What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Keeping My Sanity~An Essay on Time Management

I was recently invited to write an article on Time Management at www.biblicalwomanhood.com as a supplement to her recent series on the subject. I post it here for my own sake and for my children. While Crystal is waiting to publish all guest editorials until the end, I would encourage you to head over to Biblical Womanhood for further articles on the matter, eventually my name will pop up! :-)

Without further ado...

Time Management is a skill that every successful woman must develop, but unfortunately for us, it is not one that we will master once and for all in our lifetime and it is not one that can be taught from one woman to another. Daily tasks vary from woman to woman, and even within the SAME woman. Our lives are constantly evolving and with it, our priorities, limitations, and opportunities. The newly married woman will have an entirely different looking to-do list than the mother of young children. The mother of teens will have a different set of priorities than she did the many years before when her children were but babes; the tasks that shape the day of an older woman, whose children are long since grown, will vary greatly from the days when her house was full. Different women will have their own set of variables that they need to deal with daily, just as a certain individual’s time restraints will vary in the different seasons of her life. For this reason, it is vital that women are constantly assessing, evaluating, and reevaluating their management of time.

I fall into the category of ‘Mother with Young Children’ and I will share with you some of the things that have helped me to manage my time effectively. I certainly fail miserably at times, and am always looking for ways to learn and grow in this area. I know this will always be true, especially as the responibilities of my life shift and evolve. Perhaps you are not in this particular season of your life, perhaps your priorities are different; my hope is that whatever season you may be in and whatever priorities define YOUR particular life, you might be able to glean a bit of encouragement in this article.

1) Prioritize Your Time~ The first step in successful time management is to set priorities. We may as well face it, it is IMPOSSIBLE to fit everything we WANT to do in a day. We only get 24 hours, after all…and less than that if you want to SLEEP! :-) I have always thought that “We make time for what we want to do.” Isn’t it interesting that if a particular book is absolutely riveting, we somehow finish reading it by the end of the afternoon? If that quilt has been on our minds, for sure, it will be on our beds within the month…if we WANT to do it, we make time for it. If that is the case, than we CAN finish all the tasks that are required of us-by putting our minds to it and making time for it. We must choose wisely what we ought to be doing with our time, and prioritize accordingly.

It is absolutely essential that we eat, therefore, you must cook! It is absolutely essential that our families are clothed, therefore, you must WASH (and dry, and put away.) It is absolutely essential that our families are able to rest easily at night, to prepare themselves and their hearts for the next day…therefore we must give them clean sheets, warm blankets, and put their hearts and minds to rest. It is absolutely essential that we have a place to live, therefore, we MUST pay bills. Our highest calling is to tend the soil of our childrens’ hearts toward the Lord, therefore-we must spend mounds and mounds of time with them, teaching them of the Lord and tilling that soil! Some of us homeschool and that priority ALONE, takes a large portion of the day. Some of us help with our husbands’ businesses or farms, some of us are kept very busy within the church…the list goes on and on. If we find the most important tasks of the day and tackle them, then we are doing GREAT! The extra, less-important things will come.

A note on priorities: prioritizing your time means also prioritizing your associations. A bible study can be a very wonderful thing to do, provided real learning is done and it doesn’t take the form of gossip sessions. HOWEVER, they certainly are NOT wonderful things to do if your house is trashed and you have a to-do list that you have been putting off for weeks. If this is the case, than your priorities are not in the right place. Homemaking (and keeping) just doesn’t happen if you are never home. It can’t.
Going to ‘play-dates’, going out to lunch, talking on the phone, visiting friends...doing extraneous things with extraneous people isn’t always wrong, but it CAN be wrong if it is pulling us away from our REAL duties. The Lord gives women a high calling of being fruitful through the care of our homes, raising our children and being helpers to our husbands-we ought to sow our seeds where they can be most fruitful-and that is within the home.

