11 Rules for Sane Living (Part III of the Doing Less Series)

(This post is part of a multipart series on doing less. Get on the list to get the next installment in your inbox.)

Several months ago, in a fit of overbooked frazzle, I wrote down the following rules on the magnet pad I usually reserve for things I need to pick up at the grocery store.

When I make my breakfast in the morning, they wink at me and remind me that I am, in fact, the one who’s in charge of my own freedom.

These rules are part of my foundation for freedom. They allow me to do less and be more. I created them for efficiency, ease, and space.

When I abide by them I’m happier. When I don’t, I get cranky. Simple as that.

They serve me well. Perhaps they’ll inspire you to create a set for yourself.

My Rules for Sane Living

1. Don’t schedule anything the day before or after a trip, especially at night.

2. Batch calls and interviews so that I’m not switching gears all day long.

3. Schedule only one social engagement per day (or less).

4. Don’t schedule calls on weekends.

5. Book at least fifteen minutes between phone/Skype appointments to allow for tea and pee breaks.

6. Group together all the people who need the same information on calls.

7. Start the day with 10 minutes of sitting in silence.

8. Whenever possible, don’t eat standing up or driving.

9. Take 3 deep breaths before eating.

10. Tell Mike 3 things I’m grateful for before falling asleep (and ask him what his are).

11. Wake up when I’m done sleeping, without an alarm, as often as possible

twitter_standingWe need structure to feel free. (Tweet it!)


The next post in the “Doing Less” series will tell you how exactly I’m doing less and what doing less actually looks like. If you’re anything like you, doing less feels elusive. We’re gonna get practical and mystical all at the same time.

Over to you:

What are your rules for sane living? Leave a comment below—I’d love to hear your ideas and how you stay sane!


  • Yes! A list of rules for sane living….genius! My rules would be quite similar to Kate’s in theory, and I’d add a good belly laugh to the list. Mairead xo

  • I grew up in a household with a career military dad, aka lots of structure, rules and discipline. For many years after leaving I have resisted these “tools”. I’m learning that structure does give me the freedom I crave. And, I can make my own rules! Thanks for the inspiration, Kate!

  • Hi Kate!

    Thank you for the inspirational post. I love it!

    I like to lie in bed, as I awaken to the cat crawling around my head, considering the three things I am ever so grateful for, even if it means declaring “I am grateful for a fuzzy cat on my head!”

    Walking outdoors every day, for at least thirty precious minutes, gives me great joy. I honor the Universe for the beauty around me, thank her for her presence in my life, and the gratitude I have for all that is placed in my path.

    In peace,


  • Lori Trew

    I start every day with a little journal writing and a written focusing exercise. And I take long walks by myself to look at the beautiful world. And I remind myself, if I think I’m procrastinating about something, that there is so much more to all this than meets the eye, and I remember that it’s more about allowing the right timing. (A more merciful way to look at it.)

  • Dennis Becker

    My Irish grandmother, who worked as a waitress until age 85, and lived to be 93, taught me,
    “worry is like a rocking chair…it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere”

  • These are great rules, Kate! I especially love the last one, as I feel like when an alarm goes off in the morning it’s such a rude way to start the day.

    To just wake up naturally in the morning at a good time (especially adding #12 to the list that I must go to bed before midnight!) sounds amazing, and probably is such a refreshing way to start the day.

    Loved all the tips! Can’t wait for the next post in this series!

  • These are terrific rules, Kate! I’m adopting the ones that apply to my life! (Especially that one about pee breaks in between calls! :))

  • My #1 rule for sane living is at least an hour of quiet time during the work week. My job is in a call center environment and after speaking on the phone for 8 hours, I don’t want to speak or listen to anyone. Giving myself that hour to allows me to calm down and relax.

  • Great rules Kate! Love them. I would add these ones for me:

    1. Having a daily routine that builds momentum by creating small wins.
    2. Recording where my money is going and coming from.
    3. Meal planning once a week.
    4. Having a set time once a day to respond to e-mail.
    5. Being in nature for an extended period of time at least once a week.
    6. Laughing hysterically with friends and family about the crazy things that happen in life.
    7. Taking my vitamins.
    8. Petting my cat while she sleeps on my desk.
    9. Seeing my goals within my line of vision.
    10. Saying nice things to myself in the mirror.

  • Margaret-Ellen

    I love these rules and am loving (and needing!) this series! I even sent it to my boyfriend and he’s already reminded me several times, “let’s take that off of your plate, you’re a ‘no ho,’ now, remember?

    Last Saturday night I sat at home and ONLY watched TV for a couple of hours–no laptop, no phone, no talking. Before that, I cooked dinner even without music. I find (especially in a loud and crazy city like NYC) it’s really important for me to find little pockets of absolute silence to stay sane. At my gym during an intro name game, the teacher asked “what’s one word that you associate with content?” I said “quiet.” and i remind myself of that all the time. Whether it’s having headphones in at work (in an open office floor plan) even if no music is playing, taking 10 minutes to sit quietly in a chair in the bedroom when I get home from work (again no phone!), or taking a walk in a museum where the curators blissfully shush loud tourists, #12 for me is Find the actually quiet time.

    I also find it HUGELY helpful for a quieter mind to cook as much of the healthy food we need for our work week ahead as possible over the weekend, so I’m not cooking dinner and the next day’s breakfast, lunch and snacks every night. :)

  • Yes! I agree that we need structure to feel more free. Scheduling so many things actually allows for greater spontaneity. I know how to do less, but I have trouble keeping that way. Once I start doing less it feels uncomfortable and then I fill up my calendar again. So my new rule for doing less is to “just be” And if I’m struggling to do that then I “fill” my time with pleasurable activities.

