White Space, Room to Really Live Schedules, Daily Habits & White Space

A few weeks ago I shared some tips for creating white space in your home, clearing the clutter so you have room to breathe, appreciate what you have, love and use.  We need white space in our days as well.  A few years back I shared the following post.  I still practice these disciplines.  I think the only thing I would add is this:  all too often we fail to acknowledge everything we need to do.  We tend to leave daily chores and errands off our lists.  I think women are more guilty of this than men, as we try to cram these daily chores and errands in with other activities, failing miserably to multitask, or draining ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically.  Our daily task list/calendar/schedule should include the daily-the Walmart run, laundry, vacuuming, picking up birthday gifts…  These are the things that tend to fill what little white space we thought we had.  These are the things that never really get completed, and so can’t be ignored.

Does the above set of pictures make you cringe?  Do feel the tension in your body building?  For so many of us, the idea of living by a schedule, sitting down to determine when we will do what, feels confining, makes us uncomfortable.  As much as I like to live an orderly life, to be as productive as I can, I honestly resist the idea of living by a schedule.  I sense rigidity, lack of creativity in schedules.  I want to leave the door open for those “God appointments”.  I want to be able to meet the unexpected needs of friends of family.

Consistency.  My word for 2016.  Here in lies the truth-the hard truth.  I can not be more consistent, I can not consistently move towards meeting my goals, completing my tasks without some measure of schedule.  More importantly, tracking my time, setting specific times in which to do specific tasks keeps me mindful.

I just finished reading “I Know How She Does It”, by Laura Vanderkam.  It is an inspiring book and exactly the motivation I needed to get back to scheduling.  Most interesting in her research was the reality that most Americans work fewer hours than they say, with very few people working more than 50-60 hour weeks, and most people overestimate their work hours by 10 hours!  On average, highly successful, full-time working mothers cap at an average of 44 hours per week.  As I continued to read, I realized the core of the problem, the explanation for this over-estimation of time, sense of being overwhelmed, living out of fatigue feeling there is never enough time is a result of really having no idea how we spend our time and thus making very few intentional decisions about our time.

Laura Vanderkam is also a firm believe in the 168 hours principle, challenging us to plan weekly instead of daily.  I was convinced of this principle after reading her first book, “168 Hours”.

When you treat all 168 hours as your canvas, and don’t hold to rigid assumptions of what must be work time, and what must be nonwork time, you can create some fascinating mosaics (schedules).

While I resist the idea of living confined to a schedule, unwilling to move away from it for the unexpected, I know from experience and am reminded that schedules, daily habits and white space are the key to consistency, the key to my taking care of what matters most and moving towards completion of my goals.  So, this week, I focus again on doing what I know I should do (that seems to be a recurring theme!).  I challenge you to do the same.  Step back from your life for a moment.  Look at your week, your 168 hours and decide how you want to spend your time.  Here are some of my tips for successfully planning out 168 hours/creating a schedule or road map by which to live those hours out.

  1.   Daily morning quiet time to center my thoughts, read scripture, pray over my day.
  2.   One load of laundry every morning first thing.
  3.   Plan each week on Friday (I have let this habit slip and I pay for it.  Planning on Friday allows me so much freedom from nagging thoughts on the weekend and kick starts my Mondays.)
  4.   Use a weekly planner with hourly increments, blocking off appointments, tasks to work on, exercise, hobbies, free time etc…  This gives me a great visual, helps me to see the whole of my week.
  5.   Plan for the unexpected by building in PLENTY of white space.  I always leave 30 minutes between appointments.  This allows for transition time, gives me some buffer should the task take a little longer etc…  I also leave gaps of time (an hour to two) in my schedule at least every other day.  I typically use these gaps to take care of household chores, but often end up using them to have lunch with a friend, cook a meal for a sick friend, care for a sick child, …

Schedules, daily habits and white space keep me grounded, focused and moving in the right direction.  When I look at my time weekly in lieu of daily, I am reminded I have plenty of time.  While I still resist “being scheduled”, I always find there is actually a great deal of freedom in scheduling.  Life is always better when I am aware of where and how I spend my time.  A schedule allows me to be intentional about my time and I find that I get more enjoyment from my “free time/play time” when I have lived my week by my schedule.

