19 December 2014

Resolution Resources: Manage My Time

Dear Lissy,

Every resolution you make will require the expenditure of time, money, or both.  Learning to redeem the time is one of the most elusive and valuable skills you can possess.  As I prayed and thought about this letter, I decided to call my momma.  I admire my mom's time management skills and philosophy more than she will ever know.  She doesn't live out of a Filofax, but her home is always tidy and welcoming, she's dependable, and she's giving.  Above all, your grammy possesses a gentle and quiet spirit that ministers to everyone around her.  She gave up a few of her secrets that fit well with our three part plan for making reliable resolutions:

Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.

 

  • Grammy's first piece of advice was to keep a running to-do list where you dump everything that is rattling around in your brain onto paper.  This is as much for your own peace of mind as it is to ensure that everything gets done. (She also has a basic wall calendar to record appointments and events)
  • Creating a daily to-do list with a handful of "have-to-do's" instead of a bushel of "hope-to-do's" is another key area we chatted about.  You can always pick a few items off the running to-do list if time permits, but having a realistic picture of what must be done helps you make better choices during the heat of the day. 
  • Finally, Grammy completes urgent tasks first.  As she put it, "If there's something that has to be done before I can go to bed, I do that first." Once your urgent tasks are out of the way, you'll have the patience and energy to deal with other items on the list or schedule busters from your husband and kids.

    Keep in mind that the Real Goal isn't a Pinterest worthy color-coded planner, but the hospitality, peace, and patience that your grandmother has demonstrated in her life for more than 40 years.  

Make exchanges whose input can be measured.

 

We love to measure our worth by how much we can get done, but the quality of our relationships and attitude far outstrip our productivity in eternal value.  

How do we measure input with time management?
  1. Create a Daily Plan.  Call it a to-do list, a Daily Docket, or nothing at all, but move all of your Routines, Appointments, Tasks, and Events (RATE) to one piece of paper you refer to throughout the day.  I choose to use a bullet journal format, but I've used everything from a Day-Timer to a sheet of notebook paper on a clipboard in the past.  If I create a daily plan either the night before or first thing in the morning, I count that day a success.  Just the act of putting my plans on paper creates a sense of peace and focus that is vitally important for me as I run our household.  I can instantly see where I can fit in a request for my time, or have the freedom to say "no, I can't fit that in today."  
  2. Meticulously maintain the feeder sources for the daily plan.  If my brain is hacking up forgotten tasks, appointments, and to-do's, I get off plan pretty quickly.  Ditto if I have an "emergency" from one of the guys.  I can only make an effective Daily Plan if my sources are reliable.
    • Do I have a single calendar where every appointment and activity is faithfully recorded?  
    • Do I have a running to do list so tasks that need to be completed are visibly in front of me while I make up my Daily Plan?
    • Is my tickler up to date?
    • Have I asked Daddy if he has any errands, double shifts, or tasks he needs done this week so I don't get blindsided with something that has to be done that day (or minute!)? 
    • Do I have the boy's club, school, and work schedules for the week?  If they need some weird item for a science experiment, or a pot of spaghetti for a late night at robots, I need to know in advance.
When I have a Daily Plan that I'm confident contains the routines, appointments, tasks, and events I need to accomplish for my day, I'm a different person.  And when Momma's happy and peaceful?  Well, you know what a difference that makes. When a schedule buster comes booming through the door, I can either send it packing, or rearrange my plan to accommodate it.  Either way, the day is a success eternally.


Create or join a support and accountability group.


Ever had a home in C.H.A.O.S? (That's shorthand for "Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.")  God has set up a support and accountability structure for time management called "hospitality."  We are to be entertaining strangers and friends, and showing that same kindness and love to our own family.  We have the older women in our ministry we should be hosting in our homes regularly to help us navigate the difficult waters of managing a home and family well before God.  I don't care for entertaining Martha Stewart style at all, but I love having people in my home for encouragement, ministry, and consolation.  My schedule can become overloaded and our house can deteriorate into shambles inside of a week if I'm not intentional about hospitality.  Grammy has people in her home continually since before I was born, some of them for weeks at a stretch.  She manages her time and home so that even when Gugs brings someone home unexpectedly, she's not kerfluffled at the inconvenience.  I'm glad that I've had that example before me since I was itty-bitty.

Managing your time -- and your family's time --  is challenging.  I encourage you when you become discouraged to think back on the time you spent in Grammy's home, and seek to follow her example of loving hospitality and peace.

Love you for all of time,

Momma

18 December 2014

Resolution Resources: Daily Quiet Time

Dear Lissy,

A New Year's resolution to faithfulness in a daily quiet time with God is common.  Even if daily devotions are a habitual part of your routine, it can be helpful to review and renew your resolve to make quiet time a priority in your life.  Let's look at that resolution in light of our three guidelines...


Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.

 

The stated resolution?  Make daily time in the Bible and prayer a priority.

 If you're adding a daily time with God, you may be excited enough to try to get up early and get into the Word and prayer.  That is a noble goal, and God wants to meet with you even more than you desire to meet with Him.  He will give you the grace and strength to make daily time with Him a reality.   

The real goal?  To grow your relationship with your Heavenly Father to the point where the constant power and presence of God in your life is a reality and a joy.   

We increase God's power and presence in our lives in two ways: private time spent in the Word and prayer and corporate worship and fellowship with those of like faith and practice.   

