Simplify

I was reading Zen Habits yesterday. They had a post on how to simplify your life. Seventy-two ideas. Which merely confirms what I have always suspected about simplification. It is a very complex challenge to simplify. The Zen Habits approach:

It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.

The major themes focused on managing objectives, managing time, managing consumption and managing activities. I do all of those things but my life is definitely not simple.

Twenty years ago, I developed a habit of breaking out personal objectives into six categories: Faith, Family, Finances, Fitness, Career and Self. Faith focused on the spiritual journey of life. Family focused on my wife and children. Finances focused on short and long term money goals. Fitness on personal health and well-being. Career on the professional journey. And self focused on personal development.

Each year, I take time to assess long term objectives and develop annual goals in each of the six categories for the current year. This was a discipline in my professional career from my early years and it was relatively easy to translate that discipline into my personal life.

Despite my best efforts, I find it almost impossible to narrow the field of focus. To simplify life to some level of balance. There is too much noise associated with participating in everyday life.

The work environment today is online and connected. With some very rare exceptions, I am online with work every morning, every afternoon and every evening of every day. Expectations are high and demands on time are high. The velocity of information has accelerated.

The digital age has also forced significant demands on personal time. Although it is a personal choice, maintaining a weblog, a photoblog, personal email accounts, and social networking also competes for limited time.

I have a pretty good system in place for managing money. Generally, it takes about an hour a week to update and review our finances.

I have always found it difficult to balance the demands of church within the context of faith. For many churches, an indication of commitment is generally associated with the time spent in service. I am usually serving in the studio on Saturdays and I usually spend 4 hours on Sunday serving. In my own experience with churches there is very little understanding or support for the challenges that face most working families in the GTA. During the week, I am lucky if I have three hours of discretionary time in a day. And half of that time is spent eating and preparing for the day.

So what suffers in all of this noise? Time for family. Time for fitness. Time for self. In theory, it seems like a good idea to simplify. To remove the unnecessary from our lives. To replace one set of activities with another. This was the message from our church on Sunday. However, the speaker made one rather naive assumption: that most people have lots of idle time.

I don”™t.

Graduation

We went to a recognition event at my daughter’s college. She graduates from the University of Waterloo in a couple of weeks.

I am so proud of her. She is a very accomplished person.

Here are a few photos from the event. I took these photos on my Nikon D200. Very low light conditions with no flash. I had to boost the ISO up to 1000. And, because the glass I brought with me was fairly slow at f3.5, I was shooting images handheld at 1/15th to 1/30th.

Pretty sharp results for a difficult shooting situation. I guess my hands are still steady.

UW 1

UW 2

UW 3

UW 4

Now That Is A Speech

My daughter had been asked to give a speech at her residence college. And she posted an excerpt on her blog here.

What an amazing young lady.

Microsoft Keynote

I will be heading out to Vancouver on Tuesday. I am giving a keynote at a Microsoft event on the Wednesday. And some good news. My wife decided to make the arrangements for her and my youngest son to come along.

For some reason, that really made my day.

Black Stripe Belt

Or perhaps a red belt with a black stripe? Regardless, a major milestone for my youngest son. He has been training diligently for the past three and a half years and now he starts on his preparation for a black belt.

A red belt in his karate school signifies a student who is starting their year’s study to become a black belt. It takes 1 year from earning the red belt to be eligible to test for the black belt.

The ability to see a long-term objective and to work for a long-term objective is a rare talent. I am really proud of him.

Here is a photo of him waiting to be awarded his red belt.

Red Belt

Leaving Home

My two oldest children were home from university for the Easter week-end.

It was great to have them both home. For some reason, the house seems more alive with them here. Not that we had anything major on the go. I was in a session all day Saturday and then I played in the praise band at church on Good Friday as well as this morning. The family spent most of the time watching movies, playing Xbox, eating food and surfing the web. Hanging out as it were.

My youngest boy is not too happy about his brother and sister going back to university. Last night, just before I went to bed, I dropped by his room to check on him. He was still awake. And he was also upset.

“What’s wrong, Matthew?”
“I don’t want Josh and Tara to go!”

“I know, son. Nor do I. But it’s okay. They will be back home in a month or so for the summer.”
“A month is a long time, Dad.”

It dawned on me for the first time that I might not be the only one in our family struggling with separation anxiety. However, when the two oldest left today, Matthew had to be reminded to say good-bye.

“Dad. I’m busy. I’m right in the middle of a pretty challenging Halo round on Xbox Live.”

First rule of parenting boys. Never interrupt a Halo match.