Sometimes it isn’t about a new app to increase your productivity. Sometimes we just need a little shot of inspiration. That’s what this week’s list of sanity savers is all about. To get access to time-limited sanity savers, be sure to subscribe.
#1 Live to your potential
I’m a fan of Jordan Peterson’s and this video about how much time we waste and how we could live instead is worth watching and rewatching.
#2 Making Oprah podcast
Oprah Winfrey is one of the people featured in the above video as living their potential. Whatever you think of her philosophy on life, you have to admit that her accomplishments are amazing. I listened to the short-series Making Oprah podcast about her rise to fame and was particularly moved by episode #3, which discusses the famous car giveaway episode. She insisted that the giveaway have intention. I want to live with intention too.
If you have a blog or business, you’ll love the Brilliant Business Mom podcast. My favorite episodes are interviews with moms who have succeeded as entrepreneurs. The podcast inspires me to persevere as a business woman.
#5 Pre-Game Routine
James Clear describes a pre-game routine as how we can get motivated to do important things: start the homeschool day, write your book, or manage your finances. In reading it I realized that I often change my routine, making it difficult to enjoy the motivational benefits.
In thinking about a pre-game routine, I remembered that exercise used to be mine. I worked out before starting my writing for the day. Now I’m working out in the afternoons with my daughter and my pre-game routine has been willy nilly. I tried ReFit at a women’s retreat recently and enjoyed it. I tried doing these dance exercises to Christian music before I started my writing routine and it worked! I did another song after my writing session to get the blood pumping again. This is something you could do with the kids.
This week I’m sharing my favorite sanity-saving books from the past year. I’m a sucker for nonfiction and if it changes my life? All the better. Remember that if you want all the time-sensitive sanity savers too, you’ll need to subscribe.
#1 Sidetracked in the Wilderness by Michael Wells
I read this book by the late Michael Wells and discovered that I was trying to live like Jesus instead of letting Jesus live through me. I can tell you that it’s exhausting to try to live like Jesus. If you read one book this year, this should be it, in my opinion. I wrote Homeschooling Where Strivings cease in response.
#2 My Weakness for His Strength by Michael Wells
I wanted more of Michael Wells’s grace-affirming writing and I found it in this devotional. I love these devotions so much that I alternate between reading several at once and saving them because I can’t bear to finish the book. I am so thrilled that there is another volume. These devotions remind me of one of the best sermons I heard at church this year, on New Year’s Eve. Essentially, the message was I didn’t have to change. I was already loved. The change had already been made — not by me but by Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Hallelujah! That’s worth celebrating for this woman who is always trying to be better in her own strength, for all the wrong reasons.
#3 Deep Work by Cal Newport
I owned Deep Work on Kindle for a very long time and didn’t make time to read it. The irony. I got the audiobook and devoured it between working out and getting ready in the mornings. The book doesn’t tell you what your deep work is. In other words, if you’re a blogger, finding content that could go viral on social media may be deep work for you. Instead, deep work is important work that requires focus. The book both inspires us to pursue deep work and makes suggestions for finishing it for lots of different styles. I love the idea of going away to write, but most likely my deep work will happen in the mornings before the kids are up.
#4 Overwhelmed by Kathy Lipp and Cheri Gregory
Overwhelmed is another book I listened to in audio. I loved it. It’s not only helpful but hilarious. The narrator’s comic timing is wonderful. I wasn’t that overwhelmed when I listened to the book. What I appreciated most were the get-real stories from the two women in the book. They battled signing up for too much, difficult people, humiliation and more. A godly perspective with plenty of humor helps the listener feel like she can survive just about anything. Highly recommended.
I’m recommending this book even though I haven’t finished it yet. It is not only a fascinating look inside a chef’s world but an uber-inspiring manual for becoming more productive in your life and work. I plan to write about how to apply the principles to homeschooling. In the meantime, I am lining up my toiletries in the morning, mise-en-place style!
#7 Organize Tomorrow Today by Jason Selk, Tom Bartow, and Matthew Rudy
Organize Tomorrow Today is like having a coach in a book. The chapters are chock full of inspiring real-life examples of achievement and a practical exercise. I incorporated some of its excellent principles into my Organized Homeschool Life planner.
What should I be spending my time doing and how can I get those things done? As a mother of six with four children I’m still homeschooling, a blogger, a podcaster, a curriculum writer and business owner, a wife to a self-employed salesman who always needs technology assistance, a tennis player, and scrapbooker, I have struggled to answer those questions. While I am by no means a master, I do have answers that have made a huge difference in my life. I can’t wait to share them with you.
