The Process of Simplifying, Step 2

Simplify2014-02Thanks for all your entries for our Part 1 giveaway last week! Congrats to the winner of our Simplified Life Binder – Kate Ladd! Kate, send us a quick email with your mailing address and we’ll get that out to you to begin preparing for 2014!

Like we talked about in PART ONE, the first step to simplifying is prioritizing. Get real with yourself and be honest – on paper. Often, we think we can tackle EVERYTHING in one day. We believe we can be everything to everyone (I know I am guilty of trying to achieve this – just call me June Cleaver, Donna Reed and Martha Stewart all rolled into one… or something like that).

That is unrealistic.

Can I get an AMEN? It’s also exhausting. And does it all REALLY matter?

The first step in simplifying is to identify your DAILY priorities – all the roles and responsibilities that require your attention throughout the day – husbands, children, faith, families, parents, careers, entrepreneurial endeavors, home, church, volunteering and so on. It’s important to know what each of these priorities requires from you and – equally as important – what you need to give those priorities to end each day KNOWING you gave your very best.

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Imagine this… you lay your head on your pillow at night and stare up at the dark ceiling. The sound of the ceiling fan and the thoughts swirling and settling in your head as you take a big deep breath are all you hear. The house may not be perfectly in order and there may be a dish or two in the sink, but you built a toy car parade throughout your house with your toddler and your husband. While putting your toddler to sleep, he said “I had fun with you making a parade, Mommy” as he closed his little eyes with a smile.

Priorities. This was my night last night. It felt so good.

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I wanted to recap step one a bit because it’s REALLY important to get that nailed down before we tackle Part Two. My priorities and the point where I feel like I’ve met them are:

  1. My family: At the end of the day, I want to know I’ve loved on both Bryan and Brady with 100% of my attention by eating dinner together, listening with all of me, and doing every step of Brady’s bedtime routine.
  2. God + serving others: At the end of the day, I want to know I’ve served others and been good to people by communicating with people with a full heart, praying wholeheartedly and laying even a little bit of worry in God’s hands.
  3. My heart / self: Clarity is really important to me. At the end of the day, I want to know I’ve taken care of myself so that I can do #1 and #2 listed here. I’ve eaten food that nourishes me. I’ve rested and soaked in the day. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve cleared clutter to prepare for tomorrow – mentally and physically.


Distractions are the number one reason why we don not have enough time during our day. Distractions are why we end the day feeling frazzled and exhausted. Timesuckers are the things (big, small, obvious and not-so-obvious) that creep in and waste our time. They keep us from spending time on the priorities we care so deeply about. Before you begin planning your days, weeks and months with your Simplified Planner, take a look at a normal day and find ways to shrink or eliminate the distractions that get in your way. Also find ways to allow more of the good stuff in that gives you energy to be your best for what matters most.

For example, last night, I gutted my Twitter feed. I don’t look at Twitter ever really. I only look at @ replies and messages every week or so to respond to questions or send thank yous. So last night, I unfollowed EVERYONE except Bob Goff and his book Love Does. (Read it. You won’t regret it). Now my Twitter feed is full of goodness like this.

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Amen!? Sarah, who works with me, says this “I’m a fan of the Amen — you know the kind, it’s usually accompanied by a hand in the air and follows some sort of profound statement. Yes ma’am, I love a good Amen.” HAHA! That’s exactly the kind of Amen I mean about Bob’s tweet right there. Now my Twitter feed is full of love and Jesus. That’s simplicity.

