des moines, iowa and beyond

workflow & systems strategist

The Year of Simplicity: 7 Steps to be More Present


Does your brain spin and balance 20+ plates at a time, like a Shanghai Acrobat? Are you always dreaming up the next amazing thing, thinking about details and making lists in your head (or on that pretty notepad)? Girl, I feel you – I’m right there with you. Let me share with you 7 practical steps you can take toward being more present, focused and intentional!

While working through my Powersheets, I always am greeted with little reminders and words that speak to my goals. This month was no exception as I kept thinking of focus, intentional and be present. So, as I tend to do, I looked them up and created a definition of how that can be applied in my day to day.

To be present with focused intention means to exist in one place (mentally and physically) with a clear visual definition while taking action or participating in an activity or plan. How perfectly are those three words related? I tell you, when I pray for direction, the Lord answers in spades!!

What does that look like? If I’m working, I’m thinking about and fully attentive to my work. The same goes for family time or self care time. “Bloom where you are planted” so to speak.

As a dreamer and list maker, my brain is often times going in millions of directions (ok hundreds) at any given minute. (remember that acrobat and their plates?) Focusing on one given task and not making a list at the same time is a big challenge for me. While last month was full of so much goodness and truly getting out and engaging with people and life, this month needs to be about making carefully mapped plans and executing them. Here are some tips and ideas for how to do just that.

Brain dump everything.

I mean everything. Get it all on paper so you can have the brain space back and see what you actually need to do. I often use a notebook to do this, though the notes app on your phone, a word document or your favorite task manager are good options, too!

Organize it into categories.

This is why I like to use paper. I can color code or make notes for which category each main task goes to.

Break it down.

Write out actionable steps you can take to complete that task. If it takes 5 minutes or less, you’re on the right track. Don’t have the time to get that granular? I recommend tasks that take 30 minutes or less. The idea is that the more specific you can get, the more likely you are to actually do the small task and make progress. I have found many times over the years, that if I make a list and a plan with everything broken down, I can breathe easier and know it will get done.

Assign a time to it.

Now you have the details noted, but how long will they take? If you don’t know how long they will take you to do (again, 5 minutes or less is ideal), then it’s harder to schedule your due dates. We all have 24 hours in a day (just like Beyonce!) and we need to tell it where to go. So, estimate how long you think your overarching task will take you (or each sub-task if you’re ambitious).

BONUS TIP: I’m a planner at heart, for sure! I’ve been moving from Trello to Asana and am loving it! Here’s my theory, if I plan each to-do (Harper Hadley, home, and misc.) in Asana and assign it a date, then I will get it done. Or at least make progress and keep it top of mind when necessary.

Schedule it and leave it.

Once you schedule a due date in your calendar (I prefer Asana), you can leave it where it is and know that you’ll get a reminder the day you need to work on it. No more taking up energy wondering when you’ll do that and praying you don’t forget!

An added bonus is that this process is SO good for our marriage and communication. Each Sunday, we sit down to look at the budget and the week ahead. It’s so nice to show Adam what I need to accomplish, discuss what family things needs to get done and each take ownership of our own tasks.

Do the work!

Honor the schedule you’ve set for yourself. Now, this does require the discipline and drive to actually commit to and execute — something I’ve always intrinsically manifested, to a fault. However, I know this is not natural for many people. This will only work if you commit and put blinders on to focus.

I have always struggled with this, but as we add more to our family routine and adventures, as well as my business plate (all WONDERFUL things), I am having to be ever more cognizant of how I’m spending my time and where I’m assigning those minutes.

Adam and I have agreed upon and constantly reevaluate a flexible outline of routine for our family. This routine accounts for a consistent number of non-negotiable business hours for me to either go to a coffee shop or totally zone out at home and #workworkwork. (something I highly suggest if you are also juggling a lot of family responsibilities)

Be truly present…

…in each moment, place and task. This is the end goal! Once I know that each task is documented and scheduled, my system can work for me and act as my second brain. That means that when I play with Ainsleigh or go on date night with Adam, I don’t need to think about the other stuff. I know it’s already been noted and accounted for in my schedule. What a gift that is, to myself and those around me. It also allows me to rest better!

While these are also blurring the line with productivity hacks, it really is all about taking control of your time so you can free up mental and heart space. To welcome in and embrace that glorious, ever-elusive white space!

How often do I do this process? Well, for big picture stuff, it’s usually monthly, then I work the plan. For day to day tasks, I sit down every Sunday and map out the week, leaving some wiggle room for adjustments because #life.

Do you have any tips, tricks or routines that help you accomplish the same end goal? To stay focused on the task at hand and ensure you are able to be fully present mentally and emotionally in each thing you do? I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about how you are actively pursuing a life full of bring fully present!

xoxo, Jenn

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