Engineering A Simple Life
Christian Knutson posted on January 07, 2013 |

Entering into the New Year is a time for reflection on life and I suspect that many of you are reflecting about simplifying your life.  Between professional, family, educational, and hobby pursuits the amount of complexity in the average person’s life is staggering.  Or perhaps you’re not like me: I used to have too much to do and not enough time to do it in.  Or so I thought.  Then I realized that I was accepting a complex life.   I needed to be engineering a simple life.

If you do associate with my past fate of too much stuff/too little bandwidth, then you may want to consider these tips that I use in engineering a simple life:

Understand that nature abhors a vacuum.  Fill your time or someone else will.  First off, if you don’t have meaningful pursuits that you have identified, then you’re chasing after somebody else’s pursuits.  Whether you’re working for someone else or not, get some pursuits (a.k.a. goals) of your own to go after.

Simple Sacrifice.  Simplifying your life doesn’t mean you’re now following Feng Shui giving up your human existence to live like a monk or becoming a mountain man.  Simplifying means filtering out the noise.  Decluttering your spaces, cleaning up your diet, dispensing with the unnecessary email and social media time.

Run a Time Audit.  If you’re in private practice you’re used to tracking your time.  You, or your project manager, are very keen to keep billable hours up and limit the amount of overhead.  How about in your life?  How much of your time are you putting towards the “billable projects”, pursuits such as family, friends, personal growth/development and health?  How much time is going towards “overhead” like TV, social media, or gaming?  Audit your time for a week and see how much time you’re truly putting towards your future.

Don’t accept tasks out of obligation, do so out of necessity.  How many tasks are you working simply because you feel like you should?  As I remind myself constantly: there are an infinite number of tasks I can work, but I only have a finite amount of time.  When I give myself the reminder I quickly identify several tasks that are obligatory versus necessary.  An obligatory task is one that doesn’t need to be accomplished by you, or at all, but you feel you must because you were asked.  A necessary task is one that must be done by you because someone is relying on you, you’re the only one that can do it, or it’s aligned with your projects and direction in life.  The goal is make the tasks you’re working those of necessity only.

Engineering a simple life, like guarding your PC against spam and viruses, is an on-going endeavor.  So start it today and enjoy the benefits of having the bandwidth to focus on the necessary tasks that matter to you.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”  Confucius

Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leader, civil engineer, and author.  He’s an accomplished professional specializing in A/E/C work internationally and author of The Engineer Leader, a recognized blog on leadership and life success for engineers and professionals. 

Photo by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

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