Category Archives: Time Management

Stress Relief

As I am writing this on September 11th, I am entering a couple very busy weeks. As an introvert, some of the most stressful times are those when I am spending every waking hour with people. Add to that a lack of routine, and I can be quite discombobulated.

So what can I do to combat this stress? Here are a few things that I have found to help me stay a little more sane.

1. Get proper rest. This can be hard, especially as my schedule changes. As I transitioned from evening work hours to day work hours, I had few nights in a row of sub-optimum sleep. I know that there are people who live on fewer hours of sleep than I do, but I know that if I am going to perform my best, sleep cannot be skimped on.

2. Remain on a good (little d) diet. This is not something I’ve ever really tried before. Previously when I entered stressful seasons of the year, I used it as an excuse to become even more excess in all the junk I craved. By keeping on my healthy diet, it has helped me not to feel entirely off kilter. Helps to stay regular in the bathroom, too.

3. Find the fun. Right now part of the stress is that I’m preparing to play a team game at work. While it can be easy to think of the game as fun (and it is!), the pressure to study as much as you can and perform well can be great, especially as this pressure is mostly internal. I’m continually reminding myself that this is fun and to enjoy it.

Even when my primary task is not preparing for a game, I want to do what I can to find the fun and the purpose in what I’m doing, and remind myself of it.

Ronnica at Fern Falls4. Find a vacation. This time last year I went on a 3-day weekend in Estes Park, and I loved it. I had hoped to do it again this year, but my budget (of time and money) doesn’t have that much room. However, I did take a full day to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park a hike that I have been wanting to do for over a year. That was just the “vacation” I needed before I dived back in to these busy weeks.

5. Give myself permission to let go. In order to focus my mental energy on the task at hand, I’ve had to stop some things temporarily, like extra reading. I can’t do it all, and I need  to constantly reevaluate what is important to me at this time and focus on those things.

6. Keep things in perspective. Ultimately, a game is just a game. While I am stressed, I have taken on this stress because I really love it. Others are in stressful situations due to circumstances outside of their control. This too is temporary, so I want to enjoy the good parts while I can.

For the Love of Routines

Recently at work I received a new schedule. While my new shift is only 30 minutes different than my previous one, I decided to take this opportunity to reevaluate my routine.

I absolutely love routines. I feel more at peace if I can practice the same routine. If I don’t make up a routine for myself, I’m bound to fall into one anyway, making habits of things I’d rather not make a habit of. I’d rather be proactive on this point.

sunny streetOne of the best things I’ve added into my routine this year is a morning walk. While I could get my 10,000 steps in other ways, this 30 minutes walking outside not only ups my step count, but it gives me a good dose of fresh air and sun. This is a great way to start my day.

Another part of my routine that I’m definitely keeping is the 30 minutes of cleaning I do. Between dishes and laundry, this seems to be a daily necessity. I’ve been able to clean up my apartment into its cleanest state it’s ever been by spending a few minutes a day on this task.

As a part of my routine, I’ve also been able to read Scripture more regularly than I have in previous years. This provides the proper spiritual grounding for my day.

With my schedule shifting later, I have decided to shift some of my reading time from the evening to the morning (going to bed about the same time I was on my earlier shift). This will help me from using that time watching TV as I’m more prone to do in the evening.

While I’m glad that I spent some time thinking through this, it looks like my next few weeks are going to be a bit up in the air. More on that later!

Photo by David Schiersner

Time Out

I consider my children to be one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given (right up there with my husband).

With that in mind, you would think I would treat them as the treasures they are, without a second thought.  Unfortunately, I fall into the trap so many of us do:  I take them for granted far too much.

All the moving preparation (we accepted an offer on our house!) means a lot more work and emotional energy being expended.  Recently, I decided to drop what I was doing and go on a walk with the kids–one of our special activities–because Bean said, “Mama.  I want to spend time with you.  Can you stop working?”

Yes, sweet girl.  I absolutely can.

And I’m so glad I did.  I need to get this picture framed to remind me to stop more often and enjoy the amazing gifts I have been given.

13906849_10103819616325229_7247882275111558211_n

How I Began to Read More

Goodreads to readDisclaimer: This post is meant to encourage you if you feel you should be reading more. Everyone does not read at the same pace nor has the same amount of free time. While I believe that everyone should regularly be reading books in some form, how much and how fast will vary, and that’s okay.

I love to read. Always have. In the past decade, I’ve averaged finishing 95 books a year, including re-reads.

It would seem that I wouldn’t struggle finding time to read?

However, in the first 3 months of the year, I had only finished 3 books. One was for this blog, and the other two were read while I was flying cross-country. This was a continuation of a pattern I had been in since I stopped regularly using public transportation in late 2014.

I knew I had to find time to read in my schedule, and I knew where it was.

I was able to regularly watch 3 shows/day on a work day, and more on the weekends. I would justify to myself that it was often just on in the background, but it would still distract from reading.

Since my life plan helped me reduce how much I was saving on my DVR, I started wanting to watch less. I realized I could just watch one episode (instead of two) in the evening, then end my day spending 30-45 minutes reading a novel.

