We are in the middle of a series on Defeating the Overwhelm Monster. If you are just joining us, I suggest you start here. Today, I am giving you some of the tips I learned to help me keep my busy life manageable.
8 Tips to Help You Stay on Top of Your Life:
1. Organize! Plan! As the saying goes, “To fail to plan is to plan to fail.” Without a daily plan, I find that I spin in circles. I do a lot of backtracking. I forget things that needed my attention. In short, I get far less done and have far more stress doing it. The time you spend planning how you will tackle your responsibilities is time well spent. I spend time planning out my week before it starts, and then I spend a little time each evening tweaking my plans for the next day. I start planning big events and holidays at least a couple weeks in advance. The bigger the event, the earlier I start (sometimes several months ahead). Scrambling like a mad-woman to pull things together right before people arrive is not my idea of a good time. It also affects my ability to be a peace-filled hostess.
2. Be Flexible. Don’t let your plan become your new taskmaster. You are not a slave to your planner. Be willing to change your plan in the middle of the stream. I write everything in pencil. Some (many) days don’t go according to plan. I don’t let that stress me out. I write my plan in pencil. If something isn’t working or I can’t get to it, I just erase it and move it to another day. Sometimes I will move a project or job day after day for weeks before I finally find a window to get it done. It’s still on my planner, so it won’t be forgotten. And if I don’t forget it, it eventually gets done.
3. Dress and put on make-up even when you are at home. (Or at least comb your hair.) When you are overwhelmed by your life, it can seem strange to suggest dressing up to go nowhere, but dressing and fixing up goes miles toward making me feel more energetic and productive. Honestly, who feels like an intelligent CEO that can take on the world when your teeth aren’t brushed, your sweatpants have stains, and your socks don’t match. I’ll bet that would even make Donald Trump cower. When you dress like you’ve got somewhere to go and something to do when you get there, you send a signal to yourself that what you do here is important. You also send a message to your family. You tell them that they are important and valuable. If you only dress nice when you go out or when company is coming, how important will that make either you or them feel the rest of the time?
4. Live Balanced. Anything you do can be taken too far and cause problems. For instance, too little organization will lead to chaos, but too much will cause you to be driven, stressed and enslaved. Too little exercise will leave you weak and unproductive, but too much can cause injury, stress and a host of other problems. We want to find balance in everything we do.
5. Realize that training children takes TIME. If you are training your kids to do a household chore (or anything else), that chore is going to take a lot longer than it used to -- at least for awhile. Allow for that. Both you and your children will be less frustrated and stressed if you do.
Don’t fall into the trap of doing it yourself because it’s so much faster. They will miss out on valuable life skills and work ethics training, and you will miss out on your most valuable resource of help. Who else will do what you ask the way you want it done but the people you personally trained to do it? The pay-off may be down the road a little, but eventually, your children will be doing those chores for you while you do some of those other things you want to do (like put your feet up and sip some lemonade).
(On a side note, the same thing is true on the job. Training new employees or volunteers takes longer than just doing the job yourself. Lack of delegation was a major reason why I crashed and burned.)
6. There are seasons in life. The season of small children in the home is very different than the season after they are grown or the season before they came. Trying to live in all the seasons at once will only lead to stress and heartache. Have you ever seen a garden trying to be in winter and spring at the same time? It wouldn’t work. All those fresh new plant shoots would be shriveled and frozen. The same thing happens when we try to live in all the seasons of life at once. When we try to run around with our friends like we did when we were single and travel like we want to when we retire all while raising young children, it isn't any wonder that we feel stressed. Trying to do projects like your neighbor with teens while you have toddlers is going to be difficult. Your neighbor is in a different season. That won't work out any better than trying to re-roof your house in the scorching heat when you're 82. Leave that job for a 20-something young man.
I often see this with volunteer work in the church. Great pressure is often put on mothers of young children (or several children at home) to do the same amount of volunteer work of those with no children or whose children are grown. Somehow, we try to force them to live in two seasons at once and then wonder why they burn out. No one but you will be able to evaluate what season you are in and how much you should take on in that season. Moderation is the key. Learn this powerful little word -- "No." Someone else will inevitably step into your place of volunteer work. But no one can replace your work as a mother.
7. Young children require LOTS of time and energy!! So does being pregnant. After God, your husband and children are your first priority. Don’t let anyone tell you different. After God, my family gets the first part of me, even before our ministry. Everyone else gets the leftovers -- NOT the other way around.
This set of priorities is not popular in our society. Motherhood has fallen out of favor in our day and time. Society dictates that we should be out there making a difference (they seem to forget what a difference we make in our homes). Society tells us that child-rearing will just sort-of happen naturally while we are busy with “more important things”. Motherhood is treated as an afterthought.
If that method was working, our society would not be falling into the moral decay that we see all around us. Honor for the things of God and basic good character has slipped away and been replaced with selfishness, pride and immorality. So were those “more important things” really more important?
I think it’s time to remind ourselves that motherhood (and fatherhood) were God’s idea. Society will never be what it was meant to be if we don’t give it the honored place it was supposed to have.
Don’t let other people outside your home dictate where your time should go. That is a decision for God, you and your spouse to make. This can be hard, because often other people don’t understand. They are often in a different season in their lives. They will make you feel like you are selfish for not doing what they think you should. One lady even told me that I had my family above God and that she had loved Him enough not to have any children (indicating, I guess, that I didn’t love Him as much since I had children!?!) She felt very strongly that I should leave my children to be more active in ministry. But the Bible says that if we don’t provide for our children we are worse than an infidel (or a faithless person). That doesn’t just mean we are supposed to pat our kids on the head and hand them some money. We are to provide leadership, guidance and training. We are to provide love and a sense of personal value. We are to give them safety and security. That takes time.
I spent a lot of time in the Bible and in prayer after that conversation. Did trying to be a good mother really mean I didn’t love the Lord? Did organizing my volunteer work around my family really mean I was putting them above the Lord? I came out of that time more sure than ever that it was my job, and mine alone, to be a mother to my children. If I don’t do that volunteer job right now, someone else will inevitably step in and do the job. But if I don’t do the valuable job of mothering my children, who will step in to fill that role? That role was given to me by God. God is a Father. He knew what He was asking when He gave us the responsibility of parenthood.
I decided long ago that I would not lose my children trying to save the world. My priority choices must be working, in spite of my critics, because my teens are on fire for God and hungry for more of Him. They are busy volunteering in the church and growing into fine young people of character. Oh, and by the grace of God, we are making an impact on the world, too.
8. Have a “Do The Next Thing” Mentality. Do you know what I mean by that? You can overwhelm yourself trying to think of everything that needs to be done. There is just too much. If you focus on just one thing it brings your mountain down to a manageable size. Once that job is done, you go on to do the next thing. And then the next thing. Before you know it, you have accomplished a great deal.
This is where a To-Do list is so handy. I write down every job as it comes to me, both little and big. That way I always know what the next thing is. As I plan my week , I try to prioritize those jobs, but I don’t always go in order, either. If I have a spare 15 minutes (perhaps while I am waiting on someone or something else) I can look through my job list and knock out a quick job. Rather than spinning around in circles without a clear direction, I just point myself in the direction of “the next thing”.
Next time we will be finishing up this series with an Emergency Plan for when you are seriously overwhelmed and approaching burn-out. Until then,