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 goal for 2014 is to really LIVE this crazy, beautiful life I’ve been given and not just letting it pass me by. To be intentional about pursuing that goal, I’m working through three books this year, including Crystal’s Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.
In January, my focus was on learning to set boundaries, remove distractions and stop trying to do it all.
In February, I turned my attention to Chapter 2: Saying Yes to the Best. That title is actually is a great summary for what I hope to accomplish this year, so I was excited to jump right in. Unfortunately, a combination of travel, postpartum depression and a big project didn’t actually result in the easiest month, but I just keep focusing on each new day and each opportunity to make the right decisions.
As in Chapter 1, Crystal boiled this idea of saying yes to the best into practical tips for making more time in your schedule for the things that matter.
I love that she compares the way we try to muscle too many activities into each day to our tendency to try to carry all of the grocery bags in one trip. Just as the weight of those bags leaves us staggering into the house with fingers that feel broken, the weight of trying to do all the things leaves us staggering through life. How much better would it be to take several trips and not lose the spring in your step along the way?
Figure Out What the Best Stuff Is
I know this sounds obvious, but I think it’s worth saying anyway: before you can say yes to the best, you have to figure out what the best stuff is.
Using the Personal Priorities list from Chapter 1, Crystal encourages readers to flesh those priorities out into a “best stuff” list. For me, the best stuff this year is investing in my relationship with the Lord (putting daily quiet time first), my husband (making time for one-on-one conversations and having fun together), my girls (looking them in the eye when they talk and saying yes more often), and our local community (carving out time for coffee and play dates and looking for family service opportunities) while simplifying my business so that my work time can be more focused and less all-encompassing.
Notably, it does not include expanding my business, eating more “real food”, any big house projects, networking or a million other possible priorities, all of which would be good, but not the best for our family at this time.
Take Control of Your Time
Crystal goes on to talk about the importance of time management, and while this is a topic I blog about myself, I appreciated her reminder that in order to take control of your time, you first have to know how much time you have.
When I was a young wife and mother, I used the Managers of Their Home system, and I was surprised to discover how much time I actually had. Unfortunately, I took that revelation and started stuffing my days with more and more stuff. In fact, I’ve gotten into the habit of stuffing my schedule so full that I wonder where exactly the day went and why I couldn’t get everything done. I miss those simpler times of being realistic and leaving plenty of margin in my day.
Truly, it’s much less stressful to admit upfront that you don’t have enough time to do all 28 items on your to-do list and eliminate/re-prioritize them than it is to try to do more than you can possibly get done and end up letting people down.
To figure out how much you can realistically get done, Crystal encourages readers to use the method found in Amy Lynn Andrew’s Tell Your Time: start with the number of hours you have in each day (hint: 24) and divide that into blocks of time according to activities. This might include a 30 minute quiet time, 2 hours of meal prep, a 3 hour outing (plus an hour to get ready to go and settled once you get back home), etc. The key is to be realistic about how much time an activity will take and to stay within the limits of your day.
And margin. Every day needs margin, time that is not dedicated to any specific task and can be used for blowout diapers, resolving sibling fights, cuddles or cleaning up a spill. I don’t leave enough margin in my day, and it gets me every time.
Routine, Routine, Routine
With a new baby in the house (although he’s now four-and-a-half months old, so I’m not sure how much longer I can call him that!), our routines are fairly flexible right now, but there is still beauty and relief in having a routine — in my morning routine of Bible study and opening all of the curtains for the day, in our evening routine of cuddles before bed, in the rhythm of our day.
While our routine isn’t a set schedule, having a routine is important not just so that I can have time carved out specifically for homeschooling and work and quality family time but also so that my children know when to expect those things.
Finally, Crystal recommends tracking your time to see exactly where it’s going. Right now a lot of my time is spent nursing, changing diapers, and rocking the baby. While I can often multitask during nursing and rocking, and I often use that time for reading, I need to be realistic about the time it takes so that I’m not overbooking the rest of my day!
Chapter 3 is all about goal setting, and I’m looking forward to taking a hard look at my goals and revising them so that they better reflect my priorities and the realities of this season of life!
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 BundleoftheWeek.com. 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.