While this started out as a bit of an experiment, it has been successful. I realized that a good novel fulfills that desire for a good story that I had been filling with TV or movies. Adding on the extra reading time I have on weekends, I have been able to finish a novel a week.

After I did that, I decided to try to work in reading for spiritual growth and non-fiction, too. I get these done in the morning, either waking up early naturally for extra time in my schedule or instead of watching TV while I’m drinking my morning smoothie.

Yes, I naturally wake up 30 minutes before my alarm almost every morning. This is new for me, and almost certainly a result of eating better, being active during the day, and falling asleep faster as I’ve cut screens out of the end of the day.

When I add in my 2 hours of audiobook listening a day, I now read 3-4 books a week. At that rate I could finish my Goodreads TBR list in 3.5 years. Of course, I’d have to stop adding to it…

My Spiritual Gift

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca0263Last night, we met with our realtor to get our house on the market and sold as fast as humanly possible.  (In case you missed it, we are moving!)

It went remarkably well. There’s just a couple of little hiccups (including our “sunny” kitchen, shown here), which she assured us are workable, provided that we stay flexible and proactive.

So of course, despite that advice in mind, I’m stewing.  Fixating on things that are pretty well out of my control is sort of a gift of mine.  I think Realtor is on the same wavelength, because she said, “I totally get it, Amanda.  Worrying is my spiritual gift too.”

I love that line.  Of course, nowhere in the Bible do I recall “worrying” being listed as a spiritual gift, but sometimes I feel like I am SO good at it, it really should be considered a gift I possess.  For as long as I can remember, I have been a worrier (much to the consternation of non-worrying family members and loved ones).

In many ways, I suppose being a worrywart has served me well.  I have never done anything illegal, for fear of being caught.  I fret over how people perceive me, so I very rarely get into confrontational situations.  I earned scholarships to college because I worried about my grades and extracurricular involvement.  I even worry about dental health, flossing and brushing twice daily and visiting the dentist twice a year…and because of that worry, I have never even had a cavity, and LOVE going to the dentist (seriously!).

But these are largely things that I have control over.  Once I have addressed the issues that I can control, it is as though I feel the only thing left to control is–you guessed it–anxiety over the situation.

That house electrical issue that I have addressed as much as I can, thus now largely out of my hands?  I still stew about it.

Fretting over how the stager will arrange the kids’ toys, despite getting rid of as much stuff as I can?  I still stew about it.

How will I get two kids and two gigantic dogs out of the house for two hours a showing?  Yep.  I stew about it.

Riley is quick to remind me that ruminating is not a good use of my time.  He is right.  Being a worrier and being a good steward of my time do not go hand-in-hand.  So I continue to try to reign in my “spiritual gift”, making to where it is a catalyst for good time management…not a thief.

As with so much in my life, that area is still a work in progress.  I have a feeling this move will be a good teacher though.

Writing a Life Plan

If I asked you to sit down and write out a 7-page plan for your life, could you do it?

livingforwardBefore I read Living Forward by Michael S. Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, I can definitely tell you that I could not. Yet that is exactly what I did after reading it.

It has been a long time since I have been as motivated by a book as I have been by Living Forward. It is practical, straight-forward and helps you to make a plan for your life that meets your desires for your life, not theirs.

But enough about the book, because that’s not what this post is about. Really, the post is about writing my life plan.

I’ve frequently considered older women in my life who I want to be like and consider what I need to do now to be like them when I am their age. Writing my life plan allowed me to imagine who I could be in 50 years, and then making a practical plan to become that person.

By writing my life plan, it helped me put on paper (or should I say on a screen?) my priorities, making clear the reasoning behind some decisions I have made, even though I was unable to voice them at the time.

Writing the plan was relatively easy. Putting into action will require continual dedication. Yet I hope to use my life plan (reevaluated occasionally) to help steer myself in the right direction.

I thought about sharing a part of my life plan, but to be honest, it’s way too personal than I feel about placing in a public forum. However, I will likely be posting about some progress I’ve made by implementing my life plan. It’s only been a month, but I have seen progress already. Now for the hard work…

Freedom of the To-Do List

to-do listI’ve always been a list person. In high school, I loved the agendas that we were given to record all our homework, tests and activities in. In seminary, I would re-write my list in particularly dry classes to help me stay awake.

When I graduated for the last time in 2008, I stopped writing regular to-do lists for my personal life. I just didn’t have enough things that I would forget what I needed to do.

Since then, the only to-do lists I write are on the weekend to keep track of the chores that I want to do. These were always written on whatever scratch piece of paper I had on hand.

Shortly after the new year, I decided that I wanted to keep a more formal list each day of the things I wanted to accomplish that day. I realized that while I could keep track of everything I wanted to do each day, I had to devote a good bit of brain power to remember these things. By writing them down instead, I was freeing my brain for other concerns.

I’ve also found that by writing my to-do items down, I don’t worry about them. Whether I get to this or that on any given day, I don’t have to worry. I simply do my list from most important to least important, and while not everything gets done, the most important things will get done.

