My Current Goal: Have Less To Do!

posted by Andrea | 05/5/2017
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“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” Francine Jay

I read this quote a couple weeks ago — and it has really stuck with me. I keep thinking how applicable this statement is to my current stage of life; and how much I can totally, 100% relate to it in my personal life, my home life, and my business life.

Yes, there are still tasks that need to be completed everyday, errands to run, to-dos to accomplish, mouths to feed, clothes to wash, emails to respond to, etc. etc. — but more and more, I have felt like my goal is no longer to “get more done” but to “have LESS to do”.

In a sense, my goal is to simplify my entire life!

It’s been a long, slow-ish process; but I’ve made good progress over the last few years.

  • My daily to-do lists are SO much shorter — I regularly cross everything off each day.
  • My email inbox is almost always zeroed-out every night — and not because I’m a slave to my email, but rather because I simply don’t send or receive as many emails these day.
  • I’m going to bed at a decent hour each night and sleeping as long as I can (sometimes until my kids wake me up in the morning!)
  • I have happily parked my business in “maintenance mode” for the time being and am thoroughly enjoying all the extra free time I have.
  • My laundry is totally under control
  • My home is clean enough — maybe not as clean as I’d ideally like, but good enough for living with 3 young children!
  • My brain and my calendar are much less full (in a good way!)

In general, I am the type of person who finds value and self-worth in how productive I am and what I can accomplish in any given period of time.

I always have a to-do list, I am purposeful and intentional about how I do (and don’t) spend my time each day, and I rarely ever “waste” time — at least not what I consider wasteful.

If there is something that needs to be done, you better believe I’m going to get it done, even if it means staying up late, waking up early, or foregoing a fun activity I was initially looking forward to.

So as you can see, for my personality type, having less to do is one of the only ways for me to slow down and relax.

You can tell me “just put it off until tomorrow” or “don’t worry, your list will still be there when you wake up” but I won’t listen because I just can’t leave something undone if I am humanly capable of doing it.

It’s both a blessing and a curse 🙂

I am always the type to do it NOW versus waiting until later (which is generally a good thing in my book). However, it also means I need to consciously limit the number of things, activities, and to-dos on my plate in order to set myself up for success when it comes to my goal to simplify my home, schedule, job, and life.

If you have a similar “do it now” personality — or if you’re just weighed down by too much on your plate, here are a few relatively simple and very doable ways I have been able to enjoy fewer things on my to-do list, fewer outside commitments and obligations, and a whole lot less stress!

photo source

1. I set clear priorities and goals for my life.

I know this might sound slightly naive, but I truly believe we often get where we plan to go in life — and if we don’t plan to go anywhere, we will, indeed, end up nowhere.

I firmly believe in setting goals and priorities for my life — nothing huge or crazy, but something to help guide my actions and my decisions throughout my days.

Yes, my goals and priorities change regularly, but without them, I would constantly waffle about simple decisions and probably end up over-extended and over-stressed on a regular basis.

If you don’t know what your priorities or goals are for this point in your life, I would strongly encourage you to sit down and think about this for a bit today. You might also consider creating a Top 5 List for each day as a way to hone in and focus on what is most important to you each day.

2. I say ‘no’ when requests for my time conflict with my priorities and goals.

Sometimes it’s very easy for me to say no — like when friends ask us to go to a non-kid-friendly restaurant (with our kids) at 6:30pm. Sorry, our kids are in bed by 7:00, they usually eat dinner at 4:30pm, and there is no way I want to spend a ridiculous amount of money to sit with 3 over-hungry, overtired kids, who won’t like anything on the menu.

Other times, it’s not as easy to say no — I’ve turned down fabulous money-making opportunities, book contracts, vacations with friends, girl’s nights, and more because they just don’t fit with my current stage of life. Maybe we have a newborn who can’t be away from me, or we’re in the middle of a house project and don’t want to be gone for a week, or all the meetings for a certain committee are at 7pm (a.k.a “bedtime”), or I know I won’t have the time to devote to a huge new project like a book deal or working with a new VA client.

Whatever the case, I know from plenty of personal experience that if I go against my gut feeling and say yes to something that conflicts with my current priorities and goals, I ALWAYS regret it. Even though the opportunity  might sound fun and exciting, I don’t need to take every opportunity that comes my way. I don’t need every great deal, every contract, every speaking engagement, every fun outing with friends, or every vacation.

More opportunities will come my way — I’m sure of it!

NOTE: If you have a hard time saying ‘no’, try creating a “don’t do list” — it might help!

3. I create habits and routines to streamline daily and weekly tasks.

One thing I have always excelled at is streamlining tasks I do on a regular basis. I joke that many parts of my home and life function like an assembly line because I have so many systems, habits, and routines in place.

