Why I Prefer Weekly Planning and Color Coding to Daily Planning

IMG_3926

IMG_3927

I am a firm believer in everyone having a month at a glance calendar and weekly calendar.  A daily page is fine, but it really only functions like a list and can often cause us to micro-manage time, losing site of the big picture and where our time is going.

A monthly calendar lets us keep track of the BIG items, the major appointments, the birthdays, holidays and other special occasions.  The weekly calendar lets us look at our week from a broad perspective.  I believe we can either think about 24 hours per day, or we can think about 168 hours per week.  When we allow ourselves to focus on 24 hours per day, we confine our time.  There is no way in a 24 hour period to do something in each of your priority areas.  Planning day to day means we  have to be extremely disciplined each day to think about ALL of our priority areas and deliberately decide which one is most important for the day.  I have never been disciplined to do that.  When I confine my thinking to 24 hours I find I fail to do any task in some of my priority areas.  I also find that carrying over tasks from one day to the next grows, sort of the snowball effect, the farther into the week I get.  Planning day to day also makes it more difficult for me to say “yes” or “no” to requests that come up.  Allowing myself to focus on 24 hours limits my awareness of what’s next and not being fully aware of that often means I respond in the wrong way to requests.

Weekly planning gives me a broader picture of my life.  It also affords me the opportunity to map out activities in each of my priority areas.  I also find that with weekly planning I can be more flexible.  I can move tasks around depending on unexpected interruptions/opportunities and feel comfortable doing so because I know I have mapped out my priority areas for the week.  Weekly planning makes me more aware of time-realizing how much I actually have.  Laura Vanderkam in her book, “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think”, speaks to this point.  Through her research she found that time and time again people over-estimate the amount of time they work.  It is doubtful that anyone in this country really works more than 60 hours per week.  People think they do, but only because they really have no concept of time and how they are spending it.  When I focus on 24 hours, I find myself in this very position.  Feeling overwhelmed and rushed.

Successful weekly planning begins first with knowing what “Must Do” appointments exist for the month.  Block those items off in your calendar using a red pen.  Doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher meetings, kids’ events, staff meeting, etc.. Estimate how much time each appointment will take and block that amount of time off.

To help me balance where I spend my time, I like to keep a running list of the tasks I would like to or need to complete that week for each of my priority areas.  I love the Planner Pad and the space it offers for this (see above).  I jot down tasks for home, my business, my blog, board appointments, the kids etc…  I generally have about 6 areas.  Once I have those lists, I either block off specific times on the calendar (a client appointment, blog deadline…) or block off periods of time I know I will be less distracted and able to tackle a few projects.  Each priority area has a color.  If there is a task I really need to complete in order not to fall behind, I highlight it in yellow.

Each week I am surprised by how much “white space” I have left.  And that is important.  We all need white space.  That’s a whole other post, but white space affords us time to breathe, deal with the unexpected or experience the joys of the spontaneous.  168 hours is a lot of time.  When I sit down and look at my time from that perspective, looking at the week as a whole, I can always find time to block off for the important, the necessary.  By color coding I can visually see if one priority area is getting more of my time than another, and determine whether or not that is warranted.

Weekly planning frees my mind.  Instead of watching the 24 hours tick away, I find myself enjoying each day and looking forward to the hours yet ahead.

If you have felt overly stressed by your schedule, seem to never get everything done, find yourself spending more time making lists than doing tasks, I challenge you to try weekly planning.  PlannerPadCopycat   This coming Friday set aside an hour.  Pull out your phone, calendar, slips of paper lists… and think about how you want to invest next week.  Block off your time.  Know there will be interruptions and opportunities.  Leave yourself some space for those.  Then, enjoy your weekend knowing you are prepared with a weekly plan of action come Monday morning.

Advertisements

Don’t Fall off the Wagon-Grab some Accountability

About this time of the new year, we begin to tire of our resolutions or our non-resolution goals.  The slower pace of the holidays is gone. Moments of quiet reflection snuggled up in front of the Christmas tree and fire seem but a distant memory.  The zeal we held as the fresh pages of the new calendar emerged is gone.  Life has happened.  Our schedules are once again full.  Sickness has come and gone, or may be still lingering.  We are tired of the cold, damp air.  We are tired of the dark setting in so early.  We are tired.  And as the fatigue sets in, so go our goals/resolutions.  We begin to forget, we begin to cave.  I’m with you.  And Lord have mercy, please tell me some of you are with me!

