Over the past month or so, I’ve noticed a trend on our evening walks. In nearly every yard we pass there are a few tall trees with awkward, bare limbs reaching toward the sky—every stray branch has been cut off. Even though they’re standing strong in the ground, these trees remind me of young, gangling deer stumbling over their long legs as they try to walk.
This isn’t winter’s doing, I’m in a warm climate these days. It’s pruning.
Merriam-Webster defines the word prune as “to cut off or cut back parts of for better shape or more fruitful growth.” Come spring, the trees will have a stronger structural integrity and healthy branches to support an abundance of growth.
With fresh spring energy in the air, you might be feeling the urge to prune a bit too. It’s the perfect time to declutter your life, simplify, and make more space for joy. Pruning, after all, cultivates a full, meaningful life, not an empty one.
So, what do you need to cut off or cut back for better shape or more fruitful growth?
Declutter Your Life Using the 80/20 Rule
In 1906 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto rambled through his garden, taking stock of his pea yield. He noticed that 20% of his plants produced 80% of his peas. In other words, 80% of the effects result from 20% of the causes.
It turns out that his discovery could be applied beyond the natural world. It proved true in society, the economy, health, and in business where it became the beacon of efficiency known as the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule as it’s mostly known today.
While the 80/20 principle is widely used to boost productivity and efficiency, if you apply the idea to your entire life, you’ll probably find it applies to, well, everything.
What 20% of the foods you eat make up 80% of your overall diet?
What 20% of your friendships bring 80% of your social happiness?
What 20% of your clothes do you wear 80% of the time?
What 20% of your activities bring you 80% of your joy?
What 20% of your projects bring you 80% of your results?
When you apply the 80/20 principle to your time, friendships, home, style, work, diet, etc., you’re able to see what’s worth cultivating (blooming) and what’s worth cutting back (pruning).
Don’t worry—you don’t have to quantify everything in your life to determine these percentages. Simply notice patterns of what brings you disproportionate benefits and downsides. What are the “vital few” that bring you the most positive effects and the “vital few” that bring you the most negative effects?
The Prune to Bloom Method
Now it’s time to apply the 80/20 rule to any area of your life that you want to declutter using what I like to call the Prune to Bloom Method. You can apply this method to physical things, of course, but also your daily routines, relationships, work, and physical space.
- Know your season. This part is two-fold. First, think about your season in life. This might be your college years, early parenthood, or retirement. This serves as a reminder that your needs, wants, possibilities, and limitations shift and evolve throughout the seasons of your life. Second, think about what’s coming up for you in the next season of the year, meaning the next three months or so.
- Determine your blooms. Your blooms are the aspects of life that bring you disproportionate joy, fulfillment, and value. This is where the 80/20 rule comes in. Zero in on one area of life, then write a list of all the positive experiences you can think of in this area. Out of these, which experiences brought the most positive benefit, outcomes, or joy?
- Decide what to prune. On the flip side, you need to decide what to prune in order to make room for your blooms to flourish. These are the few things that bring disproportionate dissatisfaction.
- Cultivate your environment. Just as plants need the right amount of sunshine, water, and soil to thrive, you need an environment that’s ripe for growth. Once you’ve determined your blooms and prunes, think about what changes need to be made for these areas to thrive (or dwindle). This might be changes in mindset, physical environment, energy levels, or support from others.
The Prune to Bloom Challenge
Ready to declutter your life starting now? Start the Prune to Bloom Challenge inside the Bloom: Spring Reset Kit.