2) Set Yourself up for Success~ There are several ways you can set yourself up for a successful, productive day. PLAN. I am a list maker…there is nothing better than looking at a list at the end of the day and seeing all those checkmarks-a visual reminder of your success and achievements! I have found, too, that having a list gives me DIRECTION. Women have lots to do, and KNOWING that can sometimes overwhelm us to the point where we don’t know where to begin. Creating a list of all that needs to be done, and then prioritizing that list can really lift a burden off your shoulders and give you the impetus to get the job done.

I have a 5 subject notebook that is never too far from me during the day. On my list of things to do, I put a star next to the highest priority things that need to get done. I put the things I would *like* to do at the very bottom and will ONLY do them if my high priority things are completed. If you have to make several phone calls, write down the phone numbers on the list ahead of time so you aren’t searching them out last minute. Prepare separate and distinct folders for things like ‘bills’ and ‘grocery shopping’. When it is time to pay bills, grab the Bill Folder and set it next to your notebook…it will be ready and waiting for you and you will have no excuse NOT to do it.

Another way you can set yourself up for success is by SCHEDULING. I try and follow the same general schedule each and every day. With young children, this is especially important as they feel a sense of routine. If you plan to do the same routine every day, it becomes habit and eventually, making Papa’s sandwich for work after the evening kitchen clean-up becomes second nature and is no longer bothersome. We have a two hour quiet time in our house between 12 and 2:30. This happens EVERY day and so, my children have become accustomed to it. Bedtimes are always around 7:30. Having structure in your day allows the day to go more smoothly. I also try and prepare my children for changes. “We have to leave in about five minutes.” “You have to stop playing and start cleaning up in a few minutes”. This prepares them for the change, and so they are much less likely to throw a fit about it.

3) Expect Much~ With young children, we Mama’s often have the bruntwork on our very own shoulders, but as our children grow they are more and more capable of helping. We should EMBRACE that. Young children are capable of doing small tasks and what’s more? They LIKE doing them! They REALLY enjoy working alongside you and helping you! While it may take more time now, tripping over the ‘helpers’ in the kitchen and cleaning up all the flour dusting the floor, we are setting ourselves up for success in the future and our children up to be responsible and considerate.

In our house, if you are able to do it once, you are then expected to do it. When Corynn, my daughter, was 3 years old, at the end of the meal, I had her take her plate and cup to the kitchen counter. She grew accustomed to this practice and soon, she was taking ALL the empty dishes and silverwear. Now, she is responsible for helping clear the table EVERY night, she is four years old. When my son, Andrew was just over a year old, He surprised me by taking his dirty diaper to the garbage when I finished changing him. He now does it EVERY time. The same thing happened when he picked up his dirty pajama’s and threw them in the dirty clothes closet…I was so pleased and gave him so much praise, He now RACES to the closet when he sees dirty clothes on the floor and he isn’t quite two years old. Corynn helps me put her clothes away, folds a PERFECT towel, and has been making the lunches for herself and her brother for weeks now~ever since she ‘surprised’ me by doing so when I was feeling ill one day. Andrew takes the stool from the kitchen to the bathroom when needed, puts his shoes in his shoe basket and puts the books back on the bookcase when he is through looking at them.

It seems as though responsibilities like these might make the little ones appear to be more like slave-labor than anything else, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is obvious by the great twinkles in their eyes and broad, proud peacock smiles they give when a thank-you kiss is returned to them. So you see, even the littlest of beings are capable of genuine help…and God has given them a special gift of being pleased to do so. We ought to praise them when they offer help, thank them, love on them, and expect them to do it again. In doing so, we will be encouraging them to continue to love helping, to continue to bless others, to continue growing in responsibility, and to continue to work hard. It may not seem like a tremendous amount of help when a baby puts books away, or when your child ‘helps’ you cook, but surprisingly~it becomes a GREAT help over time! I imagine these things will come in VERY handy when they are 13 and 14 years old! ;-)