This year my only resolution was to not give up on my goals.  Persevere has been a big word in our home.  As I have pushed through the past week or two, trying not to give up, trying not lose my resolve, my focus, I have also begun to think a lot about accountability.  If like me, you are in church, that word has been a buzz word for some several years now.  With the onset of life coaching, digital mapping and coaching programs, the business world too has been abuzz about accountability.

ac·count·abil·i·ty

noun \ə-ˌkau̇n-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē\

Definition of ACCOUNTABILITY
:  the quality or state of being accountableespecially :  an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions <public officials lacking accountability>  (Merriam Webster)
The reality is, accountability is the one thing most likely to keep us from falling off the wagon.  We are made for relationship.  Our Creator, God the Father, intentionally created us this way.  Adam was insufficient alone.  He needed and was given a help-mate.  So, it is no surprise, that for us to persevere, keep on, move forward toward our goals, we need to have the assistance of another.  We need that person or persons who will speak truth to us, call us, expect and demand responsibility from us.  I see it daily as I raise my children.  Especially now, as they edge toward adulthood. They need me to hold them accountable.  I must set an expectation, I must come alongside them or sit quietly behind them, nudging, asking, supporting, celebrating.  We know we need it.  We know it is scriptural.  We know it has merit in the business world.  Yet, we avoid it.  We hesitate to grab a hold of it.  Too often, we would rather fall off the wagon than be vulnerable to another.  Sometimes we are justified in those fears.  Sometimes those holding themselves out as “accountability partners” are more interested in judgement and competition.  They are more interested in orchestrating another’s life than serving as a help-mate.  But those situations, those people, should not define the sum of our experience.  They should not determine our success or our failure.  We have to move past those people, to the genuine, giving people in our lives ready to live life with us, ready to push us with honesty and love-those ready to be a help-mate.  We need to embrace those people who celebrate when we succeed, even if only at the first step in a twenty step process.  We need to embrace those people who see our potential and can’t wait to watch us soar to new heights.
Accountability.  I want it.  I need it.  I want to offer it.  I am so glad I have two friends in particular who are this.  We have never defined our relationships as such, but accountability is a big part of our relationships.  What qualities do these women have that make them such good accountability partners?
  1. They are women of faith who spend time daily in prayer.
  2. They listen more than they talk. (I need to work on this)
  3. They are genuinely interested-they ask probing questions and remember what is said.
  4. They are gentle in spirit.
  5. They are hard workers.
  6. They are willing to share their hardships, but never compare.
  7. They are honest.
  8. They are giving-of their time, their attention and their gifts.
  9. They are confident, but not haughty.
  10. They believe in others when others are too discouraged to believe.

Don’t fall off the wagon.  Grab you some accountability.  If you don’t have a person that sounds like one of my friends, pray for that new friendship.  As you persevere, pray to become that person for another.  I still have nine and half months to go this year.  There is no reason to give in now.

Average: Perfectly Acceptable to Me

Average:   a level that is typical of a group, class, or series : a middle point between extremes.  

The above is “average” as defined in the Webster dictionary.  Nothing extraordinary.  A simple word.  Why then do we as a culture, as parents, gasp at the very utterance of the word?  Why has “average” become something negative, looked down upon?  Why this drive to excellence-not just for ourselves, but for our children?  There is this never ending push, striving for excellence.  One can no longer just play ball in the backyard and make the school team.  One can no longer take instrument lessons from the sweet lady down the street and expect an opportunity in the school orchestra or a chance to obtain a scholarship.  One can no longer take “regular” classes at school and even dream of getting into the best college and receive financial aide.  Everything, everything seems to be about achieving excellence, being accelerated.  A 4.0 GPA is to be frowned upon. Now we demand or expect a 5.6 GPA and our 18 year old children to enter college as Sophomores!

What happened to average?  Average is really all I want.  It is perfectly acceptable to me.  Especially as a parent.  I would love to think my kids are “a middle point between extremes”.  I want my children to be more focused on WHO they are, than WHAT they are.

As I pondered this thought, that average is perfectly acceptable, I turned to scripture.  What does God expect of us?  No place in scripture does God ask for excellence.  Not one place in scripture does God say we are to perform at a higher standard than everyone else.  Quite the contrary.  Repeatedly in scripture God says we are to be humble, “the least of these shall inherit”, and the last shall be first.  He told us the rich man was not greater than the widow who gave her one mite.  God didn’t call men of wealth or position or of education to be a part of the inner circle to walk with His Son on this earth.  And the few who did have some means or success in their “careers” He asked to walk away from it all.  God did not send His Son to be born in a five star resort, a midst the royalty of the day.  He chose a young girl, of little means, to bare His son.  He sent her on a donkey to a small village town, to give birth to her son in a stable, surrounded by sheep, goats and donkeys.

