Do you make new year’s resolutions? I usually don’t, but this year I decided to make one:

“In 2013, I will simplify my life.”

That’s it. Not a lot of detail. I didn’t go into specifics. It’s intentionally vague. I came to realize late in 2012 that my life is too hectic, too crazy, too full of unnecessary responsibilities and other “stuff” that doesn’t leave me enough room or time to spend with people and doing things I love and enjoy. So I vowed to simplify this year.

So far, that’s taken shape in some of the following ways:

  • I stepped down from the Board of Directors of an organization I’ve worked with for the past few years. It was bittersweet to resign this position, but I knew it was occupying time I didn’t have to give and I could feel myself burning out in this area as a result.
  • I’ve reorganized my office, converted papers to digital files, and either given away or thrown away a TON of “stuff,” from books to files to other misc. items. My office is growing increasingly clean, organized, and peaceful. I’m not a “zen” guy, but if I were, I’ve got it.
  • I’ve set three major goals this year: one for my personal life, one for continuing education, and one for work. Obviously there are a lot of goals I have, but I’ve prioritized myself to focus in those three major areas to get certain things accomplished to position myself for a simpler, more peaceful and stress-free life in the future.
  • I’ve adopted a plan to read more books.
  • I have committed to consistently using an organized task-management system to maximize my office time and avoid unnecessary stress from project deadlines and the “last minute” rush.

So why am I telling you this? Because here’s what I realized: When I’m busy, my prayer time and spiritual life suffer first. I’m openly admitting a weakness: if I have to choose between playing basketball on a weeknight or spending time reading my Bible or studying, I’ll choose basketball most of the time. I find that whether I mean to or not, my spiritual life is usually the first area of my life to take a hit when I get busy. There’s an old saying that goes, “Satan doesn’t want to make you evil, he wants to make you busy.” Distractions are everywhere, and they keep us from being able to focus on God.

What that translates into is a feeling that no matter how much or how little time I pray, I usually can’t focus my thoughts on God for very long. It’s like there is this really heavy cloud-cover of stuff between me and God. The open skies are gone. I’m boxed in, weighed down, and choked out by all the various parts of my life that distract me from God. So I had to clear the clouds. I had to get back the open skies.

Odds are good that you struggle with this too, because we’re all busy people, and we all tend to let our spiritual lives be the price we pay to keep up with everything else. What “clouds” are causing communication problems between you and God? What is keeping you from seeing and hearing Him in your life? What’s distracting you from growing and investing in your walk with God? What needs to go?

I encourage you to carefully consider what areas of your life you can simplify. Get rid of unnecessary stress. Do it soon. When you start to clear up clouds in your life, it will amaze you how much easier it is to breathe. When your skies are open and clear, you can finally relax and have some peace in your life. Make room. Leave yourself some space in the margins. You’ll be happier, healthier, MUCH less stressed, your family and friends will thank you, and you’ll see an immediate improvement in your relationship with God and in your faith.

What will you eliminate to make “space in the margins”?