How to accomplish more by doing less

How would you like to actually do less?

I don’t mean doing more of what you love, and I don’t mean making time for the things that matter.

I mean doing less.

Before kids, I remember this moment in my house I lived in right after college, and I vividly recall looking around at my house, having just deep cleaned. I remember the dog being washed, the car full of gas, my college diploma hanging proudly in my bedroom. The laundry was done and the bed was made and there was no work left undone on my computer, no homework to do, no place I was obligated to be.

This is the last time I can remember feeling like I had nothing to do. I was 22 years old.

Shortly, and I mean very shortly, after this moment, I started my own business, and this feeling of nothing to do went out the window and never returned.

Once in a while now, I’ll sit on my couch after bedtime and realize that the dishes are done and my email inbox is empty and tomorrow’s lunch is packed. This is the closest I come to having nothing to do. But then I look around, and realize the dog hair floating around my hardwood floor, and the laundry piled on the bed and the dreams and goals I put in place that I want to hustle towards. And then suddenly, the fleeting moment of solace is gone, and I stand up and get back to work on life.

As I type this, I realize that most of this is self-inflicted. Actually, all of it is.

But that doesn’t help us here. That doesn’t help us with the fact that work and life seem to have lists of never ending tasks, whether they are urgent or not. No longer will we look around our house, or life, and say, “Wow, I’m all caught up!” and mean it.

After reflecting on this moment of my 22 year old bliss, I decided that I actually didn’t like this moment. And though I remember it fondly, I also remember feeling antsy, anxious and unfulfilled at that time. I had nowhere to be, nothing to accomplish, no one counting on me. And then, I changed that. And fast. I no longer wanted to sit in that place – it wasn’t satisfying to feel like I had done all the things. So I started a business, and then another, and then had babies and here I stand today, wondering the same thing. Is it that I really want to feel like I have nothing to do, or is it that I just want to feel like I have LESS to do?

But let’s take this one step further into the rabbit hole. I want to physically do less, yes. But do I want to accomplish less? Absolutely not. I would love to accomplish all the things I’m doing now, and have yet to do, but actually have the physical stress of doing so taken down a level or two.

The days that my feet are tired, my hips hurt and my head is throbbing from too much screen time and not enough water remind me harshly that I did too much. Those are also the days that I go to bed at night and feel proud, accomplished and badass. It’s a double edged sword of sorts, and I’m not willing to give up one sharp edge. The other, on the other hand, I’d gladly dull down.

Lately, as this baby due date fast approaches and Joey’s days are fuller and fuller with activities and play time, I find myself narrowing down my to-do list, but still going to bed at night feeling accomplished. These are the days, I tell myself. These are the days to strive for. The days that I hustled without breaking my back. Was present for my family. Enjoyed my time. Moved my business, my family and my dreams forward. And feel good, rested, satisfied, and most importantly, content.

It’s taken a lot of practice. And some days, a lot of days, I fail miserably. I have to constantly keep myself accountable. Discipline myself beyond a joyful place, and keep my priorities so straight that sometimes they feel too strict. But it’s worked. And more often than not, I go to bed feeling free, not overwhelmed. Healthy, not exhausted. And proud, not depleted.

LET GO OF THE LITTLE THINGS

Those days of ultra clean house, empty inboxes and sculpted bodies are not a part of this season of my life. And though those things are important to me, I have to remind myself that they are not an important part of THIS SEASON. They are not gone forever, and some days they happen. But for now, in totality, they are a part of the little things I need to let go of.

I very much look forward to the days that my house is stain free and my email inbox is organized and my healthy eating habits are non-negotiable. But this moment, right here, is not that time. And I’m willing to give up what I enjoy now in order to have them. The question is this:

What are you willing to sacrifice in order to have these things?

For me, and probably you, too, the answer is nothing. I am not willing to sacrifice play time for a clean house. Or dinner at the kitchen counter with Joey for a clean inbox. And definitely not willing give up ice cream dates for a six pack.

Ask me four years ago, my answer would be very different. Ask me four years from now, and again, very different.

But letting go of these “little things” is a part of this season of life, and these little things are not worth sacrificing other things. What are some little things that you can let go of in order to do less and still accomplish more? Some of my favorite examples of “little things” to let go of during this mompreneur season of life are:

  • Painted nails

  • Clean windows

  • Folding Joey’s laundry

  • A garden

  • Answering emails within 48 hours

  • Brushing the dog

  • Reading business books

  • Organizing photos on my phone

  • Answering Instagram DMs right away

  • Making homemade kombucha

  • Perfectly styled photos for the blog

  • Blogging every week

  • Understanding my website’s analytics

  • Projects for clients that are less than $250 in value

  • Updating the JoJo Amazon listing weekly

  • Straightening the photos on my gallery wall after Joey hits them with the basketball

These are all things that I enjoy, yes, but that I’m not willing to do INSTEAD of other things. So instead, I just let them go completely, and don’t look back. Trust me, you’ll pretty much forget they existed after the first few times of letting them go.

