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Clarify Your Goals To Simplify Your Life And Work
by Debbie Gilster

Teaching people to work and live simply is a goal in our company and what I try to apply in my own life. But what does it mean?

The American Heritage dictionary defines the word simply as "clear, absolute, altogether and frank". But it also is defined as "not wise and foolish". The last definition is what most people think of when they hear "simply". We think that means we will become a simpleton - a person without judgment or intelligence.

I have to disagree. Humans have developed the tendency to over-complicate their processes and procedures. Sometimes we over-complicate because we donapostrophet know there is something better out there. We move along in our work and life doing things the "same old way" without assessing if they can be done more easily. Easier does not mean less effective; itapostrophes exactly the opposite. It means doing something for the right reason. Sometimes that means not doing something at all or accepting an alternative approach. This will be especially hard for some "Type A" people who have a perfectionism streak. Trust me, I speak from experience.

I define "simply" as an end state. It is a state of being that you reach. When I hear the word "simple", it is usually followed by a sigh of peace. "Simply" is relaxed, with minimal stress, where things just flow and everything is easier. You get there by minimizing complexity, by reducing the obligations in your life, getting your finances under control and by eliminating the clutter around you. This only happens when you make decisions and choose to let go.

The life of a small business owner is especially complicated. We wear many hats it is assumed that we have many skills in order to wear those hats. (Wrong!) We also have two families; one at the office and one at home. We are passionate about making a difference for both and juggling their different demands. Our schedule must encompass both groupsapostrophe needs or we canapostrophet move forward in life.

Here are some real-life conversations with clients who want to live a simple life:

  • "I work way too many hours. I find it difficult to say "no" because Iapostrophem passionate about what Iapostrophem doing. I also hate to ask for help. I know deep down there is a cost when Iapostrophem spread too thin. My family doesnapostrophet get the guidance or oversight they need. Key projects get delayed in my business due to a lack of time."
  • "We know our existing technology tools can shorten the steps but we donapostrophet have the time or inclination to learn how. We donapostrophet want to spend the money to get help or even admit we donapostrophet know something. So, we keep doing things the same old way, knowing it is inefficient."
  • "I donapostrophet feel financially secure. I really donapostrophet have a solid financial plan or budget. We have a plan but we donaapostrophet live within it. We are so busy working in our business and making good money, yet we arenapostrophet putting our money to work for us. Weapostrophere losing opportunities to make even more money or contribute to others."
  • "Some of the people in my life cause me stress. Our sense of "team" at work is being compromised by some poor attitudes, control issues or lack of responsibility. My children are going through a phase that I know needs more of my parental guidance.
    I feel distant from my spouse."
  • "Iapostrophem just plain tired and have lost some of the joy in life. Itapostrophes easier to just keep plodding along than to stop and fix it. I doapostrophet ask for help for anything. Either I donapostrophet know how or I just wonapostrophet do it."

So how can you stop this vicious cycle and start down the path to simplicity? Use my 3-step Effective Results process:

  1. Know what you want. What are your goals or intentions? What is most important to you? Create a list and prioritize the items. If this is hard for you, answer these questions: I want to be... I want to do... I want to have.... The most important area, yet often dealt with last because of fear or uncertainty, is to get control over your money. Set financial goals and find an easy system to get your finances in order.
  2. Plan your change. Look at your daily schedule and decide how you need to operate differently so you can be working towards your goals. Establish a few routines. Let go of some responsibilities or groups you belong to. Use your resources. What can you delegate or outsource? What technology tools, such as QuickBooks or Quicken, can help you get and stay organized? Can some training get you going faster? Set some milestones or tasks with intentional dates.
  3. Assess your progress. Check your status and revise the plan as needed. Seek counsel to help with accountability. This can be a spouse, good friend, trusted advisor, coach or mastermind group. If you must do it alone, try journaling. I use a planning calendar with the staff at work, occasionally journal, have a monthly mastermind group and am in a weekly bible study that provides time for discussion. These activities fulfill different needs and help keep me on track.

Staples, the office supply store, has it all figured out. All you have to do is push a red button that says "easy". The button is clearly marked, visible and accessible. You have confidence that when you use it, something good will happen for you. (Thatapostrophes at least what they want you to think!) Itapostrophes simple. Do the same for yourself. Find your button. The hard part is pushing it. Have confidence in yourself to make some changes that will move you forward and ask for help when you need it. Heck, add some funny noise to your button. Change is more likely to happen when youapostrophere smiling!

(c) 2008 Debbie Gilster.

About the author:

Debbie Gilster is the Financial Effectiveness Maven at the Center for Growth and Productivity. She teaches small business owners to be financially savvy so they can live the life of their dreams. Sign-up for your FREE special report "3 Mistakes Small Business Owners Make Managing Their Finances - And How To Avoid Them" and bonuses at