  • I do laundry on Tuesday mornings and Friday evenings — and I don’t think about it for the rest of the week.
  • I plan my meals and make my grocery list on Sunday afternoons or evenings — and I don’t worry about meal planning for the rest of the week.
  • I pack our bags and pick out clothing the night before so we never have to rush in the morning.
  • I keep an ongoing list of gift ideas for various people in my life so I’m rarely ever completely stumped when the holidays roll around.
  • I write my blog posts a full week or more ahead of time so I’m never rushing to finish a post at the very last minute.

Yes, it’s a little bit of extra work up front, but all these habits, routines, and systems save me enormous amounts of time, stress, and energy throughout my days and weeks. They also free up more time that I can devote to other things (like sleeping in longer!)

4. I automate anything I can.

I’ve talked about this so many times over the years — but I basically automate anything and everything I possibly can.

Again, it’s a little bit of work to set this all up, but once it’s set up and running smoothly, I can cross a ridiculous number of menial to-dos off my list each month without any time or effort on my part.

Glorious!

5. I empower my family members to help out.

Dave is very helpful with the kids and around the house — which certainly lightens my load. However, more and more, our kids are able to “help” lighten my load as well.

Nora’s new favorite chore is to empty out the dishwasher, Simon loves setting the table, and would you believe that out of all 3 kiddos, James is the best at picking up the toys!? He does it the first time I ask without any hesitation, and he actually puts things in the right places most of the time!

It’s not much now, but I’m confident that over the next few years, all our children will be able to pitch in more around the house, working in the yard, and even older kids helping with younger kids.

Obviously I don’t expect my children to take on adult roles, but by empowering them to help out when they can, I have fewer things on my to-do list and more time for other people and activities I enjoy.

6. I constantly looks for small pockets of unused time.

I realize this might make me sound like a crazy lady who is so busy I can’t afford to waste even 1 spare moment — but that’s not the case at all.

I do constantly look for small pockets of unused and potentially wasted time — but not always so I can fill those times with productive activities. Yes, sometimes I can clean out the entire dishwasher while I’m on hold with a company… and that means I don’t have to clean out the dishwasher later.

However, other times, I realize I have 30 minutes of time before Nora will come back from her friend’s house and while James is napping. So I purposefully plan to do something fun with Simon for 10 minutes, and then let him watch a fire truck show while I read a book or close my eyes for 20 minutes, sitting next to him on the couch.

It is honestly AMAZING how much “me time” (free time, rest time, etc.) I’m able to work into little pockets of time throughout the day — but only when I’m activly looking for those times.

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I still feel a huge rush of adrenaline every time I finish a big project or have a few (rare) kid-free hours when I can plow through my to-do list at record speed. But more and more, I am truly enjoying the simplicity of having LESS to do.

It’s a weird feeling to wake up and look at a to-do list with only 3 or 4 things on it (one of which is to make dinner). It’s also strange to realize my list is fully crossed off before Dave even gets home from school — meaning my whole evening is free to do something I love doing.

I regularly get comments from blog readers, friends, family, and even complete strangers about how “busy” my life must be; and every time, I secretly smile to myself because I know how NOT busy my life truly is.

Yes, I wear many different hats, I accomplish a lot in my days, and the are certainly days and weeks when my life feels more rushed and “full” than other times.

However, even as we continue to add children to our family and tackle just a few more house projects, I can honestly say my home, my business, my schedule, and my entire life have never felt this simple.

Now, please don’t picture me lounging on the couch with my children bringing me refills of ice water while Dave does all the housework after he comes home from school… that is NOT my life in any way!

My days are filled with activity and sometimes I feel like the only time I actually sit down is when I’m playing with the kids on the floor or during dinner.

It’s not that I have NOTHING to do, it’s that I am intentionally focused on doing mainly what is necessary for the happiness and well-being of our family, our home, my business, and myself — and I don’t do a whole lot outside of these responsibilities.

I don’t participate in many extra activities, I don’t sign the kids up for soccer and ballet and choir, I don’t volunteer for every single organization that looks interesting to me, I don’t accept speaking engagements or in-home organizing clients, I don’t write huge numbers of sponsored posts, I don’t go over-the-top with decorating or cooking fancy meals, and I try not to add anything extra to our days.

I do what needs to be done… and not a lot more.

I realize this type of lifestyle won’t work for many people who are in a different season of life than me, but it seems to suit me just fine at this point in my life. Yes, I’m very excited to get back to some of the other “extra curricular activities” I enjoyed before having children, but as I mentioned above, I don’t need to do everything right now. I’m certain many of those opportunities will be available to me in future years.

Right now, I’m thoroughly enjoying doing less, and the simplicity that brings to my whole life.

