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Goals: How to accomplish more of what you want by doing less

goals do less
Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

I once had a super ambitious classmate who loved setting goals. His need for achievement compelled him to constantly overextend himself.

He complained about how much he had to do and how little time he had to do it. Then, one day, he announced he had signed up for a stress-management class.

My friend and I exchanged glances. Later, she said she couldn’t help thinking he’d just added one more thing to his long list of things to do.

I had to laugh. He’d missed the most obvious solution to his problem of too much to do. He could have easily reduced his stress by doing less (and it rhymes!)

We’ve all heard of decluttering your physical space. That means getting rid of things you no longer use or love.

But have you thought about de-cluttering your schedule? That means intentionally opening up white space in your overstuffed calendar.

When you stop filling every moment with productivity, you gain control over your life. Rather than reacting and rushing around, you have time to decide what’s important to you.

When you stop filling every moment with productivity, you gain control over your life. Click To Tweet

You begin to discern how best to spend your precious moments. Put simply, you do more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

When you’re more intentional with how you spend your time, you might actually get more done.

You become more focused on your goaIs, while avoiding distractions that take you away from them.

Here are 3 steps to decluttering your schedule. A guide to getting more done by doing less.

1. Ask, does it align with my goals?

Before engaging in a task, ask if it will bring you closer to your goals. Eliminate the busy work that does nothing to move you forward in your life.

This includes time spent on social media. Why not set a timer for 15 minutes, respond and engage with your followers, then turn it off?

You’ll be more productive in that 15 minutes than hours of mindless scrolling.

Whittle your to do list down to the bare essentials, three to five items a day. Some suggest only one item per day.

They say you write down the most pressing task at the beginning of the day. After that’s done, you cross it off and replace it with the next most important thing on our list.

The sense of accomplishment will keep you moving forward. And you’re always working on the most important thing first.

2. Use a values filter

Take time to understand your values. What’s important to you and gives your life meaning?

In general, when your life is aligned with your values, you feel fulfilled and on the right track. You won’t need to use substances like wine and food to feel good.

When your life is aligned with your values, you feel fulfilled and on the right track. Click To Tweet

It helps to write down your top five values and use them as a filter through which you accept or reject invitations and commitments.

If you value service highly, your calendar will prioritize volunteer or ministry work. If you value solitude, you’ll need to incorporate stretches of alone time in your schedule.

If there’s a huge mismatch between your schedule and your values, it’s time to reassess your priorities. Start saying no to the things that have little to do with what lights you up.

3. Stop people pleasing

When we clutter our calendars with obligations that don’t match our goals or values, we might have a problem with people pleasing.

In this case, it’s time to set some boundaries and risk disappointing people. That could mean reversing a lifetime of putting others before yourself.

It's time to set boundaries and risk disappointing people. That could mean reversing a lifetime of putting others before yourself. Click To Tweet

If you’re not used to it, saying no takes a tremendous amount of courage and will provoke some guilt.

Start by saying “I’ll get back to you,” instead of giving an answer right away. This buys you some space to decide whether to accept the invitation or not.

Often, the people we’re pleasing fail to realize how their demands affect us. They’re thinking of themselves, not you, because that’s your job.

Sad to say, some benefit from your refusal to put yourself first. They won’t take kindly to your saying no. Be prepared for that and stand firm in the face of their objections.

Resist the urge to explain your no. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:37)

Final thoughts

goals do less

Shedding excess activity from your calendar lets peace and quiet into your life and gives you space to breathe. Instead of treading water, you take strokes that propel you forward.

Rather than making decisions based on others‘ demands, you’re crafting a schedule that reflects your values, goals, and desires.

You begin to make choices more closely aligned with who you are and the direction you want your life to go. Instead of putting out fires you’re creating a life you love.

How clutter raises stress levels and how to clear it out of your life

clutter

Clutter impacts families in a multitude of unhealthy ways. That’s the topic of an insightful documentary called “A Cluttered Life: Middle Class Abundance” .

In the 20-minute video, a team of anthropologists went into the homes of 32 dual-income American families to record their findings.

They found the families had accumulated so much stuff it put a marked strain on their mental health. Here are 3 ways clutter affected the families featured in the short film.

1. High stress levels

An overabundance of food, toys, and clothing created stress in the mothers, in particular.

The women who noticed and commented on the clutter showed increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels, proving it’s difficult to enjoy peace in a cluttered house.

Women who noticed and commented on clutter showed increased cortisol levels. Click To Tweet

Men didn’t remark on the clutter or seem to notice it as much because they were not the ones responsible for cleaning it up.

Although unspoken, women felt responsible for organizing and cleaning up even though they worked outside the home, too.

Clutter in the house made women feel guilty over all the stuff their families had accumulated. It compromised their sense of self-worth, in addition to the burden of tidying up.

2. Poor health

Families stockpiled food not only in the over-sized fridge in the kitchen but often in another refrigerator in the garage.

Due to both parents working, they shopped less often. As a result, they built up a store of convenience foods that could be prepared quickly but which lacked nutritional value.

Ironically, these convenience foods only saved an average of 12 minutes preparation time per day.

We consume far fewer home-cooked meals than we did a few decades ago. As a result our collective health has suffered.

The size of our refrigerators and our infrequent shopping trips push us to buy and eat pre-packaged and frozen foods that are terrible for our health.

3. Lack of control over clutter

The filmmakers noted that cheaper ways to produce more stuff has compelled us to buy many things we don’t need, especially toys for children.

The U.S. has 3% of the world’s children but consumes 40% of the world’s toys. They found toys spilled into all areas of the house and were never confined to the children’s bedrooms.

The U.S. has 3% of the world's children but consumes 40% of the world's toys. Click To Tweet

They saw toys in living rooms, kitchens, and even master bedrooms. This gave the house a child-centered culture and a sense the parents had given over their space to the children.

Mothers also commented on things coming in from all sides such as objects from school and gifts from extended family.

They remarked on these encroachments on their space with a proverbial shrug of the shoulders. The underlying sentiment being a lack of control over what came into the house.

How to say no to clutter

clutter

The truth is, you have the power to say no to things before these things cross the threshold of your front door.

You may have to engage in a dreaded “difficult conversation”. If you’re like me and hate conflict, that can be hard.

You will meet resistance. It’s hard to get grandparents on board at Christmas time when they want to lavish the children with gifts.

But reducing clutter means confronting what’s not working. You deal with deeper issues when you begin to get control of your living space.

That means setting appropriate boundaries. And putting your need for a clutter-free home ahead of others’ desire to bring more into it.

This is how decluttering a room leads to life-changing transformation.

Reducing clutter requires a mind shift

Most of us have been socialized to equate success with financial abundance. That’s reflected in the things we buy, whether it’s a larger home or a more luxurious car.

We feel we have to keep up with our neighbors. Even when the little voice inside tells us that’s not what we value.

There is another way to live and it requires a mind shift. Living uncluttered means letting go of what people think at the same time as you release possessions.

Living uncluttered means letting go of what people think at the same time as you release possessions. Click To Tweet

It means going against the grain and living counter to the culture. It requires courage at times and sacrifice at others.

You become driven by the desire to live according to what you believe in. To take control of your surroundings and align your life with your values.

That’s the dual purpose of decluttering: to help you revision your environment and discover more about yourself in the process.