I think average is perfectly acceptable to God.  I believe He wants me and my children to do everything we do to the best of our abilities and “as for Him”.  But, I still think He finds average perfectly acceptable, in fact desired.  God doesn’t want me striving for earthly success.  He doesn’t want me to strive for position or wealth.  God wants me to strive for Him.  He asks that I yearn for Him, for wisdom.  He asks that I earnestly seek Him.  He asks that I persevere and run the race.  He doesn’t ask me to win the race.  He just asks that I run it and I run it with my eyes on Him.

That is all I want of and for my children.  I want them to be willing to spend more time seeking God than they spend seeking straight A’s.  I want them loving Him with their whole beings-heart, soul and mind (Matthew 23:37).  Secondly, I want them to allow that love to spill over into others (Matthew 23:38).

Does this mean I wont’ challenge my children?  Does this mean a C average in school is all I expect?  No.  I expect them to work hard, to give everything they do their best effort. But, if the choice is between making the team only if they invest 5-6 hours per week in expensive, private coaching, the answer is “NO.”  If taking AP and college concurrent courses means they can’t attend Wednesday night worship, work to sacrifice and save for a mission trip, or engage in missions in their community, then the AP and college concurrent courses won’t make the cut in our house.  Average will be just fine.

When I stand, when they stand, before Christ at the judgement seat and are asked, “Did you love me?  Did you really love me?” I want to, I want them to, be able to say, “Yes, Lord I loved you above all else.  I loved you so much your loved spilled over into others and they too learned to love you.”

More than ever I am convinced it is OK for me to accept average.  I challenge you to accept average.  What are you and/or your children missing out on as you chase after excellence/success as defined by the world?  Will it matter when you die?  Does it honor God?  Is it a means of loving Him, worshiping Him?  If not, could you give it up and refocus those monies, time and energy on Him?

Average-it’s perfectly acceptable.

Don’t Do a Thing-Just Be Thankful

“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.”  Ann Voskamp, “One Thousand Gifts”.  I read those words back in November.  At the time I found those words thought provoking, but it wasn’t until today I began to grasp them.  As I have continued in my journey to intently search for lessons on PEACE and incorporate specific new behaviors/actions this year, I continue to read His word from new perspective, making myself open to conviction, wisdom, encouragement.  I have felt compelled to be more grateful, yet too often it is a rote list of items/things.  Today, as I sat reading a passage in Ephesians 5 (verses 1-14) I was struck by the directive regarding what should take the place of our sinful nature or sin behaviors-those listed being sexual immorality, coarse joking, foolish talk …  “but rather thanksgiving.”  For a moment I thought, “But how can simply being thankful, be the answer?”  My mind went immediately to words read in “One Thousand Gifts” and I pulled back out my notes and began to thumb through the highlighted pages.  The sentence above with the scripture I had just read began to do a work in my heart and mind.   Being thankful alters our mindset.  When our mind is altered we behave differently, we speak differently.  As our mind changes, we are compelled to act.  When I am grateful for my family, I mean really grateful-not the “Thank you God for my family,” kind of grateful, but sincere, deeply felt gratitude for my family compels me to want to do things for them.  Cleaning the house becomes an act of service, of LOVE, not a chore or obligation.  When I am really thankful for the support of a true friend I want to tell them, again I am compelled to act with love.  Why haven’t I really gotten this before?  Does it matter?  Need I dwell there?  No.  I need to rid my mind of the foolish talk (that is so my issue-negative self-talk).  I need to be thankful.  It is going to take some practice, but the spirit filled life is just that-a life of discipline.

I wrote a list identifying what Thankfulness does:

1.  Builds trust/faith

2.  Forces us to reign in the clutter/chaos/negative mind chatter and move forward believing God is who He says He is and that His promises are true

3.  Replaces other thoughts-when I seek to be grateful the other thoughts are pushed out.

4.  Prompts me to do good, speak good, think good.

All of the above move me to a life of PEACE.  More importantly, the entire lesson today reminds me that God is much more interested in my “being” than in my “doing”.  Hard lesson for a Type A person with innate desires to make a list and check it twice.

