Six Steps Toward Simplicity

It has taken thousands of years for humankind to come to the

conclusion money is not the most valuable thing. It is time. There are only so many seconds, minutes and hours in a day and no one gets more or less than anyone else. The writer of the ancient wisdom book, Ecclesiastes knew this when he observed, “Whoever obeys [the king’s] commands will avoid trouble. The mind of a wise person will know the right time and the right way to act. There is a right time and a right way to act in every situation.” (8:5-6a GW)

There are plenty more observations the writer makes but this one, I think, gets to the heart of the matter, wisdom and time go hand in hand. Now I will be the first to admit I have done some things at the wrong time...okay, I’ve done a lot of things at the wrong time. However, I have learned from those experiences (For example, don’t try to ride on one wheel on a bicycle going down a steep hill. Face plants on asphalt at high speeds can mess you up) or at least I have tried to do so.

One of the things I have observed is a life of simplicity is solidified by seeing simply. I think this is part of what the writer of Ecclesiastes is trying to say for in his time, the best educated and wisest person in the land was often the king. If Solomon was the writer, then it would have been fabulous counsel as he was known far and wide for his wisdom. I have been blessed to grow up around wise people and to seek them out to learn from them. Again and again, the best approaches to many (if not most) situations, is really the simplest.

I suspect you have heard the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Break anything down to the simplest parts and then the most complicated tasks can be done. Imagine then, if your task is to live a life of simplicity, it should be so simple. Of course, rarely is this the case as our lives are very complicated (probably another reason Paul encouraged believers not to marry (1 Cor. 7:28)).

Simplicity is not just going to happen. It must be one of the things which matters most for you to be willing to make the changes in your life. I am going to suggest a couple of things which maybe of help. I have been in this process for some months now and working on my own system to help with this. Here is what I have found to be helpful.

1. Get A Calendar Planner. Yep, it is that easy to get started. The hard part is committing to use it and do so correctly. You must have it with you at ALL times (commit to it for 21 days to make it a habit). I recommend paper and so do numerous other time management experts. It is faster to take notes and prioritize with paper.

2. Learn to Use It. I originally did this through Franklin Quest which has now become Franklin Covey ( They have a number of seminars to attend or you can use one of their online webinars. I may come back and expand on this but the key is to have single place to go to for everything you need.

3. Core Values and Goals. Again, Franklin Covey can help you sort this out online at their website. I am not a spokesperson for Covey, I promise. I am actually using a Daytimer Planner ( that I am customizing. The point is, you need to spend some time considering what DOES matter to you personally. If simplicity isn’t in this list somewhere, then that speaks wisdom to your soul.

4. Rule of Life. St. Benedict, Ignatius of Loyola and John Wesley had something in common. Each developed a rule of life, a set of guidelines to help Christians follow Jesus Christ and be shaped in his image. Recently, author Robert Benson outlined how Benedicts rule of life consists of four parts: 1) Prayer, 2) Rest, 3) Community, and 4) Work. Again, I will return to this later but think of the Rule more like the “pirate’s code,” they’re more like guidelines. Be gentle with your soul.

5. Get a Hold of Technology. Lions, tigers, and bears - Oh My! Yes, technology is amazing and no, I’m not suggesting you do away with it. I like Kenneth Zeigler’s description in his book, “Organizing For Success,” when he asks the question, “Who will be the Ringmaster and who will be the Beast?” The dings, the beeps, and the alerts all draw our attention to the urgent, whether it is or not. Get your e-mail organized (I’ve had a terrible time with Gmail until I read this article and this one), don’t look at every Facebook alert or Tweet.

6. Make Moments Matter. The stuff of life is not stuff, it is the moments of life. Time is made up of events not numbers on a clock. Living more simply begins in realizing how simple and how profound Jesus view of the greatest commandment really is: "Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in Moses' Teachings?" Jesus answered him, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.' (Matthew 22:36-39 GW)

A life of simplicity is solidified by seeing simply and you must make space for the Spirit.  I suspect you are having a hard time making that space happen.  A simple system can make all the difference.

Today's blog is brought to you by the letter "S" and the number "6."

May I Ask: What are the excuses you are making to take time to do this work? Make a list on a sheet of paper. Take a look at them. Then list out the most important relationships and activities in your life. How often do you take time for these? Which side matters most to you right now?

May I Suggest: I’ve often suggested making time for personal retreat because we often don’t realize our need to be apart to do reflection. If you can’t take a weekend, schedule a meeting with yourself for a couple of half-days and invest time into this work.


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