5 Musts for a Productive Day

We all like to be productive, right?  Maybe your productive is different from my productive.  Productivity is subjective.  So, let’s define it for the sake of this post.  Let’s just say productivity=getting stuff done.  When at the end of the day you can say…I accomplished what I set out to do.  The things on this list are simple things that help me ‘feel’ more productive, thus, I usually am more productive.  They are in no magic order.

1. Get up first.  Before anyone else in the house. It’s so nice to be alone in a quiet house. Make coffee, spend time with the Lord, read a novel, sketch, journal, take a bubble bath, go for a walk, listen to the birds, or just be still. Do something that satisfies and makes you happy. Do not start on a list or chores if you can help it, until you’ve had some time for yourself!  Usually I use the time for praying, journaling or reading the Bible. My day is off to a good start when I have this time.

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2. Make a plan.  This doesn’t have to be fancy.   Don’t go crazy here.  Just come up with a few items that should get accomplished that day.   I don’t want to over-spiritualize, but I usually pray for guidance before I make my list. A bowing of my heart and will to His plans for my day. You can write it down in a notebook, on a chalkboard, or if you were gifted with a better memory than mine, keep it in your head.  Now, here’s the hard part…stick with those few realistic goals.  As moms, we know there are so many unexpected events and interruptions in our days.  It’s hard to stay focused and get stuff done. When I have a realistic list I stay more focused and get more done.

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3. Get dressed. Come on, I’m serious. Put on some clothes that you would actually wear out of your house.  I’m all for being comfortable, but       sweat pants should not be your go to.  I like to remind myself that someone could knock on my door at any moment. I don’t know about you, but I’m not too fond of receiving guests before I look a little more together.  I kid you not, I feel more productive just by getting dressed.

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4. Make your bed.  I know, this would make your mom so happy.  I won’t tell her she was right.  This is such a simple task that can make such a difference.  Really!  You walk into a room with the bed made and you feel better…it’s orderly, neat and pretty. Keep your bed-making simple and quick. Pull up the covers and add a few decorative pillows. Time yourself. If it takes more than 60 seconds it’s time to pare down your bedding.  Seeing that bed made makes me remember I did get something done that day.

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5. Take a nap. So this might seem counter productive…stay with me. There are days when I drag myself through every single task, chore and interaction. So. Tired. I’m usually a pretty driven, task-oriented person, but many days, I ‘allow’ myself to sit, rest and fall asleep.  Sometimes I set an alarm, but generally I wake up within 30 minutes. My girls are all old enough to survive my nap time without a serious catastrophe. If yours aren’t old enough…nap when they do or use one show as a sitter (gasp!) while you rest on the couch next to them. When I get up from my nap I feel more ready to tackle the rest of the day.

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I pray that these simple tips help you as much as they help me. But, hear me friend…our productivity does not equal our value. We are so much more than our accomplished to do list.  There will be days when nothing gets crossed off the list.  Days when productivity does not equal getting stuff done. Days when our accomplishments are those little things that really matter.  Some days will be so hard we’ll just want it to be over. Give yourself grace.  Remember that His mercies are new every morning.  We can start fresh tomorrow.

the ‘what ifs’

Do you ever think of a ‘what if’ scenario and play it out in your head?  The whole chain of events that would follow?

I do.  I think through how I would react in any given situation and how to do it most efficiently.  And, these ‘what ifs’ of mine are not lovely events.  I wish I could say it went something like, “What if I won a million dollars?”  Or, “What if a shower of season-appropriate, in my size, Banana Republic clothes fell out of the sky?”

Nope.  Not the kind of stuff I think on.  I go for the run-of-the-mill disaster scenarios.  “What if my girl gets in an accident while she’s out riding her bike?”  And, “What if my husband dies?”.    Or, “What if there is a terrorist attack too close to home?”   It doesn’t take a genius to know that these things could happen.  They do happen.  Also, I’m pretty sure we all have these thoughts and others like them.

I would guess that just about everyone goes there sometimes.  So what’s the big deal?  My problem is in the dwelling.  Thinking through the scenario in great detail.  Making plans for what is not and maybe never will be.  I’m no Girl Scout, but I do like to be prepared…just to an extreme.  Bad stuff happens every day.  But, the bad stuff shouldn’t be the focus.  Shouldn’t command so much of our attention.