Advertisements

Power of Knowing Who You Are

The pursuit of balance, organization, goals… The advice abounds, yet the pursuit seems to never end.  We find ourselves starting over, starting again, wondering if we are even on the right path, capable, able.  It can be exhausting, and in the midst of striving to achieve, life passes us by, we miss the moments, we miss becoming.

woodenpath

Two young women have approached me in recent months asking me about my career path, how I managed family, career, success.  Questions like this never come easy, because I find most of us don’t see ourselves the way others see us.  I struggled to answer.  I have never had a career path, real career aspirations.  No doubt early in my career I did, but as life began to emerge those quickly faded.  Marriage, the desire for children, building a home and a life with family, those have been my aspirations.  Managing those well have been my priority.  The career, the opportunities before me now, those are icing on the cake.  I like to think they are the result of a life well lived, an opportunity to be who I am, not tasks, not plans, not rungs on a ladder.

As I sought to answer both women with honesty, seizing the moment to influence another this is what I shared.

First and foremost, be who you say you are and be who you are no matter the circumstance.  I am a Christian first and foremost.  Every decision I make flows from a place of faith and I seek to align my decisions with the Word of God, His precepts, His ways.  How I make my decisions, who I desire to be doesn’t change based upon my role.  I am who I am, and that is simply a woman of faith seeking to serve God.

Second, do what you say you are going to do.  Commitment, honesty, integrity-traits lost in a world where power and position, being a “company” woman/man pays bigger dividends.  Yet commitment, honesty, integrity are lasting.  Doing what we say we are going to do has lasting impact, builds relationships, builds trust, builds reputation.

Finally, do everything you do with excellence.  Excellence is not perfection.  Excellence is not about being right, or being the best.  Excellence is about being your best and doing your best.  Excellence is about caring, caring that the product you produce reflects the very best.  In a world where outputs and outcomes reign, those who influence, those who create impact, will stay the course.

The words above may seem to simplistic.  They aren’t the words of advice I would have shared in my late twenties/early thirties.  But they are the words I live by.  I am not a wife, mom, community engagement officer out to achieve.  I am a wife, mom and community engagement officer because that is who God has called me to be.  Those are the opportunities He has given me.  My only desire is to be who I am and influence others.  That is my secret to staying focused and organized.  When you know who you are and you focus upon influence (relationship with others) it’s easy to know what matters and what doesn’t.  It’s easy to stay motivated.  It’s easy to to release the future and focus on the next step.

Years ago, a mentor passed this anonymous poem along to me.  It became a part of my life mission.  I keep it with me at all times-it finds it’s home in the front of my planner.  I share it with you, hoping it encourages you, helps you settle upon the woman you are.  The plans, the tasks-they will all fall in place.  But first, YOU.  Your power will unfold as you embrace who you are.  Who you are matters more than what you do.

956562c8af1c119c8418256a0a4f276d

*If you follow me on Facebook you know I had an opportunity to celebrate this advice with one of my daughters.  I have spent 19 years giving my daughters this same advice, and it paid off.  My daughter, a freshman, was given the Greek Life Woman of Integrity Award.  I am so proud of her, so thrilled she is learning to live the “who” over the “what”.

Spring Cleaning-It’s really all about the clutter

 

arnel-hasanovic-375269-unsplash
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

 

It is that season.  The temperatures begin to rise, the sun comes out, green emerges in our gardens and we feel this urge to “spring clean”.  And if you are like me, the picture above makes you take a deep breath and feel a sense of relief.  You want your whole house, whole office, whole life to look and feel this serene.

I realized years ago, that my bent towards organization and that spring cleaning urgency, which frankly hits me about every three months, was really a longing for space-white space.  It was a need for room to breathe.  It was a desire to be able to find things, keep up with my schedule and have moments to breathe.  In the end it meant I simply wanted SPACE- space to live, laugh, relax.

I came up with the following acrostic to help me organize and manage my time.

  • S-Sort
  • P-Purge
  • A-Assign
  • Contain
  • Evaluate

We often begin the process wrong, and so in the end, we simply do little more than move things around, finding ourselves a few months down the road, handling the same items, shifting them from one space to another.  If you can embrace my SPACE method, I promise you will find exactly that-space to live, to play, to breathe, to rest.

