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1470186_621904264519530_1959094764_nWe talk regularly about pruning in Thriveal. It’s one of the strategies of a healthy company and a healthy life. For a quick definition of pruning, here is a 2 minute video from Dr. Henry Cloud.

He says we should:

1. Prune “good” things, to leave resources for “best” things.

2. Prune sick buds, that are sucking resources from the “best” things.

3. Prune dead buds that are of no value and just taking up space.

In addition to actually cutting things (or people) out of our lives and businesses, we can say no upfront and keep certain obligations from entering our lives in the first place.

Both pruning and putting up those initial boundaries can be so difficult. But why? None of us have unlimited hours, money, or resources to do everything we want or everything others want us to do. So why do we say yes to opportunities or obligations that are less than ideal for us?

Your problem with pruning is you.

1. You don’t know who you are. You haven’t determined your why, your strategy, you main focus. When you know what brings you the most joy and what completely depletes you of that joy, it’s much easier to turn down meetings, projects, or clients that aren’t a good fit. In the last two weeks, I have said no to two people that were probably a little surprised. What they were asking wasn’t super hard to do, but because I know that their requests were beyond my focus, I could say no. I’m also the gatekeeper to Jason’s calendar. And he knows that his calendar is for family, clients, and Thriveal members. We make exceptions sometimes, but often the answer is no for meeting requests. It’s uncomfortable, but knowing who we are helps us stick to our goals.

2. You’re afraid. This one is big for most people. We have a lot of fears that make us say yes when we should say no. We are afraid of losing income. We are afraid of making a mistake and pruning something we shouldn’t. We are afraid the other person will be able to change our minds. We are afraid of what people will think of us. When we tell someone we can’t meet, I do worry they will think we are being snobby or something like that. But we can’t let others impose their agendas onto our calendars just because we are afraid they won’t agree with us or like us.

3. You feel guilty. If you turn down a person who seems to need help, what kind of person are you? But think that through. Are you really the only one that can help that person? Do they really need help? Can it wait? Is it help or enabling? If your client is slow to get their information to you and they miss a deadline, was that your issue or theirs? You don’t have to feel guilty for someone else’s problems. Help if it’s your choice, but don’t feel obligated into doing something outside of your focus.

4. You want to be liked. I told a person no last week. (Because I knew my focus.) This person probably doesn’t like me now and that kind of stinks. I like the pats on the back and being told I am great, just like anyone else. But this person was asking me to do do something that I felt uncomfortable doing, so I have to be okay with not being liked. And so do you if you want to do the work that matters to YOU.

I want to let you know that it’s okay to still be discovering who you are. But do work on that. Take regular time to consider your likes, dislikes, goals, strengths, and weaknesses. And it’s okay that you are afraid sometimes. You can be afraid and still do the right thing though. We call that courage. Thriveal is a community for the brave people. It’s okay that you feel guilty…for a minute. But please don’t stay there. Don’t allow other peoples’ problems to become yours. Understand that if you say no, someone else will be able to say yes. And I don’t blame you for wanting to be liked. But if you say yes to one thing, know that you may be saying no to someone else, like your family or a better client. Be liked by the right people!

There is much more to be said about pruning: what it is, how to do it, when to do it, etc. I would like to hear your thoughts and to know your favorite resources on pruning in the comments.

Jennifer earned her degree in Early Childhood Education from Winthrop University. She has taught in public school as well as homeschooled her own children for many years. Jennifer serves the Thriveal members as the Community Manager. She also produces two podcasts, The Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and serves as the Director of Operations for Blumer & Associates CPAs. She loves college football, especially the South Carolina Gamecocks. You can read more from Jennifer at her personal blog, Finally Jennifer. Jennifer and her husband, Jason Blumer, live in Greenville, SC with their three beautiful daughters and their two dogs, Rose and Jessie.

Personal Growth
  • Jason Blumer

    On 11-20-2013 at 4:23 pm, Jason M Blumer, CPA said:

    wow, you nailed pruning! Pruning does come back to me – how I feel about myself, how I want people to like me, and how I don’t want people to go talk about me.

    Now that I know I am the problem, I need my Thriveal support community more and more to challenge me to become uncomfortable in the important work of serving my customers.

  • Melinda Guillemette

    On 11-20-2013 at 5:30 pm, Melinda Guillemette said:

    Great thoughts, Jennifer. My favorite insight: “None of us have unlimited hours, money, or resources to do everything we want or everything others want us to do.”

    It’s actually easier to prune as we mature, because we become more acutely aware of the limits of our energy. We just don’t want to waste any of it on nonsense, or on other people’s priorities.

    I learned a great response to invitations you don’t want: “Oh, I’d love to! I just don’t want to.” Of course, nobody can use this, but we can say it in our heads and laugh. And maybe it’ll nudge us closer to some useful pruning.

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 11-20-2013 at 6:17 pm, Jennifer said:

      I’m totally gonna use that Melinda.

      I’d love to; I just don’t want to!

    • On 11-20-2013 at 6:51 pm, Michael Wall said:

      I’ve always thought about saying those words….I may need to give them a try.

  • On 11-20-2013 at 6:50 pm, Michael Wall said:

    My favorite resources on pruning:

    To address problem #1, I have adopted the concept of being ‘jealous’ with my attention and time. When I spend my time and attention doing something of value, I feel great. When I spend my attention or time on something that sucks, I feel miserable. I prefer to feel great.

