Have More By Doing Less: A Free Guide Grab your copy here!

A Simple Little Drawing that Melts Overwhelm


We’re headed toward the end of the year, and I’ve seen lots of stuff floating around the interwebs about doing a year in review and how to plan your next year optimally (including the podcast episode that Mike and I recorded on our practices around this).

If we want to move things forward in our business and life, we must remember:

Progress loves focus.twitter-logo


I like to think of it like the difference between the light mist function and the concentrated spray function on your adjustable water hose head. If you want to get a lot of things a little wet, use the light mist. If you want to make headway and, let’s say, fill a bucket of water or move a pile of dirt off your driveway, you gotta use the focused power spray function. More power. Less surface area.

Want to ensure you never get traction? Work on 10 projects at once.

Want to majorly move the needle? Only work on one thing at a time and give it your all.

As the potential resolutions, projects, goals, and opportunities begin to bubble up to find a spot on the blank canvas of the new year, I want to share a little graphic with you that helps me A LOT when it comes to picking and choosing what to focus on.

It’s inspired by the Eisenhower Decision Matrix that I first learned about it via Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Eisenhower and Covey identify each task according to its importance and urgency.

For our purposes, let’s identify tasks according to how essential they are and how emergent they are (meaning how much of an emergency).

You can separate your potential tasks and projects into four categories based on the matrix below.

Enter your name and email below to download a printable decision matrix so you can fill in your own projects and figure out what to focus on.

Most people spend way too much time on emergent, non-essential tasks.

Your co-worker pings you for a last-minute piece of information they need to finish their brief. It’s important to them, but not to you. But it’s a burning fire, so you put it out. It’s not your fire, though. It’s theirs. You abandon what you were working on to find it for them. It takes you 25 minutes to get refocused on what you were working on, and on average you’ll get interrupted every 11 minutes of your day.

Result? You’re never focused on anything and you feel like you never get anything done. Because, well….you don’t.

Then we spend a fair amount of time on the emergent, essential tasks like finishing a sales page the night before your launch or writing the birthday card in the restaurant bathroom on your way in to the party. This stuff keeps us afloat and we gotta do it, but it’s often rushed and adrenaline-filled.

The stuff that moves us toward our dreams is the essential, non-emergent stuff. It’s the stuff that no one is breathing down your neck to deliver and the stuff that’s not attached to a looming deadline…like working on your novel, brainstorming your next big creative project, or sitting by yourself listening to the stirrings of what your soul most wants to create next.

The more time we focus on the essential, non-emergent tasks, the less essential, emergent tasks come across our plate. When we go upstream and attend to the essential tasks before we have to, we have way fewer emergencies.

Want to feel more spaciousness around your work? Carving even an hour out of your week to focus on essential, non-emergent projects will give you more space. (When I say focus I mean put your phone on airplane mode, close your door, log off Facebook, and use the Freedom app to prevent yourself from mindlessly searching the internet when your mind feels challenged by what you’re working on.)

The more space you create for the essential, non-emergent, the more space you’ll have. It’s really the gift that keeps on giving. Plus, you’ll make way more progress on your projects because you’re not constantly hopping around putting out fires (yours and other people’s).

Your business and life do not need to be emergency driven. They can be dream driven.twitter-logo


You can make incredible progress in a calm, essential, non-emergent state.

May you bring your attention to the essential.

May your focus decrease the number of emergencies.

And may you have a calm, spacious new year.

Download your printable decision matrix here.




What can you carve out space for that is essential and non emergent? Let me know in the comments below.


Leave a Margin for Magic.

We stood at the front of the conference room, a little shaky, yet enthusiastic. We were presenting our projects and financials from the previous year and our business goals for the coming year. Everyone else in the room had 7-figure+ businesses, and we felt like the country bumpkins flying in from Maine with the smallest…

Continue Reading

Taking yourself seriously doesn’t mean you have to be serious.

I always had this idea that if I took myself seriously as a business woman, author, speaker, and what have you, I would have to stop having fun with my work. So I prided myself on not taking myself too seriously. It made me more approachable. It made me more likeable. And, if I’m being…

Continue Reading

Taming the Creep.

I thought I had my butt firmly in my seat on the “No Train.” I’ve written about saying no a bunch of times. I’ve written about saying no a bunch of times (here, here, and here, for example.) I’ve heard other people say it a gagillion times. I thought I had it down. But I realized that…

Continue Reading

It was the hardest week of my life and this made all the difference.

The week my baby was born was the hardest week of my life. Penelope is such a blessing, I love her more than anything, and her birth was one of the best things that ever happened to me. But the week after was just. so. hard. I’ve yet to talk to a woman about her…

Continue Reading

If I lost everything, here’s what I would do.

I don’t spend much time worrying about losing the things that matter to me. Because I’d rather spend time loving them while I have them. (Even when I’ve lost someone I love, I never looked back and thought to myself, “I wish I would have spent more time worrying about losing them.” Nope. I was…

Continue Reading

I’d like to give you B-School as a gift.

I have super exciting news to share with you today! We’re giving away a seat in B-School complete with our bonuses! We love B-School. We love you. We want you to enhance your life and your business through taking B-School. We know, though, that not everyone is in the financial position to buy B-School this…

Continue Reading

There’s no such thing as the wrong decision.

I don’t want to make the wrong decision, you say. So you sit on it and make no decision. And time goes by. And you stay in the same place you’ve always been. No decision. No progress. {Tweet it.} Indecision kills forward momentum faster than you can say, “I don’t know.” Here’s the deal: There’s…

Continue Reading

How to get paid to be you.

The other night Mike asked me if I feel like we have a real business, or if I think I just get paid to journal. It was a hilarious question, but it really made me think. The reality is, while I certainly feel like I do more than journal, I do feel like I get…

Continue Reading

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at How I Work + A Printable Perfect Week Planner!

A friend recently said to me, “I know you work. But I’m curious as to how that actually happens.” The way I work is so second nature to me and so seamlessly integrated into my life that I take it for granted. But her question made me realize that knowing how I actually work on…

Continue Reading