Step 1 is to Sort.  You can begin as small as one drawer, one closet or as large as one room.  Simply sort the items into categories:  like items together.

Step 2 is to Purge.  Take a good look at what you have.  Get rid of duplicates, broken items, the unknown…  Elect to either throw the items away or donate.  Either way have a bin or bag for both.

Step 3 is to Assign.  All that remains are the items you have elected to keep.  These should be things you use or enjoy.   Decide where you are going to put each item.  Some may find a home on a shelf, some in a drawer, some a closet.  What matters at this point is to simply decide where the item is going to live.  If the item is going to be moved to another room, take it there and simply leave it in a holding space until you are ready to address the space.  Once you have assigned each item a place to reside, step back and determined whether or not the space is sufficient to hold the items you have assigned to it.  If not-yep, hate to tell you, but it’s time to purge a little more.

Step 4 is to contain.  So many of us want to rush out and buy all these cute bins, containers, labels BEFORE we begin organizing.  PLEASE DON’T!  You will waste money and simply find yourself trying to organize the items you bought to help you organize.  Once you know what you are keeping and where you are going to put it you determine how it will be stored in the space.  If you need extra containers, hooks, boxes, etc. you will know what size and how many.  Make a list of any items you need to purchase in order to effectively contain the items in the assigned space.

Step 5 is to evaluate.  This is the step most of us want to ignore.  We want to organize our space and have it magically remain organized.  But that sweet friends is simply not reality.  We live.  Our families live.  Items make their way into our homes and at some point many of those items need to find their way out of our homes.  It is important to periodically (maybe once every 4-6 weeks) evaluate your space.  Is there an area causing you frustration?  Do you find yourself distracted each time you set out to begin a project or work in a particular space?  While this step can often be the most difficult to do, it really is the key to success.  The more mindful we become about our spaces, the more we stop to think about the impact of our spaces on our lives, the more intentional we become with our purchases and our decisions.  As we begin to live with intention and focus, we find that space we have longed for, and in that moment we take the deep, rejuvenating breath.

*this same process works for your calendar and time management system, but that’s a whole other blog 🙂

 

 

Errand Day Re-Invented

This week I am sharing an older post, but one that has hit home.  As our season in life changes, so too must our habits, our systems.  I have said it many times before, organization is not about managing stuff, but it is about personal discipline, creating habits.  My errand system has evolved again, now that I am a full time working mom with girls in higher ed, but the many of these habits remain.

One of the joys of this Second Season is having gained a little wisdom through much trial and error.  Being a “type A” I have always enjoyed organization and the challenge of trying to be efficient.  Over the years, I have learned being effective is even more important than being efficient.  Sometimes the two are not compatible.  Yet, other times, the two come together in beautiful simplicity.  This week I have had one of those moments.

In an attempt to save time and money, I typically schedule an errand day.  Most weeks this falls on Monday.  It just seems to be a good day to restock and get those errands out of the way before the week’s activities encroach on my time.  Armed with a list or two and various stacks of coupons off I go!  But more often than not, the coupons fall out of the paperclip or get hung on the inside of my purse.  The lists (one for groceries, one for WalMart/Target, and one for other errands) get bent and tattered.  I’ve tried clipping the coupons to the itemized lists, but yet again, they get pulled away from the list, I drop the coupons or list trying to juggle cart, purse, pen and lists!  Frustration, frustration, frustration.

Being a “lover” of all things organizational I am surrounded by friends selling Thirty-One Products.  (If you are not familiar with this line of products I highly encourage you to Google them and find a consultant near you!)  It hit me.  They have this great little purse size organizer perfect for my Errand Day!  Below you will find pictures of my handy little Errand Day organizer.  On the left is a clear, zippered pouch.  In it I place my paper-clipped coupons, each stack corresponding to one of my lists.  In the center is a lined notepad (purchased at Staples).  I have a written list for each:  groceries, Wal/Mart/Target, and Miscellaneous.  On the right is an elasticized pouch perfect for holding a package of wipes (is it only me or do you frequently find yourself wanting to wash your hands at the grocery store?), my pens and if needed highlighter.  After getting it put together, coupons clipped and sorted, lists made, I was absolutely giddy with excitement!  So, off to Goodwill, Office Depot, Target and the grocery store I went.  I didn’t drop a thing.  My coupons remained in tact.  With pride I ripped off each list as I completed it and threw it in the trash receptacle on the way out of the store.  Even more exciting, was being stopped by three other moms, each asking where I’d gotten my handy little organizer!

