Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Tag: first things

The NO List

In my last post I talked about essentialism, the discipline of eliminating the non-essentials from your life so that you can say yes to what really matters to you. I’ve found that as helpful as it can be to write down the things I want to say yes to, it’s also helpful to make a list of the things I’m deliberately going to say no to. So I thought I’d share my NO list for this particular season of my life. Here’s what I’m saying no to right now:

  • Facebook and Twitter marketing. I have a Facebook author page and Twitter author account, but currently the only activity they see from me is when my new blog posts or Instagram pictures get pushed to those accounts.
  • Pinterest. I mentioned in my last post how there were things I’m “supposed to” be doing as an author and blogger and Pinterest (along with Twitter and Facebook) is one of them. I just don’t enjoy Pinterest anymore since they changed their algorithms and my home page is just the same recommended and sponsored pins over and over again. I just want to see what my friends are pinning! Anyway, Pinterest is just no fun anymore, and using it as a marketing tool requires more time and effort than I’m willing to give right now.
  • My Facebook timeline. If I get on FB at all these days it’s to check in with groups and check my messages. Speaking of…
  • Facebook Messenger. I don’t have enough memory on my phone to install this app but I wouldn’t install it even if I did (so everybody can go ahead and stop sending me invitations to do so, thanks).
  • Twitter. I keep an eye on notifications so I can respond to ats and mentions, but that’s about it.
  • Audio and video. This is another area where anyone with anything to promote is strongly encouraged to participate, especially on Facebook and Instagram. But this is so far outside my comfort zone and I’m giving myself permission not to worry about it right now.
  • Coloring my hair. That’s right, y’all — I’m letting my “wisdom highlights,” as my friend Becky calls them (*waves* Hi Becky!) grow out. Partly because I missed my natural shade of copper blonde and partly (mostly) because reapplying henna once a month was a huge pain that always took up the better part of a weekend. I thought I’d be at a point where I’d need to chop off my hair to get rid of the henna by now, but thankfully it’s faded to the point that there’s not an obvious demarcation line. Which brings me to…
  • Cutting my hair. I wore it short for about four years, which meant cutting it about once a month. But now I’m ready to try long hair again. It’s currently about an inch past my shoulders and I’m loving it–wisdom highlights and all.
  • Makeup. For years now I’ve only bothered with makeup when I’m going out, which doesn’t happen a lot, but now even when I do wear it my routine is pretty minimalist–just enough beauty balm and concealer to even out my skin tone, a tiny bit of cream blush, mascara (just on the top, outer lashes) and lip gloss (full color lipstick if I’m feeling fancy).
  • A rigorous cleaning routine. Of course, my “rigorous” is already a lot of other people’s “lazy,” but while I’m in a season of writing a book, I just do the bare minimum needed to maintain my habits and keep things fairly tidy and not gross.
  • An elaborate bullet journal. I love my bullet journal. I would have a hard time doing life without it. If you ever watched Mystery Science Theater 3000, there used to be a character who carried his brain around in a plastic tub. That’s what I feel like when I carry around my bullet journal. But my bullet journal exists to serve me. I do not exist for it. Sometimes I like to take the time and effort to make it pretty. But for now it’s minimalist and basic, and I keep it in a 99 cent composition book (albeit a pretty yellow one), and that serves me just fine.
  • An editorial calendar or blog schedule. This is another one of those things you’re “supposed to” do when you have a blog. I was doing that during the first half of this year and it’s part of the reason I felt so burned out. So for now I’m just posting when I have time and when the Spirit moves me, and I’m going to let that be enough.
  • Elaborate meals or meal prep. Thankfully, I only have to cook for myself. My husband and I follow different diets and different eating schedules so we both cook mostly for ourselves (although he enjoys cooking more than I do so sometimes he’ll cook special meals for the both of us). So I can keep it really simple. My meal prep usually involves cooking enough of a meat and a side (or a one-dish meal I can throw together in a skillet) for several nights and then eating that throughout the week, throwing in a steam-in-the-bag frozen veggie or some fruit for a little variety. On weekdays, breakfast is usually refrigerator oats that I set up in about two minutes the night before, and lunch is typically some form of healthy DIY grown-up lunchables–i.e., nitrate-free deli ham with gluten free crackers, avocado slices and some fruit or grape tomatoes.
  • Talking on the phone. This has been on my NO list back before I even consciously had a NO list. I just really hate the phone, you guys.
  • Unpacking. Since moving in last March, we’re probably somewhere between 60 to 75 percent unpacked, and that’s good enough for now. The rest will happen as needed or when we’re in the mood. There’s no need to make it a priority.
  • Politics and culture wars. Just no.
  • Local politics. There is drama in my neighborhood, y’all. Not the “joint raid by several law enforcement agencies on the drug cartel member across the street” kind of drama that we moved to get away from, but the “Somebody put a mobile home on a lot and that violates the covenants and now we have to have neighborhood meetings to decide what to do about it before this place transforms into a trailer park and home values plummet and now everybody’s fighting over whether to start an HOA” kind of drama. I’m trying so hard to say no to getting involved (we’re just renters anyway so we don’t really get a say) but it’s so hard not to get sucked in.
  • Staying up late. I’m a night owl by nature, but my husband’s an early riser and I usually wake up when he does. I’m often tempted to stay up to read or watch something but I know if I do I won’t be as effective as I need to be the next day. So I don’t.
  • Netflix. I love watching stuff, but for now, there’s just so much other good stuff–mainly books and podcasts–that I’d rather spend my time consuming.
  • Music practice. I have a guitar, and I feel bad sometimes about not practicing it, but again, right now there are other things I’m more passionate about that I’d rather spend that time on, and that’s okay.
  • Reading bad books. If it’s not grabbing me by the first 100 pages or so I have no qualms about putting it down and never finishing. Life’s too short and there are too many good books to get through.
  • Reading books just because they’re popular. Just because everybody’s talking about them doesn’t mean I’ll like them, and see above re: life’s too short.
  • Going out and socializing very often. My husband and I are both introverts and homebodies and that’s okay. We’re both past the age where we feel like freaks or losers if we don’t have somewhere to go. We don’t go out just for the sake of going out and we no longer feel the need to apologize for not enjoying big parties or staying out late.