The first question we have as busy homeschoolers is what should I be spending my time doing?
This is the first question because it makes no sense to improve our ability to get the wrong things done. What are the right things? As you would expect, there is no one-size fits all answer. To find the answer for you, you need to look to the Lord and look at your life.
First we should look to the Lord. If we spend time looking to God first, we can save ourselves a lot of time and confusion.
Ephesians 5:15-16 reads:
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
I pray over this Scripture daily. I recently learned that the phrase “the days are evil” means that everything outside of the Lord’s path seeks to take us off His path. The path is His will for us. But that’s confusing, isn’t it? No matter how much I’ve prayed, God has never given me a complete 5-year plan or even a schedule for the day!
So looking to the Lord leads us to another question: How can we know God’s will? There are more ways than what I have listed here, but the first way we can know His will is through the Holy Spirit. He teaches us all things. He is the inner voice, the feeling deep in our souls that tells us we’re on the right path. Have you experienced this? The second way is through His Word. It’s a light to our path. Being in the Word daily allows the Lord to give us specific direction. It’s amazing how often the book we’re in relates to the place we’re at. The final way I want to share that we can know God’s will is through other people. At one time I was praying about whether I should do a mom’s Bible study. That day a friend asked if I was going to do one because she hoped that I would. When the Spirit and the Word and other people’s advice come together, we can be fairly certain that what we’re doing or considering are God’s will for us right now.
Well that’s just clear as mud, right? We’re not going to be 100% certain of God’s will for us because He gives us the wisdom we need for today — not for the week, this month, or this season. What we CAN be sure of is that if we get off track, He will take great pains to bring us back.
Isaiah 46:11 says, What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.
We simply aren’t powerful enough to ruin God’s plan for our lives, so we can relax. We can know what to spend our time on by looking to the Lord.
We can also look at our life. Psalm 90:12 says, Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Mandy Kelly‘s death at 34 was a stark reminder to all who knew her that our time here is short. Mandy was committed to leaving a legacy behind for her children. I know that if you’re reading this post that it’s your desire, too. When we number our days, we realize that the spilled milk really isn’t worth crying over.
But it’s hard to keep that long-term perspective in mind. I spoke at the 2:1 conference for homeschooling bloggers on time management using an object lesson that proved to be very powerful. I want to share it with you. You’re going to want to download the free worksheet I have for subscribers as you complete the following exercise.
Imagine that I hand you 24 $1 bills. Each dollar represents one hour in a 24-hour day.
I’m going to ask you how you want to spend those dollars with a couple of rules. First, you can’t spend less than a dollar. And second, you have to spend the same amount every day. So when making decisions, average the time and select based on an ideal school day.
The first thing I will ask you to spend your money on is sleep. Sleep is like taxes. It comes right off the top. How much sleep do you need to be at your best? Not how much do you get, but what would be ideal? Write that amount on your form.
The second thing I will ask you to spend your money on is God. We won’t include Sunday time because Sunday isn’t a typical school day, but any time you spend in devotions, worship, Bible reading and Bible studies, church service, or charity work apart from Sundays should be averaged to come up with the amount. Write that amount on your form.
The third thing I will ask you to spend your money on is your husband if you’re married. For this category, I’m not asking you to include family time or meal times. This is time alone with your husband each day. The time could be divided, like a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening. Put that amount on your form.
The fourth thing I will ask you to spend your money on is your kids. This is likely to be a large category, though it does not include homeschooling time. Here you would include meal time, family time, child care time, time in the car, time spent at kids’ activities, appointments, etc. Average this time out to come up with an estimate and write it down.
The fifth thing I will ask you to spend your money on is personal time. This includes hygiene time, exercise, and any appointments you have for your own care averaged out. Do not include leisure time in this category. Write it down.
The sixth thing I will ask you to spend your money on is homeschooling. Do not include time that you are not actively teaching or tutoring. If your kids are working on their own, that isn’t included. How many hours do you ideally need of your teacher time to homeschool a day? If you teach in a co-op setting or volunteer for a homeschool organization, average that time out and write down a total.
The seventh thing I will ask you to spend your money on is homemaking. This is the average amount of time ideally that you would spend on meal planning and preparation, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, chores, bill paying, running errands, and organizing. Don’t include time that your husband or kids spend, but only what you spend. Write that amount of money that stands for hours down.