So, Errand Day has been re-invented.  A small victory in life, but one that impacted my mood for the day, allowed me to better serve my family, and meet a few young moms along the way.  I also hope I was able to send a little business to my three favorite Thirty-One consultants.  The real lesson though, is this:  When something is not working, I need to step back, give myself some time to reflect and come up with potential solutions.  

Image

Image

Simplified Living

Being organized is really just about learning to live simply.  Now, don’t hit the exit button quite yet!  There is minimalism ( a huge trend right now and worth pursuing) and then there is a more simplified life.  I am not a minimalist.  I love home and all the things that make a home beautiful and comfortable.  So, I have holiday decorations, more than two sets of dishes, seasonal throw pillows… You get the idea.  So, how do I keep a clutter free home?  How do I manage to have time to exercise, volunteer, take a nap, have date nights and entertain?  I manage those things because I choose to keep the number of things pared down.

Being organized is about learning to live with less, so your time is not spent managing stuff.  Being organized is also about learning little tips and tricks along the way to make the most of what you have and to simplify your decorating, cooking, cleaning and entertaining.  In honor of spring cleaning, I’ll share a few of those tips over the next few weeks.

Menu prepping and meal prepping are becoming a more integral part of my weeks as I continue on my health journey.  I’m still a pen and paper gal, so I love the InkWell Press “Eating Well Planner” my sister-in-law got me for Christmas.  I write down the recipe for each day’s dinner (adding in at least one breakfast meal and lunch idea for the weekends) and the location of the recipe.  I then make the grocery list.  I am a coupon girl, so Sunday afternoons are my time to clip paper coupons and download my Kroger digital coupons.  Once my grocery list is complete I go through the coupons pulling any that match to needed groceries.  I keep thinking I am going to shift my grocery shopping to Tuesday evenings, but so far I still find myself running to the store for my major grocery shopping on Saturdays.  We will see how I progress-this is one of those goals in my Cultivate What Matters planner-reminding myself to cultivate this one and that progress doesn’t happen over night.

Once back from the grocery store I immediately put things away.  I put grains, chips, cereals etc. in their respective bins (helps us see what we have and keeps things fresh).  I fill the kitchen sink with cold water and one cup of white vinegar.  All of the fresh fruits and vegetables go in to soak.  They are then rinsed and dried.  I then chop or cut anything I can for the week.  We just eat more vegetables and fruits if they are washed and ready to go.  I love using the Rubbermaid Freshworks.  You can find them here:  http://www.rubbermaid.com/en-US/freshworks-produce-saver-green

This week, with strawberries coming into season, I found myself needing to cut strawberries so I could mix them with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dusting of Stevia.  They will be great with yogurt, cottage cheese or as a stand alone dessert/snack.  One of my favorite tricks I learned from a Pampered Chef consultant.  Use your boiled egg slicer to cut strawberries.  It cuts them quickly and in perfect slices!  I did two containers of strawberries in under 4 minutes.  I promise, once you try this you will never go back to cutting them any other way!

I’d love to hear your tips on menu planning, grocery shopping or meal prepping.  For more tips on managing errands:  https://wordpress.com/post/simplifiedorganizedstyled.com/1815

Discipline Outweighs Tools & Skills

DailyDisciplines

The past few weeks I have needed to tackle some mundane items, updating processes and products.  The kind of items that easily fall to the side, as daily, urgent tasks take precedent.  Yet, these mundane items, are the backbone of what we do, they are the foundation upon which so much else is built.

While my challenge is at work, I remember these same struggles when I was a full time, at home mom.  The mundane items:  laundry, grocery shopping, bed making … easily fell to the side, sometimes for the urgent, and sometimes for the “more fun” tasks.  Yet, these items were the backbone of my home.  They laid the foundation for a well managed home, a home where my family could find rest and peace.

Finding a way to manage the mundane, to keep the foundation of your work, home, ministry, strong is important.  So, how do I tend to the mundane, build the foundation?  I live by the 15 minute rule and Friday planning.