  • Trust and acceptance. Taking a deep breath and trusting that all will be well no matter what!
    A great rule to help prevent overwhelm and keep going with the flow!
    Thanks Kate for the great tips and reminders.

  • Lynn

    Kate – THANK YOU! I’ve been asking the universe to send me guidance on getting over procrastination, and it came in the form of this email. I fight structure – although it’s EXACTLY what I need to get stuff done. I love the rules. I love your honestly – “when I don’t follow them, I’m cranky.” I’m starting my rule list now. First, to put things away when I’m done using them them. I’m realizing (although I’ve always known) the huge impact clutter has on my productivity. When I don’t put stuff away, I’m cranky. Simple as that. I love it! Thank you thank you!

  • Lynn

    Love this! My first rule is to put away things when I’m done with them. If I dont’ do this, I get cranky. And nothing gets done. I just stare at that thing I need to put away. And focus on it. And then I procrastinate. These new rules will definitely help me! Can’t wait to create them!

  • Terri Atkin

    Good tips Kate!
    I also like to prioritize my tasks for the day if I can and then give my full attention to each thing I do before moving on – as much as I can :) Having to revisit tasks due to my own lack of attention is draining. This applies to everything from a job I have to do for work to removing my make-up and moisturizing before bed.
    Also I try to only wear clothes, especially shoes, that are comfortable and make me feel good so I am not distracted by discomfort and can concentrate on the task at hand. Actually I find having a minimalist wardrobe is so helpful when it comes to dressing for any occasion. In fact minimalism features strongly in most of my sanity saving ideals – less to worry about, clean and/or care for, and more space!

  • My list includes standing outside for a minute or two at the end of my workday to breathe and remind myself of the beauty around me. Also, it is an absolute MUST to turn on some music and DANCE for 3 minutes once a day :-)

  • Liza

    My rule is when I’m on work time, I’m focused and give my best and not worry about home. When Im at home, I don’t speak much about work and focus on home.

  • Love your list Kate
    Mine is to dedicate the first hour of my day to working on me – meditation, personal development, reflection and journaling.
    Make my daily goals my priority – me first ( that comes from 27 years as a mum putting others first)
    Complete my Daily activities – no excuses
    Have fun
    Move my body, yoga, walk, dance
    drink lots of water, eat well
    watch/listen to inspirational or funny media.
    Be grateful.

  • I just love these rules Kate. It’s so funny to me how when making appointments time takes on a whole new nature. ‘Yes I can go and have a coffee after arriving back from a long trip because it’s only 10 minutes away’ – when in reality the day we return we probably don’t want to move more than 10 metres from our bedroom!
    One of my rules is to spend time in nature every single day. I’ll go for a walk or just spend time reading outside and listening to the birds. it’s like oxygen for me..

  • Kevin

    Kate, love your list, here are one or two that I live by…
    1) If in doubt…go out.
    2) Everything changes, friends come and go, loved ones too and yes.They die. No matter how difficult accept things as they are.
    3) DSD… Do Something Different today. Join a dance class, wear something inside out, clean your teeth differently, catch the bus, walk a different route….just do something differern, talk to someone
    4) Help someone if you get the chance, show them the way, or help the planet- pick up some litter (You will feel better for it)
    5) Take care of physical body, exercise at least a fast walk during the day
    6) Take care mentally, meditate for 15 minutes when you can. No internet stuff before going to sleep. and see 5 (Physical).

  • Kate….as an ‘educator’ with young adolescents, I attempt to bring a form of structure in their day as I can see they actually ‘crave’ it despite appearing as though they want freedom. Between teaching, having my MLM business, and writing my blog; I do take time – walking Boone, my dog allows me to speak with nature, I keep a gratitude journal at my bedside (and do write in it before laying my head on my pillow) I have a meditation CD that ‘works for me’ and most nights, sit with it – when I really feel the need or desire to escape – a fiction novel is nearby my comfortable chair. Knowing and allowing oneself to ‘disconnect’ is important to me.

  • Meredith


    My biggest change to create a more sane life was to start making lists just like this! I was the person who started each day without a list and no structure – I didn’t even take a list to the grocery! But, I’ve found that I am so highly unproductive some days and it was really starting to annoy me. The power of The List has really changed my habits for the better!

    On top of my new list for sane living is being kind! A smile and “hello!” can go a long way!

  • Susann

    Love these! In the front of my planner, I have a list of what I call “Things to Remember”, which are primarily about staying sane while dealing with other people. I add to it now & again & am up to about 23 now. My Top few:

    Remember . . .
    1. incompetence on your part does NOT constitute a crisis on my part
    2. bullshit spoken with authority is still bullshit
    3. do not mistake a strongly held opinion for fact
    4. “No” can be an entire sentence
    5. not everything requires a reply
    6. play in your own sandbox

  • aww LOVE these.
    We do 5 things we are grateful for before we go to bed or 3 gratefuls and two “sprouts” (something that is getting us closer to a goal)
    I love the “not scheduling after a travel day” this is a tough one!!
    Also when you work a network marketing business its hard to not work 7 days a week!
    good stuff!

  • Great list, Kate! My rules for sane living are:
    1. Write at least one page in my journal per day (usually I do this at lunchtime)
    2. Remember to breathe. Often.
    3. Do my energy clearing and say my affirmations (in my head) on the bus to work
    4. Make my breakfast and lunch the night before (green smoothie and salad) so that I can just grab them and go to work
    5. Make several days’ worths of breakfasts and lunches at one go, and cook a large batch of food for dinner once per week
    6. Connect with my partner at least once/day
    7. Exercise at least five days/week
    8. Connect with friends at least once/week
    9. Do one thing at a time, at home and at work.
    10. Do only what is a Hell YES! Say no to everything else.

Leave a Comment

Site Design Studio DBJ
Site Development Alchemy + Aim