So, what are your timesuckers? Mine are:

  • Instagram
  • Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do next
  • Physical clutter
  • WORRY about things I can’t control

Boom. Embarrassing. But there they are. Now, what are you going to do about them? How are you going to shrink them to allow more time for what matters? And by the way, this isn’t your chance to write some crazy resolution. No, you can’t answer these with “I won’t look at my phone after business hours” unless you’re ACTUALLY GOING TO DO IT. Resolutions and plans and goals and planners don’t work FOR you. You have to commit to them. If you’re going to put your pretty Simplified Planner on a shelf, don’t buy it – it won’t change your life sitting there. But if you’re going to get messy and do the hard work – DO IT. It will change your life. Not our planner, but your commitment to using its pages. Don’t say you’re going to shrink these time suckers unless you KNOW you can tackle the challenge head on. Now, let’s rethink this…

  • Instagram - I am committing to blogging more, so that I feel like I have less to share on IG. I will use my gifts as a writer to blog more here (ooooh, I’ll use Emily Thomas’ free blog printable) and share stories rather than just quick images. I’ll also clear my Instagram feed – no offense if I unfollow you, I’m just simplifying.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do next - Ugh. This is a hard one. I’ve struggled with this my whole life because I am an overachiever by nature. I will exercise (bleh). I will DO IT. I mean it!! I will!! Pure barre anyone? They just opened one down the street… I will go to their website to find a class at a good time. I will go. I WILL! I will drink water (bleh). I will take care of my mind and body BETTER so that I can tackle my days head on. 
  • Physical clutter - This was in my last post, but we are GUTTING our house. We’re nowhere near done. I’ve taken a trip to Goodwill nearly every day since then. We’re still going. I will NOT BUY JUNK that I don’t need. Even pretty gold gilded, white porcelain JUNK that I think I need. I don’t. I will not give my entire paycheck to Target ANYMORE. I will dedicate REAL time to looking into getting help with shipping and fulfillment. I will. I have to. Half the clutter in this house is because of this business. :)
  • WORRY - This is my biggest time sucker, probably. In fact, I’m editing this post after I hit publish because I didn’t include it. I worry about my health, my family, and the what-ifs ALL the time. It’s such a waste of time. But its a hard habit to break. I will turn this down by facing my worries head on and getting real with myself about what’s realistic and what’s not. I will take better care of myself so that I don’t have these crazy fears swirling around in my head. I’ll dive deeper into The Bible to remember God’s promises no matter what tomorrow holds.

Boom. I said it. All of it. Now hold me accountable. Part Three is coming up next – DEFINE SIMPLICITY. What are you guys doing to shrink your timesuckers? If you’re not familiar with Lara’s PowerSheets, you have to check them out. They’re incredible for focusing your heart and making plans for what matters (and fit right into our Simplified Life Binders). Mine are on their way to me! :) EEEEE!!!

Now, a few updates about what’s happening in our little shop.

  1. Cyber Monday was CRAZY. Yesterday (we released a small handful of perfectly imperfect Simplified Planners) was also CRAZY. Our shop nearly crashed as traffic surged. Thank you, sincerely, for your patience yesterday while we navigated shop hiccups in leu of the amazing interest. We’re all sold out now!
  2. The response to our 2014 Simplified Planners has been EXTRAORDINARY. Thank you, friends. I never can quite hit the nail on the head and predict the right quantity to produce, as you can tell. :) We’re sold out BUT I am fairly certain that we will have a few to sell in about two weeks. Follow us on Instagram, subscribe to our newsletter or sign up on the product page (click the gold “Notifiy me” flag) to be the first to find out when they’re back in stock. We won’t have many, but I believe we’ll have SOME once our shipment arrives and we’re able to sort through them all.
  3. After this year, we will slowly be discontinuing nearly ALL of our personalized products. The only personalized product we are sure we’re keeping is our Great Day Plates ®. Everything else will be phased out slowly to simplify our offerings and make room for new products.
  4. On that note, TOMORROW is the LAST day to order our personalized iPhone cases or desk trays… EVER! :) They will be discontinued after tomorrow.
  5. AND tomorrow is the LAST DAY to order ANYTHING for guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery!

I can’t wait to follow you all on Instagram and see what you’re doing to #Simplify2014!

Wishing you a lovely rest of your week!



The Process of Simplifying Step 1: Prioritize
The Process of Simplifying Step 2: Shrink timesuckers
The Process of Simplifying Step 3: Name what matters most

PS: I just can’t get enough of these amazing images by Alli McWhinney Photography. So so so grateful for your talent, sweet friend! See more of our shoot on her blog here.


