I’ve written a lot recently about simplifying a cluttered life, and about how saying “no” is an important skill to hone. (The three articles I wrote on this topic can be found here: The gift of simplifying, Just say “No”, and What's to be done about emotional clutter?.)
So naturally, I am turning my attention — and yours — to what we say “yes” to.
And, I am thinking about how we give focus to the things we decide are a true “YES!,” so that those big desires become real in your life. Because the decision to say “yes” means those things require, and deserve, your attention, your commitment, and ample time.
Even when we have made a concerted effort to simplify our lives, and say “yes” to priorities with intention, we tend to underestimate the effort it takes to change our habits and stay focused on those clear priorities. We are accustomed to living at a fast pace and don’t consider that we may need to shift our patterns of behavior to make our commitments a reality. Because just like the principle in physics that says nature abhors a vacuum, we tend to quickly (and often mindlessly) fill all of our time — in this case, the space we created when we simplified.
If you are ready to get focused and really commit to seeing your “yes” priorities become real, here are some suggestions that can help:
Start by slowing down
Simply considering the idea of slowing down is a challenge for most people. But if you have done some thoughtful simplifying, and have carefully decided on what it is you want to make a focus in your life, it’s not as hard as it may appear at first.
Certainly, your life is likely to be busy. But by giving attention to what you said “yes” to, you have already slowed down for reflection and conscious decision making. Take that same thoughtful energy into the way you choose to pace your days.
The magic here, as you will soon experience, is that you will get more done by slowing down. (I know, it sounds completely counter-intuitive!) Why is this true? Because when you slow down you will not be multi-tasking. You will be less distracted. You will be amazed at how much you are able to focus. And when you move more slowly and with more focus as you tackle your priorities, you accomplish more.
Make a sound schedule
Consider the next month in your life and how you will use your time.
Start by listing the things you absolutely must do in your life, and rank them from most important to least. Then make a list of the big ”yes” commitments you have made to yourself. Break down the steps for those projects if there are multiple stages or steps involved.
You will now be ready to put blocks of time on your schedule for the ”must-do’s” that make the most sense and reflect the relative priorities you assigned to them. Some of your must-do’s will be need to be done daily, some will be weekly, or once or twice a month. Map them all on your schedule for the month ahead.
Next, in the open blocks of time on your calendar, schedule in your efforts for each phase of work entailed for your “yes” priorities. Or, if there’s a priority like making time to exercise that does not entail steps to accomplish, you can plan for times when you will work out at a gym, take a yoga class, walk in nature, etc.
Do not fill every minute on your schedule! There will always be unexpected things that come up, so allow for them. And remember that it’s important to build in time for you to simple BE in each day. Remember, slowing down is a big part of this new way of living.
Stick to your schedule and adjust as needed
It's most important to honor the times you have mapped on your calendar. Make those sacred times to focus without distraction. Remember, you are now a good “no” sayer, so stay true to both your obligations and your “yes” priorities.
There will certainly be adjustments to be made as the month goes by. Make your changes thoughtfully. Consider your priorities and what’s come up that was unexpected. Consider what you can delegate to others, what you can defer for a time, and what you can simply say “no” to. Then move things around on your schedule.
Be sure to include time for an appointment with yourself to map your calendar at the end of the month, so that you plan for the coming month. There may be new steps to take to see a big priority through. And there will certainly be new priorities to plan for as you complete some projects and have space for what you next want to make a commitment.
Are you willing to give this approach a try? To put in the effort to take simplifying your life a step further, and to seeing what you learn from it? Whether things feel challenging, or you find a comfortable, new flow, or a bit of both, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below. Let’s share our experiences.