The pruning habit

Pruning habitI love gardening, and I love a tidy garden; which shouldn’t come as a surprise as I am one of those orderly geeks who likes everything in its place!

So I tend to spend quite a bit of my free time with my family in the garden cutting the grass, pulling up weeds and pruning back bushy trees. It is a very satisfying thing to do, especially at the end of the day when you can enjoy looking back at the results.

Of course there are busy times when we can’t get into the garden and everything starts to grow at a wild pace. Before we know we’ve got an urban jungle on our hands and a busy Saturday lined up to get it under control again.

In a way, this is very similar to the way our lives get too busy. Left to our devices, we’ll naturally acquire more and more commitments and responsibilities that compete for our time and energy.

These commitments come in all shapes and sizes; from work, from friends and family, from community groups to which we belong and hobbies and interests that we have taken up or goals that we have set ourselves.

Some commitments are worthwhile, but others are not and before we know it, we’ve filled up our lives with too many busy tasks and don’t have enough time to do the really important things that count.

Which is why it is so important to get into the pruning habit.  This is a simple, proactive approach of reviewing all the commitments and responsibilities in your life and cutting back on those that don’t enable you to meet your personal goals or are completely stressing you out.

Just like a tidy garden, pruning away at unnecessary or undesirable commitments enables you to become clear headed and focused, in much the same way that clearing physical clutter from your life helps you to de-stress and re-energise.

So how do you get into the pruning habit?

The first step is understanding where you are over-committing in your life. For many people this happens at work, where it is really easy to take on lots of new responsibilities (because that’s what career-minded people do to develop themselves).

However the problem stems from taking on too many new things at once or not delegating less important tasks to other people as you acquire more responsibility.

Other commitments can be less obvious. Maybe you’re subscribed to a specialist publication or a daily newspaper that you feel you must read in full because you have paid for it, but then get really stressed about not having the time to read each edition.

Perhaps you’ve bought into an investment and found that you are having to commit much more time to it than you originally thought you would. This happened to me with a rental property that sucked up considerably more of my time and energy than it would ever return in profit or investment potential.

So using a notebook; run an audit of the different areas of your life where you have commitments and start tracking how much time you are spending on them. Ideally within a week or two you’ll have sufficient data to assess whether you commitments are contributing to your goals or just wasting your time.

Once you have identified the things that don’t contribute to your personal goals or fulfil your needs, you need to find ways to stop doing them.

Sometimes this will be as simple as cancelling a subscription, other times you might need to expend more upfront effort coaching a junior member of staff to take on one of your less important activities.

In some cases, the pruning needs to be a major hatchet job. The investment property that I had bought was stealing so much time from my core business and family life, that I decided to sell it.

Once you have begun tracking and pruning away unnecessary commitments, you’ll become much more aware of the impact of new commitments that you decide to take on and better able to evaluate things that are no longer useful to you.

The same principle should be used to refine your personal backlog or to-do list. If there are tasks that seem to stay on your list forever, then just do the honourable thing and delete them; because let’s face it, if they were really important, you would have done them by now.

So get them off the list and feel the benefits of a simpler life. This is one of the key habits of the FocusDone methodology.

Your challenge: develop your own daily pruning habit

Over the next two weeks, start auditing your responsibilities and commitments; identify the things that keep you busy, but don’t allow you to personally progress and see if you can prune them away from you life.

At the very least you’ll feel refreshed and clear-headed; and if you are really brutal, you’ll give yourself much more time and energy to focus on getting your really important things done.

Good luck 🙂