The eighth thing I will ask you to spend your money on is friends and extended family. In this category, include face-to-face friend and family time, phone calls, texting, and social media that is purely relational. If you provide care for someone outside of your immediate family, add the time here. Average this time per day ideally and write down the amount.
The ninth thing I will ask you to spend your money on is hobbies. This includes reading, surfing the web, television, crafts, sports, and optional shopping. Add this amount to your worksheet.
The final thing I will ask you to spend your money on is work or potential work. Do you work or have a business in addition to homeschooling? The number of hours you are committed to would go here. If you have considered working or starting a business but aren’t yet doing so, now is the time to total up the hours you’ve written prior to this category. Do you have time left for work or a business? If you already work, do you have enough hours left over?
If you’re like most people, you will be out of money before you get to the work category. Is all hope lost? No. Now you know, however, what sacrifices must be made in order to continue working or in order to add something else to your life. Talk over your worksheet with your spouse and with another homeschooler if you don’t know how to make everything fit. I recommend listening to How to Homeschool in Less Time if you suspect homeschooling is taking too much of your time. If homemaking is taking too much of your time, could you delegate or hire out some of these tasks? These are just a few examples of where to free up time. Pray about your use of time and you may gain wisdom for what to change.
Be aware that I put the categories roughly in order of importance. If you don’t get adequate sleep, everything else will suffer. If you aren’t spending time with God, you won’t have the spiritual strength and wisdom to do everything you’re called to do. If you neglect your marriage, your homeschool will eventually suffer. If you don’t take care of yourself with exercise, you won’t have the energy you need to manage your responsibilities.
Once you have balanced your time budget for an ideal day, you are ready for a schedule.
Of course, in real life we can schedule half an hour for things, we can combine things, and we may do some things just one day a week. But now you have a guide for creating your schedule. I recommend that you schedule blocks of time.
For example, in the morning, I have blocks of time for my time with God, my personal time, time with my husband, business, homemaking, and homeschooling. In the afternoon I have blocks for kids, friends, homemaking, and business. On Thursdays I have a combination of friend and hobby time in the afternoons. The evenings are for homemaking in the form of meal prep and clean-up, kids, husband, and hobby time in the form of reading. I sometimes spend time with God in the evenings as well.
Any schedule you create for yourself should be considered a draft. You can constantly work on improving it. If you discover a way to combine more things, you can free up time. You may discover that you have scheduled activities at times that don’t fit your energy levels. Move things around and experiment.
I had such success with doing this personally and with the bloggers I spoke with that I decided to do the same thing with my kids. The final category for them was screen time. I asked them how much time they needed to do their schoolwork and chores, and to have time with friends. The result was a schedule that has helped them a lot. It’s even resulted in them having regular game time with their siblings.
The Problem With Schedules
This just sounds great, doesn’t it? You should have a schedule you can use to accomplish all the important things in your life. There’s just one problem. Schedules are like diets. As soon as you’re on one, you resist it. When you’re scheduled to do something, it’s suddenly the last thing you want to do. It’s just like when you’re on a no-sugar diet. Then sugar is all you can think about.
When you eat the donut that isn’t on the diet, what do most of us do? We say, “Oh well. Might as well eat everything because I’ve already blown it.” We do this with schedules, too. “I was supposed to be teaching math for the last hour and I’ve been on Facebook instead. I’ve blown it, so I’ll get on Instagram next.” If we didn’t have the “I’ve blown it” mentality, we wouldn’t binge on things that aren’t the best use of our time.
So here’s what I recommend:
Create a schedule. It can be an ideal schedule and even a detailed schedule for today. I have an ideal schedule but I also create a schedule for each day to help me see exactly what I can get done. I use the Panda Weekly Planner for this that is informed by Skedpal. But then I put the schedule away. I give myself permission to go off schedule without guilt. If I’m supposed to be teaching history and get caught up chatting with a friend instead, I don’t feel guilty. I don’t rewrite the schedule. If I’m not sure what I had planned to do when I’m done chatting, I’ll refer to the schedule again. But only if I want to. The more guilt I feel, the fewer important things I will do and the more I’ll resist the schedule.
Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. I think the same is true of the schedule. We make the schedule for ourselves. If it isn’t serving us right now, it is okay to override it. I prefer to teach my kids at the same time each day. But I might end up chatting with a friend instead. If I find that I’m spending more time with friends than I allotted on a consistent basis, I’ll need to reevaluate. Even with a great schedule, I’ll never be perfect in how I spend my time. But I can feel good about it and I do. I believe that if you follow these steps, you can be successful with your schedule, too.
