It already seems to be the word of 2016: social media is abuzz with people declaring their New Year’s Resolution is to “simplify.”
The cynic in me hates buzz words. The teacher in me does too. I can imagine my red pen scrawling across my Facebook feed: What does simplify mean, exactly? Simplify? How?
Out of curiosity and a dash of nerdiness, I looked up the word and discovered that according to my buddy Merriam Webster, it means “to reduce to bare essentials.”
I immediately thought of reducing belongings to the bare essentials, but for the most part, my stuff isn’t that important to me. I don’t have an overabundance of things. No stuffed-to-the-gills closet, no overflowing-with-gadget kitchen drawers.
So, it’s not necessarily physical “bare essentials” I’m trying to simplify. It’s my time.
The problem is that my life is so cluttered with legitimately good activities that it can be difficult to determine the “bare essentials” from the superfluous.
My former pastor (former because we moved out of state and he passed this past November), used remind the congregation that time on earth is finite, so saying “yes” to something is saying “no” to something else. You can’t spend the same time twice.
As someone who has a hard time saying no, this concept was (and is) rather freeing to me. If I say “yes” to being on that committee, I might have to say “no” to quality time with a friend or to my personal solitude, both of which are vital to me. No matter how good an activity is, there is a cost-benefit in terms of time. I have to subtract to add.
So, I’m using that idea to simplify my life. Last night, I made a list of things that are important to me — things I want to say “yes” to more often in 2016. The list was daunting: reading, spending time with family and friends, volunteering, creating, exercising, traveling, blogging, praying. I already do most of those things (Okay, not exercising, but my post-Christmas body is telling me it’s time to start!) to varying degrees, but too often, I let the clutter of life squeeze them out rather than guarding them fiercely.
I say “yes” to less important things, which ends up being a passive “no” to the things that really matter to me.
To create margin for all these “yeses” to occur, I put things on the “no” list too: social media, TV, grading essays at home, joining committees at school, acting (for a brief hiatus). It’s not that I’m never going to do the things on the “no” list. On the contrary, sometimes a couple of mindless hours of TV is the ultimate downtime (Hello, NFL playoffs!). I’m just making a more concerted effort to stop checking Instagram every five minutes, to avoid bringing work home, to pass when I could audition for a show that isn’t interesting to me, to say “no” in an effort to protect the bare essentials.
I’m saying “no” to say “yes.” Who’s with me?