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Why You Should Stop Trying to Do It All {Chapter 1}

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

Note from Crystal: Mandi asked me if she could blog through my new book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. She’ll be sharing one post per chapter per month. I know many of you are reading through the book right now and I thought you’d enjoy hearing her thoughts — and joining in the discussion to share your thoughts, as well.

Guest post by Mandi Ehman from Life Your Way

My one word for 2014 is LIVE.

Like Crystal, I’ve spent many years building a business, saying yes to every opportunity and making sacrifices. While many of those choices have been worth it, since it allows our family to live and work from home together and gives us plenty of flexibility for traveling, etc., I’ve realized that somewhere along the way I decided that being busy and productive was the ultimate goal.

In short, I’ve accepted the Survival Mode mindset and made it my own, and I’ve let the best things in life — reading with the girls, cooking together, saying yes to an impromptu play date or coffee date — get pushed aside.

After taking two months off for maternity leave after the birth of our fifth baby, January was a month of new beginnings — a chance create new habits and get back into the groove of working without falling into all of those bad habits once again.

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

When Say Goodbye to Survival Mode arrived (I was fortunate to get a preview copy at the beginning of January!), I knew it would become my manual this year as I discover what it’s like to homeschool with a baby in our home (our four girls were born within five years, so I’ve never had to juggle school and a baby before!) and as I look for ways to continue doing my job (which I love and which supports our family) without letting it become the focus of my life.

I read it straight through the week it arrived but decided that I wanted to work through it one chapter at a time this year — along with Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford and Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider — to create a life of abundance rather than one characterized by stress.

Stop Trying to Do It All

This month, I started with the first chapter from Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: Stop Trying to Do It All.

The truth is I’m pretty good at saying no…to all of the wrong things. I say no to playing games, to going on field trips, to spending quality time with the people who are most important to me, all while saying yes to the tyranny of the urgent: emails demanding my attention, yet another business idea, self-imposed deadlines, exhaustion, etc.

In order to make time for the important stuff, though, I first have to learn to say no to the rest of the things that divide my attention and steal my time.

The hard part is that many of those things are good things themselves; but they’re not the best things.


The Four C’s to Creating Margin

To help us differentiate between the two and make time for the things that really matter, in her book, Crystal offers The Four C’s to Creating Margin, which I have been practicing this month:

Create a Personal Priorities List
My personal priorities in 2014 are to:

  • Be consistent about daily Bible study and prayer to start each day. {I joined a group this month, and so far I love the study and the accountability.}
  • Spend quality time with my children, not just quantity time. {I am recommitting myself to looking them in the eyes when they talk to me, playing games together, snuggling on the couch with our read alouds, looking for opportunities for one-on-one outings and inviting them into the kitchen to cook with me.}
  • Refocus my business and spend time on the things that directly impact my vision rather than time wasters. {More on this below.}
  • Make time for connecting with my husband, not just living life side-by-side. {I’m not a fan of the date night myth, but I do think a strong marriage takes work!}
  • Cultivate local friendships. {Say yes to invitations more, which I can only do if I keep my work stress in check.}

Clear the Schedule Clutter

“Just because we are spinning our wheels, rushing from one commitment to the next, doesn’t necessarily mean that we are doing anything worthwhile.”

These words from Crystal cut straight to the chase and made me take a hard look at where I spend my time. What I realized was that I create a lot of extra work for myself.

You see, my desire for excellence in my work can border on perfectionism, and I’ve had to practice taking a step back and reevaluating the way I do things. What I’ve realized is that too often I do things the hard way in my quest for excellence when really no one else will notice and I’m just making more work for myself.

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

Cut Out Time and Energy Suckers

We all have time and energy suckers in our life, and I am no exception. While I love Facebook for staying connected to friends and family, it’s too easy to get sucked down a rabbit trail. I know I’m not alone in suddenly realizing that I’m spending time reading someone’s profile that I don’t even know just because I’m being nosy.