If I had realized in December that I wanted to write these to-do lists, I would have invested in a planner. But since I decided to start in the middle of my Buy Little month, I decided to make use of a free notebook I had received at work, which works just fine.

Do you find your to-do list freeing or debilitating?

The B-Word

3053649344_2c6dcf254a_mWell, it has happened.

One of my children just uttered the words, “I’m bored.”

Growing up, my mother’s response when my brother or I would make that gripe was always, “It (boredom) is an attitude.”  At the time, of course, we would covertly roll our eyes, and think she didn’t ‘understand’ us.

As is often the way these parenting things work, I found myself sounding like my mother in response to this complaint, with some elaboration–something to the effect of, “It’s an attitude; find something to do, or I will find something for you to do, and you probably won’t like it.”

The truth is, my child’s comment really bothered me, because not only do our kids have plenty (and I do mean plenty) of things to do and toys to play with, but also because time is a gift; we have plenty of time to do the things that need to be done, and certainly plenty of constructive things to fill up that time.

But I also realize that my children are small and it is my responsibility to teach them.  I wasn’t quite sure how to go about teaching time management to a four year old and a two year old, especially since that is an area that I also struggle in.

I also did not want to be their sole source of entertainment–I will not always be around, and so they need to learn to entertain themselves. While I love playing with them, they also need to know how to comfortably play without a constant adult presence two feet away.

So in true Striving Stewardess fashion, I thought about it and brainstormed some ideas for helping my kids help themselves prevent boredom. The two biggies:

I make sure they have plenty of “open-ended” toys at their disposal.  These include toys that encourage imagination and creativity, including art supplies, books, and blocks.  It’s amazing what kids will create with some paper and crayons!

You are your child’s first and best teacher.  I have begun to speak my thought process aloud as I model how I address daily tasks.  For example:  “Since I have finished my to-do list, I could read a book or start in on tomorrow’s list.”  I feel like this demonstrates how an adult addresses potential boredom.

How do you address the issue of boredom and time management in your household?

Photo courtesy of mao_lini.

Early Mornings

51-9Mm6NK9L._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Late last year, I listened to the audio book version of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.  I guess one could say I was desperately trying to figure out how to better structure my mornings.

The day I started the book had not started well, with a child almost late to preschool, and another missing socks on his feet, and myself not fed (or caffeinated) yet.  We were all in terrible moods because we started out hurried, and thus cranky.  I don’t like to start my day out like that, and I certainly didn’t want to pass that legacy on to my kids, so the premise of the book intrigued me.

What the Most Successful People Do… did not disappoint, and offered both practical advice on how to get the most out of your mornings, as well as anecdotes that inspired me.  I finished the book convinced I could make a 5 a.m. start every day a reality, and not only find the time to work-out, but also to read and write the next great American novel all because I woke up before dawn.  In fact, I was so inspired after reading it that I incorporated it into my list of New Year’s resolutions.

Fast forward a couple of weeks after that initial harried morning, and the early morning experiment is still in full swing, although 5 a.m. has most definitely not happened (yet).  I appreciate the quiet time for reflection, minor housework, and coffee that comes with the house still asleep.

Right now I get up about 30-45 minutes before everyone else, feed the pets, make coffee, get dressed for the day, and straighten up the house in that time–all things that were being done in a huge rush with small people underfoot before I began the early morning experiment.  Ultimately, I want to wake up even earlier (maybe 5 a.m.?) and make time for devotions and exercise as well.  These are things that help to nurture me, which help to make me a better wife and mother.  Plus, we aren’t so rushed and cranky in the mornings if I can get these things done distraction-free.

The toughest part so far has been turning off and turning in at a reasonable hour each night.  I have found that the last hour or so I am up at night is essentially wasted on social media, TV, or other not-so-constructive activities.  I continue to work on better managing my time–after all, it is a precious gift!

What time do you wake up in the mornings, and why?

2016 Goals

unnamed (12)Last year, I discussed my take on resolutions.  It wasn’t anything earth-shattering–the typical annual list of goals; you can see a few listed in the picture to the left.

I didn’t accomplish some of them to the extent that I’d hoped (we only had a few families over, versus the six stated in the resolution, for instance), but others (like the Mama Time-Out) were quite successful.

Since sharing my goals with others holds me accountable, here are a few of my 2016 resolutions.  Not all are directly related to stewardship, but the trend does seem to be in the directions of being more mindful with my time–something that I want to improve upon in the new year.

Make one extra mortgage payment.  This would obviously cut down on what we owe on our home.  Not sure how we will get to this point, so please send me any tips you may have!

Journal and devotions daily.  Next month, I will discuss an experiment on early rising I have undertaken.  I hope to devote more time to journaling and time in quiet reflection during these early morning hours.

Screen time to four times daily.  I find myself heading to my phone to do mindless browsing of social media and websites a ridiculous amount of times each day.  I’d like to limit this to four times a day, for a maximum amount of 1 hour.

Invite six families to supper.  Although we didn’t get this completely accomplished in 2015, it is a goal that is both reasonable and challenging, so I am keeping it for 2016.

What goals do you have for the new year?