    And then for those of you in Thriveal, we have the immortal words of instruction from our fellow (former) accountant Bob Newhart with those two words of infinite wisdom.

    The video may be funny and silly, but read Jennifer’s post again and think about it deeper. It helps me work past #2, #3 and #4.

    Thank you for sharing this Jennifer.

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 11-20-2013 at 7:18 pm, Jennifer said:

      Thanks Michael! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  • On 11-20-2013 at 8:34 pm, Tim Meisenheimer (@maximeisen) said:


    Loved the post. Totally relevant to all business-owners. Have you guys checked out Dr. Cloud’s other book, Necessary Endings? Great one related to pruning as well (mostly focused on pruning staff – yikes!).

    Sidenote: In the video, “” looks like “lead or bleed (dot) com” — maybe even a more appropriate domain name?

  • On 11-20-2013 at 11:15 pm, Bob said:

    Jason said no to a conference call with me and I respect the focus. I also say no to people.

  • On 11-21-2013 at 12:33 am, Adrian G. Simmons said:

    You hit it out of the park — thanks Jennifer! 🙂

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 11-21-2013 at 1:48 am, Jennifer said:

      Thanks Adrian! 🙂

  • On 11-21-2013 at 1:14 am, Michelle Golden said:

    Really great stuff, Jennifer!! I love it and just shared it with my partners…

    BTW, Melinda, that actually came from Ron Baker’s mentor, Sheila… “I’d love to but I just don’t want to.” He taught it to me in 2005. I’ll never forget where I was sitting when I heard it. And wrote it down. And stuck it on my wall. 🙂

  • On 11-21-2013 at 1:23 am, KG said:

    So true, Jennifer. You’ve done a great job of calling it like it is! The fear, the guilt, the worry, it’s so easy to let them get the best of us. For me (an economist in a former life), it really helps to remind myself of the opportunity costs. As Melinda aptly stated, with maturity comes a sharper awareness that your resources will only supply a limited number of opportunities. If we let fear and guilt steer us to anything less than the best opportunities, then we are all spent when the best come along. I harken back to the old break-up line: it’s not you, it’s me. It’s me making the BEST uses of my resources.

  • On 11-21-2013 at 4:50 am, jody said:

    I think pruning is good to a certain extent. But I also think it can be limiting. If I was a “total prune” I might miss an opportunity. Or Maybe create a category for “other”

  • On 11-21-2013 at 1:32 pm, Joel Ungar said:

    Brava Jennifer! This post is one of the reasons I like you.

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 11-21-2013 at 3:33 pm, Jennifer said:

      Totally mutual Joel!

  • On 11-21-2013 at 3:00 pm, Leisa Stanberry said:

    Sorry this is long, but I’ve been pruning since FOF and want to share! THANK YOU! My why has changed over the past few years and so did my pruning strategy. It actually changed drastically. My dad almost had a heart attack when he heard about it, but if something or someone doesn’t line up with #1 it has to go…period! My ultimate pruning goal is to prune own to 100 customers. I started at 1,000 and am sitting around 400 now. It isn’t easy, but so very worth it! I actually had a few customers that I had for several years get the new FPA’s and called me a greedy bitch! Ha! I politely explained that my practice has grown so fast it has become to hard to meet with each customer like I want and therefore it wasn’t fair to customers like him that hadn’t seen me in two years. I will say that 25% of the ones chosen for pruning have agreed to my new FPAs and stayed with me. Customers that are ideal for pruning can develop into the best customers you have. I actually get to visit my customers at their place now and that would have never happened before pruning. They get excited when I show up and they show me everything. It gives me a view into the customers world and I get to meet the employees I see on the ledgers. I get to see the new $100k piece of equipment I section 179’d. It allows a more relaxed conversation that typically leads to get this….drumroll please…a NEW expanded FPA!! So YES, I am loving pruning! I have a quarterly client that pays me decent for basic compliance. He says he cant afford more. I have visited him twice and we are now implementing a customer satisfaction survey e-mail system, QB installation, setup & training, and developing three new price packages for his business, and a customer loyalty program. All it took was to prune some other customers so I had time to escape my office and have time to just ‘chat and go on a tour’. Been pruning since FOF!!! I think I am a prune-aholic! Lol!

    P.S. It’s ok to prune that customer that grates on your nerves… Even if they pay you well. Had one of them earlier this year. Got paid $1,100 a month, but dreaded Thursdays with a passion. When she asked for an expanded FPA (that would mean Monday appts with her too) I had to say No!!! She has moved on and I enjoy Thursdays again.

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 11-21-2013 at 3:35 pm, Jennifer said:

      From 1000 to 100 is HUGE. Good job Leisa. Glad you are working with only the best ones for you.

  • On 11-21-2013 at 3:18 pm, Kevin said:

    It’s like the rocks, pebbles, sand story. If you fill your life with sand, there is no room for the big rocks.

    Using Michael’s idea of time jealousy. Lately when I take on something new I ask myself – What am I going to have to give up to make this work? I’d guess none of us have hours of the day where we do nothing, so this question applies.

    As humans we feel more pain from losing something than gaining something of equal value. We get excited about the shiny new thing but often forget that in order to take on that new opportunity we have to give something up. That’s when the pain of loss rears its head.

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 11-21-2013 at 3:36 pm, Jennifer said:

      I always forget that rock, pebble, sand illustration, but it is SO right on for priorities. Good stuff.


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