Just as clutter around the house makes for clutter on the inside–let alone waste galore,–so does clutter in our everyday activities. Schedules are necessary in order to keep us on track and help us be productive throughout our day. Without efficient routines, we not only waste an incredible amount of time and money, but we also have no clue whether what needs to get done got done. We feel disheveled, stressed to the max, frustrated, not knowing what to tackle first, and we never have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
We need systems that work for each one of us individually.
Systems don’t have to feel like pressure; think of them as the framework that give us freedom to actually enjoy the moments of everyday life. When we have a good system in place, there is no guilt, no “I’d rather” or “I-ought-to-” moments when we take the time to throw a football around with the kids or soak in a bubble bath.
Do you have a lot of unfinished chores in your life, like errands that needed to be done last week, or sweeping the front stoop, or changing light bulbs, or organizing your socks, or returning phone calls and texts, or cleaning out the car and putting away winter clothes? The accumulation of unfinished tasks can be so frustrating.
Do you have “to do” notes everywhere? Or “honey-do” lists from your mate? Do you feel like you never have time for yourself and therefore you are drained by the demands of everyday life even though not much gets accomplished?
Been there, done that.
As I was doing some research for this blog post, I came across this quote from Benjamin Franklin, “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” Would you like to earn yourself some time and money? Just start.
- Grab a piece of paper (or notes on your phone), and start jotting down all the unfinished tasks that you need to accomplish. Rate them by importance–what demands immediate attention gets top ranking, followed by whatever would make your life less stressful. Keep that paper by you because you will keep thinking of more as time goes by.
Schedule the unfinished tasks in your planner (or on a piece of paper) starting with the most important task: under today’s date, write down what you can realistically do today, and then do the same for tomorrow, and the day after, and the one after until all the unfinished tasks have been assigned. Decide how much time you will give to each task every day and when the time runs out, you are free to be done for that day. If you are not done yet, just add it to tomorrow’s task list.
Remember Ecclesiastes 3:1? “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” God thinks that it’s a good thing to assign a specific amount of time for each activity.
- The way we start our day shapes our day.
Busy, busy, busy… Most of us hit the floor running, with no thought at all about nourishing ourselves or setting ourselves up for a fruitful day. We start our day by reaching for our phone and we check emails and Facebook, inviting the whole world into our life before we even checked in with ourselves and God. We get up and start yelling at the kids, running around in the kitchen trying to make sense of yesterday’s mess… No wonder we feel stressed!
So here is a big challenge for you: start your day with ten minutes for yourself. No phone, no news, no outside influence until you nourished your own self. If necessary, set your alarm for ten minutes earlier. And right now, you probably are thinking that I just added one more thing to do in an already-too-tight schedule and that this is completely counter-productive; please don’t stop reading but hear me out.
When you invest the first ten minutes of your day into yourself, you are making an important statement: “my life is more than my stuff, my time or my money. I am more than what happens to me and what is required of me.” By valuing yourself enough to nurture YOU first in your day, you will rediscover joy in the rest of your day. You will find that everyday tasks take less time and energy, and you will finish your day strong.
This nurturing time will look different for each one of us, but they will involve any or all of these activities: getting centered, feeding on the Word of God, meditating, talking to your Maker, stretching, deep breathing, becoming intentional about your purpose in this day.
Make this time sacred, non-negotiable, no matter what. You will reap immeasurable benefits. And don’t worry if it takes you three months to establish that routine; it’s worth it. Chip away at old habits until this “sacred 10” is your new normal. You won’t regret it.
- Make a list of all that is stressful in your morning and evening routines.
Brain-storm how to make these less chaotic. Are you trying to cram too much into not enough time? Could you clean up the kitchen at night instead of in the morning? Could you do some of the morning jobs (lunches, picking out clothing, etc…) the night before? Could you do some of the evening jobs in the morning?
Prioritize your morning and evening activities–what must absolutely be done? What could be done at other times? What chores could you assign to someone else? Re-invent for yourself a morning routine that fits with the way your family operates so that you can all start your day less stressed; it might take a few tries until you come up with a great system, but it is worth your efforts. This will pay huge dividends in the long run.
- Purpose to finish your day slowly.
We aren’t at our best if we do not sleep well, and we often don’t sleep well if we don’t put ourselves to bed with kindness. Blaring television or arguments don’t promote sweet sleep.
Start brainstorming how to change your before-bed-time routine so that your day ends quietly and you are well prepared for a good night’s sleep. Here again, just like your “sacred 10” in the morning, investing in yourself is pivotal.
Writing in a journal, listening to soft music, expressing gratefulness, reviewing today’s accomplishments, having a small glass of wine and deep breathing are all simple ways to close out your day on a positive and nurturing note.
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