sides of "simplifying." I have to say that I am quite tempted by both! Here's my take on both your thoughts. Susannah, I think you are focusing on a simple, uncomplicated, non-materialistic life. As I noted earlier, I dream of having a small homestead where I grow crops, raise some animals for milk and eggs, and use only the energy my land can provide, be it from biomass, the wind, geothermal sources, or the sun. I'll check out "The Good Life" and look into the composting and veggie growing resource at the – I've got lots to learn.Anonymous, You seem to be focusing on efficiency of living in addition to the "living more simply" that working less would provide. I've certainly considered doing what you suggest. Seriously considered it. Many times in the year since I bought my house I have reflected upon the purchase with regret. I've already put in so many hours as have my friends and family… and likely have many more hours to go. That said, based on some back of the envelope calculations I did yesterday (I told ya I've been thinking about this), I don't think I could rent an apartment near work for less than I pay for my home after accounting for rental income from roommates, mortgage tax breaks, and payment towards the principle. The idea of walking to and from work is quite appealing. I did so daily except for the heat of the summer when I lived closer to the office and loved it.While I like your idea of working fewer hours, that can't really happen unless I (1) switch careers or (2) am more established as an attorney. Yes, I am aware I could change (1)… that's a subject for a separate conversation.That said, Anon #1, I have seriously considered both points you've made and will continue to reconsider them in the future, so thanks for the reminder and the comment!

  11. Trail Goat

    Grae,You hit the big life questions – the third and perhaps the most important aspect raised so far with respect to simplifying one's life. (The others were "living simply" and living more efficiently.) I've started thinking about my priorities a lot. Just this weekend I've considered not raising vegetables this year and scrapping the iRunFar blog. Unfortunately, I've been going about my life contemplation a bit piece meal. However, at the moment, I've got my commitments in balance and am working towards bringing my surroundings into order. While I dislike putting off contemplation of the big picture, I feel that first finding at least temporary peace is important for me to objectively (and subjectively) weigh my priorities without my stressors of the moment exerting to great an influence.I really like your idea of talking to Karl about his priority setting… I might just go ahead and ask him – hopefully, he'd respond! Later this week, I plan on asking others for input into how they balance their commitments, which I think is different from the question of how to simplify one's life.Anyway, your questions are most thought provoking, Grae. While I'll try to post some partial responses to your questions tonight, it's likely that I won't have found most of the answers for some time … if ever. ;-) I'll be sure to give you a heads up after I've had a chance to more deeply reflect on your questions and my own life prioritization questions.

  12. olga

    The most "unproductive" time by normal term for me is blogging – both writing and reading/commenting (I had your post open since 8am, and only now got around it). Last night I looked over another bunch afetr a weekend away…the rest of my life is simple and prioritized. Alarm at 5:15am, run, shower, throw food in while reading first bunch of emals, go to work (and I do run to/from once a week, but usually need car for other things), come back, grab to eat, grab a kid and drive to his activities, run/hit the gym while he does what he needs, drive back, cook 15min (simple), eat, check emails one more time, check homework, sleep…Man, I haven't read much serious book since a couple of months ago! I only catch up on easy stuff while on Elliptical or Stairmaster. Anyhow, what DOESN'T fit in my day is dating:) I guess I set my priorities straight. I also need a lot of correspondence keep going for the race(s) I direct and a few folks I help out to (train kind of). Movies – only with my son once in 2 weeks. Going out to eat…don't remember. Parties – only if they fit my kid's wish list. Shopping – never (stuff, I do go grocery once in 10 days or so). Laundry – while I run. House cleaning…hmm, just keep it tidy, with less stuff. Although I do need to vacuum, since I moved in 6 weeks ago I haven't yet:)Good luck!

  13. Trail Goat

    Here's something I posted in response to something Grae said re me not needing simplification in another post. I thought it would be useful to post here at well."I'll share an apropos quote I read tonight from David Allen of Getting Things Done. "The people who take to [Allen's organizational system] are the most organized people, but they self-assess as the least organized, because they are well-enough organized to know that they are fucking up." I may be in a similar situation with simplifying my life. ;-) More later."That said, I think the impetus behind my quest for simplifying was not so much that I was particularly overwhelmed, but a desire to minimize the frequency and degree of times that I do feel overwhelmed.

  14. Trail Goat

    Olga,I'm not sure I could my blogging (both writing and commenting) as a unproductive time. Instead, it's something that I've figured out I really enjoy and want to devote time to doing. Once I have a good chunk of time to sit down and write, I intend to what I've figured out are my priorities at the moment. Knowing my priorities helps me focus on what is important to and, equally as useful, to eliminate that which is not as important to me. :-)

  15. Kix

    Wow, you people really need to go for a run!

    It is difficult to work long hours, come home and feel the pressure having to make the family meal, put in some laundry, walk the dog, dishes, grocery shop, clean -both house and onself and get in some quality running time. Being organized and less cluttered is key. I found that once I made running a priority, because it makes me happiest, I was forced to become more organized to keep everything and everyone happy. It also took a very serious conversation with my spouse on helping out more in the house. He is trying. And I try not sweat the meals that consist of salad and Kraft Dinner. It does not make me a bad person. Adding Cheez Whiz to Kraft Dinner does make me a bad person. But it is sooooo much creamier!

    More to say but, need to go for a run.

Post Your Thoughts