Time Management 101: Stop Trying to “Do It All”

In the past year, I’ve received numerous emails from women begging me for my “secrets” to time management. They ask me to please share how I manage to seemingly “do it all”.

Every time I get an email like that, I wish I could invite the woman to my home. Because seriously, I think it’s easy to make bloggers out to be someone they are not when you’re basing all your conclusions of them upon the little sliver of their life that they share on their blog.

I know, because I’ve been guilty of it myself. I’ll read a woman’s blog, see the pictures and ideas she shares and begin to wonder if really and truly she might be superwoman’s clone. And I feel badly because I don’t measure up in any stretch of the imagination to this blogger. When in reality, I know good and well that every single woman has their strengths and weaknesses and no one has it all together.

I’m An Ordinary Person, Who Serves An Extraordinary God

I think some people somehow think that I actually do every deal I post about, shop at five stores and save $200 on my grocery bill every week, cook six-course gourmet meals from scratch every single night, spend 10 hours of quality time with each of my children every single day, have my children involved in all sorts of extra-curricular activities, volunteer in our community at least five hours every week, hand-sew our clothes from the fabric I wove from the wool I spun from the sheep I sheared… okay, well, maybe not that last one.

But seriously, folks, I am just one person. I only have 24 hours in my day — just like you. And I don’t have limitless energy or creativity. I often get tired, cranky and irritated. I sometimes go to bed feeling guilty that I’m not spending enough time with my children or feeding them healthfully enough. There are days I want to quit and give up.

Anything good you see in me is not me, but God in me. I’m just an ordinary person but I serve an extraordinary God. He is the One Who gives me strength to keep going when I want to quit. He’s the One Who gives me joy when I’m feeling discouraged. He’s the One Who gives me hope when life feels overwhelming.

I get up early — before my children — and spend time reading the Bible and praying. This quiet time encourages my heart and gives me strength for the day. I also usually pray over my day and ask the Lord to bless my day and multiply my time. It might seem like a strange thing to ask, but when I ask the Lord to bless my day, I’m always amazed at how more peaceful and joyful my days are.

Determine Your Passions & Gifts

In addition to starting my day with God, one of the biggest things which has helped me to be a better manager of my time is to let go of perfectionism. Once I finally gave up and realized that I can’t do it all so I should just stop trying, my life has been so much more calm and enjoyable.

It’s easy to want to try to “do it all”, but you can’t. The truth is: you’re not gifted in every area and you’re not good at everything.

For instance, I stink at most anything which requires domestic creativity. Ask me a question about starting a business or marketing and I can give you a list of a hundred and one creative ideas. But ask me to decorate your home or plan a party and I’ve pretty much got nothin’ for ya.

I used to wish I could be one of those women who whipped up hand-smocked petticoats for my girl’s dolls on the fly and decorated three-tiered wedding cakes while in the middle of canning forty-two batches of pickles. I wanted to learn to quilt and knit and crochet and tat and make soap and candles. I pictured myself restoring antique furniture, owning a spinning wheel, planting a massive garden and sewing all our bedding.

But the reality is that I’m just not skilled in those areas. Oh sure, I still try on occasion to improve my knitting or sewing skills, but I’ve learned to accept that I’ll likely never be really proficient at most of those things.

Instead of beating myself up over what I can’t do, I’ve been trying to focus on and exercise those areas which I am gifted in. And to appreciate the gifts God has given others which I don’t have, instead of wishing I could “do it all”.

I’m reading a great book right now called 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and one of the key points the author makes in the book is to focus on your core competencies. I really agree with her premise (though not everyone will!) in that it’s pointless to spend a great deal of your life trying to do something which you don’t excel at.

If possible, invest your life in those things which you’re truly passionate about and gifted in. It will cause you to lead a much more productive and fulfilled life. At least, it’s made a world of difference for me!

Once you’ve let go of perfectionism and determined your strengths, then it’s much easier to prioritize and streamline your life. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow (and I’ll share my list of priorities and my promised list of many, many things I don’t do!)

