Tag Archive | time management

One Step Forward, and Duck!

one step forwardLast week I wrote down a list of my goals and then why I wasn’t accomplishing them. I called it my goal thwarter list. I wrote a post about it. And I have to say I’m surprised that list has helped me. After more than four decades of being less than organized, it seems I can get my act together. A little bit. Sometimes.

This week I put my Bible, journal, and other stuff I use in quiet time in a basket. Little portable basket. I want a place for quiet time, a comfy chair or a spot in the sun on warm days. I’m still working on that. But even having everything in a basket where I can carry it to today’s spot–that’s a big help. So, score one for me.

Last week I also finished teaching. Since January I’ve been teaching classes at a homeschool co-op. High school kids. And it simply wasn’t a good fit from the first second. It’s weighed on me heavily all semester, taking time, bandwidth, and bringing more stress than it was worth.

With that over, I have more time and brain space to do other things. For instance, this week my parents might come visit, and I have time to clean up a little bit. Score another one for me.

Which brings me to another goal thwarter. I’m not great at cleaning house. Not deep cleaning. There might be mold on my shower curtain. The bathroom used by all my guys might smell like a bathroom used by a bunch of guys.  I decided part of the problem there was not having the right tools. This week I bought a few special cleaners, replaced the shower curtain, and put a simple routine in place so I can stay ahead of it. (And why, you might ask, can my adult/nearly adult sons not do this themselves? Because there are a few areas where I am a parenting failure. And this would be one of them. That’s a whole different post, I’m afraid.)

So. A few victories. And that’s great incentive to keep going.

However, sometimes a goal simply has to be set aside, because it’s not a true goal. It’s a dream. And regardless of what all the pretty memes on the internet say, not every dream is possible. And I can waste a lot of time chasing certain dreams that should be let go.

I ran into that this week. Several fellow bloggers linked me to a bundle of ebooks all about organizing, self care, cleaning, spiritual life, all the things important to me right now. Pages and pages of ideas. Pages and pages of ideals. Pages and pages of dreams that would crush me if I let them, because there is no way I could possibly implement all those ideas and end up with my perfect life.

And that’s the problem with some of my goals and dreams. I want perfection. I want a week where nobody interrupts, where nothing clutters my schedule, where the dogs never jump on me while I exercise and my blood sugar never slows down my gardening and there is never mold in the bathroom. It’s all good. And usually in that dream, it’s all about me. My time, my goals, my dreams, my perfect house…

Once again I’m experiencing forward motion in my goal to simplify and organize my life, and once again I’m facing that worst of enemies, me. Once again I have to put all this at Jesus’ feet and let him decide what’s really best.

This week I have unexpected company coming. I’m excited, but it wasn’t in the plan. A friend needs help one evening. I’m delighted to help, but it wasn’t expected. And the list goes on. God doesn’t really consult my list of goals, dreams, plans, and expectations when he puts my weeks together. My perfect life makes him chuckle, because it’s often selfish, rarely a challenge, and always fails. Then he listens to me rant about it, and he shows me a better way.

I’m allowed to keep mold off the shower curtain. Clean dishes, lack of clutter, a wise budget, and a comfy place to meet with him–those are fine. But when I find myself so focused on this idyllic life that doesn’t exist… Well, that doesn’t help anyone.

My schedule is open. I’m seeing victories. And yet spiritual battle comes with every new step. I have to dodge lies I tell myself and those I get from the world around me, and I tend to forget that even in the simple life, battle never ends. I have to duck a lot of arrows, because there’s an enemy who strikes out because he doesn’t want to see me gain ground in any part of my life, especially when I’ve given that life to the Spirit for safekeeping.

I’m excited about progress. I think I can see some old, long-desired goals come to fruition in my life. If I can watch the battle part and not let myself get swept into obsessive perfectionism or pure selfishness, I think I’ll be just fine.


The Goal Thwarters

goal thwartersI know I need to do a little housekeeping in my life so I get things done that need done, waste less time, and find more peace. I’ve been talking about that for a while. This week I listened to a podcast or two and read some ebooks, and I sat down and made a list. I love lists. Anyway, I wrote one list, then two, and then I made a whole big mess of them. But these aren’t lists of things I need to do. Those are easy to write and impossible to follow.

