As a rule, I do not believe in New Year’s resolutions. If you need to make a change in your life, just do it. You don’t need a calendar date to stop smoking, eat healthier, quit staging bank heists, etc. Whatever. You do you, but don’t wait for January to give you permission.
That said… I will readily embrace the New Year as an invitation to simplify my life. Something about opening a brand new day planner that has not yet been overbooked with everything from church meetings to kids’ friends birthday parties… while also clearing the holiday leftovers from the fridge, putting away the tree stuff, and generally recovering my office from the chaos of holy days… it all adds up to a feeling that I should reclaim my time and space as we move back into routine and lovely, boring regularity.
Every magazine in the world right now is focused on how we’re going to simplify life in 2018. They feature fancy (and often expensive) closet organizers, meal planning services and tips for squeezing that beach bod workout into your 10 minutes of free time. Fine… but none of that feels simple to me. It sounds like something I’ll spend a lot of time and money on in January, and then dust off in August when school starts. “Oh, yeah, I was going to store/write/crunch something in this…”
Instead, I’m taking a ‘time, talent, treasure’ approach. These 3 areas of life– calendar, energy, and stuff– can easily get out of control at any time. When they ALL get out of control at once, it’s a bad scene. Here are some of the things I’m examining to avoid that mid-year meltdown.
- Time. Even when I look at an expanse of calendar that SEEMS to be fairly open and flexible, it gets eaten up. With a thousand little things, and maybe just the thinking about those thousand things. So last year I decided I was going to do this one small-but-huge thing to reframe and reclaim my time–I moved all of my church meetings to Monday nights. It took some doing, but over the course of the year, I’ve shifted all recurring meetings to either daytime hours, or Monday evenings. So the rest of my weeknights are, mercifully, my own. Of course, they fill up with other things–my daughter’s ballet class, my son’s baseball games, the classes I’m taking; plus the occasional pastoral emergency or church event/special occasion that just cannot be on Monday. But, all things considered, that one bit of regularity makes my whole life seem more manageable. This year, I’m going to do another thing to reclaim (some) of my time–I’m not adding any new commitments without giving something up. Whether ongoing or one-time things, work-related or otherwise; nothing new goes onto my calendar unless I can take off something that required a similar chunk of time. Want to try that with me?? Let me know how it goes. As easy as it sounds, it will take hella lot of discipline to carry off. Which leads me to,
- Talent. If we do something well, and we enjoy it, then we hopefully spend quite a bit of our time doing that thing. But a talent does not just take time. It also requires physical, mental and emotional energy. If we love to do something, we can easily spend all of ourselves in that pursuit. That is not always the healthiest thing. Or the most productive. Let’s take writing, for instance. I trust that when I say writing is a talent of mine, you won’t think I’m bragging; writing is something I enjoy, and that some people say I am good at, and that sometimes I get paid for. It is safe to call that a ‘talent,’ but does not mean I think I’m the best in the world at it; or even that this is my best thing. It is A thing. And, for me, it is a thing that absorbs a lot of me. Not just my time, but my energy, my focus, and my general ability to be around people and engage. This year, I am designating certain windows of time for writing, and then I’m done writing for that day/week, etc. This year, I’m choosing quality of quantity. I can’t do 3 blog posts a week, plus write another book, plus preach every Sunday, and expect for all of those things to end well. So I’m limiting my output while hopefully upping my game in the overall product department. What about you? What thing do you do so well that you almost can’t quit doing it? What thing gives you life, but also spends your life? Could you maybe do that thing better if you did less of it? Let’s all try it and report back. Of course, when we think about what is worth spending our time and ourselves on, we cannot avoid the topic of
- Treasure. I did a thing this past year that I’m really glad I did: I put my church pledge on automatic withdrawal. Let me tell you why this is important… Because life happens, and I get busy on Sunday morning and forget to write a check. And before I know it, it’s June and I’m half the year behind on my offering. Not ideal (for the pastor–or for anyone!) This year, I’m going to do that with other things… What causes and efforts do I really want to support this year, that I don’t want to be an afterthought? I’m going to either give those gifts up front, set up auto pay, or make myself a calendar of what to give to when (note: special occasion gifts for friends and family = a great time to give to an Alma Mater or a favorite nonprofit in a loved one’s name). Of course, treasure is not just money. It is also our stuff. And, as the annual organizing frenzy reminds us, our stuff can consume US if we aren’t careful. I’m starting this year mindful of every single thing that comes into my house–whether I purchased it, or somebody gave it to me or (Lord help) my kids carry it home in the trail of endless paperwork they bring home from school. This is not just about keeping stuff organized–I’m aiming for a bigger picture commitment to not letting stuff into my space to begin with. It’s requiring me to assess where the bulk of the stuff is EVEN COMING FROM, which leads me straight to my kids’ backpacks. And, if I’m being honest, the stuff I print out and drag around which likely does not even need to be printed in the first place. I also get junk mail, to which I could unsubscribe; I get bills, which could easily be transferred to online statements; etc. I’m going to spend January systematically tracking where my chaos originates, and then stop it en route to my house. (And my car. You don’t even want to know…) What about your stuff? What makes you feel overwhelmed, and where the heck is it even coming from? Cut it off at the source, and you won’t even have to buy that Lifechanging Magic of Making Your House into a Monastery book…
So, there you have it. No gym membership or fancy containers required, but I am resolved. These practices might not make for a great magazine article, but they are downright biblical when you think about it.
Peace, y’all. And Happy New Year!