I learned the 15 minute rule from Emilie Barnes, author and Christian time management expert.  It is amazing what you can accomplish in 15 minutes, especially the mundane tasks!  More importantly, using the 15 minute rule can help you get started, take that first step.  One of two things happen- you either get started and begin working on the task you have been putting off, OR you begin and keep going, realizing the task wasn’t as difficult or as to be dreaded as you thought.

Friday planning I read about on a blog a few years back.  I had been a Sunday planner, but found I often let the planning time slide.  Friday planning, especially now that I am back working full-time outside of the house, is so much more effective.  I set aside about 30 minutes each Friday morning.  I sync my calendars, make note of any high importance task for the week not yet finished, transfer unfinished tasks that can wait to the next week, and look over goals and objectives determining if there are any new “to do” items.  I find this helps me have more productive Fridays and frees me to go into the weekend focused on family and rest.  I know I have a plan for the next week in place and have a better chance of letting the mental clutter go.

The real trick though comes in disciplining myself to live by these two rules.  I have to develop the habit of setting aside 15 minutes in my daily schedule to tackle the task/project I have been putting off or simply don’t enjoy.  I have to discipline myself to keep Friday mornings clear so I can plan for the week ahead.  It takes thought and a decision to make it happen.  Yet, like so many disciplines, the discipline of time can set me apart, outweighs my skills and has more impact upon my productivity and effectiveness than the tools I use.  Discipline matters most.

This week, give it some thought.  What is weighing you down?  Is it the same old tasks/chores left incomplete each week?  Is it that project you just can’t seem to start?  I challenge you- set aside 15 minutes a day and start.  Then when Friday rolls around, set aside some time to plan for next week, doing the same thing-setting aside 15 minutes a day to tackle the mundane.  Better yet, set aside 4 minute segments of time to tackle the mundane!  You’ll be amazed at what you get done and you’ll be on the road to a more disciplined life.

 

Embrace being Invisible

I love to read.  I love to learn.  As I have made this transition back to full-time work and have sought to effectively lead an office through re-organization, reading and learning have been vital to my success, but more importantly vital to my emotional well-being.  My reading and learning must be balanced.  I can’t just read about management practices or leadership skills, I have to feed my spirit.  My whole self has to grow in order to be effective and healthy.

I recently read “Unseen” by Sara Hagerty.  (http://sarahagerty.net/unseen/)  Initially I thought this book would have nothing to do with my leadership, but would be a good read for me personally.  I was wrong.  Creating change, leading people through reorganization is all work done quietly.  A great deal of it is work the leader must do in the hidden spaces.  It is being faithful to show up, to keep moving forward, to wait patiently on others to begin to see and take hold of the new mission.  It is the unseen work.  It is prayer.

“Unseen” is an authentic book.  Sara Hagerty shares what many of us would never voice to another.  It is a vulnerable read, but it will stir your spirit.  As I have led, I will be honest… I have wanted kudos, a pat on the back.  That hasn’t come.  I have felt discouraged, wondering if the mission to engage others in service to meet the needs of our community would ever resonate with anyone outside our office.  But reading Sara’s story challenged me to dig deep, to deal with the reality- Who am I living for?  Is my identity wrapped up in what others think?  Those aren’t easy questions to answer.  The truth was painful because the answers didn’t match what I say I live.  I say I live for Christ, that my identity is in Him.  Yet, all too often, that is not the reality of how I live.  “Unseen” has reminded me to focus on who I am, the relationships with those around me, and believe I am where I am to serve Him.  Being obedient to Him.  It has reminded me to stop in prayer, breathing in His word, when doubts or frustrations rise.  It’s about our focus.  When we focus on what the world cannot see, we live free from the need for worldly success.

There is something freeing when we embrace being invisible.  Being the best version of me is all that matters.  I am the best version of me when I am focused on Him.

Don’t Plan Your Week, Guide Your Week

I love organization:  calendars, baskets, hooks, notebooks, planners, colored pens, labels, label makers… the list goes on.  It is in my DNA.  The first born.  Type A.  Disc profile C.  Perfectionist.  Scheduler.  The list could go on, but I am sure you get the drift.