SET UP TEMPORARY SYSTEMS

Just like our seasons of life, systems change depending on our needs. A system that worked during pregnancy is most likely not going to work during newborn fog days. A system that worked in the early days of your business definitely is not going to work when you’ve got 100 open projects and a team to manage.

Know your season, and implement and use systems that work for that season. Then, more importantly, be willing and quick to change them when they are no longer optimizing your time.

I actually love systems at home more than I love systems at work, simply because I emotionally enjoy maintaining work more than I enjoy maintaining my house. And that might be different for you, and that’s awesome. Systems are great for both, and use them where you want them!

At home, my favorite and non-negotiable systems are Amazon Alexa, my Roomba and automatic bill pay. Think about this: Alexa does most everything in my house – the amount of time I spend looking for a pen and paper for a list, or googling something on my phone, or turning on a bluetooth speaker is saved TENFOLD because of her. And though those minutes seem minuscule in the scheme of things, I guarantee they add up. Asking Alexa what is a good substitute for an egg in a recipe keeps my attention away from my phone screen and on Joey instead, who is currently seeing how far he can push the coffee table away from the couch and still make the leap. These moments add up, friends.

At work, I have more systems, but many aren’t as streamlined. Systems to schedule my sponsored Instagram posts, sync my computer files and print JoJo labels are definitely the top of the pile right now. But many things that could be systemized, I actually enjoy having a hand in right now. As soon as that changes, I’ll systemize that task. Right now, I’m loving doing candid Instagram captions, email broadcasts on the fly, and getting a notification on my phone each time a JoJo sells. And though I’m certain these things will change, and probably soon, I’d rather systemize something else in order to have time for these things.

Systems to accomplish tasks faster than you would have accomplished them yourself manually is totally the point here. If you are doing something for home or work, and wishing you were doing something else, I suggest finding a system for that task. It might not be totally automated, but I guarantee there is a way to make it faster, and less hands on.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HELP

I always get a kick out of friends and family offering to babysit when the baby is born, and then watching new moms never take them up on it. Shortly after, new mom is sitting there, and so desperately wants some time to shower, read a book, or sleep. Or work, as is the case with many of us reading this. But we hesitate to call these people, mostly because we feel like they will think we are taking advantage of them, or worse, we are desperate. But in reality, babe, we are desperate, and these friends and family OFFERED to be taken advantage of.

During this season of life, more than ANY OTHER SEASON, we have the opportunity to take advantage of help. We won’t get this chance again, I swear.

I think about those times as a young college graduate, pulling in every favor I had with anyone that would offer one. Job openings, free dinners, career advice, hand me down clothes, a couch to sleep on, the list goes on. And suddenly, we become real adults, and now we have pride. This pride keeps us from asking for help, and taking it when it’s offered.

When our kids are grown and our businesses are thriving and our house is clean and our parents are retired, we won’t be getting the offers for babysitting help or dinners delivered. We will be the ones offering that help, and hoping, praying, that she takes us up on it.

I always like to tell myself that if I feel bad for taking advantage of this offer, that I will repay it later. And I like to think I won’t forget. It makes me feel better dropping Joey off at a friend’s so I can go to my doctor’s appointment alone. Or telling the meal train that I can’t have garlic with a nursing baby. These things make us feel high maintenance, but really, our friends and family are asking to help maintain us.

Right now, I’m not ashamed to tell you that I have friends offering to help me with work stuff, and I’m taking them up on it. For very little money, or none at all, these friends are helping me catapult my dreams forward. I’ve had to take a big swallow of pride to let this happen in my life, and every time they accomplish a task for me, and ask for another, I say a big grateful prayer for them. Somewhere down the line, I will repay them for this. They are helping me more than I can even know right now, and I won’t ever, ever forget.

Same goes for home life. I’m sure my neighbor’s girls are tired of watching Joey for free when I need some extra work time, or a shower, and I’m certain they don’t really want to pack more JoJos. But when I was able to give each of those girls money to go to Hawaii and shop for themselves, I remembered it was because of them I could do that to begin with. The reward was beyond the gift, and I like to think that we can both see it.

This season of our life is like no other – it’s stressful and overwhelming and exhausting. It’s also a season of joy, and growth, and self-awareness that we will never have again. I want to enjoy it, and I sure as heck don’t want to waste it away worrying, or doing things that I can do during any other season of life. This one, today, right here, is a gift. I don’t want to miss it.


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MOMPRENEUR : THE COURSE

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ACCOMPLISH MORE AND DO LESS

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