In addition, when I’m tired or overwhelmed, it’s easy for me to get sucked into the internet vortex (not to be confused with the time I actually set aside to read articles and blog posts, which I consider a fun and important part of my job!). I end up just clicking around aimlessly, and the more I do it, the worse I feel.

Acknowledging my tendency to do these things is at least half the battle, but I’m also consciously practicing closing the window or — better yet, getting up from the computer altogether — when I find myself doing one or the other so that I can reset my focus.

Count the Costs

And finally, in order to make time for social activities, field trips, coffee dates with friends, etc., I’ve had to count the cost of each and every commitment:

Taking on an extra project means eliminating the time in my week that I could use for an outing instead. Saying yes to X means saying no to Y. Every decision in life is like that — we only have so many hours to work with each day, after all — and it’s simply a matter of acknowledging what the cost is before you make the decision so that you know you’re truly choosing the best.

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

Get Practical

This chapter’s Get Practical tip is easier in theory than it is in practice, but it’s worth the effort: Practice saying no.

While I don’t need to practice saying no to social activities (since one of my goals in 2014 is to actually say yes to more of those), I do need to practice controlling my daily commitments and expectations when it comes to my to-do list, so I’ve been taking Crystal’s advice to “immediately eliminate three things from [my] list” seriously.

I love this practice because it acknowledges that my want-to list is longer than practical and helps me prioritize what I can actually get done in a day right from the start.

Sometimes I move things to later in the week…and sometimes I decide they just don’t need to be done at all!

Next Month…

In January, I focused on saying no and being realistic about the amount of time I actually have, and in February I’ll be moving on to Chapter 2 — Say Good Say Yes to the Best and practicing that very important skill. I’m looking forward to sharing my successes {and failures} with you next month!

Are you reading Say Goodbye to Survival Mode? What were your takeaways and thoughts from chapter one?

Mandi Ehman is an entrepreneur, online publisher and author who is passionate about encouraging other women to live intentionally. She’s the blogger behind Life Your Way, the author of Easy Homemade and the founder of Mandi and her husband have four spunky little girls plus one baby boy, and together they live, work and homeschool on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia.

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  • I’m trying to do this with work commitments. When I first started teaching, I was single and lived at home with my parents, so it was very easy to say yes to working at extra games or sponsoring another activity. Then, I got married. And then, I had Muffin. Yet, it seems that when people and commitments get used to you saying “yes,” it becomes even harder to say “no.” I’m trying to implement the lessons from the book into my life, but it seems as though work commitments are still increasingly difficult to brush off.

    • Jenny says:

      I can totally relate. I have taught 12 years. When I first started teaching was my whole life. I spent hours on lesson plans. Kept my grades super up to date, served on tons of committees, and was really involved in statewide teacher organizations. Sadly, I didn’t give any of that up when I got married and my marriage suffered. When our son joined our family, I gave most of the extras up and when our daughter came almost a year later I gave all the extras up. As someone who has always struggled with people pleasing this caused a lot of guilt and maybe even a little identity crisis, but it has been so good for my family.

      • Mrs. B. says:

        I’m a sub teacher doing a long term assignment in a 1-2 combo class. The first thing I am saying “no” to is all the homework. I can’t see that its helping either the struggling kids or the conscientious kids; all the time I spend copying, collating, stapling, and putting it in their folders could be better spent creating better in-class activities to help them understand & practice.

  • Xu Vicky says:

    Prioritization is definitely what you have to do. Knowing what things that are most important for you will help you prioritize. And saying no to not so necessary stuff will open your doors to more opportunities to a more greater things.

  • cherise says:

    Mandi, you did a great job with this post! Thanks for sharing your reflection.

  • How many times have I read from Crystal that “Saying yes to X means saying no to Y”– and yet I’m just now realizing the impact of that. And what’s funny is that those 3 things I automatically cross off my to-do list that felt so important at the time are most often something I later don’t even remember what they were. Thanks for the great thoughts, Mandi!