My bent towards organization hasn’t always been my friend.  In fact, it has often been my enemy.  I may appear on the outside to have it all under control, to be gifted and skilled at juggling life’s demands.  On the inside though, it has often been a different story.  The expectations grow and with them the voice in my head pushing me to perfection, telling me “I am not enough”, “do more”.  The anxiety driven by the fear I won’t keep it all together.  The laser like focus keeping me from seeing opportunities and moments around me.  The pursuit all consuming and confining, leaving little room for vulnerability, allowing others to help.  It can be and has been exhausting.  It can be and has been my worst attribute.  But, it is also a gift.

So how do I keep the gift from becoming my demon?  I embrace who I am.  I am created in God’s image, to serve Him and to be reconciled to Him, engaged in the daily ministry of reconciliation.  He is a God of order (simply read the story of creation).  His Word provides a road map.  I am bent towards organization and in His sight that is good, it is just as He desired it to be, just as He created me to be.  However, I have to remember, managing my life:  my things; my activities; my people, is simply a tool to be used to serve Him.  I can’t let it become about CONTROL.  Yes.  Too often  my pursuit of organization is more about my attempt to CONTROL, than to be and serve.  I have to remember He is in control, and my attempts to manage are simply a part of a process.  He teaches me, He guides me, He directs my paths.  CONTROL is the demon.  When I use my talents and my gifts to follow His direction, I relinquish CONTROL, and He is in control.

Maintaining the balance isn’t easy.  The past has taught me.  I have learned to spend less time planning, and more time simply developing a road map/a guide, full of white space, breathing space.  The white space and breathing space give the opportunities to stop, to pray, to listen, to adjust.  My life is fuller.  The pursuit is no longer for perfection or control.  Instead, the pursuit is for relationship, obedience with the One in control.

If you, like me, struggle with this balance, here are a few tools and tricks I use.

  1. I LOVE my Cultivate What Matters planner.  This is not a weekly or daily planner, but a great tool for setting yearly goals, determining what matters most and then cultivating habits to bring it to fruition.  If you haven’t checked this resource out, head over to https://cultivatewhatmatters.com/.  I am not paid to endorse, this product.  I genuinely LOVE and USE this product.
  2. I am a recovering planner addict.  I have spent more money on planners than I ever care to disclose.  Seriously, it is an addiction!  I still struggle.  Each November my Facebook and Pinterest feeds fill with cute images of beautiful planners, stickers, pens etc.  My heart races and I begin to think, “what if…”  I am pleased to tell you though, going on THREE years strong, I have stuck with my Planner Pad planner.  It isn’t all sparkly and cute.  It is practical.  But the layout works for me.  It is a weekly planner format that allows you to “funnel” your tasks, beginning with broad categories, moving to daily priorities, and ending with time specific tasks.  You can find out more by going to https://plannerpads.com/.
  3. I set aside about an hour every Friday to create my road map for the following week.  This helps me focus on the critical and important Friday and keeps items from falling off my radar, as they get moved to the following week.  I am able to assess how much white space I have and make necessary adjustments.  A packed schedule only leads to stress and stress minimizes productivity.  Leave room to breathe, to be the boss, wife, mom, friend you need to be in the moment.  Leave room to run back into God’s presence, seeking His guidance.
  4. Pray.  Years ago, while reading an Emilie Barnes book, I began to practice the habit of praying over my calendar daily.  I am not 100%, but the weeks and months I am faithful to this habit, I am amazed at how my plans change, the resources that come my way or the amount I am able to accomplish.  I am able to view the items in my planner as simply a guide for my week and the unexpected aren’t viewed as distractions, but as opportunities.
  5. Last but not least, I remind myself the goals I have written, the filled in to do lists, are simply guides.  I can’t plan for the future, for I am not in control of the future.  I can establish guides for myself and I can take one obedient step at a time.  When things go awry I remember I am not in control.  When tasks build up or remain undone, when there seems to be no movement toward a goal I step back and reassess.  More often than not, I simply need to make an adjustment, either in my routine or my schedule.  However, sometimes the pause, the prayer helps me see the goal was something birthed out of my desires, and is not a part of His plan.  Sometimes the goal needs to go away.  Sometimes I need to scale back and focus on some small part of the larger goal.  Sometimes I need to ask for help.  Adjusting is better than quitting.  Adjusting is better than making futile plans in pursuit of perfection or control.  Adjusting is bending to His will, growing in faith, growing in relationship, growing in His image.