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Towards the end of my previous career I became a master at work-life balance.

Having a baby made it easier. I told my boss I had to pick my daughter up from daycare at 5:30 PM everyday because they charge you extra by the minute after that. So he let me go.

But even before my daughter was born, I stopped taking work home. I might check email once or twice, but other than that I spent time with my husband, read books, and wrote poems.

Did I get behind on work? Sure I did.

That’s how I came to the startling realization that most deadlines are arbitrary–a truth I doubt is unique to government work.

If you don’t turn something in by the deadline, half the time no one ever asks you for it. I started making a habit of forcing people ask for things twice, unless it was obviously important or interesting, just to be sure it was work that needed to be done.

This was living the dream of the TGIF lifestyle.

And you know what? It sucked.

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A couple of weeks ago, I got caught telling a whopper set of lies.

I was waiting for my daughter to get out of school, when another mum asked, “How are you doing?”

“Good,” I said breathlessly, “but crazy busy!”

(Lie #1: I certainly was busy, but I was not well at all.  My back pain had returned in spades and the stress was so bad I’d started getting recurrent cold sores in my mouth.)

“I’ve got a launch coming up, I created a new product, and I’m wrapping up the book chapter I’ve been writing on contract.  And of course the hubby’s been out of town a lot, so doing most of the child care. But,” I sighed, “I just have to get through April and things will slow down.”

My friend cocked her head and asked, “Haven’t you been saying that since October?”

Lie #2, that I thought everything would “slow down next month,” was the worst of all, because at least part of me believed it.  Indeed, I’d been engaged in a vocational sprint for more than six months, where the finish line always remained just a few steps ahead of me.

In my last update on my no goals experiment, I shared 3 strategies for de-cluttering your commitments. I’m here to say I tried juggling and failed.  It was a good experiment, but at least for me, I couldn’t make it work.

I decided the only real solution was to remove all work commitments and start completely over.

For many of my clients, the thought of starting over is one of their biggest fears.  There were certainly days I just wanted to curl up and hide in my room.  I was so stressed about the how: how to break ties without burning bridges, how to throttle back without losing momentum, and how to focus on the work I love without burning out.

In this post, I’ll show you how I’m addressing all three of those concerns and how you might do the same.

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In January I made the bold statement that I was committing to living without goals.

Us overachievers can be so melodramatic.

There were a number of warning signs that led me to re-evaluate the goals in my life:

  • I was anxious, even when (or especially when) things were going well
  • No matter how much success I enjoyed, I still didn’t feel I’d done enough
  • I felt so overwhelmed at times it was like I was suffocating

Two months into the experiment, I can say that when I’m successful at letting go of my goals, my stress goes way down.  For example, previously I might have set a goal of working out 3 times a week–a goal I’d rarely live up and when I didn’t, resulted in a lot of internal scolding.

Now, I have an “area of focus” on fitness.  That means I work out when I want to and I make sure it’s fun (no more forcing myself to do “what’s good for me”).  I experimented with different kinds of exercise and ultimately found a Pilates class in my neighborhood that I love.  I go once or twice a week, plus walking with a group of friends once a week.

So at least in that area of my life, giving up goals leaves me feeling great and reduces stress.  If I don’t work out for a week due to projects, that’s ok.  My fitness now flexes more seamlessly with my priorities because there’s no pass/fail criteria.

However, there was one big challenge I underestimated in going goal free: dealing with your previous work commitments.

I’ve found that, much like physical clutter, your previous aspirations and commitments carry a lot of emotional baggage that make them tough to get rid of.  In this short video, I talk about three strategies for cleaning out your mental closet (without losing your mind).

Can’t see the video? Click here.

What do you think? What’s the best way to de-clutter your commitments?

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Editor’s note: I’m experimenting with adding more video on Everyday Bright and would love your feedback.  Like these videos?  Prefer just text?  Think I need to hire a videographer to make these worthwhile?  Let me know!