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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.