How to Spend Your Time Wisely

Some days my house is spotless, but I’ve barely had a spare minute to do anything else. Other days are packed with fun, but our home looks like a bomb went off. Our family goes through seasons of busyness and periods of calm, and our days rarely feel perfectly balanced. Going through life as a family will always bring extra responsibilities and expectations into the mix. My mindset during this time: embrace the chaos, but don’t invite it in.

Spend your time wisely by making decisions that reflect your priorities.

Life moves in seasons

From the time babies are born, they constantly move from one phase to the next. Just as you feel that you’ve figured out one new behavior, they continue on to the next. A few days after we brought our first baby home, one of our good friends left us a hilariously encouraging message saying, “So right about now, your biggest question is: where the heck is the manual for this thing?” It was 100% true. Even at 6 and 9, my kids still go through periods that have us wondering how best to parent them. I have no doubt that some of the trickiest phases are still ahead of us in the teenage years.

The good news is that these phases are typically short-lived. A busy time in our family pulls us in many directions, but is often followed by a period of rest. Just as the harvest is often the busiest time for a farmer, afterward he is able to enjoy the result of his hard work. This is never more true for me than during the Christmas season. I put in a lot of extra time shopping, planning, wrapping presents, and decorating our house so that we can enjoy the celebration together. By doing the work ahead of time, I’m able to relish the joy of Christmas with my family.

Make your “yes” meaningful

Ecclesiastes 3:9-10, 12-13 says, “What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with…I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always “take pleasure in all my toil.” I’m thankful that we have food on the table, but I’m not exactly thrilled by another trip to the grocery store. These verses remind us that God did not intend for us to sit around all day. After God created the first man and woman, He gave them responsibilities. Our time on Earth is meant to be productive. In order to be joyful about my work, I have to be careful about how I manage my time.

In The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst writes, “The decisions we make dictate the schedules we keep. The schedules we keep determine the lives we live. The lives we live determine how we spend our souls. So this isn’t just about finding time. This is about honoring God with the time we have.” (p.23) If we’re constantly running on empty, we’re not honoring anyone with our time, no matter how many commitments or jobs we can check off our list. Being busy may be culturally appropriate, but it doesn’t allow our souls to thrive.

Obviously there are times when we can’t help but be busy. Sometimes my kids have back to back school performances or events scheduled at the same time. I’m not talking about that type of accidental overcommitment. I’m talking about when we stretch ourselves too thin by saying yes when we should be saying no. By turning down commitments that we know will drain our time and energy, even though they might be fun, helpful, or worthwhile tasks, we are saying yes to our own well-being and that of our families. In this way, we’re not inviting chaos into our lives without purpose.

Making purposeful decisions about your time helps find balance and allows you to use your time well.

Making purposeful decisions about your time

How can we acknowledge the reality that family life can be busy without surrendering control of our time? By making purposeful decisions about how we use our time. Instead of committing to projects on a whim, we have to think honestly about what it entails. Here are three things to remember before you take on another commitment for yourself or your family.

Don’t underestimate the requirements. How much time will you need to devote to this task, event or activity? I often over-simplify tasks in my head and end up overwhelmed when a project requires more time than I planned. It’s hard to say no to something you genuinely want to do, but if it demands more time or energy than you have to give, it will quickly become a burden rather than a blessing.

Manage your expectations & those of your family. This goes hand in hand with the previous point. There’s a conference I want to attend in a few months, but it falls on the same weekend as a father-son camping trip. Before I make my decision, I need to discuss the timing with my husband, and also plan childcare for our daughter. To make a decision without considering the impact on my family would be disrespectful and potentially problematic.

Count the cost. My daughter takes a dance class once a week. She enjoys the class and rarely has to pass up other activities because the time commitment is minimal. We’re not going to sign her up for a highly competitive dance program requiring several practices a week because she doesn’t have the necessary passion for dance. If an activity or project is going to stretch the demands on your time, you need to make sure it’s worth it.

As a mom, I often feel like I need to be all things to all people. The truth is it’s just not possible. If we want to be able to enjoy the harvest, we can’t be responsible for sowing the seeds everywhere at all times. At some point, something’s gotta give. We have to make decisions that allow the best use of our time for ourselves, our families and for what God is calling us to do.