…To be continued

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Comments

  1. charity c says

    Oh thank you for doing this series I am so loving it because this is such an area i struggle with and need to learn more….

  2. Lyn says

    I think it’s great that you put out your limitations and imperfections, because just like you, we all have them. Becoming ill in my early thirties (no one expects to get ill when they are young), I went through a long journey of needing to accept who I am and what my limitations were/are. As I age, that list is getting longer, but with the strength that God gives me, I do what I can, when many people who have what I have are bedridden. I’ve learned years ago that it does no good to compare ourselves to others. We are all individuals, and flawed at that. We have to remember God’s grace and that He does not expect any of us to be perfect, just to do our best in life.

  3. Lyn says

    To add, as you mentioned that you are not gifted in certain domestic activities, some of us are not gifted when it comes to being entrepreneurial. I don’t believe every woman is meant to be a business person, a blogger, a salesperson, etc. I’m self-taught with the domestic things that I do know, and do many (although not all) of them pretty well. Just don’t ask me to have my own business, as I would surely fail!

  4. says

    It is so true. There are only so many hours in a day and you have to choose how to invest that time. Finding the right balance is something that many (all?) women struggle with. I work full-time outside of the home and feel that brings its own challenges to both time management and work-life balance. I think working at home (as a work at home or stay at home mom or wife) would present its own set of challenges as well.

    • Emily says

      @Angela, I know I certainly struggle with finding the right balance. I work full time oustide the home too, and with 2 little ones at home, it is a constant challenge to find the balance between work/home life.

  5. says

    This is something I’m learning too . . . and letting go of the idea that I have to “do everything myself”~esp. in the area of creativity in home decor, projects, etc. BUT because I still crave beauty and organization, I’m finding that it’s OK to ask my friends for help! I have some amazingly talented friends whose homes are so lovely and at rest and I’m trying to learn from them. So, in this final month before my 3rd child is born, I have simply laid down my pride and asked one friend to make wall decor for my children’s new room (she’s done it before and did it so beautifully), and another friend to sew the roman shade for the window . . . now I just need to go buy the fabric so we can get started!

    But isn’t that part of friendship, family, community? Helping each other (and learning to ask for help) when we need it? [Sometimes for *free* and other times even paying to have the things done that would frustrate us and take too long to do ourselves?] Just my two cents.

    • says

      I so agree! I often help friends with business and marketing things and they help me decorating and other creative things!

      If we were all gifted in the exact same areas, the world would be a pretty boring place, wouldn’t it?

    • Lyn says

      @Kelly, Excellent point, and one that I bet a lot of women struggle with. It’s amazing what one can accomplish when not tied to the computer. :)

  6. says

    Thank you for this post. I am looking forward to reading the rest! I struggle with this on a regular basis and I have been praying for peace with my “imperfections.”

  7. says

    You make me smile Crystal! You are so perfect just as you are – as the creator has made you. Your humility encourages me and challenges me – thank you!

    Just yesterday on my blog I wrote about how I am not a very good cook – why? Because someone had told me they imagine that I spend 2 hours making dinner and never use a microwave – lol!!! OOps – I was giving the wrong impression.

    Here’s the post: http://womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com/2010/10/this-weeks-challenge-is-my-weak-spot.html

    Thanks for your honesty and your love for women!!! I just shared my notes from Relevant last night with two brand new bloggers from my church! Your wisdom is being passed on!!!
    Love you,
    Courtney

  8. Lori says

    “I’m just an ordinary person but I serve an extraordinary God.” I love this! Thank you for the reminder!!

  9. says

    I am a very busy mom of four and full time wife. I manage a blog which has turned into a business. I manage my husbands business as well as our home. On top of that I homeschool a 11th, 5th,3rd and 1st grader.

    Life is busy to say the least, but God has given me balance. My winning strategy is that I must ask HIM everyday to order my steps, direct my path and tell me exactly how to invest my time.

    Although I am very busy each day, I enjoy it so much because my time is being used doing the things that I love. We all get overwhelmed and that is usually an indication for me to slow down and listen more carefully to God.

