Thursday, October 29, 2009

How do we get it all done? Is it possible?

I've been following a recent discussion thread on Ravelry about how stay at home moms have time to get all their domestic duties done and find time for designing and knitting, not to mention some quiet time to themselves w/o an agenda attached. It got me thinking about my weeks and how I organize my time. I pondered the answer to that eternal question, "How can I do it all?" and found that the answer is a big fat, "I can't." Now before you dismiss me completely and write me off, hear me out. I'm writing this post because right now, I feel like I've piled on so much to each day that I wake up at night worrying over tomorrow's schedule. Are you there too?

In today's world, we've been inundated with the sentiment that if we just work a little bit harder we can do it all and have it all. I absolutely believe this is a lie we've been fed and even though we may say we don't believe it, our actions tend to prove otherwise. We try to pack so much into every hour that we get to a point in our lives where everyday is a rush, then a blur and soon we can't even remember what we did 30 minutes ago. How do we stop? How do we slow down? How do we get done what we need to get done and still have time to do what we most want to? Here's a strategy that, when implemented consistently, has done a lot for me because it helps me be proactive and in control of my week instead of reacting to whatever life throws at me.

I honestly believe God didn't make a day with 25 hours in it, a month with 40 days and a year with 55 weeks for one very big reason: we aren't Him! We can't do everything but we think we can! We can't be everyone to everyone because we are unique. We have limits. We have strengths and weaknesses. We have to learn to prioritize - and that can be really difficult.

Whenever I get into a funk, my husband always reminds me that I don't have to be everything for everyone every week. "Prioritize," I can hear him say to me in my thoughts. He shared with me a plan that he uses to map out his week so he's using his time for the priorities, not for the non-priorities. It's based on the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." Wanna hear it? You may say, "Ugh...I hate living by a schedule!" I do too, but that doesn't mean that a general routine doesn't do wonders for my life.

Ok, first things first: Identify the roles you have to play during the upcoming week. Whether it's mom, wife, knitting designer, PTA member, etc, write them down. At the beginning of the list, write Sharpen the Saw - this refers to time for you to take care of you mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Second: Write one or two goals for each role you will play which, if completed, you will have seen the week as being successful.

Third: Plug into your calendar reoccurring events (e.g. Work on knitting patterns, lean house, Bible Study, date w/ hubby, library time, etc). Then, plug in sections of time to do the activities necessary to meet all the goals you've set out. Make sure you have plugged in time for some exercise, a quiet time or a coffee date with a friend - taking care of yourself helps you better take care of others.

Be sure to allow at least 15 minutes between each activity. I always add an extra 15 minutes to each activity because something will always happen to delay me. Blown-out diapers, unanticipated phone calls, a friend stopping by. We want to anticipate that nothing will go exactly to plan and allot extra time to deal w/ special circumstances.

Last: Take a look at all the blank spaces. These are your times where you can sit and close your eyes, knit, read, talk on the phone, putter around on the internet. If every minute of the day is taken up with a chore, it's time to re-evaluate your work ethic. It shouldn't take 12 hours a day to keep up the house and cook the food. Take some time to see how you can shift your work style to help you get things done more efficiently. For example, if it takes 15 minutes to clean the toilet because you're talking on phone, maybe it's time to hang up the phone and just "get 'er done!"

There's one important equation to remember in all this - your schedule is a guideline for your week. If an extraordinary circumstance comes up and something doesn't get done, don't worry! There are very few things that have to happen. Be flexible. Knowing that there's extra time tomorrow in the afternoon or on Wednesday means that if the kids get sick on Monday, there's a time when we can play a little catch up without ruining the rest of the week's plans.

All in all, if at the end of the week your to-do list still has items on it that aren't crossed off, give yourself a break, go take a hot bath (don't forget the soothing salts!) and recharge your batteries. In the morning, take a fresh look at your week, prioritize and then go and live life to the fullest!

What tips do you have for prioritizing and laying out your week? How do you find time to relax and "sharpen your saw"? Share your thought below. Who knows - you may have the answer to someone else's problem!

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