“You can do anything, but not everything.” David Allen
A few years back, my dear friend Jamie planted a peach tree in her backyard. While it didn’t produce any peaches right away, she cared for that tree and waited with hopeful expectations that one day it would.
I remember the year it finally bloomed. Her patience and hard work had paid off and I was looking forward to some juicy peaches, homemade jam and a slice of fresh peach pie. (It’s possible my expectations were a bit high).
It quickly became apparent that this little peach tree was on a mission to mass produce some serious fruit. The whole thing was absolutely covered in beautiful, white buds.
We watched as those little white flowers eventually turned into peaches; too many peaches. Midway through summer, over half of that tree came toppling over.
It was such a bummer.
What Went Wrong?
You see, what neither Jamie or I knew, was that this tree needed to be pruned, big time. While the tree thought it could carry this excessive load of fruit, it would not be strong enough to support all of the peaches it was so willing to grow. Those beautiful little peaches-to-be needed to be pruned.
Now, let’s just say this tree had somehow managed to keep standing beneath the weight of all of that fruit. Whether it stood through sheer luck, will power or being effectively braced with reinforcements, the peaches, though many, would have been pretty gross.
Now, I’m no farmer, (and if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my sad excuse for a garden in previous years), but I do know that high quality fruit requires proper nutrition. This overwhelmed tree simply wouldn’t have had enough nutrients to go around.
A Lesson in Pruning
In business, home life, and self-care, the message is consistent.
“Less, but better.” – Greg McKeown
Girls like me who tend to quantify our accomplishments in the form of to-do lists, have to be selective. A lot of unintentional damage can be done in the name of productivity.
We proudly meet the needs of our family by running ourselves ragged. Life becomes less about intentionality and more about surviving our calendars. We replace real relationships with hustle, drive by head pats and distracted “uh-huhs.
While striving for the big moments we miss the little ones.
We over extend in order to keep up, when what we should be doing is cutting back. Carrying too much will cause us to sacrifice quality for quantity or makes us break altogether.
Let’s develop a habit of pruning instead of overdoing.
6 Things to Keep in Mind as We Develop a Habit of Pruning
1. How Much To Prune
Did you know that in order to prevent toppled trees and and ensure tasty, healthy fruit, peach farmers go ahead and hack off about 40% of the tree’s branches every year?
That is so much potential fruit! It seems rather counterproductive, but it’s unbelievably necessary.
Now, you aren’t a tree so 40% is just an arbitrary number when it comes to applying this to your life. I’m not interested in telling you exactly what needs to go, nor how much. Maybe you, friend, need to prune back even 80% of something. That’s your call.
All I know is that when I stopped trying to do it all, I was able to give the best parts of myself to the things that mattered most.
2. Sometimes Good Stuff Has To Go
If we stick with simply pruning the defective, dead, shriveled or ugly branches, what remains may still be too much. Often, we need to prune away the perfect ones as well. Peach trees need to be pruned in a way that allows for air and sunlight to reach every branch. When it’s too crowded branches start dying.
We need to say no to the things that don’t matter along with some of things that do.
You aren’t meant to do all the good things. You are only meant to do your good things.
Stay in your lane. Take a deep look at who you are and the gifts, skills, and talents you were created with. My YES won’t look like your YES. That’s how it was designed to be.
You may also enjoy: Learn to Say No With Confidence and How to Survive a Busy Season
3. Certain Seasons Requires Extra Pruning
Let’s go ahead and step away from the fruit analogy shall we, because I think I’ve beaten it to a pulp (Get it? Get it?). Ok, now I’m done.
I had to bail on my book club this summer. Now, the old me would have doubled down on all the activities to make sure I got it done. However, the unbusy me knew when it was time to let go. Not forever, but for this season.
We have to be willing to let go of good stuff, so we can keep producing the good stuff.
4. Pruning Takes Practice
Enjoying a La Croix and a book on my patio, while my kids excavate our yard for dinosaur bones takes practice. It does not come naturally to me. It’s sad, but 35 years of over-doing doesn’t wash away over night. In both my home and my schedule, pruning back is a mindset I’ve learned to embrace and habit I’ve worked to develop.
The compound effect of developing a habit of pruning is that it becomes our go-to. Reducing, cutting back, letting go, and eliminating, have all become my natural response when I find I’ve wandered too far into the land of busy.
Through the practice of minimalism, we are better able to recognize the early warnings signs of overwhelm and then respond accordingly before it gets the best of us.
5. You May Need a Pruning Partner
When I’m overbooked I become easily irritated, distracted and anxious. I don’t engage the way I want to. However, I don’t always see it.
Give a friend, spouse, or maybe even your children permission to tell you when you’re carrying too much.
They’ll probably see it long before you do.
6. Prune with Purpose
Pruning is about cultivating a purposeful life, not an easy one. It’s safeguarding ourselves from the overwhelm and aimless wandering that comes from doing too much.
By eliminating the busywork, we can invest our efforts in turning out the good stuff. It allows us to stay steadfast on our journey toward a meaningful and abundant life.
Doing “all the things” never gets me very far. At least not for very long. The answer to a chaotic schedule is not to purchase a better planner. Instead, cut back, let go and make space for the sun to nourish your soul.
Let’s choose quality over quantity by making pruning a habit.
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