This time, I made lists of why I don’t do what I want/need to do. The goal thwarters. And I found this to be an amazing, eye opening exercise that I hope will help me actually achieve something.

If you don’t remember or never read my blogs before, know that I’m not an organized person. And for the most part, that works for me. However, I’ve been letting my spiritual walk with God slide because of that lack. Also, I want to sell more fiction, which means a marketing and writing plan. So, now that summer is here and I have fewer timed events, I’m going to tackle a few routines and schedules. Not enough to make me feel trapped and weighed down, but enough that I accomplish things I need to do.

Back to my goal thwarting list. First, I wrote down things I really want to do in my days. Not every day, but what should be included in my life. Things like exercise, time with my husband, cleaning house, walking the dogs, writing, marketing. Then the biggies–Bible reading, prayer/spiritual disciplines, Bible studies. I also included service, friendships, and time for me: reading, pottery.

When I wrote them all out, I noticed they fit into some categories. Physical life (exercise, house cleaning, etc.), relationships, vocation (all things writing), spirit care, just for me, and service, which seemed to have no category.

Now that I had them, I wrote down why I didn’t do these things. Here I was brutally honest. For instance, money is an issue in my garden. Lack of common ground and laziness plague time with my husband. Boredom and lack of routine hinder exercise and, honestly, Bible reading, at least sometimes. Anxiety plagues relationships, Bible study groups, marketing, and service. Energy and blood sugar issues plague all the physical things. And so on and so forth.

After this, I had a big mess on my hands, so I had to visualize this better. Here is where I dug into my technological bag of tricks. I have a software called Scapple which lets me make notes and connections. Some call it mind mapping. I use it all the time to brainstorm book ideas. I put everything on there and it looked something like this:

goal thwarters scapple

Now, the plan is simple. (HA!) Okay, the idea is simple. I have some categories to tackle. Some are easier than others. Since I’m decluttering, maybe I can tackle everything that needs a space. Or I can look at my days and set some routines.

Some aren’t so easy. I haven’t figured out the anxiety in groups issue, even though I know I need groups of people for Bible study and friendship. I can’t figure out where money might appear for marketing. But it helps to know what’s slowing me down.

I’ve discovered nobody’s methods of organization, simplification, and time management work for everyone. And they never seem to work for me. So, now I have some ideas that might work because I made them. This week I’m going to tackle some of the goal thwarters and get one or two areas under control. Or I’ll start to get them under control. Maybe I’ll choose a new spiritual discipline. Or find space for my spirit care. Maybe I’ll get an exercise routine. And we’ll see what happens after that.

If you’re worlds ahead of me and have great routines in place and an organized life, I’d love to know how you did it. Go ahead and comment and share with the class. Those of us here in Remedial Organizational Skills need all the help we can get!


I don’t get paid by the Scapple people to recommend their software, but I wanted to add the link because I like it and it isn’t expensive. And I don’t lose my laptop like I lose brainstormed lists written on the backs of envelopes: Scapple

Organizing the Scattered Soul

scattered soulBecause I’m a homeschooling mom of four, people think I must be organized.  I’ve had people ask me questions that assume a person who successfully educates her children must have lists and routines and tips and tricks to make things run smoothly. To which I always laugh, because really, there’s not a whole lot of organization going on here.

Not that I haven’t tried. I adore lists. When I’m writing lists, I don’t actually have to do any real things.  Lists are easy.

I organize my computer all the time. In fact, just this week I organized all the images in my computer–those that go with books, with blogs, different folders and files, and it’s a work of art. And I did it because all that takes is a few clicks.  Clicking is easy.

Yes, I’m really a very lazy person. I like life slow, slow enough that I don’t really have to be organized. If I’m so busy I need a day planner, I’m too busy. I tend to plan the day’s school lessons on the fly, while my kid does his math problems. I have no idea what we’re having for dinner tomorrow, and there’s a good chance that will still be the case five minutes before dinnertime tomorrow.

