Last week I started my week thinking about busy-ness. I was too busy. But I concluded that the “busy” feeling was largely one of my own making. It wasn’t only that I had too much on my plate–though I did have a lot–it was also that I was letting the computer steal a bunch of my time. I had no good morning routine to start me well, or anything to help me plan my day.
So what’s the alternative? Right now, I’m sitting at my kitchen table with five days in front of me. And the question is, how am I going to make those five days count? How am I going to make sure that what needs to get done does indeed get done?
I’ve done the to-do list thing. Many of us have. And I don’t always find them helpful. Sometimes they can just be stifling, because there’s so much on there it gets discouraging. When you go to make a to-do list, you often think of all the things you wish you would just complete, and those go on the list. And then your to-do list stretches a mile.
I think there’s a better way to handle it, and so today I’m going to sketch out what I’d like my days to look like. I’m not saying I always achieve this, but this is the aim. And if you would like to comment and add your thoughts, too, that would be great! Maybe together we’d figure out how to use our days more productively, but also how to savour the downtime and just enjoy being with those we love. So here goes:
1. Have a morning routine.
I’ve written about this before, because mornings are my test. If I can start the morning off right, the rest of the day tends to go well. If I dither or start too late, I become discouraged and often give up on my plans for the day! So I suggest that everyone adopt some sort of a morning routine. When we have a routine we don’t need a to-do list. We know what to do, when. It becomes habit.
So, for instance, I often get up, write a blog post, read my Bible and sip hot chocolate, exercise, shower, and make my bed, in that order. It takes about an hour and a half. Now my children are older now, so I don’t have to get up with them, or get them dressed, or even get them breakfast. They can get their own. I know it’s tough when you have smaller children. But even then I did have a routine. I would often put on a certain video, or put them in the playpen, while I showered. I tended to have breakfast at a certain time. When we had a routine, the kids knew what to expect and didn’t complain too much.
What do you do in the morning to get your day off right?
2. Put first things first.
Part of my morning routine involves reading the Bible. I need to have that time just talking to God and praying, and having some quiet, peaceful time before the day begins. For a while I tried to do this before blogging, but I gave up, because frankly I’m too tired when I first wake up to have productive time being quiet. And quiet time can definitely be productive! We think things through, we pray about important things. But I can’t do that when I’m almost falling asleep. So I try to do something else first that wakes me up, so that I can concentrate more and give my full attention to God.
It’s important to be quiet, at least for a little bit, at the beginning of the day. Assess your priorities. Bring your worries before God. Examine your heart. When we do these things, the day tends to flow better.
3. Get active.
I can’t tell you how much happier I’ve been since I started working out in the morning! It was always something I wanted to do, but getting to the gym was so impossible. With the Wii Fit Plus, I can just workout in my own home. I’m probably not getting as strenuous a workout as I would at the gym, but the point is that I’m doing it. And I’ve been really consistent for about a month now. It does mean that my school day (since we homeschool) begins about a half hour later than I would otherwise, but because I’ve exercised I tend to have more energy!
4. Figure out what your “one thing” is.
I read a great article on time management recently that said that successful people don’t make to-do lists. They simply know what the one biggest priority is, and they work that priority. So their to-do list is only one thing long. I think that’s brilliant, and to tell you the truth, it really does work. My one thing right now is my column. I need to get that written and sent in. When that’s done, I’ll have another one thing. But I find that I can worry about one thing far better than I can worry about twenty. So I try to figure out what the one thing is that is causing me the most stress and worry, and work on getting that out of the way first.
5. Have routines for “routine” things.
Sounds basic, but few of us do it. You have to do laundry. You have to do grocery shopping. You have to do ironing (even if you try to reduce the amount of ironing you do as much as possible). You have to change your sheets and mop the floors. I don’t think of these as to-dos, really, because they occur all the time. So do you have a routine for laundry? I throw a load in everyday when I get out of the shower. I make my bed everyday when I get dressed. I change my sheets every Friday. I iron every Tuesday. Since I know when I do these things, I don’t have to think about them. They automatically get built into my day.
The more we have routines for the routine things, the less busy we feel. You know everything will get done on its day, and you don’t have to do everything all at once. The problem with not having routines is that often things get out of control, and then you try to tackle everything at once. That truly is exhausting. So, as much as possible, work routines for these routine things into your week. Then they’re not a source of stress. If you want some planning charts to plan your housework, and some help with setting up these routines, Getting it Together is an awesome program!
6. Be disciplined.
No one likes discipline. It’s not fun. But it really does help. You know what needs to be done. You know what you should be doing. Don’t work too hard. Your house doesn’t need to be spotless. But when you know something needs to get done, just do it. Carve out time in your day when you will get necessary things done. Don’t spend your life on a computer or in front of a screen. When we’re disciplined, work doesn’t have to take that much time. Discipline isn’t boring; it actually lets you have more fun because you live in a more organized environment and life is not so chaotic.
So there you are. My pointers for how to have a more peaceful week. I’d love to hear yours! What makes you feel more peaceful? What makes you more organized? Let me know!