My Grandpa J. taught me to look far down the road when driving, instead of at the road directly in front of the bumper.  When we look out ahead we’re looking at a larger view and we can better stay on course.  We’re not ignoring the road right ahead of us, we’re just taking in a bigger picture.  Our view still includes the foreground, it just won’t be our focus.

The same is true in life:  

If we look at the ugly situation right in front of us vs. the Big Picture, we can’t very well stay our course.

 

As a follower of Jesus, my Big Picture focus is Him.  I trust He is in control of it all.  I trust that everything He does is for His glory and my good.  When the ‘what ifs’ pop up–take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), give thanks and ask for protection (Philippians 4:6), and think about something else (Philippians 4:8).

Maybe it’s like we’re in training.  If we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can train our minds, He will become our go-to when the ‘what ifs’ strike.  When something bad does happen, hopefully, we will be ready to turn to Him first.  Yes, we will still feel in that situation–anger, grief, depression…  Yet, maybe we can stay on our course of living a life that glorifies Him and is eternally-minded.

Jesus wants us to bring all our cares to Him.  Talk to Him.  Tell Him your worries.  Acknowledge Him as the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, loving Father He is.  Let’s try to lean on Him in this.  Trusting Him in all situations, real or imagined.

Kitchen on Wheels

One especially crazy weekend I made fruit salad in the car.  I had overextended our family with too many commitments.  At this point in the weekend we were on our way to a family function.  My contribution was fruit salad.  With barely enough time to go to the store for the ingredients, I was going to be hard pressed to assemble the side dish before arriving at the party.  We were running late…as usual.  I knew everyone would be eating by the time we arrived.  It was bad enough that we would be late; I didn’t also want to be unprepared.

 

Fortunately, we had a 45 minute drive and I just happened to have a paring knife in the car.

 

(I’ll let that sink in for a moment.)

 

So, I proceeded to chop strawberries, kiwi and grapes while my husband drove.  (You may be saying,  “You didn’t make the fruit salad AND drive?”)  I am a multi-tasking, overachiever.  But I left the driving to my husband.

 

As he drove and I cut I had time to think.  I knew there must be some life lesson that needed to be realized. (I did tell you I’m an over-achiever, right?  I can’t just leave it alone without looking for the moral to the story.)  And, I’ve been a follower of Jesus long enough to know that He will use the silly, little stuff of life to make us more like Him.  I also knew that others who passed us on the highway must have either pitied me (fellow-mothers), thought I was losing it (women yet to be mothers), or didn’t even notice (men).  My husband was part of the last group. He barely made a comment about my traveling kitchen.  (This was one time when ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ was an unfortunate thing. It really would have come in handy.)  Maybe my wise husband was choosing to be discerning and not row into unpredictable waters.  I’m not always kind and patient when questioned while under pressure.

 

So, anyway…a lesson.  Somewhere.  I guess on the surface it’s obvious, right?  Don’t try to do too much.  Use some wisdom in scheduling.  We really don’t have to do everything.  Why do we make that our goal?  Our ridiculous, totally impractical goal.  Some days I just can’t get it through my brain that I am not a super-mom.  And, uh, you’re probably not either. (Hugs.) With all the love I can muster…you don’t have it all together.  Can we be honest with each other?  Live real?  It’s so hard.  I know.  We want to appear put-together,our lives in order.

 

We are not, have never been and will not ever be super-moms.  It’s a lie and only creates anxiety.  You may be able to keep all your plates spinning for a time, but not forever.  I’ve tried.  So let’s choose wisely.   Set priorities.  When given a choice let’s decide if it’s in line with our priorities.  Learn to say no.   We’re on the same page, right?  We agree that we don’t have it all together?  I do know someone who does.  God.