Being organized is great. I spent years wishing I was organized.  But, I’m not wired that way.  The thing is, I’m organized enough, in a way that works for me and my family, for our schedule, for our level of busyness. Or that’s what I tell myself. But maybe there are instances where a little organized, mindful living is in order.

First, I know I have to develop some routines. I am the worst at routine. Fortunately, my Chihuahua Sparrow has been teaching me in this area. This little guy thrives on routine. At night he moves through the house and brings each toy to my bed, until they are all safely settled around us. (My husband, second shift, climbs into bed in the middle of the night and ends up sleeping on dog toys, poor guy.)

In the morning, the dog and I get up first, and Sparrow heads outside and then eats breakfast. Usually Skye the cattledog pup is part of this. But then, once Skye is outside looking for cattle to herd, Sparrow stands at the door to my bedroom and whines. He wants me to get all his toys off the bed. We call it the Morning Toy Rescue, and it happens every morning. I sneak into the darkened bedroom and try to dig toys out of the comforter without rousing my husband, the dog prancing at my feet for me to hurry.

Yep, I was never good at set nap times with my kids, but my dog is whipping me into shape. Go figure.

I’m about to make some changes in my life with respect to my time. I’m about to finish teaching at co-ops and focus on writing a little more, work toward some marketing, see if I can make writing pay a little better. But I can keep limping along as I am and survive. However, there is one area where I have to stop limping and start thriving, one area where I need to organize, one area where I know I’m failing, and failure in this area means failure over all.

It’s why I’m clearing my house and rethinking my schedule and making lists I intend to read. It’s why I’m soaking up information about clearing my spirit and learning disciplines. Quite simply, I need to remember God. Not once a day. Not once a week. But all the time. I need routines that force me to read his Word, pray, reach out to those who need me, write words he wants me to write, etc. And I’m not doing it. In all my years of disorganization, I’ve gotten other things done, but not this one.

Because this one matters. Because there is an acute battle against this one. This one can change the world, and so all the forces of the world oppose it.

I’m reading and listening to podcasts about scheduling and time management. My schedule is open and ready. My home is clearing out of extras that weigh me down. Now I need to put a few routines in place, organize a few things, make physical places, time places, and soul places where regular communion with God happens.  Morning routines, evening routines, whatever it takes.

Having a perfectly clean bathroom and set dinner times are nice, but I can get along without them. But having a casual, whenever-I-get-around-to-it relationship with Jesus?  That’s not going to cut it. This year I’ve tasted the sweetness of being close to God, hearing his Spirit. I don’t want to taste it. I want to eat deeply, every day of my life. I want to choke on it until I’m breathing it and living it with my entire spirit.

And for that, I need to get serious, strategize, and give up my love of randomness, at least in a few areas.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Next week I finish teaching. I just downloaded some courses on time and schedules. My book on spiritual disciplines is out and waiting. I can do better than I have been. Lord willing, soon I will be.

Four to Go

dreamstimefree_662199In January, I started a sixteen-week commitment that was the wrong thing to do. The spring has been stressful,  because I have been giving time, energy, and mental bandwidth to something that wasn’t right for me. I did my best, fulfilled my commitment, and I am now four weeks from the end. The tunnel ahead has light. The future is almost here.

With more free time in my near future, I’m able to think about what I want next. I want to finish decluttering my house, faster than I’m doing it now. I’m a potter who hasn’t touched clay in three months, so maybe I can do some creating. I’m a writer who’s been slow to accomplish anything this year, and I want to write more. I can whittle down the pile of good books I want to read. Spend time with relationships that need attention. Renew my commitment to exercise and take care of my body.

This week I wrote a blog post about anxiety and self care. Then I hit a wrong button and sent it out early, so it might not have been read. Who wants to read two posts in one day? The gist of that post was the question of whether or not someone can plan life around anxiety, depression, other mental/medical issues. I struggle with type one diabetes and feel no guilt when I take care of myself. But the anxiety that plagues me–I feel like I’m supposed to ignore it, not make decisions or plans with that struggle in mind. It’s a question I haven’t entirely answered yet. God and I are still working on that one.