 

{Linking up to A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Thoughtful Thursdays, Salt & Light}

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Self Care – What, Why and How?

As moms, we work so hard to make everyone happy and to make life go smoothly. We often do the shopping, the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking, and the driving everyone from here to there and back again. We wipe noses, bottoms, and tears.

When we go to bed, we’re so tired, but we can’t sleep because we’re thinking about everything we have to do the next day. We plan parties, playdates, real dates and holiday celebrations. But often we forget to organize time for self care.

What is Self Care? Why is it important? Tips for incorporating self care into your own life.

Self care, very simply put, is taking care of your emotional and physical needs. My daughter once asked me how our local pharmacy employees have time to sleep when the store is open 24/7.

I explained that the employees work in shifts because no one could possibly work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Except that sometimes being a mom feels like that.

Parenting is a round-the-clock job. We’re always on-call. Without taking time for ourselves, eventually our energy runs out, and we start to suffer.

Making time for yourself often feels like the last item on the priority list, but it shouldn’t be. Just like spending time with your spouse or significant other, having time for yourself is not bad or wrong or selfish. It’s necessary to recharge our batteries.

I love my family more than anything, but I need time on my own occasionally, and that doesn’t make me a bad wife or a bad mom. Self care can be as simple as reading a book or as elaborate as a weekend away from home.

Here are some of the ways that I take care of my own needs.

Time With Friends

Whether it’s meeting for breakfast on a Saturday or dessert on a weeknight, I try to meet up with my girlfriends on a fairly regular basis. I crave that time where I can laugh and talk with friends.

It’s important to have times of undistracted conversation, especially if you’re at home with kids full-time. Yes, a playdate for the kids can be a fun time to chat with another mom, but we all know there’s no such thing as a distraction-free conversation when the kids are around.

Bible Study and Book club

I meet with a group of women every other week for Bible study and once a month for a book club, and both are so renewing. We have good conversation and I learn so much. I’ve developed some good friendships too.

If you aren’t interested in a faith-based group, a book club, a cooking class or a yoga class are all great options. The idea is simply a regularly-scheduled purposeful group.

TIME ALONE

For those of us with an introverted side, time spent alone is essential. As much as I love to be with my friends and family, I also need time on my own to fully recharge.

Sometimes I’ll go to the bookstore and browse the shelves. Occasionally I go to a movie alone. I spend a lot of time around other people and sometimes I just need a break from interacting with others.

Weekend away

Each year my three closest girlfriends and I make it a point to have a weekend away together. The kids stay at home with their dads, and we have a weekend of undistracted conversation and fun.

We try to make it a pretty inexpensive trip and just enjoy a lot of “chick chat,” as my husband would say. Having a few days off from all my responsibilities as a wife and mom helps me recharge and regroup. I come back rested, happier and more than ready to be back at home with my family.

My husband and I also try to get at least one full day and night away from home each year. We need that concentrated time to connect apart from navigating the busyness of daily life as a family.

I’m very fortunate to have a husband who makes it possible for me to spend time with my girlfriends or on my own to refuel my tank. I make sure that he gets time with his friends too.

We spend plenty of time as a family and as a couple, but we both understand the importance of being off-duty. If you don’t have a partner that can give you these breaks, consider asking a family member, hiring a sitter, or trading off with another mom.

Just don’t neglect yourself because you think it’s not important!

How do you make time for yourself??

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10 Goals for 2017

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the holidays are over. But, I also love the feeling of possibility that the new year brings! I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about what I hope to accomplish in 2017. I used to come up with resolutions, but I’ve found that isn’t very useful. Instead of just a wish or a hope to improve in some way, I like having a list of tangible, measurable goals.

Setting measurable goals is a great way to start off the new year. What do you hope to achieve in 2017?

I broke down my list into categories to make it easier to track my progress: Personal, Family, Home and Blog. I decided to limit my list to ten goals. Too many goals can feel overwhelming and gives me less chance of success. Too few can make each goal seem overly important. So ten is my number.

