Looking in from the outside, people often think I do more than I actually do. It’s not that I’m trying to deceive anyone, in fact, when people ask how I “do it all” I quickly tell them, “I don’t.” And no one else does either. NO ONE.
We’re all limited by time, finances, and energy.
But how do we decide what we need to do and what we can “not” do? I mean, as much as I would love to stop doing laundry, that would probably create a problem for me – a really stinky problem.
I’ve been pondering this question for the last few weeks and have a few things I’d like to share with you that help me do the things I need and want to do and live the life I really want to live.
Create a vision for your life
This is your true dream, what do you really want from your life? Do you want to be frantically filling up every spare moment trying to “get it all done” or trying to making sure your kids don’t miss out on any opportunity? Or do really want a more relaxed and intentional life?
I think most of us really want the latter but then we structure our days so that each day is jam packed with stuff. I struggle with this, but when I take time to remember my vision, I make better decisions about how we spend our time and money.
Your vision can be anything, maybe it’s not a more relaxed life, maybe it’s being debt free, or working a high powered job, or building a family business. Your vision is personal and it’s important to define it for yourself.
I’ve been reading The 12 Week Year and this quote has really stuck with me…
Your current actions are creating your future. If you want to know what your future holds, look to your actions; they are the best predictor of your future.” Brian Moran and Michael Lennington authors of The 12 Week Year
The great thing about routines is that you don’t have to think about them. For a long time I had a hard time figuring out how to get everything done in the morning that I wanted to get done. Finding the “best” order was tripping me up.
Then I just decided to list the few things out and do them in the same order each and every day. No more thinking about if I should exercise before or after my Bible study time, every single morning. I’ve already made the decision. Honestly, the decision I made may not the “best” decision but because I’ve already made it I no longer spend time thinking about exercising and instead I spend time actually exercising.
That’s how routines work – you just decide when you’re going to do something, stop thinking about it and do it.
Routines can be for other things besides morning and evening routines, you can decide when you’re going to do your weekly grocery shopping or take your children to the library. This will free up a bunch of mental energy.
We go to the library and grocery store on Wednesday since we meet our adopted Granny for lunch every Wednesday. By the time we finish lunch we have about two hours before I pick up our grandson from school and that is our library and grocery store time.
Here’s the thing, I’m in town three other days during the week but I refuse to go to the library or grocery store on those days, we just make due with what we have until Wednesday. Now, if someone else in my family that drives wants to go to the store, they can, but I try really hard to just stick to the decision I’ve already made.
Serve Simple Meals
Feeding your family healthy and tasty meals is probably part of your vision. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be time consuming when you keep your meals simple.
I learned a long time ago my family just wants food at regular intervals – they don’t need or want fancy food every night. They would rather eat relaxing simple meals than stressed out fancy meals.
I plan our meals each week based on what we have available in the garden and what activities we have going on. I know other people like to spend time one day a week doing meal prep and preparing all or part of various meals for the week, and that’s a good idea, especially if you work a full time job.
My home will never gloss the pages of a magazine, but it is “usually” tidy enough that I’m okay with someone popping in unannounced.
While I would love to have a home that is clean and tidy all the time, I don’t care enough about that to make it happen. I would rather spend time in the garden or preserving food than making sure my house is spotless.
You and your family might have different priorities, you might need a spotless home in order to feel relaxed in it. If that’s the case, you’ll need to spend more time than I do on cleaning your home. Again there’s no right or wrong vision for your home – it’s your home!
I do think it’s important that all family members pitch in to keep the house tidy. You can divide the responsibilities however makes sense for your family but everyone should participate at some level.
Keep a Daily List
Each morning I write a list of things I want to get done that day. None of these things are earth shattering, just the normal things that need to get done but I’m afraid won’t.
My list doesn’t have things like make the bed, because I’m already in that habit but it might have sweep kitchen floor or clean the microwave. The list might have three things or ten things on it, it just depends on the day.
If there are quite a few things on the list I’ll tell everyone in my family to pick one thing to do that day. Most of these things will only take 10-15 minutes but that can be overwhelming if I’m the only one doing them. The busier I am, the more I rely on the daily list to keep things in order.
The beauty of the daily list is that when it’s done, it’s done. If I have time and energy I can work on something else, but if I don’t it’s fine because I’ve completed that day’s work. There’s a beginning and an end to my work.
Get Rid of Distractions
We all have them but it’s important that we identify them so we can decide if we want to be distracted or not. I don’t think that in order to be productive you have to work from the moment you get out of bed until you crawl back into bed 18 hours later.
There is time in the day for rest and even a bit of distraction. The problem comes when we let the distractions rule our day.
In our day, I think digital distractions are the most dangerous because we lose track of time so easily with them. If you’re getting lots of notifications on your phone, change your settings. You don’t need to check emails as soon as you get them, once or twice a day is plenty.
Decide on when you’re going to get onto Facebook and Instagram and then set a timer. When the timer goes off, it’s time to get off for the day. Without these measures, I can get on social media to check one thing and before you know it, I’ve scrolled for a hour.
The same goes for TV – decide what you’re going to watch and when before you get sucked in binge watching.
But digital distractions aren’t the only distractions. Shopping can be a distraction, which is why I limit my shopping to one day a week. Going from store to store to save a few pennies or just wandering up and down aisles seeing what’s new can eat up precious time…and money.
I’m not sure exactly when being able to multi-task became a badge of honor but it doesn’t usually save you time. Sure, talking on the phone while stirring soup or pulling weeds is helpful, but trying to cook dinner and check social media will end up with a scorched dinner and a frustrated cook.
For me, when I focus on just one thing, I get it done much faster. If I’m supposed to be cleaning my house that’s all I do – I don’t check email or take phone calls, unless it’s my husband or one of my children, during that time.
If I remember something I need to do, I write it on the daily list (see above) and go back to what ever I’m focusing on.
Special Projects and Circumstances
There are times when we’re cruising along keeping our routines, serving simple meals, and keeping our home clean, then something happens that throws a wrench into all our plans.
This something could be big and wonderful like getting a book deal or planning a wedding or it could be not super big and not so wonderful like getting the flu.
Regardless of what it is, we need to change to accommodate it.
If the project or event is optional, I do think it’s wise to decide if you even want to participate. Does this fit into your vision? If not, is it something you really want or need to do?
If it’s not optional, you’ll most likely need to decide what to give up in order to make time for this project. When I was writing my first book I had to say “no” to some of my regular summer things like spending several afternoons a week at the pool with friends, working in the garden, and canning stew and chili con carne. It made me sad but there’s no way I could have written the book and carried on my normal summer life. I had to give up similar things when I wrote the second book.
It think this is where we often get tripped up, we add things to our schedule that aren’t really aligned with the vision for our life or we add things that are aligned but then don’t really make room for them by saying no to other things.
And that creates a very stressful life.
My husband is fond of saying, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.” Life is full of choices and for the most part our life is created by the choices we make.
You can certainly be a present parent, run a 6 figure business, raise and cook all your own food, sew all your family’s clothes, and keep a magazine worthy home – but you can’t do all that in one day, month, or year, maybe over a lifetime and in seasons you can do these things.
There will be seasons when we’re focusing on one are of our life more than others, and as that season ends we’ll focus on another. The important thing is to focus on the choices in your life right now that bring your closer to fulfilling your vision for your life. And that will look different for each of us.
So are you doing the things you really need and want to do to live the life you truly want?