Tuesday Tools: Cull the Excess

For the last couple of months I’ve been constructing my own productivity theory. (Forgive me if someone has already beaten me to it!) It’s a cross between minimalism and the theory of diminishing returns!

The premise of this theory is that human beings are not good at handling excess, in fact we thrive in a sweet spot between having too much and having too little.

Before we begin, let’s think about the different areas in which we may find ourselves with an unhealthy surplus:

1) Time: it seems very few people in the western world claim to have an “excess of time”, rather it seems most people are busy – all the time. (All the time – people are busy!). But I don’t think that is true. I honestly don’t. I think for most people, they have an excess of time available and they spend it poorly. And soon wonder, “where’s all the time gone”. (If time was really as limited as we claim, I don’t think Netflix, YouTube or social media would be as popular as it is) – we’d all be too busy for it.

2) Money: again, few people will claim they have more money than they need. But apparently, if you earn £20K a year, you are in the richest (10%) of the global population. The truth is, you are more likely to have excess money, and spend it poorly than to not have enough. See for yourself in this online calculator: https://howrichami.givingwhatwecan.org/how-rich-am-i

3) Other areas might include, resources, space, material possessions, relationships and a surplus of movie choices. Apparently the affects of excess are felt even when you increase the amount of desktop monitors beyond 3 or 4.

Again, I reckon my theory is closely connected to the theory of diminishing returns as well as minimalism. However, I have always associated minimalism with possessions and having a clear house, whereas my theory is about time, money and other resources – for the specific purposes of productivity.

So why does the excess need culling? Is it so bad? Why can’t I keep it? You may be wondering these questions or similar ones. So let me unpack why it is so essential that we examine the excess in our lives and seek to “cull it”.

I) Excess hinders our creativity and therefore makes us sloppy. When we have more than we need, we don’t have to think of creative solutions to problems, we can just fix it with an inefficient, imprecise, expensive solution. Like using a sledgehammer to hit a nail into plywood.

For example, the other day I noticed my laptop was heating up, because I use it all day. My first thought was “I need to buy a laptop stand, to prop up the back and give the fans some room”. This is because I have excess money (though of course I don’t tell myself that). And after resisting the urge to impulse buy, a luxury not available to those without excess, I decided to simply fold a piece of cardboard up and wedge it under the back of my laptop. Problem solved.

II) Excess isn’t appreciated appropriately and therefore wasted. When we have more than we need, we don’t see the value of what we’ve got. We become flippant and wasteful in how we spend the resource (be it time or money). We forget the importance of optimisation.

III) Excess makes us ungrateful and therefore leads us to jealousy. Linked to the point above, when we have an unnecessary surplus we become ungrateful. A lack of gratitude soon spirals down into comparison games, jealousy and wishing we had what others have, instead of enjoying and appreciating the gifts we have come to take for granted. If you are struggling with envy, one of the best things you can do is look round and be grateful for what you already have.

In this post we have explored some of the areas we may find ourselves with surplus, and the damaging affects of excess. In Thursday’s post we will explore, what to do with our bounty and specifically ‘how do we cull?’

Let me end with a quote from Proverbs (a wisdom book in the Bible) to soak in your mind. It is a prayer of a wise man who is asking God for two things, it is the second that is of most interest to us:

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God

Tuesday Tools: Take the Initiative

I recently read through the Book of Jonah and one of the things that struck me was the complete lack of initiative on Jonah’s part. For those who don’t know, Jonah is the man who God told to go somewhere and preach, who then refused, got eaten by a fish and then spewed out and given another chance to obey God.

So where is Jonah’s lack of initiative? Firstly, it is God who tells him to preach. He doesn’t see the need, and if he does, he has been ignoring it til now. Secondly, in an attempt to flee God’s will he joins a ship heading in the opposite direction. A storm comes and all the sailors are trying to work out a solution. Jonah is burying his head in a pillow when they ask him to help.

Rather than immediately explain that the storms are probably here because he’s disobeying God, he lets the sailors draw lots (in the middle of a storm)…only then (when he is found out) does he explain. Even then its the minimum amount of information. At every point Jonah is hesitant and reluctant, every time he is waiting for someone or something to initiate for him. Be it God, a storm, a lot draw, a fish, a plant to be provided, an immature attitude to be corrected…

Thankfully, the Bible goes on to tell of a God who is not so reluctant, or stagnant, who does take the initiative to rescue us (- even while we were still sinners!)