  10. Megan says

    This is a great post, thank you! I think there’s so much guilt in our society for women who don’t/can’t/won’t “do it all.” I’m focused on my education, career and husband right now – and I love it! But I still face pressure from friends and society at large to have babies and run a perfect household as well. This is a great encouragement to use our skills – whatever they are – to God’s glory and not worry about the rest. Thanks again!

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing, Crystal! I’m looking forward to this series and may send my readers over (few though they still be!). =)

    Ever since Relevant I’ve really been working on time management. Amy’s ebook has been really helpful, as were your words in your keynote.

    And speaking of time management…I need to let my son out of his room and get started on our morning! =P

  12. Amara says

    You don’t shear your own sheep? Oh, Crystal, the staggering disappointment I am feeling this morning. ;) Perhaps someday you’ll find a coupon for BOGO sheep shearing and THEN you’ll be able to card your own wool. At last, your dreams of yourself in muck boots, scratching from your unknown wool allergy will finally be a reality. Recently went to a pioneer demonstration of a woman spinning wool and felt very, very grateful to be living in the time of Osh Kosh B’gosh.

    What a lovely beginning to your series. I think this idea of working with your personal strengths is so wise…

  13. says

    Thanks for this. Letting go of perfectionism is good advice although difficult to accomplish, at least for me. I’ve been married for five months and have been trying to do all the things that wives are “supposed” to do. Growing up, I was good at almost everything, so it’s hard for me to accept sometimes that I’m NOT gifted in all areas. But at this point I’m still trying to figure out which areas I can improve in with practice and which ones I should just give up.

  14. says

    Well said…do the best you can with the abilities you have. You will save yourself a bundle that way in money, time, effort, and heartache.

  15. Tabitha says

    I have to bookmark this for later. Im so busy today and I hate it. I feel overwhelmed almost every day, no time to do the half of it.

  16. Laura says

    I think it is a matter of pride. When we wish we were good at everything (and sometimes insist we are) we don’t give God any room. Accepting our limitations allows us to genuinely enjoy other people’s gifts. God made us for each other. We are complete in Him and in the Body of Christ, not alone.

  17. says

    Letting go of perfectionism is so hard for me. Even though intellectually I know I’m not perfect and that its impossible for me to do everything, I still feel like I should be doing everything! Maybe even moreso because I’m a working mom. Doing less seems just not good enough :(

    Mary Ellen

  18. Charity says

    Excellent post Crystal. God made you a beautiful unique person, in His image…as He did each of us. It is so wonderful to hear you praise Him and give Him the glory for what you accomplish and who you are in Him. I wish as women (seems like we have more trouble with this than the fellas) that we would stop comparing ourselves with one another, realize we are all different, we have different strengths, weaknesses, talents and abilities, and accept that we are human, and we can’t do it all…and be okay with that! we should each strive to be the best *us* we can be and quit looking around and trying to measure up to everyone else. Thank you for this awesome reminder! :)

  19. says

    Thanks for sharing…I just want to know how you manage to exercise regularly with 3 little kids….Do you have a babysitter during that time? Let them watch movies while you do it? Do it during nap time? (I’m exhausted by then!) I can’t seem to find a way to add in daily exercise without them jumping on me or having emergencies that require me to stop and run after them constantly.

    • says

      I usually get up before them. If that doesn’t happen (or I need to do other things in the morning while they are still sleeping), I just do it after breakfast and let them watch a DVD or be in the same room with me. I’ve found that if I don’t exercise fairly early in the morning, I have trouble motivating myself to exercise later on in the day! So I try to not allow myself to eat until I’ve exercised. That’s always quite a bit of motivation to get it done early! ;)

      (Oh and yes, if they are up, there are usually some interruptions — and that’s okay! I just stop my workout DVD, take care of whatever it is they need, and then start back where I was. It’s not as efficient as exercising before they are up — which is what I aim to do — but it works okay… most of the time!)

