Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘time’

Managing time, or being managed by its lack?

I choose happinessYesterday I started my journey to happiness with the five things in my life I wish were different right now. Two of the things I wish for involve my girls: I wish I had more time with them, and I wish I could give them more input.

Belatedly, last night, it occurred to me that I can achieve both: I can give them the training they need (to the best of my limited ability), and in that way have more time with them AND help them start to achieve some of their goals.

I think that pursuing art and dance with Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood will also make me happy. We’ve also found that playing board games is highly educational, interactive, time-smart and happiness-inducing. Not to mention being even easier than dance or art lessons.

So that’s THREE wishes with one metaphorical stone (it’s so shiny :))

PS: Yesterday I made my To Do list and actually ticked off SEVEN items on it! Way to go, productivity.

Action steps:

  • Look up art and ballet tutorial on YouTube
  • Carve out half an hour STARTING TODAY to do at least one of these things with the girls.
  • Tick off another three things on today’s To Do list.

Verses:

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How to fit it all in

Almost every day, I’m asked the same question: how do you get it all done? To be clear: I’m no Wonder Woman. Far from it. All I am is a mom trying to have it all – and get it all into a single day. On average, I work between 16 and a half and 18 hours a day. This includes housework and school but even so, there’s not much time for “me time”. Now, I’m not advocating an eighteen-hour day. Far from it! I believe proper planning and focus can allow any of us to achieve our most important goals.

The thing is, some things are important. Investing in my relationship with God is important. Reading to my children is important. Exercise is important. Work is important. The question is, how on earth can anyone fit it all in? 

We all need a planny plan

We all need a planny plan

For me, I find anything I aim to do is far more achievable if I start out with the premise that the thing I intend to do can be done. Because, you see, if it can be done by anyone, it stands to reason that it can be done by me. All it takes is a plan. A planny plan. Here’s mine:

Get your priorities straight

First of all, decide what is important. Be specific. Choose the five things you can’t NOT do in a day. These are your priorities. There are a hundred things I’d like to get done each day. Only a handful of these is non-negotiable, however. For me, that handful includes, in no particular order:

  • Housework and meal preparation
  • Home education
  • Time with God
  • Billable work
  • Research, management and non-billable work

I’ love to include exercise, arts and crafts, and long walks with my kids in my list. I wish I could find time for charity and home visits, and time to invest in making my Sunday School classroom appealing. But I have to be realistic. My work happens every single day of the week, and if I don’t prioritise, I’ll end up out of control and in chaos. Which does happen from time to time!

Get up early

It’s only a cliché because the truth of it has stood the test of the ages. The Bible speaks of the value of an early start. Idioms and sayings from around the world explain that

“early to bed and early to rise make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Take time to recharge

Take time to recharge

The reason we all know these sayings is because they ring with truth. Little beats the productivity I find myself able to tap into when I’m up early. Before the rest of the family is up, I get my thoughts in order. I get myself ready for the day. I spend time with God. And even if I get nothing billable done, I get a little of that precious me time that seems so elusive in our frenetic lives. It is so important to get that time to recharge, and if we don’t make a concerted, intentional effort to achieve that, we are robbing ourselves of a significant source of energy and well-being.

Get up before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, and sort out your lists. List the three things you absolutely must achieve today for today to be labelled a success. More than that is a bonus, less than that is a disaster. Three important things should be a manageable goal for any day, so be sure you know, before the day starts, what your three things are. I don’t mean choosing three of your priorities. I mean, within the confines of those priorities, what three items simply cannot go undone today? This simple act will give your day focus, your work purpose, and yourself energy.

Multi-task

Conflicting studies discuss the pros and cons of multi-tasking. Theories such as Critical Chain explain the negative impact multi-tasking can have on productivity, pointing out that if we focus on one task at a time, not only do we finish all the tasks at least as quickly as we would have had we attempted to do them all at once, we also perform better in each task individually, and report lower levels of stress generally.