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  1. Jamie Sapp commented:

    You are such an inspiration! xo Jamie

  2. Lara Casey commented:

    I am so proud of you. Saying NO to those things is opening your life for greater things to come. God is great and He is working in your heart!

  3. Erinmarie commented:

    We are in the process of doing this right now. I am paring even my wardrobe down to the things I love (which isnt much!). I am keeping my phone out of reach as much as possible and thinking really carefully about the things I purchase for our home. We have some furniture needs but we SURE dont have decor needs! I emptied two entire bins of Christmas crap…off to goodwill I go!

  4. Jacquelyn S commented:

    These posts are so inspiring. I’m in the process now of trying to get Simplified before the new year and can’t wait to use my new Simplified Planner!

    I did want to let you know that Pure Barre is AMAZING!!! I’ve been going for just over a year now and I love it! It’s the first work out routine I’ve ever been able to stick to and actually look forward to going to (even if that means waking up super early for a 6am class!!) You’ll have to let me know what you think of it when you try it!

  5. Blair Leah Erickson commented:

    I love your honesty Emily! Thank you for sharing your struggles and triumphs with us. I am in the process of simplifying my home and life as well. I have been going through all of the people I follow in the last months and slowly editing my list. But after this I am going to make a dramatic change. I have been too afraid to hurt feelings but I think that is just something crazy I am making up. Today is the day to take action!

  6. Liz commented:

    I did a Pure Barre class last winter – pick a day where you know that 2-3 days afterwards you won’t need to race anywhere :) But seriously, even the simplest things like getting outside for a walk by yourself for 20 minutes on days when you can’t dedicate as set time or activity is just as good. I also do things like triceps dips on the coffee table just to do something spontaneous :)

  7. Melissa Dell commented:

    Love this. I’m sending the posts to my husband to read as well. And Monday night I spent a good hour + after both babies were in bed to write in some things, and on one of the first blank pages in the front I added a “goals for 2014″ list. Cuz if you put it on paper – you gotta do it!

  8. Lauren commented:

    This. Is SO great. Everyone needs simplification especially in December with everything going on. I know I’m guilty of falling into the “I need this” trap and the idea of Christmas gifts is really dragging me down. I’m going to take a step back and reassess. Thanks for your honesty.

  9. Sara commented:

    I love this SO much – you are such an inspiration! Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Stacey commented:

    Yes, yes and yes! This is AWESOME, Emily!

  11. Sarah Teeter commented:

    I have been looking forward to this next blog post! I too, become easily overwhelmed with not knowing what to work on, so after brain dumping last week I am picking a task to accomplish each day. I know it will take me probably to the end of January to get rid of the clutter and downside items in our home, but each trip to the recycle bin, Goodwill, and to organizations in need it matters. I have loved this series by Rick Warren and this sermon in particular goes over stress/worry…
    Thank you for sharing and being honest!

  12. Bethany commented:

    Thank you, Emily! This was exactly what I needed to read today (AMEN!!) Your time-sucker list mirrors mine, and I’m so relieved I am not the only one who struggles with them! As a working wife and graduate student, I am hard pressed to find time to do my homework, do my housework, nurture my relationship with God, and love on my husband (see the backwards order of those things??). I am looking forward to 2014 as a time to simplify and declutter the chaos to find peace and a closer walk with God. Blessings!

  13. Kelly Hancock commented:

    Love this Em! I agree with all of the timesuckers you listed and need to sit down and get my game plan in place before I open my pretty new planner at Christmas. On a side note, I feel ya on the exercise! Bleh is right. But I didn’t know a Pure Barre was in the area – I have been wanting to try it. Thanks for the tip (now someone keep me accountable haha)! Excited to follow the rest of this series with you sweet lady!
    xoxo – Kelly

  14. Leigh Pearce commented:

    I am the queen of purging STUFF from my house. I just need to get better at the buying new stuff to replace the old I just tossed! ;) One thing, I would recommend looking into a location Salvation Army for your donations instead of Goodwill. More of the dollars from your donations will go to local people in need :) xoxo

  15. Lauren commented:

    I am so inspired by you and am starting my own simplification process this December as well!