I found this table produced by John Maxwell, it summarises why we fail to take initiative, perhaps you can relate (I know I can):

But initiative isn’t just a useful approach for living the Christian life. It is also a great benefit in many other areas.

1) Building Friendships – Over the last few weeks, I have taken the initiative to plan getaways with several groups of friends, and a couple of meet ups. I have been so surprised how eager people are for meeting. Likewise, another friend recently took the initiative for meeting with me. It is an amazing feeling when a friend makes the first move. It communicates value, both to me and to the friendship.

2) Exercise – One of the reasons I don’t struggle to exercise regularly is because I take the initiative. I don’t wait for motivation to strike, I just start lifting. Even when I don’t feel like it! Often, it is only when I have started that the mood actually “takes me”. This also applies to studying, reading, working, and lots of other areas. If we want something done, we need to take the initiative. We won’t be spoon fed.

3) Battling Sin – We are all tempted, each by certain things. Sin abounds in our human nature. But we don’t have to be passive about it in our life. If we struggle we lust, let’s take the initiative to put in place accountability procedures, remove trigger points as far as we can, learn to process and understand our unwanted behaviours. What battles do you face? Think of three things you can do today to take the initiative against it. For me, I recently realised how frequently I was buying things from Amazon on an impulse. So I took the initiative to uninstall the app on my phone.

What do you want to happen, what do you feel needs to happen, where would you like to be in five years time? Now take the initiative.

BRT – Philipians

  1. 1.6 God will carry out to completion the good work in me. The longer I walk with God the more I see of my sin and brokenness. At first my sins are obvious and obviously bad, however as God continues His work in me I see me of my “respectable sins”. Pride, independence, unbelief, fear, worry. But this verse reminds me, no matter how bad it looks God is committed to completing His good work in me!
  2. 2:1-11 Simply I want to be a humble person. Reminding me to seek to serve.
  3. 4.6 Again, a popular verse from Philippians: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything…present your requests to God. One of the biggest worry factors in my life, especially as a married man with a wife and a degree of financial responsibility is MONEY! My wife knows this and one valentine’s day she ordered a mug off moonpig with that verse written on it! A couple of weeks ago we had a bit of a problem financially, we had just moved into our new flat (so we had had to pay a deposit and first months rent), and then we had to buy a new washing machine. My budget sheet was knocked off balance. Then my wife didn’t get the pay she was expecting from her work. Long story short, I forgot God, panicked, and stressed. This verse is one that I need to hear, pray, meditate and preach to myself on a daily basis.

Also sorry, if these BRT posts seem a bit rushed…they are. I have a lot of catching up to do. Will try to get a regular routine down for blogging, as I understand that is best…

BRT – 1 Corinthians

I love this book so much! There were four things to pick this week. One of them will be a really short blog post later this week (or at least that’s the plan), because it came up last year.

  1. 9.24-27…This one fits in very well with another post I made earlier, and a theme I have been thinking about for a while (without any real answers) the tension between making every effort and doing everything in God’s strength. In this passage Paul talks about “strict training” and “striking a blow to my body”. How good Godly discipline is to our maturity. Lord please help me understand what it means to do this in a way that doesn’t lead to pride, but allows You shine brighter through me. 
  2. 15.10 “By  the Grace of God I am what I am…” This verse later goes on to talk about working hard but that work being God’s grace! But it was this line in particular that stood out. Paul’s acknowledgment of God’s Grace to make him who he was. Let me always be pointing to Jesus and bringing Him glory! Paul’s identity is found and so tightly tied up in God and His Grace. Lord whether I am at Sainsbury’s or Uni, with friends or whoever may I always acknowledge that I am who I am because of You.
  3. 16.2 My wife and I, have really struggled with tithing this year. Not because we can’t afford it, but because our pay has not been fixed. She got payed on a weekly basis rather than monthly, and I got paid a different amount each month according to how much overtime I did or didn’t do. Plus: Sainsbury’s pay every 4th week rather than on a set day of each month (which means we get 13 pay days a year). Because of these things, setting up a direct debit every month was not very practical. However 1 Cor 16.2 gives some really practical advice to us: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made”. Here we see very short accounts, weekly, setting aside of money.