That’s fair enough, and in fact my on research supports this view – for the most part. However, there are pockets of “dead time” in our days that can be better utilised. For instance, I have a mild back condition as a result of exceptionally low muscle tone and very poor posture. If I don’t do at least 200 intensive abdominal crunches each and every day, I am soon in so much agony, I can barely walk. Even sitting becomes painful and, needless to say, my productivity plummets. However, fitting that amount of exercise into an already full 18 hour day can be a challenge. My solution? Multi-task. When I wash my hair in the morning, while I wait for the conditioner to do its thing, I do my crunches. (The added benefit here is that the bath water provides my back with the support it needs!) I do calf raises and lunges while I fry the eggs for breakfast. I do tricep dips on the kitchen counter while I make supper. Once you get used to it (and make it a priority), it’s really not that hard to do.

We do the Bible Time and History segments of school around the breakfast table in the morning. I incorporate English language studies into History by printing out the day’s text and creating a treasure hunt for verbs and adjectives and predicates and those other faithful friends of the fanatical word nerd (guilty!). Art happens organically and continually with my creative brood. Geography is the very natural spin-off of a rich history curriculum, with us looking everything up on the globe and the girls spending hours poring over the atlas. At dinner, we’ll watch great movies to do with our literature, or play games that secretly stimulate learning – and friendly family competition.

Work is work, but if I work in a central space I am always available to my children, my clients and my staff. It can be distracting, but it is also necessary. After all, this is the life I chose, and the only way I’ll succeed at living my dream is to make it all fit together, rather than squashing things into ill-formed boxes.

Zen and the art of home maintenance

Housework is my least favourite task, and I know for a fact that I’m not alone here. A sinkful of dishes has the effect of a dementor on my soul, sucking every happiness from my being and leaving me cold and terrified. I find that there are two solutions to my sense of joyless dread, namely The Sneak Attack approach, and the wilful application of Zen.

The Sneak Attack approach

This is my own personal legacy that I am bequeathing to the world. Seriously, it’s genius. If other people are doing this, they sure aren’t talking about it. And they should, because it works. It’s brilliant. It goes like this: when I face a task I loathe, (or just don’t prefer), I tell myself not to do it. I reason that I don’t need to do it, and shouldn’t have to do it, since I already do so much. I let myself off the hook for that task, and take all the stress, guilt and urgency out of it. I turn around. Then, when my mind isn’t looking, I sneak in and do it quickly before I realise what’s going on. I’ve effectively removed the sense of burden from the task, and made it almost naughty to go ahead and do it. It’s artificially-applied fun, and it works! I’ve been doing this for years, but only recently discovered that this is actually a scientifically documented productivity tool called Structured Procrastination. Try it – I dare you!

Now, sometimes the task at hand takes longer than it takes my brain to catch on to my sneaky trick. Then I’m in trouble, because the overwhelming drudgery of the task at hand seeps into my consciousness and saps my will to live. Or at least my will to keep doing what I’m doing. This is where the next part of the approach kicks in:

The Wilful Application of Zen

I have learned to sublimate the mundane , to elevate the banal to an art form. I honestly believe this is one of the most useful and effective uses of one’s time. Because, let’s face it, the dishes must be done. The laundry must be folded. And if not by you, then by whom? You’re it. So it’s important to find ways to grow and bloom in these minor trials, rather than giving housework the power to make us unhappy. Take back that power! Housework most certainly does not deserve that kind of a hold over your life. Instead, recognise that time alone at the sink is time alone. It’s that “me time” you’re hankering after. And you get the privilege of changing things for the better – making them clean and shiny and ready for use – without having them complain about your interference.

In fact, the simple acts of folding laundry – instilling order in chaos – and washing dishes – creating hygiene and health where before there were only germs and disease – are very therapeutic. It’s necessary work. It can be fulfilling work. It’s a great opportunity to get your thoughts in order, and the necessity of the situation creates a virtual bubble around you. No one can demand frivolous things from you while you’re busy with these important things. You learn, grow and rest in the mundane busyness. Enjoy.

