Stop it! Rework it! Reclaim time and sanity by cutting things that don’t matter.

Sometimes we get it all wrong. In order to achieve a better life we feel like we have to have more, do more and accomplish more. Sometimes more helps, but most of the time “better” is about doing the right things, not more things.

Sometimes when we’re feeling behind and overwhelmed we need to SIMPLIFY, not work harder to catch up.

Look at what you’re doing – is it worth it? Is the time you’re spending on that thing (whatever it is) worth what you’re getting from it? Does it align with your values? Does it make sense?

At home – are you happy with the amount of time you have to spend cleaning and organizing your stuff? Or would it be better to get rid of some of the excess and have more time for life? *

Is the time you spend catching up after a day of busy activities worth it? What would it look like to do fewer things, invest in them, and have a little margin in your life at the end of the day?

Even simpler – When you’re doing dishes, is the stuff you use most often the most accessible? Or are you wasting minutes every day with an inefficient setup?

Or at your job – is the paperwork you do (or require others to do) helpful? Or is it taking up more time than it’s worth?

How do you track your budget? Could you do a better job with more tracking? Less tracking? A simpler method?

Most people slow down a little over the summer. Why not use that time to examine your values and the default systems and habits you live by? Do they support those values?

Sometimes we create busyness for ourselves because it feels good. It feels like we’re productive. It’s easier to be busy than to make the tough decisions and do the things we really value.

Take some time to write out the things you really care about – the areas of life that you value. And list a few goals or dreams for each of those areas. It could be family, relationships, health, your job, and your broader mission or platform. Your list will look different. Where are you right now? Where do you want to be?

It’s worth centering our actions around deeply held values, not reactionary impulses.

Maybe it means doing less stuff so we can do the right things. Or maybe being ok with the dishes staying dirty a little while longer so we can connect with a friend. Or maybe it’s getting the junk out of the sink so you can cook a real meal and sit down for quality time with your family.

It looks different for each person. But we all feel it inside. We know where those areas of change are for us. Where are yours?

*Yes – this may be a little autobiographical.

First things first. One thing at a time. Start now.

With the holidays just around the corner, my to do list (and, probably yours!) just keeps growing. It’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed. But that mental energy spent worrying about what needs to get done doesn’t really get anything done.

So instead, I’m trying to live out the advice above.

First things first – What’s most important right now?

One thing at a timeWe can’t multitask. It doesn’t work. Do one thing.

Start now – No more excuses! Take action!

And once the one thing is done, we start on the next one. It’s amazing how great that momentum feels.

When we focus on one thing at a time and simply move forward, it not only helps us get things done, but it allows us to be present where we are – whether it’s working on a project or having a conversation over coffee. We can focus on this thing, then this thing, and then this thing. And once those things are completed, they’re gone. No more mental energy spent juggling the things we should be doing while we’re doing something else. Every task, and person, gets our full attention.

Good enough stuff

People talk about how Americans consume for meaning. We create who we are by the clothes we wear, the decorations in our homes, and the cars we drive. We shop for entertainment. We get more stuff to fill our time.

One way to attempt to avoid the consumption trap is to focus on good enough.

Like with knives. Grete and I got a cheap set when we were married six years ago. Some are bent. Others just “kinda” work. We wanted good ones that would last.

But good is a vague category. So instead, we focused on good enough. We didn’t need the $2,000 set. Or really even the $200 set. We needed something that would work for us. So, we got one or two good enough knives we could use. Still high quality, but not the highest quality. After using the cheap ones for a while we knew which kinds we used most often. We didn’t need 10 amazing knives. Two good ones worked just fine.

Or when we went shopping for sofas a few years ago. I could find so many couches I’d love to have. But they didn’t really fit into our price range (or, sometimes, our apartment). I had to realize we were shopping for a “for now” couch, not a forever couch. It helped me focus on good enough. Maybe we’ll have our Ikea couches forever. But thinking of it as a temporary purchase helped me get past the mental barrier of wanting the most and best of everything.

Not everything we buy has to be merely “good enough,” but for some things, it’s the best possible solution. Because the truth is, maybe that whole knife set would have been amazing. And maybe that perfect couch would have made our apartment perfectly impressive and inviting. But there probably would have been knives we never touched, wasting our space and resources. And we probably would have been so worried about keeping that nice couch nice we would have been concerned about our guests and their cups of coffee. And that’s not the life I want to live, either.

So for certain things, good enough is perfect.

What about you? What’s your good enough stuff?

Life changes and peripeteia

There’s a TED talk by Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, where – in the midst of talking about castrating sheep – he mentions two words he learned from his classics teacher in college: anagnorisis and peripeteia.

Anagnorisis refers to that moment when a character makes an important discovery. Peripeteia is related – it’s the moment of a discovery and unavoidable turning point. It’s that instant when something happens that completely changes how you view everything else. It’s Oedepis realizing that woman he’s been having kids with is his mom. It’s Bruce Willis realizing that he’s one of the dead people.

In a moment, perspective shifts and everything is seen differently.

Life recently has had a number of “peripeteia” moments for me. Seeing my kid for the first time was one. But more recently I had another, more profound moment.

Having a kid changes things. Life looks different. I knew it coming into this thing. It’s what we signed up for. So during the transition, I’ve worked hard to support Grete as she walks through that change – since she’s home with the kiddo more and ultimately feels the difference more than I do.

We’ve talked about it being a “new normal.” That life was going to look different. And that’s ok and worth it.

But over dinner the other night she shared something she’d heard:

“It’s ok to grieve the loss of your old life.”

I’d heard her say it before referring to herself. This time, it was pointed at me. And for the first time I realized there were things I was giving up, too. Things I missed.

Like flexibility. Extra time for friendships and activities. A freedom to make last minute changes. Time to wash dishes. (Yeah, who knew I’d miss that??)

And for the first time I realized it was ok to miss those things.

Don’t get me wrong. The choice we made and the path we’re on is worth it. But if we’re not careful, it’s easy to fall into the trap of leading a “plus one” life. Like – we should be able to add this (a kid) without subtracting that (anything else).

So in a time of transition and change, I’m learning it’s ok to grieve what was. And I’m learning to take the next step – to really examine what’s important in my life – what pieces need to stay as other things get squeezed out in the crunch to care for a new life and family.

It’s really an old lesson – nothing new. Put the important and meaningful things first. But most of the time we just have extra space in our lives. The important things just get done because they eventually become urgent enough. In the mean time, we have space and time to do those less important, less meaningful life-fillers. But when change happens, it forces us to make every moment count. And for now, I’m glad I’m forced to discover what’s important and meaningful.

Bring on the peripeteia!