How many hours did you have left over when you did the exercise? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.
It was a shock for this guy who never takes a sick day. He never had any symptoms. He didn’t feel ill.
Soon all of our to-do lists were relegated to the garbage can. Instead of our usual work and social activities, our schedules were crammed with doctor visits, tests, and treatments. Our over-packed lives had to make room for more important things. I personally needed to weed out the frivolous to find time for what was necessary—being available for my husband.
Thankfully, after six-months of chemotherapy, I can say my husband is doing fine. The treatments worked and he is now in remission.
But that experience demonstrated that I needed to be more purposeful with my time. Before the crisis I would read Ephesians 5:15-16—
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
—and interpret “making the best use of the time” as packing as much as possible into each hour. I filled my calendar like I was stuffing clothes for a three-week vacation into a carry-on bag. My to-do list was as long as a grocery list for hosting a party for one hundred of my closest friends.
But my husband’s health crisis forced me to see that I needed a shorter to-do list and a longer “not-to-do” list. God showed me that making the most of my time didn’t necessarily mean stuffing more into my day, but eliminating distracting activities to focus on what is truly important.
So I resigned from a leadership position, gracefully left a club, and said no to a weekly study group. I concentrated on the work I needed to do and to helping my husband recover.
Now that my husband is in remission, I am trying not to go back to my usual mode of operation. I am trying to live my life focusing on the essential instead of dividing my attention between a million distracting activities.
I encourage you to do the same. Life is short and we want to use it well. There are many good things that we can do with our time, but we want to choose the best.
To do this I suggest making a list of all the things you do. Write down everything on your schedule.
Then discern what is best by asking yourself two questions:
Do I need this activity? Discover what is essential and what can be crossed off the schedule. Consider: Is it something I have to do? (Yes, you need to feed the kids.) Is it something God is asking me to do? (Or have I taken a job that was meant for someone else?)
Why am I doing this? Discovering your motives may make it easier to find what is non-essential in your schedule. Reflect: Am I doing this to keep up with my friends? Is this pursuit simply an ego boost?
After you have examined each activity, compile a NOT-To-Do List—an inventory of the things that you now see are unnecessary or the endeavors God is asking you not to pursue right now. By eliminating the items on your NOT-To-Do List you will achieve a greater probability of successfully completing the items on your TO-do list.
Find focus. Find peace. Ask God to help you make the most of your time by deleting the trivial and keeping the essential.
Sharla Fritz is a Christian speaker and author of four books including Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal. If you would like to find out more about living a life of focus instead of distraction, download a free lesson on “The One Thing You Need to Do for a More Focused Life” here.
It was Daylight Saving Time and my husband tried to change the time on our oven. He told me had had some trouble with it and I wasn’t worried. I’d changed it many times before. But when I tried to change the time, I noticed that I couldn’t do anything with the oven. It wasn’t working. There was some kind of strange error code. I tried flipping the breaker, but to no avail. It was time to call appliance repair.
The repairman arrived and glanced at the error code. “Oh, it’s in Sabbath mode,” he said.
“Yup. You just need to look up how to get it out of that mode in your manual.”
I couldn’t find the manual quickly, so Google explained that I just had to hold the clock button down to change it.
“That’ll be $75,” the repairman said. OK, so he wasn’t that rude, but that’s what it cost us to fix our oven. Ugh.
Why Do You Need a Sabbath Mode?
My husband kept thinking about the $75 bill, but I kept thinking about an oven mode that kept you from using the oven. Why would one need that?
I know that Jewish people observing the Sabbath aren’t allowed to cook. But why would you need to disable your oven? Couldn’t you just not bake?
A few weeks have passed since I asked myself these questions–a few weeks full of stress and busyness and what one of my Periscope viewers (catch the replay below) called “the creep.” In that time, I have felt exhausted, sick, and discouraged. Guess why.
I had been ignoring my rule about not working past 8 p.m.
I had been ignoring my rule about not working on Sundays
I had been ignoring my rule about not working through lunch
The short answer to why I was starting to fall apart is that I hadn’t used my Sabbath mode.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong physically.
Lack of sleep and unscheduled time can lead to illness and exhaustion that can sideline us for weeks or months. Our bodies weren’t created for continuous operation. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” God asked His people to rest, not because He needed them to, but because they needed to.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong emotionally.