      • says

        @Crystal, I’m glad you said you sometimes let your kids watch workouts with you – I’ve been bad about getting up early lately so my kids exercise with me more often than not. My 22 month old does killer walking pushups (really!) and my 3 year old wanted to invite Jillian Michaels to his birthday party. :)

        Thank you for the excellent post and great reminders!

        • says

          You should hear their critiques of me and the people working out on the DVD. It always adds some levity. And when they try to do the workout along with me it’s especially hilarious!

      • Melissa says

        @Crystal, That is too funny….I think I’m going to try this just to see what will come out of my 2 year old’s mouth- and how intrigued my 1 year old would be! Haha!

  20. says

    “it’s pointless to spend a great deal of your life trying to do something which you don’t excel at”

    that is EXACTLY why I have a messy house :)

    ha just kidding….I wish I could use it as an excuse not to clean though….

  21. Emily says

    Thanks for posting this article, Crystal. I’ll send it to my mom because we could both use it! I tend to enjoy many things and I really like making things from scratch (cooking, knitting, sewing). However, I realized that in order to maintain my sanity, I need to be more honest to myself about the time I have and what other priorities I’ve put on my plate. It’s fun to sew a halloween costume, but not if I’ll be up until 12 every night finishing it and be crabby with my kids during the week!
    Thanks,
    Emily

  22. says

    I highly recommend the book 168 Hours. My husband and I have both read it and it totally changed how we look at our time, our family, our goals and our ministries. We all make choices so we need to make our time happen, not just have it happen to us. (Just like Dave Ramsey’s advice for our money!)

  23. Debbie says

    Thank you Crystal for your transparency. I am grateful that you love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength. You are a wonderful example of Christ’s love. I pray that God will continue to use you to encourage other women through your blog. You are such a blessing from God to many…including me.

  24. Melissa says

    Thank you for sharing this article! I appreciate your honesty and especially your testimony. God has been trying to get this message into my heart so much lately – and I definitely need it! As a pastor’s wife, mother of three boys (7, 3 & 9 mos.), homeschooler, sunday school teacher, etc. I often find myself stressed out and ready to quit because I try to do to many things at once and think I’m failing because the house isn’t staying clean or I’m feeding my family frozen pizza two nights in a row :) Satan will use whatever he can to get our focus off and I believe he sees that we as women can be weak in this area – at least I certainly am. I’m looking forward to the next post on this topic. Thank you for all you do!

  25. Sarah says

    Thank you for this encouraging post. I have 3 small kids also…a 4 year old and two 1year olds. With the twins, I became a stay at hom mom…to my utter delight. But when I was working, I thought that if I only got to stay at home, I’d have plenty of time to run my home (in every area) efficiently and perfectly. I’ve been killing myself trying to meet my own expectations (and failing) while robbing myself of the joy that I should be experiencing. After all, I get to stay at home with my kids…..my dream job. :) What do I have to complain about? :) So, thank you for this encouraging reminder…..really appreciate your blog. :)

  26. Rose says

    Crystal,

    Thanks for that post, I think you nailed it on the head- you spread your self thin and of course you will not have enought time- You are building your home, painting it , make the curtains and cooking dinner all at the same time!
    I think it’s great for us woman to asspire to better things, but when we don’t succeed because we are not talented at it that is when we have to learn to let it go!

    Thanks,

  27. Amy B says

    I agree that “it’s pointless to spend a great deal of time doing something you don’t excel at.” That’s why I don’t iron and I only buy “wrinkle-free” clothes! :)

  28. nancy says

    Thanks so much for all the encouraging words!!! I am in the process of slowing down and prioritizing my life. I work have 3 kids, a job, a hubby and 2 dogs . I have decided recently to change careers and find something to do that I love, the sad thing is that I have been working and so busy taking care of others that I don’t know what that is. Has that happened to anyone? or is it just me:(

    I will take this blog to heart and pray to God for guidance.

    Thanks so much for such a wonderful blog,
    Nancy

    thanks,
    Nancy

    • Jessica says

      @nancy, Oh, that has CERTAINLY happened to me. I remember someone at work asking me what my hobbies were, and my thoughts were “oh, grocery shopping, washing dishes, wiping runny noses, things like that. “

  29. amanda says

    “It’s easy to want to try to “do it all”, but you can’t. The truth is: you’re not gifted in every area and you’re not good at everything.”

