In a couple of past posts, I wrote about the importance of stewarding your health, as well as stewarding your time, money, and relationships. But there is one critical step that comes first. Successful stewardship requires simplicity.
BONUS: Read all the way to the end of this article for a free download to help you achieve simplicity by prioritizing your relationships, time commitments, and expenses.
Knowing Your Limits
One of my professors at Western Seminary, Norm Thiesen, uses the illustration of juggling. If you can juggle, how many balls can you juggle? Three? Four? Five? Seven? Ten?
If the most that you can juggle before failing is five balls, you can probably juggle four well. If you try to juggle five, you’re pushing it; and if you try to juggle six, you’ll fail.
If you’re failing at stewardship, it’s because you’re failing at simplicity. Your life is too complex. You’re trying to do too much at once.
In a recent article at No Sidebar, Melissa Camara Wilkins told the story of packing up to move her family to a new home. As she was going through her and her family’s belongings deciding what to pack, she began with the obvious question: “Do I need this?”
Along the way, she discovered a better question: “Can I live without this?” That second question isn’t necessarily better when the answer is a clear yes or no, but it is definitely better when the answer is, “maybe.”
Melissa was applying those questions to her possessions, but what if we apply those questions in other areas?
Simplicity in your Relationships
Can I live without this relationship?
This is probably one of the most painful areas of life to ask this question. In a culture where most of our “friends” are on Facebook, it can seem like considering an amputation to consider setting boundaries with people we have face to face relationships with.
It can be tempting to try to simplify your time or finances first. But your time and financial priorities hinge on the relationships that are important to you. Trying to start in those areas is like trying to open a door with no hinges.
But, “bad company corrupts good character,” does it not? When people around you are pervasively negative or draining, they are not only taking your time, energy, and possibly your money, they are corrupting your character. It is absolutely critical to set boundaries.
On the other end of the spectrum: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
I am not suggesting that anyone should ever turn their back on family or a marriage or other serious commitment because of a season of hardship. Forgiveness is part of every healthy relationship.
Even so, there is a line somewhere. Here are a few questions that you can answer to help find that line:
- Does this relationship bring me more joy, or more pain?
- Is this only a season, or is it a pattern?
- Does this person invest in me as much as I do in them?
- Do I invest in this person as much as they do in me?
- Does this person actively or passively support my goals?
This is NOT about playing favorites or being selfish. It’s about freeing up energy and resources sunk into unhelpful relationships so that you can invest in important relationships.
Simplicity in your Time
Can I live without this time commitment?
We live in a culture where being busy is a badge of honor. If we can answer the “how are you doing?” question with “busy,” people somehow assume that we’re either really important, really productive, or both.
In 2005 and 2006, I was in a men’s bible study led by David Valear. He frequently said that BUSY stood for “Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke.” I initially brushed it off as one of the goofy things that Christians say sometimes. But as I got to know David and how protective he was of his time, and how successful he was, I started taking it more seriously.
Once you have prioritized your relationships, it will be MUCH easier to simplify your time commitments.
Here are some questions to help decide what commitments can be cut:
- Is this a “have to,” a “get to,” or a “need to?” (Check out Michael Hyatt’s podcast episode “Watch Your Mouth” for a great self-check).
- Does this bring joy to people important to me?
- Does this bring me closer to people important to me?
- Does this tap into my personal strengths?
- Does this contribute to a greater, long term purpose?
Simplicity in your Finances
Can I live without this expense?
Has anyone else noticed that the majority of financial blogs or “gurus” focus on the increase-your-income side of the equation more than the decrease-your-expenses side?
In today’s developed and post industrial economies, even our “poor” are better off than most of the world’s population. In spite of that, in the US, personal debt per citizen is nearly twice the median income (check out the debt clock).
I confess that I am a part of this. But I’m writing about where I’m going; not where I am now; or where I’ve been.
Here are some questions to help you examine your finances:
- Does it provide a basic need (food, shelter, transportation)?
- Does it provide an economic need (education or job training)?
- Does it facilitate my important relationships?
- Does it facilitate my time commitments?
- Do I have to go into debt or dip into my savings for it?
I have created a printable worksheet to help prioritize your top ten most important relationships, time commitments, and expenses. Click Here, enter your information, and I’ll email it to you right away.
Add Your Voice (comment below)
- What helps you to keep your life simple?
- What self check questions do you use in these 3 areas?