Personal

1. Lose another 10 lbs. As of right now, I weigh 7 lbs less than I did this time last year. At one point, I was down 9 lbs, but… the holidays. I credit some of my weight loss to more exercise and making better food choices like (mostly) cutting out soda. The bulk of my weight loss happened during and after my first round of the Whole30 in October. I plan to do another round soon, but for now I’m continuing to incorporate many Whole30 habits into my diet, while not sticking to all the rules.

2. Read 18 books. I love reading. I enjoy all different genres and so appreciate good book recommendations. I also love sharing them like I did here, here and here. One of my most valuable resources for a steady stream of good reading material is Anne Bogel who authors the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy and hosts the podcast What Should I Read Next. I’m using her 2017 Reading Challenge to map out the books I really hope to read this year instead of just flying by the seat of my pants. I’ll be posting my full list on Thursday!

Family

3. Plan date night once a month. I’m a lucky girl. I have a wonderful husband, and we both do our best to make our relationship a priority. Between work and kids and just life in general, it can easily get lost in the shuffle if we don’t pay attention. Making time for one another in spite of being tired or busy is extremely important. I want to make sure that we get out on our own at least once a month.

4. Create a homework schedule that works for both kids. With one in kindergarten and one in third grade, the homework is still pretty minimal. However, the habits we instill now set the tone for the future when the work load increases. As the official manager of their schedules, it’s my job to make sure they learn good habits. Setting up consistent times for homework not only lays a foundation for the future, but also helps me feel more relaxed, knowing I won’t need to worry if everyone’s work is done.

Home

5. Control the clutter. If I had a dime for every item in our house that isn’t in the best spot it could be, I’d be one rich chick! We bring so much STUFF into our home. It’s hard to know what to do with it all so I find myself doing a lot of shuffling. I move things from one place to another, but how much more peace would we all feel in our home if instead of just shuffling, we were actually organized?!? I’m not 100% sure how to measure the progress on this one yet.

6. Finish our patio. When we moved into our house two years ago, we completely overhauled the back yard. While the landscaping is beautiful, the patio area still needs some fine tuning. Last summer we added a seating area, sheltered “temporarily” with an easy-up, which was still out there until two weeks ago when all the rain we’ve been getting thrashed it and we had to take it down before it collapsed on our new furniture. I want our patio ready for summer so we can really enjoy our beautiful back yard this year.

7. Update the master bedroom. Isn’t it funny how often this is the last room to get finished in a new house? Ours isn’t a complete disaster, but it could use some attention for sure. We put in new floors and painted before we moved in. We have a relatively new bed and a new area rug beneath it. The furniture isn’t really working and this room often becomes a dumping ground when we’re trying to keep the rest of the house clean for company. I’ve got lots of ideas on how to make it the haven that it should be.

Blog

8. Consistently post twice a week. I’ve done better with this in the past few months aside from the last two weeks, but consistency is the key word. I tend to go strong for a while and then lose my focus and the posts  begin to dwindle. I’m working hard to get ahead on the calendar this year so that when I’m busy or need a break, the blog doesn’t get completely neglected.

9. Develop a plan for social media. This is another goal I have for my little creative space that involves that magic word: consistency. Since I can be a very inconsistent blogger, it’s hard to gain the momentum I need to sustain a higher number of visitors. Posting regularly and using social media to my advantage are important if I want to amp up my blog traffic. I need to figure out how to utilize schedulers to create a consistent presence on my various social media channels to help keep people interested. Maintaining readers will help me towards one more goal I have for 2017.

10. Reach 10k monthly page views. 10,000 page views might seem like a small amount, but to me it would be a big deal! My highest month so far was about 3500 views. By posting quality content on a regular basis and promoting it properly, I’m hoping to keep readers interested and increase my overall traffic. I love being able to share my ideas and inspiration from others here on Sweeter Still. I’m thankful for those who continue to support me, and I have some big ideas for 2017.

Studies show that sharing goals or intentions with others is a big step towards success. It’s easy to forget about your plans or ignore your lack of progress when no one else knows. Having some accountability goes a long way in helping you achieve what you set out to do. Thanks for letting me share my plans with you. Posting them is a little scary, but also very motivating! Don’t forget to come back on Thursday to see what I’m planning to read this year!

What are your goals for 2017?

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