 

It’s very simple.  Well, simply said, but harder to do.  Choose real, vulnerable weakness, so God’s strength will be obvious.  And this is when the lesson gets below the surface.  And, as with any other area of our lives, this isn’t something we’ll do once and it will stick.  It will take work.  Day by day.  Moment by moment.  But what freedom and joy there can be if we just grab onto this idea!  To shed the idea that we need to have it all together.  A little closer to that abundant life.  Not only will we make our lives more bearable, but those around us will breath a little easier.  Let’s chose what has eternal value, not over-commit and allow ourselves some vulnerability.

 

Oh, and, remember…it’s not safe to use a knife in a moving vehicle.

 

 

Stop, Look & Listen

Can I be honest here for a minute?  There are a few things about being a mom that are downright hard.  A lot of the other parts would just be considered challenging.  Momhood is filled with those challenges.  And, I would say, it seems that the hard stuff of being a mom is what matters most.

 

That hard stuff?  Easier said than done.  You see, I’m not really a talkative person.  I usually meet my word quota by dinnertime.  Two of my kids are on the loquacious side.  They have lots to say about lots of things.  And most of the time it’s about a topic that is not high on my list of interests.  (We’re being honest here, right?)  And…it’s not easy to stay focused and come up with an intelligent comment every few moments when you’re not educated about the topic.  As they get older, the topics get more intelligent.  It keeps me on my toes.

 

There are times when I’m sure the talker notices that my eyes have left the conversation.  Sometimes it’s not even that I’m looking at something else.  That staring off without really focusing on anything.  You know what I mean?  Zoning out.  Earth, to Mom!

 

Or, how about when we don’t even give them our attention in the first place?  Now, in hindsight, I can say I wish I had taken the time to look deep into those sweet eyes and memorized her face a little more.  But in the moment?  It’s more like, Just a minute…I’m almost done here…I’m in the middle of something.  Sure, there are times when those kids will need to practice some waiting, but really, how often are we doing something so important that we can’t put our agenda on hold?

 

I’ve made a rule for myself that I try really hard to follow.  When I talk to one of my daughters, I look into her beautiful eyes.  I try to remember to not talk to her with my back turned.  Eye contact.  It speaks volumes.

 

All this may make me tired and I may have already used up my words for the day, but this is one of those mom jobs that no matter how tough, it is a must.  I can say that when you look back, all those long days of challenges will finally seem like the fleeting moments they are.  And, flying through those moments, not being IN them, will only pile on the regret and mom-guilt later on.  I know that for a fact.  I go there sometimes.

Your most meaningful work in the Kingdom of God may not be the big things that you do — but the one little person you love.   (Ann Voskamp)

So, let’s strive to be intentional.  Yes, we’ll blow it.  Stop and take a moment to pray.  Get back up.  Ask forgiveness.  Brush it off.  And move on.  Each moment will count whether or not we’re trying.  Today, make eye contact with those precious little people and really listen.  Are you up for the challenge?  

Laundry

Why does laundry take me into the deepest of despairs?  I’ve shed more tears while doing laundry than while doing any of the other hundreds of tasks that consume my days.

Many aspects of laundry could make anyone cry.  How about its endlessness?  Or, when a towering pile of neatly folded clothes topples to the ground?  Ever shrink your favorite sweater to a size smaller than your adult body has ever seen, but not small enough for your toddler?  And, bleach.  It is not my friend.   Add to that the fact that I usually wait to do laundry until it’s late.  Way past my bedtime, late.

Those feelings of never making progress with laundry seem to transfer easily to all other areas of my life.  For example, will I ever get to go to the bathroom with the door closed?  Will I ever again shave my legs on a daily basis?  Will there come a time when I can shower long enough to wash my hair and my body on the same day?  Will I ever again eat a hot meal without getting up from the table even once?  It’s true…the simplest, mundane tasks are great at bringing out those ‘ugly cry’ urges when they don’t go as planned.

So, if you are a fellow, teary-eyed, late night launderer…listen up.  Take heart.  You can be sure that everyone in your family changes their underwear every day.  Besides, I think we may be on to something here.  Our well-placed tears could save money on the water bill, and, who knows, they may have some secret, stain-fighting power!  So, enjoy a good cry.  Keep pressing on.  Bloom where you are planted.  And, remember: bleach happens.