Let's brainstorm some small, sustainable ways you could implement these two growth factors...
  • Have a scripture portion sent to your mobile or e-mail each morning through YouVersion or a similar program.
  • Keep a daily devotional book in your powder room reading material.  A subscription like Days of Praise or a regular book like Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed have short readings that seek to grow your relationship with your Savior.
  • Make a commitment to serve on Sunday that will help motivate you in your faithfulness to your local church.
  • Keep your Bible open on your kitchen table.
  • Don't log onto your computer until you've read your Bible.
  • Do your Bible reading at night before you go to bed and write down 2 or 3 things to think about the next morning. 
  • Make up a Quiet Time basket that will give you a gentle visual reminder and extra motivation to set aside time with God.
 

Make exchanges whose input can be measured. 

 

God only measures outputWe can only control the input.  Everything God measures in our life is the result of His grace working in and through us.  With that said, we can measure our input in terms of faithfulness as long as we realize that God is not measuring the same thing. Many authors refer to time in the Word, prayer, and corporate worship as putting ourselves in the "paths of grace."  We are intentionally putting ourselves where we know the Spirit walks and works. 

The problem arises when we attempt to measure our spiritual walk by how well we maintain the spiritual disciplines.  You wouldn't expect an Olympian to spend every day sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and watching T.V., but even the most dedicated athletes aren't guaranteed an Olympic medal simply because they worked hard every day.   Nor do they award medals for faithfulness and dedication:  that's expected of an athlete who wants to perform at the top of their game.  God measures our spiritual maturity by our love, our control over our tongue, and many other metrics detailed in the New Testament -- not by our spiritual discipline.  Without spiritual discipline, you'd turn into a fat, carnal Christian blown about by her feelings; but the discipline is only toward a higher goal, it isn't the end in itself.

Create or join a support and accountability group. 

 

God already knew how much we'd need support and accountability when he set up the local church.  If you made no other group commitment than faithful, active church attendance, you'd find your spiritual walk dramatically improved.
Because I believe personal time in the Word and prayer is so important, I tend to join groups of like minded women on private social media groups 3 or 4 times a year for a Bible study.  I don't participate year round, but having that accountability and fellowship every couple of months is encouraging and inspiring. 

Well, Sweets, I have to get school underway for the day.  I've written several letters detailing different quiet time methods -- just take a peek at the letters filed under the Devotions tab to find one that fits the season of life you're in right now.  Whether you're trying to re-establish the habit, or just looking to go "further up and further in," you'll find what you're looking for there.

Loving you greatly!

Momma

 




 Love, Momma

16 December 2014

Resolution Resources for the New Year

Dear Lissy,

We're about two weeks out from the New Year, and thinking of changes we'd like to make.  Most years I'll choose a word that I want to define my thinking and actions for the upcoming year, but this year resolutions seemed a better fit.   Whether you're rebooting your life in January, September, or some other time of year, here are a few basic tips and resources for success.



  • Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.
  • Make exchanges whose input can be measured.
  • Create or join a support and accountability group.


Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.

 

This truth took me decades to learn. Big changes to my schedule, spending, eating, and activity level are extremely difficult to sustain long term.  I do far better when I start a snowball with a tiny habit that moves me toward my ultimate goal.  Here are the questions I work through now.
  • What is my stated resolution?
  • What is my real goal?
  • Are there ways to make small, sustainable exchanges rather than a major change and still achieve my real goal? 
Stated resolution:  Get myself and the kids an hour of activity a day. 

Real goal:  Increase our family's daily activity level.

Small changes we can make (brainstormed with the kids)
  • A Wii game or outdoor activity instead of watching a show or playing a board game after dinner.
  • Running upstairs to talk to another person instead of hollering.  Bringing items back to their location rather than leaving them for later (those stairs again!)
  • Choosing a family fun night activity that's active (sledding, bowling, swimming) instead of passive (renting a movie, etc.)
  • Blocking internet usage between school and supper so we are more active instead of crashing
  • Walking instead of driving within one mile of our house in fair weather.
  • Parking at the back of the lot instead of the front anywhere we go.
Notice:  Nothing has been added or subtracted from our normal schedule.

We have found that once we start towards a goal, we gain momentum.  These little, faltering steps soon become a daily snowshoe tromp or family bike rides.

Make exchanges whose input can be measured.

 

This technique has two parts:
  1. Measure input, not output
  2. Goals have to be measurable.
 We love to hop on a scale or use a tape measure to record our progress toward weight loss.  Trouble is, neither of those metrics can't be controlled -- they only occur as a byproduct of metrics we can control.  A far better way to measure is to record our daily input (water, food, sleep, exercise) and strive to remain consistent.

The second problem is setting goals without clear metrics.  "Eat Healthier" isn't a great goal.  Is healthier different foods?  Fewer calories, fat, or sugar? Fewer snacks?   

Set small, sustainable goals that are measurable
  •  "I will replace my chips at lunch with a serving of nuts."
  • "I will start dinner with either a cup of chicken broth or a cup of raw veg."
  • "I will drink one cup of hot water with lemon before I eat or drink anything else in the morning."
  • "I will get into bed no later than 10:30 each night."

Create or Join A Support and Accountability Group 

 

I belong to closed facebook groups for my No-S Diet/exercise, my devotions, and watercolor artists. I belong to e-mail groups for home management and home schooling.  I regularly join 28 day challenges in areas I want to grow.  I prefer electronic accountability because even though people move in and out of the group, the support and accountability is consistent.  

Some people prefer a real life person who will give you a phone call or check in with you at church.  I've never had a friend that was willing to keep me accountable long term, so the e-groups work much better for me.

Over the next two weeks I'll write you letters about the most common resolutions women in the 21 - 61 age group make, and practical ways to implement these three principles.

Love you more every day,

14 December 2014

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Merry Christmas,
Momma

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