That’s a pretty long NO list, and I’m sure it’s not comprehensive. I’m also sure that at least part of it makes me seem like a curmudgeon. 😉 But these are all things I’ve decided do not need to be in my life taking up my time and energy. What am I able to say yes to without these things? Not just writing more of what I want to write (as opposed to what I’m paid to write), but reading GOOD books, doing something creative every day, going outside more, spending more time with my family, being available for my mom, and for my friend who’s fighting breast cancer, and putting more thought and energy into decorating my home and making it the cheerful, cozy, inspiring place I want it to be. I have time to get enough sleep and exercise and be mindful about my health and nutrition. I also have more time to delve into scripture and meditate on it, to pray throughout the day, and to sit and think and dream and process big ideas. I have time sometimes to just BE, and to be good to myself, and to love the people in my life well. THESE are the things that matter to me.

What matters to you, friend? What are you willing to say no to so you can say yes to more of what matters? I’d love to chat about it with you in the comments! ♥

The Essentials of Essentialism

Recently, I joined the launch teams for two upcoming books–one by Jess Connely and one by Holley Gerth. I will talk about each of those books in future posts–two different posts, because it wouldn’t be fair to make them share–but today I want to talk about the fact that guys, I signed up to two different launch teams!

That’s a big deal, and here’s why: until recently, I would have seen the invitation to apply and thought to myself, “Wow, I wish I could do that, but there’s no way. I’m just too busy,” and let the opportunity pass me by. But this time I was able to respond to each invitation with a resounding YES without any hesitation or guilt.

So what’s changed?

The short version is, I’ve stopped giving so much of my time and capacity to unnecessary things. I’ve been working on not only clearing the physical clutter from my life, but also the mental and emotional clutter. And that has left me with more time and energy for things that really matter to me, things I really want to do, like getting to say yes to reading advance copies of books from amazing authors and helping to publicize them.

This is a shift that’s been happening in my life for a while now–for at least the past year–and this summer I’m starting to see a lot of fruit from my efforts to pare down my life to what’s essential. And now I want to tell you about some books that helped me get here.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown – This is the essential book on essentialism, which, in a nut shell, is the discipline of saying no to the things that aren’t actually important and get in the way of your goals so that you can say yes to the things that actually matter. The book deep dives into what that looks like and also how it can make your life both saner and more productive–like how not being pulled in a million different directions actually makes it easier to focus on the important tasks–as well as how to discern what is actually important from what isn’t and how to say no when it’s not. It comes down to understanding that everything is a trade off. Every time we choose to give our time or energy to something, we’re choosing to ignore something else. And if we don’t consciously decide which things to say yes or no to, other people will decide for us.

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman – I first read this book last year, and at the

time I devoured it as quickly as I could. I’ve been re-reading it this summer, and this time I’m taking my time with it, sitting with it and taking time to slowly process each new idea. Overall, this is a book about uncovering the art we were each uniquely designed to make with our lives in order to bring glory to our Maker. But there is a section on putting first things first that made me realize I’ve been giving priority to second things. There’s a quote from C.S. Lewis about this in the book and I’m going to go ahead and share it here:

Put first things first and we get second things thrown in; put second things first and we lose both first and second things.

I know when I let secondary things take over, I end up too tired and burned out to do anything. But when I put what really matters first–give it the first of my time, energy and focus–I not only have enough capacity left over for whichever secondary things are actually needed, but also better perspective to discern whether they are indeed actually needed.

Which brings us to…

The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine – I just read this one last weekend. This is a book for anyone still struggling to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a helpful guide for those struggling to settle on one career or vocation because you have so many different passions and interests. Maybe you’re like me. I’ve always known I wanted to be a novelist. I know I will always be a novelist. But I don’t and have never only wanted to be a novelist–I have at times also wanted to be a web designer, a graphic designer, a freelance writer, a professional crafter, an editor, a musician, a psychologist, a nutritionist, a marketing professional, a career academic, a college professor, and probably some other things I’m forgetting. And I have actually been (and still am) some of those things at times.

This book gives practical advise on how to not only identify and narrow down which passions actually fit into your life in the current season you’re in, but also how to organize your life to make room for them. But one exercise I found particularly helpful was one that involved writing down everything currently on my plate that’s demanding my time and attention and identifying which of those things help to further my goals and which actually serve to further the goals of others, even if it’s just perceived goals, even if the “others” in question is just the mean boss in your own head. In other words, which tasks are done solely to please other people, and what needs to happen for me to stop giving my energy to those things?

One thing that stood out on my list was book marketing tasks that I don’t enjoy and that don’t actually do anything to help me connect with readers and sell books. I’ve been doing them solely to please my publisher, or because authors are “supposed to” do these things. So I’m just not doing them anymore. That alone has freed up a ton of time and energy that I can devote to things that matter–like saying yes to book launch team invitations and reading books that can help make all our lives more enjoyable and sane. 😉

What about you guys? What are you saying no to so that you can say yes to what matters? And have you read any life-changing–or just super-useful–books lately? Let’s chat in the comments! ♥