4) Invest in Yourself~ The saying “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is a bit cliché and humorous, but really does have a wealth of wisdom. Mama’s need to invest some time in themselves. Mama’s who are burned-out are of no use to anyone. Mama’s who feel like they have lost who they are will become bitter and resentful, and those feelings are sinful and will only tear down her family. Mama’s would be wise to recognize that we are human beings and we need to have downtime, support, and energy enough to pursue our own interests. We need to do it, for ourselves AND our families. If you have young children, you may very well be sneering at me right now. “RIGHT! Like THAT is possible!” you say. It is. I assure you it is. If that means waking up 30 minutes earlier, or staying awake 30 minutes later to pursue one of your own interests so be it! Give yourself a manicure! Read that chapter! Work on that afghan! Quilt! Write! Photograph! Have some ‘me’ time. You MAKE time for what you want to make time for. I use the daily rest-time to pursue my own interests. I sacrifice a nap, hehe, but I am able to spend even just a little while, pursuing my own interests~and they are many, let me tell you! A contented spirit will speak volumes to your children. Pursuing a craft will speak volumes to your children. Have some time for yourself and make time, throughout the day to enjoy things that you enjoy too. If you enjoy sewing, arm your little girl with a needle and thread and have her sit with you. If you enjoy writing, give your little guy some crayons and paper. If you enjoy reading, go the library with your children or bring out a stash that they can read on the couch next to you. If you would just LOVE a manicure…paint your fingernails and then give your girlies a clearcoat. If just having a cup of Vanilla Caramel Chai tea would make your day, set up a tea party. Invest in yourself and you will be ready to tackle any of the mishaps that so easily find their way into our lives. Invest time in your children, allowing them to participate in the things that you enjoy. There is no greater gift for a child, then to be invited into their Mother’s (or Father’s) grown-up world.

That said, we will never be fully contented with our own pursuing of pleasures, because we are too greedy! There is NEVER going to be enough time to do all that we want to do or devote all the time that we would like to devote to our own pleasures. This is normal. This is life. This is setting priorities on your time. Now is when we must remind ourselves that fulfilling God’s calling on our lives should be giving us great joy. We should have joy not only in the few moments we can devote to ‘me time’ but also in the diaper-changing, the dusting, the loading, unloading, and reloading of the dishwasher, and all those menial tasks that must be done. We should find joy and contentment in our lives and in our high calling as women, wives, and mothers.

5) Look Up~ Finally, and most importantly, live to the glory of God. If we seek scriptural wisdom in planning our days, if we train and admonish our children (and ourselves) in the Lord, if we set Godly priorities, if we ask the Lord’s blessings on our work, if we strive to glorify God in all we do, only then will we have truly succeeded in our tasks. Even if, presently, the living room happens to have toys strewn across the floor.

Rebecca Newman is the wife of a dairyman, Matt, and the mother of two children thus-far, daughter Corynn (4) and son Andrew (2). She is an avid wannabe photographer, sews, crochets, reads, gardens, cans, and writes-even if it means burning the candles to do so. This is her first year of home educating, and calls it her trial run. Her blog can be found at www.zeahrenaissance.blogspot.com


Mrs. Hurzeler said...

I am so proud of you! You wrote that out wonderfully. What a wonderful thing to see your name in print like that. I hope it gave you the thrills it gave me. (HUGS)
God Bless You Guys.

Terri said...

Great article, Rebecca. It was very well written and wonderful advice.


Andie said...

What a wonderful article. You are very articulate. This is a topic I struggle with dainly, and unfortunately fail at most days.
All good advice, I'm going to try to keep it in mind TODAY (and tomorrow....)

Kelli said...

This was an *excellent* article, Rebecca! I am a list maker too and I love your tip of putting things you "like" to do a the bottom. I also completely agree with you about getting children to help around the house. I didn't work with the girls and Benjamin as much as I should have when they were little but we are making up for lost time. ;0) Teamwork is key! You have shared so many wonderful tips with us!
P.s Thank you for the sweet comments on my giveaway and the birthday wishes too. You are a special friend to me.

Christine said...

Absolutely wonderful article, Rebecca! I love your practical tips!

Carmichael Family said...

Thank you for sharing this...I especially enjoyed your advice on getting little ones involved
(Expect Much).