How might your life change if you stopped trying to “get more done” and simply focused on “doing less”?

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13 comments

  1. Rhonda

    05/08/2017

    I started doing a few years ago what you mentioned above – “keep an ongoing list of gift ideas for various people in my life so I’m rarely ever completely stumped when the holidays roll around.” It’s a good example of the times when I can make decisions easier, it simplifies my life A LOT.

    I also took your idea about doing laundry on certain days, grocery shopping only during the week when it’s a lot less busy (I work part time outside the home two days per week, so I’m lucky to be able to do that). So many daily decisions really bog me down, so it’s refreshing to create habits that help you decide NOT to decide! Your “Top 5 List” is a good way to accomplish this as well. Thanks again.

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  2. Alicia

    05/07/2017

    I love this post! I often feel like my life keeps getting busier and busier and there’s nothing I can do about it. But that’s why I read your blog, lol!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, I know the feeling! And I know how nice it is NOT to have that feeling right now!

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  3. PW

    05/06/2017

    I like that you are currently not caught up in all the “must do’s” the young families do in our community. No dance classes, no yoga, no soccer, football, baseball, basketball, etc. Honestly 1 day I was working in the front yard landscape/flower beds and the van across the street was in and out every half hour. That mom said she is constantly dropping kids off, picking them up from all kinds of participating sports, classes, events. How sad. Fortunately she doesn’t work. Some of these young kids don’t have a moment to themselves they have no downtime and then the parents wonder why the get cranky when they can’t watch tv or get on xbox. The kids should be given some free time to choose some downtime and how they use it. A great couple in our area give the kids 2 hrs of free time a day and they can choose to use it how they wish, and they have a timer set so the kids know they only have 1 hour computer time, 1 hour of tv time or how ever allotted. When the timer goes off they come outside and play or sit in the grass or ride their bikes. I am glad you are not caught up in the craze of all the kids busy all the time.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I can see how easy it would be to get caught up in all of that though. Even Nora is starting to notice that many of our neighbor kids and friends from school are gone ALL the time at different activities, practices, games, etc. Thankfully, she seems to be totally OK with staying home! Just last week, she asked me why her one neighbor friend was never home to play with — and when I explained why, she said “well I’m glad we’re not gone that much”.

    There will come a time when we are gone more — but not yet!

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  4. Meghan

    05/06/2017

    Great post and perfectly articulated! This is not easy for me, but my husband is so encouraging and helps give me ideas on how to do less. For instance, I would want to make from scratch cupcakes for my son’s school birthday treat (even though I don’t have time for this and kindergartens wouldn’t appreciate them), but my husband encourages me to order some from a bakery.

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    Andrea Reply:

    ah yes! I went with the store-bought Frozen-themed graham crackers Nora begged me to buy for her birthday treat. It wasn’t up to my “standards” but she was SOOOOOO excited and it took zero effort on my part! Tell your husband “good job”!

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  5. Jenny

    05/05/2017

    One of my biggest pet peeves is people who volunteer or commit to do something and then don’t do it- so I don’t want to be that person! Better to take little time to honestly evaluate whether I really can (and want to) do something, and if I’m not going to do it, to say “no, thanks” in plenty of time so others are not scrambling to cover for me. It was hard at first to say “no” but gets easier, as Andrea says, with practice. And then people know I have the reputation that I can be counted on if I say I will do something!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    um YES times 100! I actually wrote a whole post just about that exact topic! http://andreadekker.com/saying-no-shows-respect/

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  6. Evie

    05/05/2017

    Glad you’re home, Dave. Peel me a grape before you start the housework, dahling. LOL!

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    Andrea Reply:

    exactly — wouldn’t that be nice!

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  7. Stephanie

    05/05/2017

    Yeah! I am so happy for you in figuring this out. It can be so hard to know where to draw the line on what is too much of everything. But when a good system is going it feels great. And I think it is so important before kids starts hitting school to have a routine in place. Routines change, stages of life change, and almost unavoidably life gets busier. But knowing what it takes to commit to something extra and what it takes to get back to the normal routine makes saying yes or no a whole lot easier. There are so many opportunities with kids in school to help out almost every week, and I had to decide what is too much for my family or not enough. I love being home and don’t like to leave everyday. But I know that I can do that every once in a while and so won’t completely fall off the bandwagon or be too busy. But if I said yes and was gone every week, our lives would be much more anxious and stressed.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, even now — with Nora just in preschool 2 mornings a week — there are SO many opportunities to help out in her classroom, come along on field trips, participate in fundraisers, etc. etc. Just this afternoon we were supposed to do the walk-a-thon, but it was cold and windy and both boys were SO tired… so we just stayed home. I donated money and figured it didn’t matter if we showed up to walk or not 🙂

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