Take breaks – productively

And finally, take breaks and get rest. But use these wisely. A break is not the time to check texts and catch up on emails. Those long walks I said I wanted? Now’s the time to take one. Step away from the computer. Get outside. Read a page of a well-written book. Grab a cup of bulletproof coffee or some refreshing tea. Spend time talking to your kids – or drawing with them! Build a fort. Go for a run. Wash the dog. Even doing filing can be good, because it is so soothing to instil order in your chaos.

And make sure you get the sleep you need. If worry is keeping you awake at night, supplement with Vitamin D, Zinc, and CalMag. Get regular, mild exercise. And talk to the One who promises to take all your worries, because He cares for you.

These are my secrets for a successful and effective day. What are yours? I’d love to hear how you fit everything into your day. And if this was helpful to you, let me know! I really hope I can make your life a little easier, and a little happier.

With love,

Vanessa

5 Ways to Get More Special Moments with Your Kids

If you’re on Facebook you’ve probably come across Circle of Moms. I don’t usually take part in the conversations or even often read the posts, but I did enjoy this one. It has some practical suggestions (many of which we already do, others which came as inspirational surprises), and I thought it would be good to share it here.

Time is precious and if often gets away from us. As Circle of Moms member Arneo L. tells it, “No matter what, it’s always hard to get in ‘enough’ time with the kids when you work.” If you find yourself struggling to find time each day to have a heart-filling experience with your child, you are not alone. Here are a few simple ways to enhance your routines to get more special moments with your kids.

1. Walk together. Plan time to walk with your child to or from school a few days a week. If you are working and those times are tough to find, build in a walk right after dinner one or two evenings a week. Just 15 minutes together, getting away from all the distractions, can become a cherished family time.

2. Show your interest by asking questions. We all know that “how was your day?” doesn’t always go over well with kids. Sia W. asks, “How do you get kids to talk about their day at school?” and gets some great ideas from the community. When engaging in conversation think about what you want to know about your child’s day and what they are interested in. Go with more specific questions like: “What was the most interesting thing that you learned today?” or “How can I help you with your homework tonight?” Make sure if you get an answer (and there are days that no question is going to get an answer) to follow up with more relevant questions to show you are really interested in what your child has to share.

3. Get involved in your child’s homework routine. Daily homework routines after school are common in many households. Whether it is a specific time each day that kids are to be doing homework, or time spent reviewing completed work, it is important to have a strong routine in place. Now, how can you get more involved? Check your to-do list. If there is something on there like paying bills, responding to backed up emails or checking your news feed, do it alongside your kids. They will benefit from the extra time they get with you and having you model what “adult homework” looks like. [Obviously Home Schooling the girls helps here.]

4. Talk about your day. Be intentional about sharing parts of your life with your child. It may be telling a funny story about your day at work, or letting them know your feelings about something stressful or joyful. Although maintaining a respectful balance is important, kids do want to know your answer for “how was your day?” too.

5. Plan some “Man”-dates. I realize this is Circle of Moms, but moms know better than anyone how special dad, grandpa, or uncle dates are for kids. Sarach M describes the challenge well, “…it might just have to be a matter of make the most of the short times you do have“. Encourage the men in your life to find a special experience that both they and your child can enjoy for years to come. Maybe it is going together to an ice cream shop, mini-golf or hiking. It doesn’t need to be every month, but the tradition will be something your child will cherish as they get older.

Carolina Nugent is an experienced educator and the Director of Education for KinderTown, an educational app store that helps busy parents find the best apps for young kids. Sometimes referred to as the “Chief Curation Officer,” she’s evaluated more than 1,000 apps for kids. See her reviews in the FREE KinderTown App, available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

We do two particular things that help us stay “connected” with the kids. The basis for these is dinners at the table (and we try to have breakfast together, too). Limiting TV means we’ve got more time to really be together. So we’ll often read and discuss a chapter of the book of Proverbs. There are 31 chapters, so theoretically that’s one a night. Alternately, when our brains are full, we go around the table telling a story: one person starts, and each person builds as we go around, adding a sentence or two each time. Some of the results are rather creative – not to mention revealing! A friend says her family has a weekly games night: crisps, cool drinks and board games all evening. Sounds like fun!

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