During a recent workout, the instructor opened the session by declaring this the “year of yes.” He started by saying that, simply by showing up, we had said, “yes” to ourselves. We had demonstrated a commitment to our health.

This concept has been ruminating in the back of my mind since then. For each “yes,” there is at least one “no.” In order to say yes to working out, I’d had to say no to staying in my nice, warm, comfy bed. And, it is in the accumulation of each of these seemingly small decisions that we clarify what is important to us, identify our priorities, and begin shaping our future.

That can seem overwhelming or empowering. At different times, I’ve experienced each. I can tell you that the recent experiment I’ve done with time tracking has shown me, in black and white, how I prioritize my most precious resource — my time and energy, and that awareness has enabled me to make different choices.

At the beginning of the month, I felt like a hamster on a wheel, like there just weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, and that I could never find the time to make progress on the things that I claimed were most important. And then I looked at the data…I’ll share one simple example. I was spending inordinate amounts of time trying to get my inbox to zero (a ridiculous goal as we all know that the email gnomes work furiously overnight to replenish the inbox). And, even worse, my process was to start at the top and work through the emails that I could quickly dispense. If the email required any time to respond, I left it with the thought that I would return to it when I had the time to address it properly.

So, I’ve made three small shifts. The first is that I only open email 3 times per day and I bound each time at 30 minutes. The second is that I only touch an email once. This may mean that I only get through one email during that 30 minute period. And, lastly, I scan the box to identify the important emails (either by sender or by subject) to open first.

In this case, I’ve said, “yes” to moving more intentionally through my email. And, I’ve said “no” to the concept of a zero inbox, to trying to deal with the quick (typically less important) emails first so that the number in my inbox goes down more quickly, and to the need to always know what’s happening in my inbox.

I’ll fully admit that I’m still working to consistently implement these shifts and, at the same time, they have already begun to free up time, energy, and grey matter for me to begin saying “yes” to the more strategic work that had been languishing by the wayside.

Take a moment and look at your day. What does it tell you about what you’re saying “yes” to and, consequently, what you’re saying “no” to? Do these align with your vision, your goals? If not, I would encourage you to make one small shift. With each baby step, you will build confidence and momentum.

I’d love it if you shared your successes and learnings!