I often reflect on the prodigious output of individuals like Calvin and Luther who wrote in a day when there were no typewriters, computers, electricity or study aids. How did they do what they did?

The truth is that their lives were much more uncluttered than ours. Uncluttered by ubiquitous email, by cell phones, by television and the Internet, easy travel or the unending options we have for how we spend out time at work or at play.

Often, our conveniences become our challenge. Clutter is how I think of all the emails, communication, media, travel obligations, paperwork and meetings. Not that some of these are not important but because they are not all equally important, but we often treat them that way, to our detriment and frustration.

A personal goal of mine is to unclutter my life so that I don't live in the frustration of too much to do or the lack of time to do what I really should be doing well.


Email screams at us to respond. I set aside a specific time to go through the bulk of my email so that it does not distract me through the day. The delete button is wonderful. So are short replies. I respond personally to every email from my staff, but at a time that works for me. Just because others can talk to us any time does not mean that we need to respond at any time.

Paperwork is ubiquitous. I have a wonderful pile in my office that I call the six month pile. When I receive paperwork that is of questionable importance, it goes in that pile. Every six months or so I go through it and realize that 95% of it can just go in the trash. The rest I deal with. I love that pile.

Meetings waste tons of time. Lencioni's book, Death By Meeting, is a classic. I cannot control what others do but I have resolved not to waste other people's time with meetings that are unplanned, poorly run or waste precious time. Meetings are not social occasions but missional.

The cell phone is a blessing and a curse. My strategy is to answer those calls that are important (caller ID), to return other calls when it is not a distraction and to schedule phone appointments rather than to take calls at any time. I am available to those who I need to be available to but in a way that does not clutter my day.

Obligations clutter our lives. Many of those obligations are not obligations we feel but obligations others impose on us. Saying no to those things that are not necessary unclutters life and gives us breathing room for those things that are truly necessary.

Travel is time consuming. I have increasingly been turning to video meetings, even for consultations with church leaders or other organizations to save the wear and tear of travel and simplify my schedule. Sometimes being there in person is necessary. Often it is not. Video meetings can save major travel time.

Reading: Too many books, too little time. The key is to read more selectively - we will never keep up with the information out there but we need to keep up with the critical information out there.

Relationships: They are important. Uncluttering our lives gives us time for what counts more - people.

I suffer from the disease of not being able to work in a cluttered office or study. If things are not in order I feel that my life is not in order. But life itself can be cluttered as well. I am on a mission to unclutter my life. Order and the ability to concentrate on what is most important lightens the load, clears the brain and focuses my energy.

Back to Calvin and Luther: One of the greatest downsides of clutter is that it keeps us from deep thinking. And deep thinking is the key to successful living and ministry. When our clutter crowds out time to think deeply it has compromised our lives. Our business provides the illusion of importance and significance but it is only an illusion. Those who accomplish the most are those who think the most about what they do and how they do it.

How cluttered is your life and do you have a strategy to keep it simple?
  • Jun 13, 2013
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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