    My biggest time suck at work (other than social media) is “organizing” my office – I’m a lawyer and deal with LOOOOTS of paper. It goes everywhere and it is so easier in the moment to just PILE. So every day I spend way too much time sorting through papers and reorganizing my stacks instead of getting actual work done. I have just started to implement an end-of-day cleanup so my office is nice and tidy every morning when I get in. In the morning, walking into a bright, clean office makes me more motivated to keep it that way throughout the day.

    I also started making my to-do list for the next day the night before and then I LEAVE it at work so I don’t take my work home with me mentally. Knowing that I’ve already thought through my tasks for the next day allows me to focus on my family and what matters most when I’m home.

    Lastly, I LOVE the simplicity that Pure Barre gives my life. I have been taking classes for a year and a half in Houston and a new location just opened up 5 minutes from my house – even more simple! Pure Barre is so much more than just a workout for me. The instructors are so uplifting and the community of women that follow Pure Barre is incredible. Phrases from class follow me throughout my day – like “You are so much stronger than you think you are!” and “Imagine the changes you want to see happen.” Not to mention it is a great workout! If you have any questions or reservations about it, feel free to contact me! :)

  16. Alli McWhinney commented:

    What an amazing post, Emily! You are truly an inspiration and a wonderful person, mother, and friend! :-)

  17. Diane Taylor commented:

    Can I say AMEN to this whole post??? AMEN!!!! I feel like I have been living a half life since my son’s death last year. I made a VERBAL COMMITMENT to my husband and my family to make the time to be present with them. My husband Dave is actually looking forward to me receiving my planner! Sadly I have lost my motivation in so many things – specifically exercising. When I get my planner, the very first thing getting scheduled is WORKOUT time. I was the girl who get up early every morning to exercise. I inspired my son to lose 60 pounds!!! He would be so disappointed in me right now. So…..change is coming. AMEN!

  18. Cassie commented:

    I’ve been looking forward to your next post in this series :) thanks for sharing and being honest emily – it’s inspiring. one of my biggest timesuckers is worry also and i really want to free my mind of that!

  19. Stephanie commented:

    Thank you for sharing. Your honesty is so refreshing! My time suckers are very similar to yours. One of my biggest goals in 2014 is to be more intentional with my time and to be present for moments and to stop trying to do it all. Oh, and we are also gutting our entire house of clutter too ( in preparation for a move!). I know my Simplified Planner & Powersheets will help me get everything in order. :)

  20. Jillian commented:

    I am really enjoying these posts and I am so excited to read that there will be more frequent Emily blog posts in the future! You are such a gifted writer. Amongst the craziness of December this is my “me” time – sitting in a nice peaceful area, reading about simplifying and writing down the things that will help me simplify 2014. Looking forward to part 3 x

  21. Ashley Flores commented:

    Whew! This struck a cord! …in a good way. I got my new sheets for my Simplified Life Binder, and have just spent the last four or five hours (with a break to eat dinner with the husband) getting it organized. I really tried to sit still and listen to what God wanted me to focus on. I wouldn’t even write titles on my dividers until I heard Him say what He wants me to focus on. I used some extra blank pages from my Power Sheets to work through these last two blog posts of yours, printed a few of your free printables and plan to finish putting it altogether tomorrow. It’s amazing how the Bible, a couple of blog posts, and some pretty stationary can motivate a girl! lol. God bless you.


  22. Elizabeth commented:

    emily, I feel like we have some things in common. Mainly, what distracts us. Those are my distractions as well. My husband and I are totally in the process of gutting our home as well. It makes me so anxious……it’s stuff everywhere…you know, stuff I bought at Target that I loved and “needed”.

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