Enter the idea of simplicity. The idea that it’s okay to whittle my life down to things that truly matter to me. That God might ask me to do things for which he has gifted me, not just things that are hard. Maybe it’s okay to clear my life, schedule, mental bandwidth and then fill it all back up with better things. Things that reflect the skills, passions, and experiences God has given me.

Until now, I thought that I had to do what was expected. I had to volunteer and accept everything that came along, everything that was good. Even if it was hard, even if it brought a lot of distress, I said yes. Sometimes because it was hard I thought I had to do it, to prove I wasn’t letting anxiety–or any other weaknesses–plan my life.

Recently, I feel like I can say no to good and wait for better, look for Best. God is calling me to write and share my books. He’s calling me to tend a few precious friendships. Maybe to share my knowledge/experience through a small group study. Pour my life into a few souls. Pray with others. Delve deeper into God’s heart through his Word. I think it might be time to look at both my strengths and weaknesses when making plans. Maybe weaknesses are planned by God to help me on my way, to point me in certain directions. He will use them, but I thought that meant he wanted me to ignore them and move on. Maybe, as long as I don’t use them as an excuse to sin, I can let them help me determine the paths he has for me.

The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 13: And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  I find myself wondering if sometimes my weaknesses help mark the edge of that path.  Maybe they can be a guide as much as my strengths and skills. Sure, God asks us to do hard things. But where did I get the idea that everything has to be hard? That God asks me only to do things that hurt? That something that makes me feel good about the person God made me is wrong? Sure, my passions can take me to uncomfortable places. But when I let things that aren’t that important take me there… Maybe I don’t have to do that just to prove I’m bigger than the self God made me to be.

I recently set up a home gym in the room that was a disaster, and I’m using it to care for my body. That was a victory. I’m clearing out belongings that should have left my house years ago because I’m learning that my things aren’t part of my identity. I stepped onto the path of simplicity for physical reasons, because I was sick of clutter and ugliness in my home. I had no idea it would spread so far and touch all of my life. Time, identity, rest, self care, growth…

Just a few thoughts. In four weeks, I feel like I’m getting a second chance to put some priorities in order. I’ve spent enough time talking to the Spirit this year that I’m confident he will help me plan my summer, my fall, whatever he wants me to plan. I hope I am more open to hearing him, following him, trusting him. I can set things free, simplify my world, and see what amazing things God wants to do through me.

Four more weeks.

The Bandwidth Dilemma

20131012_144444This week I was involved in a small group study with two women, and one of them asked for prayer in a way that has really stuck with me. It fits here in my Friday Simpler Life category, because I think it says so much about the busy, crazy cluttered life, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

The woman who asked for prayer is busy. Most of us are busy. She knew something in her life needed attention, but the way she asked for it hit a chord–she talked about needing more bandwidth. I liked that. It’s not always about time. Sometimes time management has nothing to do with time. It’s bandwidth. In my head, I conjured this image of electrical impulses going all over the place, taking up space and sometimes crossing, sometimes pulsing, sometimes scrambled. Bandwidth to me meant brain space. And nobody has unlimited brain space.

I’m not the world’s busiest person. I’m pretty good at limiting my schedule. But at the same time, sometimes the things I agree to do, even if they don’t take that much time, take up a lot bandwidth. Sometimes they are scattered and lack focus.

I’m not the kind of person who gets excited about writing life goals or a purpose statement. I don’t have a business plan for my existence. However, the more I thought about this image of electricity gone wild, the more I realized the benefit of some kind of limiter like a purpose statement. Right now I’m writing, blogging, teaching, and learning about prayer and spiritual disciplines. I’m also a wife and mom. Truth be told, all of those things together don’t take all my time. I have room to spare in my schedule.

But in my head? Nope. They don’t all link up. Some take more brain space, induce more stress, fill my thoughts more than others. I waste precious time changing gears to go from one activity to the next. I feel a little scattered.