The Beginning of the End?

from the archives…

This week, my 13, I mean 3, year old said, “You’re cool, Mom!”.  My first reaction was a sly smile and a barely recognizable head nod along with a mental pat on the back. (Get the picture?)  You know what I’m talking about.

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Then, in a panic I started to look deeper into this simple phrase.  What does this mean?!  That my toddler even know what that means causes me great distress.

Now that she knows what it means to be ‘cool’, she’ll soon figure out what it means to be ‘so not cool’!  What is a mother to do?

I’ve decided to soak up any and all praise while it lasts.  And brace myself for next week.

Early to Rise?

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  Mark 1:35

 

If Jesus, Savior and Creator, needed to have a ‘quiet time’, how much more do we, rescued and redeemed sinners, need to do the same?  It would stand to reason, that maybe we need it even more, being that we are imperfect.  Yet Jesus, in so doing, was not only setting an example for us in his perfectness, but it was also a good indication that he really was fully man.  He needed that time away with the Father to pray before ministering that day.  To align with God’s will, to be strengthened, encouraged…just loved on by the Father.

Jesus gave his all to everyone around him.  Do you give a lot of yourself to those around you?  If you’re a mom, the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’.  We so need that time at the start of each day to pray…to submit to God’s will, to draw on His strength and to just be loved on by our Father.

But, oh, I struggle with this!  For so long now I’ve known I should make this a priority.  This rising early and getting alone with God. You see, I am in the Word everyday.  That is a must.  Even if it is done while the kids are running laps around you asking endless questions.  Make. It. A. Priority.  I cannot stress enough the importance of reading or  hearing His Word every day. But to rise very early in the morning, get alone, and pray?  That.  That is taking it to the next level.  I mean, really praying.  On your face, crying out to the Lord.  Sitting silent, listening.  A supernatural conversation with I Am!

What are we missing out on by neglecting this practice?  I can only imagine.  Heart healing, peace that passes understanding, a passion to reach the lost.  The list goes on and on.   I’m not saying we won’t ever have those things if we’re not praying early in the morning.  But, how much more will we know and experience Him if we are being consistent in drawing near?  What a change that would make in our witness if we are putting Him first in our day.  The constant, repetitive, faithful setting aside time to just know Him.  Being filled up in His presence so for the rest of the day we have something worthwhile to give.  Praying for what weighs on our hearts.  Prayer is a powerful thing.  Both together, the pouring out and letting Him fill.  Taking the time to be still and listen.  Repenting, praising, honoring, submitting.

The pastor this weekend, stressed the importance of seeking His face as opposed to seeking His hand.  Not just what God can do (His hand) for us, but to KNOW (face) Him.  You’ve heard of the quantity vs. quality debate for relationships?  Well, I think most people would agree that we need both.  Quality, yes, but we are imperfect people.  We have bad days.  We still sin and need to repent daily.  Quiet times are not always going to go the way you want.  There will be interruptions and we may feel we’re not hearing from Him.  Yet, if we can also focus on quantity…that day after day after day of seeking and being still and pouring out our hearts.  That is what will help us know Him better.  We’ll have some great quality days that make us walk with a bounce in our step and a renewed purpose, but those days and days of quantity will slowly build a solid foundation of maturity in our relationship with Him.

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So, what does this early morning time look like?  I need a plan and a goal.  That sounds so unspiritual, but isn’t part of our walk about discipline?  What can you do to add this to your life?  What about sleep, you ask.  I know.  That’s been my hold up.  I like sleep.  I am not happy about getting out of bed in the morning, but this time with Him is more important than sleep. So, to think it through… I am pretty sure at this point in my life I need 7 hours of sleep each night.  For me that means I need to go to bed no later than 11:30 pm and get up at 6:30 am. (Ugh.)  That would give me 30-45 minutes before the rest of the house is ready for breakfast.  I would include prayer, reading the Word, worship music, journaling and more prayer.  You could sit in your car, in the bathroom, go for a walk.  Think it through.  Join me in making this a priority. This is more of what it means to lean on Him, right?  To recognize our need for Him.  Every. Day.  What does your quiet time look like?  Have you been able to establish a habit of rising early, getting alone with the Father and praying?  Please share!