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Applications are now open for the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 Inspired Life Mastermind! If you wrestle with designing and building a life and work you love, you’re not alone. In the Inspired Life Mastermind, I will help you identify your Inspired Life Mission Statement, establish goals to live it out, and provide you with teaching and tools to help you discover the joy and freedom of living your one life—to the best of your ability and the glory of God. Let’s do this, together.

She asked the same question I’ve wrestled with often. It is, perhaps, the question we tackle in the Inspired Life Mastermind most often. Simply, she wanted to know the secret to high productivity AND deep life satisfaction. And I knew, behind her question, she feared she wasn’t doing enough.  

“How do you do it all? I watch all you do—online and in person—and I’m exhausted. It’s a lot. And I can’t keep up. So, how do you do it? How do you write books, speak, mentor other leaders, manage a household, and take care of your family?”

To begin, there were two false beliefs in the heart of her question. First, she believed what she saw (and misinterpreted) online. Social media is a deceiver, convincing us of falsehoods that don’t prove true in real life. Yes, I’m high-functioning and hard-working. Have been from birth. But I don’t do it all. Not even close.

Second, she believed productivity was about task lists and accumulated achievements. And she feared, since her list didn’t appear as long as mine, that she was failing.

But productivity isn’t so much about what you do, but what you don’t do. 

“Doing it all” is not only a false belief, but a dangerous recipe for self-destruction. It demands a high price, one I’m no longer willing to pay. I know the cost of all that overachieving, and I refuse to let it bankrupt me anymore. Moreover, after six kids and cancer (not to mention aging), my capacity is half what it was before. I couldn’t “do it all” even if I wanted to.

Time to debunk these false beliefs. Thus, to those who share both my friend’s question and her fear, here is how I {don’t} do it all. 

And, for the record, you should{n’t} do it all, too:

1. Do only what you can do. In other words, what are your unique skills? This is different for each of us. For me, these include investing in my family and home; discovering, developing and delivering unique content; and mentoring leaders. For the most part, everything else can be delegated or denied. For example, I don’t have to make homemade Halloween costumes or drive my kids to school (Target and the school bus work just fine). I don’t have to answer every email, manage all social media, or book all my travel. But only I can write books, blog posts, and mentor a CEO in team dynamics. I delegate or deny the former tasks so I can fully invest in the latter.

2. Ask for help. Often. Unfortunately, it took me years to see my unrealistic expectations of myself. And to embrace my need for help. Once I did, however, I experienced glorious freedom. Here’s a sampling of the “help” I engage on a consistent basis, without guilt: a counselor and leadership mentor; a grocery pick-up service; a house cleaner once a month; a consistent tutor after school; part-time subcontractors to manage specific business-related projects. If I can’t afford help, I find ways to trade. In addition, I have a small circle of inner-circle truth-tellers. We share the hard, humorous, ugly and complicated. Without them, I’d be flat-out sunk. 

3. Choose. I struggle to walk away from opportunities to help others. That means I have a history of saying “yes” far too often. But to avoid choosing means to choose a slow dying. Now I make tough choices—and say “no”—every single day. At times this is saying “no” to writing and speaking requests my heart wants to do. Other times, the hardest choices are the everyday ones: Pray or check my email? Watch TV or go to bed on time? Binge on social media or go for a run? Schedule back-to-back appointments or block time to read and rest? Be a friend to everyone or invest deeply in a select few? As it turns out, less IS more. 

4. Eat well, exercise and sleep. This is non-negotiable for me. It may seem contrary to productivity, but the time required to eat well, exercise and get a good night’s sleep always generates more time. Exercise is the single best tool for coming up with new book and blog ideas and leveling out my mood. A good night’s sleep makes me far more productive when I get up at 5:30 AM to write (and nicer to be around). Eating healthy gives me the energy and focus to keep up with a family like ours.

5. Renegotiate as needed. Every Friday afternoon, I write out the following week’s schedule in my Inkwell Press Planner. As the week progresses, I modify accordingly. What I love about this planner: It forces me to identify a single focus for EACH DAY. This saves me from being hijacked by 28 to-dos. As a result, I feel empowered, not exhausted. In addition to my weekly planning, I reevaluate my work and family routine about once a month, making adjustments where needed. And at least once a year, I shut down social media and online interaction to do a deep personal and professional evaluation and respite (more about this next week). 

6. Above all, lean into grace. I can be pretty hard on myself, expect myself to meet every need and perform at peak levels without fail. When I disappoint myself or others, I can easily slip into self-talk that could make a rock squirm. Instead, I’m learning to cut myself some slack, to blanket all this learning and growing with grace. Disappointing people is part of the human experience. I can’t do everything my heart wants to do, and I can’t do it right all the time. That’s not failure; that’s stewardship. And growth.

Question: How can “not-doing” increase your productivity? What is one small change you can make to give yourself some grace? 

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