  • Linzi says:

    I find it very hard to say ‘no’ to most things. My personality is such that I always get very enthusiastic about all activities relating to my kids and I ran myself ragged rushing from one activity to the other after my full-time job. My husband travels for his job, so I usually find myself having to ferry them around for extracurricular activities and then I am too exhausted to actually do anything with them myself. This year I too would like to focus more on ‘intentional living’ rather than lurching from one activity to the other.

    • Mandi says:

      I love this idea, Linzi! While extracurriculars can be really good, I don’t think they’re the end-all, be-all, and I bet your kids will love having more time just with you! {Reminding myself of this too!}

  • Oh wow! That is EXACTLY me. Only I have a few more children. I made it a goal LAST year to do a family game night. I did it almost every week, until our family grew. It was like I had to start ALL over again. So here again, I have the SAME goal THIS year.

    And saying YES to my children, instead of NO, all the time. I have always struggled with that. I instantly say no. I am trying to focus THIS year on saying Yes, whenever I can, even if it disrupts what “I” want.

  • JOYce says:

    What fun reading sharings, including the original post by Mandi.

    Since asked, “Are you reading Say Goodbye to Survival Mode? What were your takeaways and thoughts from chapter one?” ~

    Do have a copy by my side, have leafed through the entire book, and have fully read the first chapter(Stop Trying to Do It All). Trying, can be trying, indeed! I’ve read the chapter after having thought on a blog post, Don’t “try by Dan Phillips, and do have a few observations with that stored in mind. I know Crystal’s profession of faith after reading her writings for many years: Biblical Womanhood, booklets, and articles via the web. Something interesting is that early on in this book, page 2, she shares of admitting to what seemed to cement failings as a wife, mom, and woman. She next mentions loving God, her husband, and children…then mentions times of her feelings of happiness and fulfillment. Did you catch what I see? Though the order of loving has a proper flow, God isn’t mentioned in the “failing” list…that should flow from the other and should begin with a firm remembrance of being God’s and the identity of who and what all in Christ are. A list of personal examination should always flow in view of what He says and means. Yet circumstances trumped being, really being His first and foremost. Fast forward ~ page 14. Categories, maybe not intended to have an order with the flow yet personal heads, God next, church next, family…otherwise and others. OOPS, order when intentional, needs a little adjusting. Page 15. Priorities: Lord, husband, children. check. check. check. We see God working amazingly in Crystal. Quite frankly, early on when privy to the days of detailed schedules and such ~ noting I’m close to the age of her parents and married going on 37 years with a myriad of life’s seasonal experiences in tow ~ surely I wasn’t alone in wondering “how long O Lord?” before someone would crash and burn taking any adherents along for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It was and has been grueling to watch yet sweet knowing God was going to upright the upside downs in her world that only comes with His refining fire where the heat is turned up on the crucible. As with all of us. He’s Master Orchestrator and Refiner!

    A word that comes to mind when thinking of word-of-the-year is HIS. That orbit begins with His preeminent glory and provides a view of me that surpasses that of all others including myself. AND as His doule the truth view of yieldedness rather than life and having it more abundantly being that of my control. It’s being the best of Mary and Martha…and responding like Mary, mother of Jesus…praise You Lord in my coming and goings as yours and, as Lord willing, being Your doule in earthly roles that only You can well lead for my yielded following. That’s my takeaway and thoughts when reading the first chapter. Though unspoken in book print, it’s in there. Take it out and the whole thing falls apart and reverts back to a survival mode realm void of Him.


  • I just had my fifth child in August. I blogged my way through the book on why I don’t feel like we are in survival mode. I’ve learned to prioritize and understand that different seasons of life need to have different expectations.

  • Mackenzie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I sometimes feel like I am in “survival mode” as well 🙂

  • Alicia says:

    Read, reflect, and writing are 3 of my most important goals this year. Cutting out time-wasters like FB has helped. I have Facebook free Sundays, and try to write every day. I am working on being more practical with expectations of myself and schedule less to-do in my list. High expectations lead to disappointment. ~ Thanks for the inspiration!

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