Deep Breaths

You know those days where the so-much-to-do-so-little-time cliche is overwhelmingly true for you? When you are surrounded by fires and are spinning in circles, beating each blaze in turn? When you don’t even have a minute to think?

Our natural response to this is to go in swinging — do as much as we can as fast as we can and all at the same time. This is counter-productive. Our heart is in the right place, but our head isn’t driving.

Next time this happens, would you try something new? Take a deep breath and rapidly prioritize. I’m only talking about a minute here, no major planning. Just decide what needs to be done next and then next after that. Once you have a start on your priorities, start doing them. I’m all for plowing — but in a straight line! It works better than running in circles or a scatter-shot approach.

The deep breath gets you off on the right foot. So often we respond to others’ urgency or react emotionally before thinking things through. Remember, tension will work against you. Give yourself a few seconds to make sure you react wisely and think through your priorities well.

If you will focus on one thing at a time, knocking them off the list as you go, you will get more done faster. You will be thinking more clearly and be able to handle each item well. Once it is done, you have one less thing to think about, and that relief will snowball the more you do.

DEEPBreath --Now Get it done!

 

Habits Help

Each day a million thoughts run through your head. You see and hear lots of good things to try. Your goals are many and varied. But, how to do it?!?

We have discussed multiple strategies on this blog that help answer that question, and today we will add one more aspect.

Routines are effective. The more habits you can create in your day and then string together into a routine, the more you will accomplish without thinking about it. Yes, it takes time to build those habits, but the investment pays off immensely in the future.

When you think about eating an elephant one bite at a time, habits are a great illustration of “one bite” a day. If you do one thing every day (or every weekday), how much would be accomplished in a month? Or a year? If you want to do something more (like exercise or read), doing that thing 10 minutes a day will add up. After a few months, you will indeed have done something more.

Habits provide rest. When you get to the point that you have a habit (like brushing your teeth), you don’t have to think about what you are doing while you are doing it. Some days that is a micro-nap for your brain; other days it is free space for creative or deep thinking. Make the most of it!

Also, we are not designed to go full-out all day long. Scattering mental breaks throughout your day gives you a chance to catch your breath — while still accomplishing what you continually need in hygiene or chores or growth — before expending energy on the major efforts of the day.

Structure builds security. When you know the road you’re on, you are comfortable lifting your foot to take a step. In complete darkness in an unfamiliar room — not so much. When your routine is established, making exceptions is safer. When you know what to expect, you will naturally feel less anxious. You can be confident you will come back to the “normal” day. Bases are covered, so a special activity is not a concern.  If you have put wise effort into big picture planning ahead of time, you can relax and enjoy the small trip.

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Not only do these points all apply to us, they also help with children. A regular, daily routine will:

  • minimize repeated instruction (they know what they are doing; they do it every day), and
  • require less energy in creating and communicating a new schedule for every hour and every activity.
  • Children love the security of structure. Once it is established, they will be active advocates for keeping it in place and you on track!

Relax

So, continuing on the theme of the joys to be had with shotguns and clays and a wide-open field…

You’re standing in the hot sun, holding your shotgun, joking around with friends. You know the goal is to vaporize the orange clay on the first shot. You know everyone around you is counting their shots and keeping one eye (or both!) on yours as well. Will you just chip it? Will you miss? Can you hit double after double? There is pressure to perform. If you are competitive, multiply that pressure exponentially!

Time after time, there has been consistent, obvious improvement in my accuracy when I am relaxed. The more relaxed, the more I hit. I’m breathing better, my muscles respond better, my energy is not wasted and can be used for what I want to do.

There’s a life lesson here too.

Relaxed and focused will maximize your time and efforts. Overwhelmed, panicked, tense, disturbed and distracted — all take time and attention from your goal or task or schedule for the day. The more time you spend ‘stressing’ or worrying about all you have to do and how you are going to do it, the less time you use to get it done. You psych yourself out of productivity when you focus on the potential problems.

Time after time, when I am coaching someone on process or time management, we start the hour with a HUGE project that seems impossible to get done. But as we break it down into steps and make a plan, twenty minutes later — it’s no problem at all. It’s possible. Not only that, it often is a project that can be enjoyed! How would you rather spend an hour: worrying and procrastinating, or working and enjoying the results?

My encouragement to you is this: Enjoy the moment! Do the work that is given to you for that time. Relax and get it done.

 

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Another way to support a little less tension in your day is to schedule margin. We have discussed this before, but it has a huge impact on reducing stress in your project or your calendar.

 

FYI: Calendars

Following is a collection of links that may be of interest to you related to our current topic. Note, listing does not imply endorsement. Please evaluate for your own situation.

Remember your organizational system must fit you and your life to be successful. It can be helpful to gather ideas from many places to try, but be free to pick and choose what works for you.

Paper Planners

Simple & Short — 8 steps to get you started and stick with it

Household Planners — a great encouragement and thorough description of an excellent household planner

More Encouragement — why a paper planner?

Design Your Own — tips for making your planner fit you

More Color — spicing it up!

A More Extensive Guide — for those who are interested in robust planners

Calendars

Effective Project Management — using your calendar to get big jobs done in manageable pieces

Time Blocking — 2-minute tip article on visual cues

 

Continue reading “FYI: Calendars”

Make Time to Be Holy

Time management and productivity are hot topics, and ones that fascinate me, but we must be careful to look at them in a healthy way. Why do we want more time in a day? What are we looking to produce? Are we plowing through the to-do list because we enjoy the checkmarks (oh, so much!), or because we are making time for priorities?

What is our priority? There are several big picture answers to that, all different expressions of one concept.

One is straight from Jesus – “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt. 22:37-39).

Or a shorter answer is found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism – “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

We know many verses that detail how our love for God should show in our daily obedience, and we will talk about most, if not all, of them during the course of this blog. But we need the great purpose before us in the day-to-day steps as motivation and inspiration. We need to be protected by this love and pursuit of God’s glory to prevent us from straying into self-centeredness and shallow pleasures.

As we discuss time management, organization, homemaking, creating beauty, broadening horizons, and much more, I beg of you to keep the glorious as an umbrella over the good and great. Women, are you seeking to accomplish more in your workday simply as an accomplishment and way for promotion, or to have greater time and ability to be “teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3)? Wives, are you planning out your day just because you love a smooth calendar, or so you can best serve your husband and be free to enjoy family devotions in the evening with a clear mind? Daughters, are you getting faster at completing daily homework so you can spend more time on social media, or so you can cheerfully and easily obey when after-dinner chores are required?

There are so many draws on our time and attention, but one thing is best. Samuel Pearce, in a letter to a church member’s daughter, said it this way, “I hope that my dear Ann, amidst the various pursuits of an ornamental or scientific nature which she may adopt, will not omit that first, that great concern, the dedication of her heart to God.”*

As we look well to the ways of our households, we will examine and practice the good and better – but we will always seek what is best.

 

* A Heart for Missions: Memoir of Samuel Pearce by Andrew Fuller, Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005, page 163.