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.

PicMonkey Collage

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.

IMG_20160829_082306556

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.

IMG_20151103_124531973

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.

picMonkey0.5075893435640065

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.

IMG_20160629_170124123

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.

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.

 

 

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.

Poem by a tired mom

Nearly a decade has passed since I wrote this poem.  I miss those little bodies and faces I shared dinner with way back when.  

Dinner looks a bit different these days, than it did when I wrote these words:

 

A rest for the weary at the end of the day;

a time to replenish what’s been taken away.

Energy drained, stomach growling,

kids are crying, dog is howling.

Then the fun begins…

 

A rush to prepare a fast and healthy meal,

one that tastes good…with kids on my heel.

The food’s in the oven, the table is set.

This is when I begin to fret.

“Do you smell something burning?”…

 

Always burning garlic bread, it never fails.

After the timer rings, my memory ails.

It bakes in the oven until it gets black.

Only the bottom of my socks are darker than that.

To the table we go…

 

The plates are filled; the cups are too.

A disgusted noise; “This looks like poo!”

That’s all it takes to get things started.

Now giggles all around.  And, “Who passed gas farted?”

Mom the waitress is on duty…

 

“I don’t like this…I want more…

Gimme this, Gimme that.  Service here is poor.”

“More milk please, dear. (Smile)

You’re nearest the fridge door.”

We’re in the home stretch now…

 

Now I sit down to eat my dinner.

A bit cold, but to me it’s a winner.

Why all the complaints and lackluster reviews?

This is certainly better than last week’s stew.

Oh, no!  Grab some towels…

 

Finally, everyone has eaten.  By force or by choice.

“Time to clean up”, says my tired voice.

Most nights it’s a family affair to clean when dinner is done.

Other nights I enjoy a quiet kitchen shared with no one.

Soon it’s time for bed…

 

Another dinner is over; we’ve survived one more meal.

Looking back I wonder why I made it a big deal.

Aside from orders, spills, cold food, lots to clean,

And conversations from, “I said no!” to “Where is my spleen?”

No awkward silences like many a first date…

 

As the years pass, familiarity grows like a weed.

I embrace and enjoy this comfort seed.

The love still remains if I let my hair down.

They still care if all I can do is frown.

But a smile on my face I’ll wear to our next dinner.

Working myself out of a job

It is so important to teach our kids life skills. To give them a taste of daily real life. Can I get an ‘Amen!’?  Ok, I’ll give you that…sometimes it’s just easier to do it myself. I get that. I do that. What part of momhood is easy?  Um, I vote none.

dirtykids

Dirty, messy cuteness abounds.  They get older and a little less dirty, but sometimes the mess remains.  One day they will have their own place to call home.  (Yes, they will.  And it will feel like it went by in a blink.)  Let’s love our kids now by not letting them face a crisis of ‘why isn’t my apartment cleaning itself?’ once they’re on their own.  Let’s get ourselves organized.  Do what works for you, but have a plan.  I like to split up my weekly cleaning/chores.  Monday is laundry and break-making.  Tuesday is putting away laundry and dusting.  Wednesday is trash/recycling collection, clean out pet cages and brush those fat cats. (Yes, actual cats.  Actual cats that are fat.)

You get the idea.

chore list

It’s not really the way you organize it that matters.  Just have a plan.

Then…delegate.

Give them a job and a deadline.  Make sure their job fits their age.  Write it down on a pretty chart.  Or don’t. Follow through until it’s done.  Don’t get frustrated and just do it for them.  My kids help with something each day.  Even if I have to make stuff up.  My two oldest girls do ALL their own laundry.  Yay, me!  Oh, ya, yay them!

empty dryer

I see one part of my job as working myself out of a job.  Gradually giving them more and more responsibility for their own care and upkeep.  So, my loads of laundry have gotten smaller instead of growing.  That is huge when you have teen and preteen girls.  They never complain about something not being clean when they want it!  My youngest is 8.  Her job is to make sure her dirty clothes get to the laundry room on Monday, fold and put away her clean clothes.

folded clothes

We’re doing them a favor.  And, we’re doing ourselves a favor.  Win-win!  What jobs are your kids responsible for?  If you don’t know where to start, start with prayer.  Our perfect, loving, heavenly Father wants to give us parenting advice.  Just ask Him.  Read His word.  Seek wise counsel from others who have already traveled this path.  Lean on Him and use the resources and gifts He has provided.

Busy…Not good

Have that feeling that you’ve got too much going on? You’ve bitten off more than you can chew? You’re not carving out down time to slow down and bask in the season? I’m right there with you. I do this every year. I don’t get started soon enough. I have too much to do. I crave a slow day when I can just chill with my kids…read books, cuddle, bake cookies (leisurely). Why do I do this to myself?

I’m slowly learning that busy is not good.  Are we addicted to busy?  I do like to be busy.  I know that about myself.  But, many days I wonder what I can cut out.  Really, what do I let go of?  Homeschooling?  Cleaning the bathrooms?  Co-ownership in home-based business?  I don’t know!  My family must come first.  That one is not always easy because I’m pretty cozy with my to-do list.  I guess it’s knowing when to say no.  Setting a quitting time.  Being ok with never nearly perfect.

So, back to Christmas.  Ok, we’re right in the thick of it now, so maybe there is not much you can just not do a this point.  Well…maybe there is.  Do you really have to bake all those cookies?  We’re better off without all those carbs.  Will they think you love them less if you don’t make them the Pinterest-inspired gifts?  Probably not.   And, if your house isn’t all the way decorated yet?  Put away the bulbs and boxes and call it a day.  What our families will remember the most is our care for them.  What our families will remember most is our care for them.  (Yes, I know I wrote that twice.  I’m trying to make it stick in my head!)

There are many cliches about Christmas.  And while they may cheapen with repeating, there is nothing cliche about the fact that Jesus really and truly is the reason for this season.  Let it sink in.  He put us first.  It was His care for us that compelled Him to be born as a helpless baby who was laid in a feeding trough, available to anyone who cared to visit.  Not in a palace with guards and waiting lists.  In a barn.  Luke says, ” There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” (MSG)

Let’s not try to win ‘mom of the season’ awards for she who completes the most Pinterest crafts, recipes and decorating tips.  Also, don’t beat yourself up for the lack of ‘spiritual’ activities during this season.  Love on your kids and hubby.  Talk about the Christmas story.  Those young ‘uns may just amaze you with their insight.  Go on!  Celebrate this great and joyful event!