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Opinion: Stop trying to get caught up on everything

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I encouraged my brother and his family to move to the Ozarks.

“It’s wonderful out here! You’ll love the weather,” I told him.

Three months after they settled in, their house was leveled in a tornado. He and his wife and two kids were huddled in the basement as the storm lifted their house, brick by brick, right off the foundation. They lost everything. However, they survived without a scratch (and with the family’s best story).

I don’t want to diminish the tragedy of disasters that level people’s homes and lives. You and I know so many others for whom the outcome of an extreme event was tragic and from which one can’t recover. Yet, for others there is a certain freedom that comes with surviving having all the stuff removed, so that you can decide anew what belongs in your life – and what you are better off without.

So many of us struggle with too much to do and too little time. We have overstuffed calendars and email inboxes, stacks of papers on the desk and a basic frustration that we are missing the boat with all this stuff.

What if we just started over? With that in mind, I offer my Top Tips for making your business, and life, simpler.

•Start with zero. Consider what, and who, you could just dump. Then, dump it, or them, and see if the sky falls. If the need arises, or the relationship resurfaces, you can add things back. Perhaps it’s time for a break?

•Delete everything in your email inbox prior to 30 days ago. Even if you attempt to keep up with email on a daily basis, messages get lost or filtered or accidentally deleted. You and virtually everyone else in your life is behind on email. So, let’s give each other a break and resend a communication if we haven’t heard back.

•Keep one calendar and one to-do list. Ignore all previous missed appointments. Rip up your previous to-do lists. Start over.

•Create a top projects list with no more than five projects on it. Put only current, necessary and interesting projects on the list, ones that solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity. Ask the team or family members for ideas. They know what needs to be done.

•Get caught up with your accounting as of the last day of last year. Get the tax return done, if you haven’t yet. Don’t worry about fixing every weird thing. Make lump entries, good guesses – whatever it takes to get current. Work with your accountant and do what needs to be done to be fairly audit-proof. Then, get up-to-date for 2019 ASAP. This tip is gold, because it reduces the anxiety created by wondering and worrying about the money.

•It will get done, or it won’t. Every time I get wound up with stuff I have to do, I realize it could all just blow away. My value as a human being won’t diminish one jot. Life will march on whether or not we get that sale made or PowerPoint presentation done.

Consider that the important stuff tends not to be something that is written on a sticky note and buried under a foot-high stack of papers. Let it all go, and trust that the important things will present themselves as you move forward, unencumbered by past inadequacies. Start with zero and notice that what you need to do will show up.

After the tornado cleanup, I asked my brother, “Do you miss it? The stuff? Are you thinking about paring down? Do you really need all the crap you had accumulated?”

He replied, “You know, I like stuff. I’m going shopping.”

So, there’s that.

Reminds me of a quote by Charles Poore: “There is nothing quite so complicated as simplicity.”

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at


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