Prune Your Tree

What began as an experiment to better manage my focus and attention with my work online, has become a theme for every other aspect of my life. From my fitness to my relationships, and even my day-to-day, this particular concept has made a radical impact.

I make better, more thoughtful, decisions now. I can more easily decline distractions that want my attention. And, it feels much more ‘in charge’ to operate with this concept. I only meant to impact my work quality, but it’s been fascinating to see the concept play out in other areas of my life as well.

I was listening to Katy Bowman’s talk about how social media is still shaping our lives because I’d heard that she was going on a social media break and was curious as to the why’s and how’s of her decision. In this particular talk, Katy shared an analogy that has become the Major Concept That Has Influenced My Life Lately, which was this:

Prune your tree if you want it to grow nicely.

In short, Katy (like myself and maybe you too?) had noticed that the amount of places online that we give our attention to has grown tremendously in the last few years. Whether you’re a business owner or not, there are an abundance of places that you could post things, reply to things, like things, comment on things, manage things, and just be a busy person tending to so many things!

What she was explaining about trees was exactly what I was learning about edible plants in a class I took recently – energy needs to be directed to create specific outcomes.

Should the plant focus on bearing more fruit? Or building a deeper root structure? Or making really big leaves to get as much sunlight as possible? All these things require focusing of the energy, and pruning a tree or plant helps it to do just that.

When we don’t do that for a tree or plant by pruning it, we make it more unruly and less likely to bear an abundance of fruit. As Katy explained this so perfectly in her talk, it smacked me upside the head as she drew the parallel to all the places we give our energy in our online world.

If I took a look at my “online tree” and was very intentional about where I placed my energy – two things would happen. One, I’d ‘bear more fruit’ in the places I direct my attention. And two, I’d let go of feeling guilty about trying to tend to all the parts of the online tree that I don’t really love but that suck up my time, and in turn, take away from the other places where my energy is best directed.

I began pruning my tree online. That included: unfollowing every social account that wasn’t a “heck yes” if I asked myself do I enjoy when their posts come up, committing to using social for broadcasting education I had already shared with my newsletter and blog readers first, and getting rid of extra places where I could post things but really never did (sorry LinkedIn).

As for me, I immediately felt more focused in how I placed my attention. My newly pruned tree also felt more organized, which impacted my state of mind in a positive way. Instead of going online and having it feel like opening up a junk drawer, now I go online and I’m pulling open filing cabinets that are organized and I can see what needs to be added in the form of new education and resources.

These results for how I work and how my readers get to engage with the work I create have been great. But the real surprise was how the ‘prune the tree’ concept worked its way into the rest of my life. 

In my Fitness Life, it was a new lens to look through when considering how to spend my time taking care of my body. Where do I want to ‘bear fruit’ in my movement and fitness capabilities? Then I need to give my energy and attention there.

I drilled this down beyond “I want to achieve X fitness thing”. I got down to the level of “I don’t love that bit of stiffness I feel in my right ankle in the morning, I’m going to direct my energy to that to see if I can get it to change/bear fruit.”

In my Relationships Life, the concept of pruning the tree so it bears fruit and looks and acts how you want it to carried over as well. How do I want my various relationships in my life to look and feel? Where are they a bit unruly and how can I prune them so they grow in a more healthy and harmonious way? 

And in my Day-to-Day Life, I discovered how great it feels to do lots of little bits of pruning and attention-giving that all together makes up a well-cared for weekly/monthly tree. These small shifts that I often wouldn’t think much of, I now had a lens to look at how they impacted my tree that makes up my daily existence.

Things like going out to grab lunch cost me energy that was far more expensive than just the time it took – it made for an unruly part of my day to day tree – so I eliminated it. Here’s one example, I make sure I have food on-hand for lunch so I don’t have to leave and now I can keep my energy for doing things that will actually bear fruit for me. (Sitting in traffic and waiting in line does not bear the kind of fruit I’m after during my work day).

In short, pruning the various trees that make up my life has helped me find focus and peace far beyond what I anticipated when I first head Katy speak about pruning our online trees.

Now what about your trees – both online and otherwise. How many branches do you have? What sorts of fruit do they bear, if any? Is your tree unruly? What’s on your tree that you’d really like to cut off like an old dead branch? If this concept resonates with you at all, give it a try! If nothing else, it’s very helpful to take stock of your life and its various components by using the tree analogy.

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