    Crystal,
    This is my new mantra when facing the prospect of cleaning out my basement! So many things have piled up since my third child was born. Craft and decorating projects left unfinished, kid clutter everywhere, all constant reminders of how I’m “failing” to meet my own expectations. (Like 5 boxes of unused canning jars.)

    It’s time to change my THINKING. I simply don’t posses the time, talent, or interest to make all of those projects happen. And by trying to do it all, I’m cheating myself out of the calm that comes with a more organized household.

    Thank you for this post!

  30. says

    I needed this-thank you.
    I’m in the process of starting to focus on the priorities currently , being a wife, mother, home educator and carer for an elderly relative. I’m about to stop work as there really isn’t time for everything and the priorities have to come first.
    It is so easy to think that once I’m home full time then I will be able to do much more at church, decorate, sew, make more exciting meals and garden- there won’t be time and this is a set up for failure

  31. says

    Crystal,

    I’d love to hear what time your children get up in the morning. For years I’ve had small children who rise at 5:20 am, or even 5:00 am.

    However, the funny thing is, when my husband had to be out the door at 5:20 am for 9 months, I rose at 4, and found that I got a lot more done than do when I get up later! It really helps to get ready before the children are awake. This is still tricky for me with a nursing baby, however, who wakes many times during the early morning. And, getting up early means an early bedtime. I did, however, get more done during those 9 months than I ever would have imagined!

    • says

      On a good morning, they all sleep in until 7 or 7:30. But usually, Kaitlynn wakes up around 6:30. They have a later bedtime (sometime between 8:30-9:30 p.m.) because of Jesse’s work schedule so that might contribute to why they don’t wake up at the crack of dawn! Or maybe they are just good sleepers?! I’m just grateful everyone doesn’t wake up at 5:00 a.m. or I might be a harried mother by about 3 p.m. (or sooner!) :)

      Since we’ve moved and their bedroom isn’t right next to ours, they’ve also been sleeping better, too.

  32. says

    It’s so funny how women can compare themselves and find themselves coming up short. I have very little entrepreneurial sense or motivation – I even hated selling Girl Scout cookies as a child! – but I LOVE being domestic. The truth is, though, I often feel guilty about it because it feels so enjoyable to me, and there always is this voice that makes me think I should be doing something “more important” like earning more money for my family.

    • says

      I *wish* I could quilt and decorate and sew and all sorts of other domestic things. And I’ve beat myself up so much over the years for being a total domestic fail when it comes to creative and crafty things. I’ve finally just accepted that it’s okay that I’m not gifted in those areas. And now I just try to appreciate those giftings in others and ask them to help me with my domestic projects in exchange for my help with areas they are weak in! :)

  33. says

    Crystal, I’ve really appreciated some of the insights you’ve shared lately. You’ve hit on some really good points such as emphasizing how different God has made all of us and the unique situations and circumstances we are all in. Comparing is a dangerous game and can lead to all manner of neurosis. It’s a daily battle, but it does *can* get better.

  34. Jasmine D. says

    Thanks for writing this post. As I visit different “mommy blogger” websites there is so much content on their webpages and many badges and groups their involved in. In addition to tending to their babies and toddlers. Some of the mommy blogger even have full-time jobs.

    I am a SAHM of an active toddler and I have a mommy blog. It’s been almost 6 months since I’ve added content to my blog because I got discouraged trying to balance tending to my toddler and the house and entering interesting content for my blog. It seems like I don’t have enough time in the day to balance this.

    I would love to know how to balance tending to the household and my blog. My blog was supposed to be a way for me to earn a little income.

    It would be a blessing to know how some of the mommy bloggers are able to balance family work and the blog.

    • says

      I’m going to do a post on specific time management tips for bloggers as part of this series. Likely next week. But I say always put time with your toddler first — far, far ahead of your blog. Children are only little once!