How to Get More Done
A reminder and simple tool for getting the things done that actually move the needle.
Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
I mean the bare necessities
Old Mother Nature's recipes
That brings the bare necessities of life
Can you name the movie this is from?
Yes, today's message comes from the classic Jungle Book: focus on the bare necessities.
I’ve recently noticed a pattern among my clients of feeling overwhelmed by the desire to do aaaall of the things. And not only that, but doing them all 100%.
I’m talking about perfectionistic behavior goals like working out for a full hour or more every day, meditating for thirty minutes every day, home-cooking and eating all of the nourishing foods, being the best mom/wife/girlfriend, being a good friend, being a super star at work, volunteering, you see where this is going. (I know all of this is true because I’m talking to myself here, too). Stopping to take toll of all of the things on your plate can be an extremely eye opening experience.
This week I experimented with a new scheduling practice that involved writing out my entire to-do list at the beginning of the week (inspired by the popular Monday Hour One concept). Now I am still experimenting with this strategy and am learning quite a bit, which perhaps I will share more on soon (let me know if day-planning is something you’d like to hear more about!)
But for now, the biggest takeaway I have from the first week is that I expect a damn-shit-ton out of myself. I would never make such a full to-do list for anyone else, yet when it comes to using my own time I imagine I can fit it all in one way or another … and then feel overwhelm and eventually disappointment when I don’t accomplish it all.
Plus we tend to have an all or nothing approach to life. For example, a twenty minute at home workout doesn’t feel as productive as hitting the gym for an hour, so we skip it altogether. If we know we’re eating out for dinner, we’ll tend to eat unhealthy throughout the entire day. If we know we don’t have time for a full phone call to connect with a loved one, we won’t bother to even message them and say “hi”. You get the point.
But this is a backwards way of approaching behaviors and habits that are important to us.
Enter the bare necessities.
My meditation teacher calls this setting a “minimum goal” – and suggests setting an easy daily target of say 5 minutes of meditation each day, which will often turn into longer once you get started.
I am a jungle book fan and singing makes me remember things, so I refer to this concept as the bare necessities.
Whatever you want to call it, here’s how it works:
Step 1: Determine for yourself the simple things that make the most difference in your day
Step 2: Figure out a bare minimum threshold for time + energy to spend with each
Step 3: Finally, commit to at least doing the bare necessities every single day
Step 4: Celebrate, acknowledge, honor yourself for sticking to your commitment
If you get to do more some days, fantastic! If you accomplish the bare necessities, that’s perfect too! This isn’t about settling for less or undercutting yourself on your goals – its about making sure you at least touch in with your habits every single day – even if its only “barely”.
James Clear in his work, Atomic Habits, discusses the value of focusing on improving 1% every day. He explains that while improving 1% isn’t notable or sometimes even noticeable, it is far more meaningful in the long run.
Social Reformer Jacob Riis says, “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”
This concept can be especially helpful for holding grace for yourself during stressful times of life when we often put our wellness/self-care behaviors on the back burner. When you are working long hours, in a transition perhaps related to back-to-school or a big move, or just when life gets to you. For example, I am in the midst of a huge career and life transition right now, preparing to leap into fulltime entrepreneurship and stay-at-home-mom-ship (stay tuned for more on this soon!)
The concept is also helpful for days you just don’t feel like [exercising, meditating, doing the thing]. If you commit to doing the bare necessity, you may find you have more motivation once you get started and do a little more.
Having an established ritual of bare minimum essential daily practices holds you accountable and gives you back a bit of control when life is out of control (which let’s face it, life is always out of our control).
The trick is to make it AS EASY AS POSSIBLE, so you can always get it done. Then celebrate yourself for sticking to your commitment and being congruent (doing what you say you are going to do!)
For me this looks like:
A minimum of 10 minutes of mindful movement
Pausing to glance at the clouds for 30-seconds of mindful breathing as often as I remember
At least 1 fresh, whole-foods-based meal everyday
At least 20 minutes of undistracted time with my daughter
A minimum of 8 hours in bed
Drinking ½ my body weight in ounces of water
While there are a billion other things I WANT to accomplish … for example, delivering a more consistent e-newsletter, I know that everything will fall into place eventually. And I know that what is important is that I keep my commitments to myself and take care of the things I know will bring me the most joy, peace, and love in my life.
I recently asked my first group of coaching clients for feedback on their experience working with me and I was blown away by their responses which will influence many posts to come.
One of my clients who has had profound success shared that her biggest learning through our work together was finally coming to believe something she has actually known all along but never put into practice in her own life - consistency of small habits over time yields the most significant change. “Not only does it lift a weight off my shoulders to see that I didn't need to do anything drastic to begin making progress, but it gives me more hope that my goals are attainable without some monumental effort that often doesn't fit in with the other demands I have in my life.”
So now its your turn, what are the smallest bare necessity habits or behaviors that you can make non-negotiables in your ever day?
No really, I’d love to hear from you! Send me an email at email@example.com to let me know how this approach might work in your life.