I woke up this past Monday ready to start my week with a bang. I had spent the weekend getting caught up after last week’s trip, and by 8am I had already finished my work for the day, returned several neglected emails, handed in a writing assignment, tidied my house, put in a load of laundry, set our schedule and made our lesson plans for the day. We had a lot to get done and I was READY.
And then I got a text message from a Very Important Person asking if I would be available for a phone call in about an hour.
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I don’t know how it works in your family, but my kids have an amazing sixth sense that tells them they need EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD right at the exact moment the phone rings. Since I knew I wouldn’t want to be disturbed during this Very Important Phonecall, I did the essential Very Important Phone prep: I prepared snacks and water, made sure both girls had gone potty, and then gave Princess a long pep talk about how she is older and needs to be an example and mommy’s big helper and how under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was she to come out of her room or let her sister bother mommy while mommy was on the Very Important Phone Call.
And then I waited. The hour came and went with no call. And then another hour. While the phone eventually did ring and the Very Important Phonecall was successfully completed with not a single interruption, by the time I was finally done the entire morning was shot and all my perfect plans had gone awry.
To be perfectly honest, there was a time in the not-so-distant past that having my entire well-planned morning interrupted would have really stressed me out. I would have spent the rest of the day running around like a mad woman frantically trying to get ever last item checked off my list, most likely yelling at my poor kids to cooperate in the process. I would’ve completely overlooked the fact that they had spent two and a half hours playing quietly in their room without fighting, crying, whining, or asking for anything while they patiently waited for me to be done. I would’ve missed the valuable lesson in responsibility Princess was learning by keeping her 3 year old sister occupied and happy.
But thankfully that’s not what happened this time. Instead of getting stressed, I adjusted my expectations for the day. I reevaluated the things that had to be done versus the things that could be done, crossed several items off my list, and then spent the next few hours giggling with my daughters as we worked together to deep clean their room, then ran some errands and even found a few minutes to stop for cupcakes. No, I didn’t get it all done, but it was a very good day just the same.
Just yesterday someone asked how I do it all. How do you manage it, she asked, what’s your secret? You must be superwoman.
Uh, not quite. Not even close really.
I’m pretty sure Superwoman at least managed to take a shower once in a while!
The fact is that although I have moments here and there where I feel pretty super, more often then not it seems like no matter how much I try to plan ahead, the nitty gritty of life always brings me right back down to reality with an earth-shattering crash. But as I get older–and hopefully wiser–I am learning to roll with the punches a little bit more.
And while I really am just learning, I have found that abiding by these 4 simple rules for my time help my days go a whole lot smoother:
1. Know your priorities
When there is too much to do, knowing what things are truly most important helps me stay focused. A few months ago, when I was really struggling to get my priorities in order, I literally wrote down the order that I wanted them to be.
My list looked like this: God, Family, Homeschool, Friends, Work/Blog, Keeping House, Reading, Diet & Exercise, Entertainment Sadly the list didn’t match how I was actually spending my time, but it did give me motivation to make some changes.
2. Start the morning well
One of the biggest changes I made was adding a morning devotion back into my routine. I have always been a morning person, so getting up early to get my work done–or at least started–is what makes sense for me. Those 3 hours in the morning, before anyone else gets up, when the house is quiet and I can simply be alone with my thoughts, are precious, and I usually wake up raring to go and ready to start my day. There is always so much to do and that time goes by very fast.
I am ashamed to admit that I often skipped morning devotions because it felt like it was just taking too much time, time that I could be using more productively. But after reassessing my priorities I realized there was no more important way to spend the first few minutes of my day. The most obvious way I can put God first in my life is to give Him top billing in my schedule.
I have a few other morning rituals that keep me focused as well–drinking several cups of fresh hot coffee, turning off my phone, not checking email or Facebook until my other work is done, finishing my most dreaded task right off the bat, and then filling out my daily planner & schedule to have a road map to get me through the rest of the day. I find that doing things in the same order keeps me more grounded and focused, and it is usually only when I stray from my routine that I start to get distracted and lose track of time!
By the time the rest of the family starts to get up, I have usually–though not always–gotten enough done that I can be more relaxed and attentive–cuddling with Trouble on my lap as I finish up a few emails, or sometimes enjoying a cup of coffee together with Husband before he heads to work.
Even on those days where I still feel like I have a million things to do and there is no way to possibly get it all done I have found that making an effort to intentionally start the day in a pleasant & stress-free way really helps the rest of the day go more smoothly.
3. When in doubt, clean something
Once we’ve finished breakfast and Husband has gone off to work, we almost always start our day with a speed cleaning session. I’ve written before about why it is so important to me to keep my house clean, and in terms of my own time management–and sanity–a tidy house really is key.
When my house is messy, I can’t think straight. I can’t find anything, I feel anxious and out-of-control, and I just spin, not even knowing what to do next. It is almost as if I am paralyzed by some unknown force of chaos, and I just can’t get anything done.
But when I take the time to get my home in order, the rest of my life seems to fall into place too. I do some of my best thinking while I am cleaning, and when I am done I can then move on to the next thing.
4. In case of emergency, refer to #1
Don’t be fooled by the hype: No one can do it all. That is where the priorities come into play. On the days where my schedule goes exactly as planned and I get everything checked off my to-do list, I usually feel pretty good about myself. But those days are very rare. Almost nonexistent. Most of the time I am constantly having to readjust, re-prioritize, and lower my expectations.
When something unexpected comes up, however, I am finding that knowing what is most important still makes the rest of the day go smoother. At the end of the day it won’t matter how many things I checked off my list if I turned my back on the things that matter the most.
I am excited to be linking today’s post with Edie’s Life. On Purpose. For Them. series today! This month’s theme is TIME….be sure to pop by or link up if you’ve got a blog!