I have had these thoughts simmering in my brain for a while and thought I would share them here. I sprinkled in pictures of the kids to lighten it up a little!
Recently, I’ve been feeling like I can’t get anything done. Like I’m always behind on my to-do list. Like I can’t keep track of everything I’m supposed to be doing, and even when I do remember I’m still dropping the ball. Like I’m busy all day, but there’s not much to show for it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m checking off the necessities, but there is so much more that I want to accomplish each day. I have dreams of spending more quiet time with God, blogging much more frequently, journaling more, writing letters to friends and family, completing craft projects, and spending time with girlfriends (guilt-free!), among other things. I tend to go through patterns of being weighed down by a lack of productivity, which leads to frustration and an intense desire to find some kind of system to get me more organized and on task, which works for a short amount of time, until it doesn’t, which then leads to being unproductive, and then to the search for a new and better system to get me back on task, and on and on it goes. Can anyone identify with this? I am very skilled at researching different methods for “setting up a schedule that really works,” or “making goals you can follow through with,” or “keeping a clean house in just 15 minutes a day,” or “getting everything done that you need to while still making time for yourself.” I scour pinterest, and search through endless time management and lifestyle blogs for everyone’s opinion on what works best. I’ve created cleaning charts broken down with tasks by day so that the whole house can be cleaned in the week. I’ve made comprehensive weekly meal plans with coordinating shopping lists. I’ve bought the fancy daily planner, the time management e-course, and a binder to keep my papers in order (with cute folders). Yet I am still searching for that magic method that will make my day to day more structured and manageable. I recently went to a women’s breakfast at church when a speaker went over some fabulous, practical time management tips that can help free up time for Bible study and prayer. I had already heard all of the wonderful advice that she shared through my research. So why am I still struggling? Here is my secret:
I lack discipline.
I have the knowledge. I know what I should be doing. I’m just not doing it.
That is hard to admit to myself, and even more difficult to type out for other people to see. But I want to put it out there, because I think I’m not alone. There must be other women like me, or else all of these time management courses and systems and printables would not exist! But I think we all like to pretend we are on top of our game. Yes, we complain about life being SO STRESSFUL, with the kids, and the house, and the cooking, shopping, cleaning, activities, exercise, appointments, (insert important activity here). We do this while at the same time presenting our best self to others and acting like we are managing all of our responsibilities just fine. But behind closed doors, we are scrambling to get it all done and wondering why we were so busy all day, yet accomplished so little. If you cannot identify with this at all, please share your wisdom with the rest of us! If you can, you might benefit from some things I’ve learned through my extensive research 🙂 and some self-evaluation. Now please, give me grace, because I still need to do a lot of work in this are. I am the first person who needs to take this advice and own it!
1) Daily “chores” will never be fun.
I kept thinking that if I looked hard enough, I would stumble upon the magic solution that would make the monotonous tasks of laundry, doing dishes, and cleaning somehow enjoyable. It doesn’t exist! When I’ve tried to have a show, vlog, or podcast on while cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry, it’s made the task I’m doing take longer because I’m not as focused. I think the best thing for me is to play some music and try to get the boring stuff done as quickly as I can. I know lots of women put a timer on and rush against the clock to get a task done and out of the way. I think that’s a great idea!
2) “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.”
I absolutely love this phrase, coined by Emily Ley. She said that the meaning of this phrase is found in 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” My weaknesses humble me and allow God’s grace to enter my life and do mighty things. That reminder makes me feel a lot better about all of my imperfections and shortcomings! When I’m cleaning my house, organizing, or cooking dinner, it doesn’t have to be perfect! It just needs to get done. Getting caught up in things being “just right” is too draining! And if I slip and have a day where I hardly get anything done, I need to stop beating myself up so much and remember that tomorrow is a new day with a fresh start. (By the way, Emily Ley created the fancy daily planner I referenced buying earlier and I LOVE IT! You can see her products here.)
3) Always have a to-do list.
If I go into my day without a to-do list, I’m moving around the house like a chicken without a head. I start tidying the kitchen, then put an item away in my bedroom, then get caught up doing a task in my bedroom (while the kitchen still isn’t finished), and then Henry calls out that he needs help with something (i.e. he’s done going potty and needs help wiping!), so I help him but then start cleaning the bathroom because I noticed toothpaste all over the sink…and you get the idea. I get super distracted and then super frustrated when I’ve chipped away a little at multiple rooms but not actually completed any one room. A to-do list solves this problem because you can see exactly what needs to be done, and create an order with high priority items at the top. If you see something else that needs to be done as you’re going about the day, add it to the list (or tomorrow’s list). It is SO gratifying to cross things off of a list! It just makes me feel extra productive! (That’s, of course, when I actually have a to-do list.) 🙂 I told you I need this advice more than anyone!
4) Put that phone away!!!!
This is probably the main culprit in the derailment of my productivity. (I hope that sentence makes sense). A “quick response” to a text can lead to checking email, which can lead to doing an internet search or checking facebook. And once you open up facebook, you’ve basically consented to waste an hour of your life! It’s not intentional, and it’s not all wasteful. However, falling into the trap of phone distractions leaves me feeling really discouraged, and makes the important tasks I have yet to do seem harder to complete. If scrolling facebook is really important to you, put it on your to-do list and give yourself a time limit. I find that when I really think about it though, I rank many other things higher in my list of priorities.
5) Incentives are not just for children.
Yes, I bribe my kids sometimes. If Henry is good in the supermarket, he can go on the dragon ride by the entrance (it only costs a penny!) I get my kids to persist through meals they are not fans of with the promise of dessert. Please don’t be harsh on me if you don’t agree with my methods! My point is that an unpleasant chore is easier to bear when there is a reward waiting for you. As I said, I am still working on being more disciplined and productive each day. Something that I am trying to do is schedule a time each day that is just for me. I need to have finished all the boring responsibilities for each day, and if I do, I can spend that time doing something that I love. Like writing on this blog, reading a book, or working on something crafty. I used to shy away from writing things like that down in my schedule, because it didn’t seem right when there are other things I could be doing that are not just for fun! But we all need times like that to refuel so that we can give more to others. I’m sure you’ve heard of the illustration that in an airplane emergency you’re supposed to put your air mask on first before putting one on your child? Well, doing things that energize you fill your soul so that it’s easier to serve those around you. So give yourself a nice reward for the time you spend doing the boring stuff. It will not only benefit you, but those around you!
I hope that these simple observations will help if you struggle the same way that I do. In my next post I’m going to address a few tools I’ve come across that are helping me get my days in order. (When I am diligent in utilizing them!)