In a few months I will be able to rewrite my schedule. I’m not going to write a purpose statement, but I think I’ll look closer at what I do and how they link. I want to spend less time transitioning. Maybe if all my activities use less bandwidth, I won’t get so overwhelmed. Writing, blogging, and spiritual disciplines are related. All dig into spiritual realms. All deal with words and themes.  I soak in ideas and truths with Bible study and prayer. I spit them out in books and blogs. All of it includes processing, internal discovery of who God is and what he wants from me. Shifting from one to another can be seamless.

This semester, teaching writing and art isn’t fitting so well. During other times of my life, it has. And I’m neglecting some of the mom duties because my youngest is old enough I tell myself he can tend himself. But he should get more bandwidth. He’s a priority, so I should shift things to fit around him, not make him fill in the gaps. I need to uncross a few wires and line up other purposes around him.

I don’t know if that all makes sense. Cleaning out my house and my life fits, as it clears up space for better things. I have been feeling some spiritual nudges about a few other things, and I need to see if they fit or if they will dilute my energy and my direction. Maybe I’ll decide this way of looking at things isn’t right at all. But since I’m dealing with prayer and listening to the Spirit now in new ways, I’m not worried. He’ll help me see clearly how to use my time and where to put my energy. And then I think I’ll use my limited bandwidth in the best ways possible, and what spews from my frequencies will be clear and loud and useful to the God who made me.

Internet Training Wheels

file000275257704.jpgIn my quest to organize and simplify my home, which was–is–overfull of things we don’t need, I’ve been working to simplify other things, as well, like my schedule. All this thinking about what I need, what I don’t need–it has now drifted into a quest to deal with some of my time wasters. And I bet you can guess one of my biggest time wasters, since you likely had to tap into that today to read this post.

Yep. Like huge numbers of people around the world, I can sink into the internet and not come up for air for hours. And half the time I can’t tell you where I was or what I was doing. Whatever it was, there’s a good chance it didn’t matter, and a better chance that I could have used that time for something better.

I don’t have a phone. I mean, I have a landline, but that’s it. No smart phone. I’m a relic, I know. And yet, that doesn’t stop me from being connected way, way, WAY too much. I write on the computer, both fiction and blog, so the internet is here, at my fingertips, all the time. When I’m stuck on a sentence, I might as well swing over to Facebook and waste a minute or two until my brain clears.  While I’m writing my blog, I’m on the internet already, and it’s no problem to multitask a little bit and switch from here to email and back.

And then, suddenly, time is gone. What happened?

I should be strong enough and controlled enough to deal with this on my own, but at the moment I’m not. Funny thing is that I likely spend more wasted time on Facebook than anywhere else, and I hate it. It’s a very rare moment that I leave Facebook feeling good about anything. It’s filled with bad news and lots of blog posts meant to teach me by pointing out my failures. You know the ones. Titles like Real Christians Would Never (fill in the blank with something I’ve done.) Ten Things a Good Person Would NEVER say to a (single person, tall person, short person, poor person, person from another race), again, filled with things I’ve said. Five Parenting Fails. Yep. I’m usually guilty of one or two. And yet, I still go back to Facebook. What on earth is wrong with me?

Anyway, I need a little help. So I looked for it. And, fortunately, found it. There are many apps out there that can help those of us who spend time on our computers stay on task. Seems Google has one called Nanny. I stayed away from that one. Too much truth in that name, thanks. There are others, but the one I finally landed on is called Freedom.to. I like that. It’s all in the marketing. Freedom to do other things. Freedom to use my time wisely. Freedom to stay away from articles and blog posts that make me feel like a monster. Yes, it’s a nanny, since I can’t do this myself yet, but I can pretend it’s nobler than that.It’s a productivity tool, not a babysitter. And it’s easier on my waistline than my other time management trick–taking my computer to Culver’s restaurant across town, which has no internet but does have French fries.

So, now I’m blocking myself off a bunch of websites while I work. I don’t want to block the entire internet, because while I write I use online dictionaries, a thesaurus, baby name sites, Pandora for music, and sometimes do research for my books. I need those. So, this is the next best thing, blocking the sites where I lose time when I need to focus on other things.