I don’t know about you, but the most exhausting parts of my life are emotional, not physical strain. If I don’t have down time to process it, pray about, and talk about it, I will get testy. If it goes on long enough, I will get depressed. I love what Psalm 127:2 says about rest: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Rest is God’s gift to us.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong spiritually.
Exodus 20:11 says: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” When we work seven days a week, we can begin to believe that we are even more important than God. Even though I use my oven A LOT, life in our home wasn’t much different. We got to go out and I made meals that didn’t have to be baked. If you take a Sabbath rest, your family will survive, too.
When Are You Going to Go Into Sabbath Mode?
I determined that I need to turn my Sabbath mode on again at lunch time, after 8 p.m., and on Sundays. I asked not to be scheduled for tennis matches on Sundays unless I am really needed. I am going to tell my family to object if I try to keep working after 8 p.m.
Decide when your Sabbath will be and how you will keep your buttons from being pushed to keep working.
Need more? Catch the video where I discuss needing Sabbath and consider reading
The following is a guest post by my friend Barb Raveling. She has authored an amazing book that will help you conquer bad habits and achieve meaningful goals. If I were still practicing as a clinical psychologist, I would recommend it to all my clients, so I commend it to you!
Do you ever have a hard time working on your goals? Is it a struggle to finish this year’s curriculum, keep training for that 5K, or complete that project for work?
I know it is for me. For some reason, even though I really want to accomplish my goals, I can’t make myself work on them.
It’s too hard, I think. Or I don’t have enough time. Or it’s not fun. Or even, I’ll never succeed anyway, so why bother?
When I get into this mindset, I don’t have enough discipline to make myself work. My best hope is to renew my mind so that I actually want to work. I do that by answering questions.
Here are 10 questions I ask myself when I’m dreading the very thought of work.
Questions for Your Journal
What would you like to accomplish today? Be specific.
Why do you want to accomplish that?
Why don’t you feel like working right now?
What do you feel like doing instead?
If you ignore your project and do that instead, how will you feel afterwards?
What will you have to sacrifice to work on your project?
How will you feel when you complete this project and why will you feel that way?
When you think of how you’ll feel, is it worth the sacrifice to work on it?
What’s the first thing you need to do if you want to work on this project? (Example: Get out your notebook, open the computer file, look up the telephone number, etc.)
Why don’t you do that right now and see how it goes from there?
When I ask myself these questions – and usually I do it on the pages of my journal – I find my desires changing so that by the end of the questions, I actually want to do that dreaded project.
Here’s an example of how I filled out the questions below to write this guest post.
1. What would you like to accomplish today? Be specific.
I would like to write this guest post for Melanie’s blog.
2. Why do you want to accomplish that?
Because I told Melanie a long time ago that I would write it and I want to write anyway to help people find out about my new book,The Renewing of the Mind Project.
3. Why don’t you feel like working right now?
Because it’s too hard. I don’t know what to write.
4. What do you feel like doing instead?
Wasting time on the Internet.
5. If you ignore your project and do that instead, how will you feel afterwards?
I’ll feel defeated. It will reinforce the idea that this guest post is too hard to write and it will make me want to keep putting it off.
6. What will you have to sacrifice to work on your project?
I’ll have to sacrifice my comfort, my desire to have the easy life, and my desire to write the perfect blog post since I know I can’t write a perfect blog post!
7. How will you feel when you complete this project and why will you feel that way?
I will feel incredible because this to-do item has been on my weekly to-do list for three months now! It will feel so good to cross it off my list and not have it hanging over my head!
8. When you think of how you’ll feel, is it worth the sacrifice to work on it?
9. What’s the first thing you need to do if you want to work on this project? (Example: Get out your notebook, open the computer file, look up the telephone number, etc.)
Decide on a topic.
10. Why don’t you do that right now and see how it goes from there?
Can you see how these questions would make you actually want to work on your project? By the time I was finished, I was thinking, “Well, maybe it won’t be so bad to write this post. I’ll just do the first thing and see how it goes from there.”
I did that and it took about 30 minutes to write the post I had been procrastinating for two months! If you struggle with procrastination like I do, I hope you’ll give these questions a try.
If you’d like more questions like this to journal through, check out The Renewing of the Mind Project. It’s filled with 48 sets of questions and Bible verses to help you with pursuing goals, starting habits, stopping habits, and letting go of negative emotions such as anger, worry, insecurity, and stress. It can also be used as curriculum for a Christian growth group or personal study for older teens and adults.