Soon I hope I can take off the training wheels and manage my time alone. But until then, or if that never happens, I’m pleased to find ways to deal with my weaknesses and focus my energy. The internet can be a great tool. And it can be the ruination of a soul. I hope to be wiser about my use of it as I continue my journey toward a life where I can be all God wants, in the physical realm as well as the spiritual and emotional. And if you have a favorite way to use the internet wisely, productively, and without wasting hours of time, I’d love to hear it. I am not too proud to admit I need all the help I can get.

The Wrong Yes

I’ve written about trying to reclaim some order in my house. I’m hauling away junk–yes, I got a lot of things OUT THE DOOR last week, instead of simply removing items from one place and storing them in another until I can get to Goodwill. But time is another area that can get cluttered. Normally, I’m not terrible about my schedule, but sometimes I mess up.

First, I have to admit I have some anxiety issues. For the most part, I know how to deal with it. There’s a difference between having an anxiety attack–which I have–and simply being fearful or a worrier. That second one is what I think God talks about when he tells us to fear not and to trust him and not to worry. It’s something in my control. Anxiety attacks or panic attacks–those are another story. They’re largely physiological, and I try not to beat myself up about them. I engage in both types of anxiety on a regular basis, and I repent of one and do what I can not to trigger the other.

My physical anxiety is triggered by lack of sleep and being too busy.  This makes it easier for me to say no to excess in my schedule. If you’ve ever had panic attacks, you’ll understand that a person will do almost anything to avoid them. So. Even with four kids, I have always been good about us staying less than crazy busy, because Mom having a breakdown leaves our schedule in worse shambles than just preventing a busy schedule in the first place. (Yep, I know this one through experience. Ugh.)

Another thing to know about me is that I teach sometimes. I teach pottery, art, and writing at various homeschool co-ops to different ages of children. Usually I like it. We can always use a little extra money, and I need to get out sometimes, and normally saying yes to a teaching gig every semester or so is not a problem.

For some reason, a few months ago I said yes to a gig when I knew I shouldn’t have. I can’t tell you why it wasn’t the right fit because I don’t know. But I knew before the email had reached its destination that I had misspoken and promised something I would not easily accomplish. God has me doing a few other things right now, like writing books and blogging and studying his Word and learning about prayer… other things.

Turns out, I was right. What I’m doing this semester isn’t wrong. I haven’t sinned. I am still happy to have the money. But it isn’t the best thing. I didn’t make the best choices for my time. I feel tension all the time that likely won’t go away completely until I’ve finished this obligation. I’m not as useful because of the tension and the anxiety it spawns. I simply said yes to the wrong things for the wrong reasons, and now I pay for it.

I realize we can’t always do what we want. A few years ago my husband lost his job, and I took a lot of jobs I didn’t like that made me tense or made life difficult. Strangely, those didn’t feel wrong. We needed the money, and I was doing my part. So this isn’t about loving where I spend my time. I don’t have to love everything I do. I have to do what needs done. But this time, I didn’t talk over my plans with my husband. Or with God. I simply didn’t use a lot of wisdom in my decision. And I will be fine, and the students will still get my best, but it’s making things harder than they should be for a few months.

The moral of the story is that it’s important to watch our time. Or at least it’s important for me to watch my time. My schedule isn’t mine alone–like my house, it’s part of my family life, and that has to come first. The house needs to be a haven for my family. And the way I use my time also has to be right for my family, so I can be the best mom and wife I can be. After being God’s daughter, wife and mom are the most important positions I hold, and at the moment, I’m lacking there because I’m dealing with a wrong yes, both physically and emotionally. Since I’m usually pretty good at this, the failures stand out. Time to put a little more thought and prayer into how I spend my time. Time also to trust the Spirit when he nudges me away from something that might have been the right thing last year or last semester. Life changes. What God wants with my time changes. It’s okay.

9mOrwfTgI honestly don’t think God has one path, one plan for my life, and if I can’t read his mind on every little thing I’m going to be lost forever. Looking for God’s way has more to do with living out his love in all situations, even the wrong yeses. But when I have a choice, when God says I can choose door A or door B and neither one is dangerous or harmful or sinful, I should choose wisely and then be ready to follow through. And sometimes, I simply have to suck it up until it’s time to stand before the next set of doors.