 

Still No Resolutions, Still No Goals, But a Plan Coming Together

I haven’t quite yet gotten back in the groove of posting to the blog.  In days past, I would chastise myself and create additional stress.  It has been tempting to go down that road again.  After all, I’m still that same girl-the one who likes to have a plan, get things done, see organization and order around me.  I love a check list and checking it off!  But…  I have continued resting my mind on the word God whispered to me:  PEACE.

Peace, it is truly elusive, so easily stolen from us as life marches on bringing with it new demands, new disappointments, new seasons.  I have held strong to praying daily for PEACE and opening myself up to His direction. Late last week it dawned upon me to identify those moments in the day when I sense a lack of peace.  As you might expect, a pattern emerged.  That bewitching dinner hour.  The time between late afternoon and dinner. Surely I am not alone.  I can have conquered mountains, but in those few hours the weight of the world seems to fall upon my shoulders.  The husband comes home with his day’s worth of baggage, the kids need help with homework, the taxi service begins, dogs need fed and/or walked, the household chores for the day await, and then there is that thing called dinner.  No matter how well planned my day, week, even month, this time of day seems to be truly bewitched.  My stress level rises, and the more I am asked to do, the more my mind seems to race to all those tasks I have failed to do, did half way or simply had hoped to do.  Before I know it I feel drained and defeated.  And sadly, too often that feeling stays right with me through bedtime.  I have determined I need to focus on this area more than any other area.  This time, this “area” of my day is my peace thief.  So, as I approach my little mini retreat on January 31st (see previous posts about my Sabbath practice holding the 31st sacred each time it rolls around) I have begun to look for things I can change, let go over or begin to change the end of my day.

First and foremost, I have determined to end my day reading a devotional in bed and writing down blessing of the day.  I am thrilled to be using “One Thousand Gifts:  Devotional” by Ann Voskamp.  She is one of my new favorite authors.  Her writing is classical, almost musical.  Her thoughts are deep, they are real and they are sometimes even raw.  I wish I could say I had stuck to the plan, but frankly, I’ve let a few nights go by. Honestly, I’ve crawled into bed and fallen asleep.  But thoughts of defeat I will not let enter.  I will not quit.  I will miss a day or two, get over it and carry on.

Second, I have made a few changes in some household routines.  After reading several other blogs on parenting and motherhood I realized I too often do for my girls, instead of teaching them to do for themselves. Culprit number one:  laundry.  I have taught them how to sort.  I have shown them how to do, but rarely have they had to.  Not to mention, the only consequence for not bringing laundry down and sorting has been mom spending all Saturday catching up.  Now, I realize I should be smarter than this, but sometimes the duties of motherhood seem to sap me of any cognitive abilities.  Well, not now.  No.  There is a new plan in place. Mom does one load of laundry every morning (for me this happens about 5:30 a.m. before my quiet time).  If you fail to bring clothes down and sort them so they make it into one of these laundry loads, you get to do your laundry all by your lonesome Saturday morning.

There’s no Third.  Not yet.  This journey to PEACE isn’t going to happen overnight.  I am pondering and waiting.  I’m not looking for a grand list of goals or legalistic list of rules.  I’m just looking for God to show me where and when I fail to trust in Him.  I’m asking Him to show me my weaknesses and help me work to become stronger in those areas.  PEACE is not perfection.  PEACE is knowing I have done what He has called me to do, He has prepared for me to do.  It is knowing when enough is enough.  It is knowing that my efforts can never match His efforts.  It is knowing when to say “well done” and rest in His grace.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  … Be holy, because I am holy.”  I. Peter 1:13,15 NIV

No Goals, No Resolutions. Just a Theme. New Year, New Ideas, New Perspective.

I used to set New Year’s Resolutions and write out pages of goals.  Like many, I wound up stressed, feeling like a failure, repeatedly changing/modifying or updating my lists.  Not fun.  Not productive.  

Two years ago I was sharing with a friend and mentor that I felt God had given me a repeated message, summed up in two words.  I didn’t know what to do with them, they made no sense for that time in my life (at least not earthly sense) and I was finding myself discouraged.  She challenged me to consider the idea that God was speaking a “theme” into my life.  One He wanted me to heed, delve into.  One He wanted me to make the focus of my prayers, studies and thoughts.  Those first two words were “Come Home”.  I had gone back to work full-time after 11 years at home with my twin girls.  It seemed a necessity.  If you recall, we had a little financial crisis in our country-one that impacted my husband appraisal business, our investments and our joint home building business.  We had scaled back, were faced with some difficult decisions about financial support of some extended family, and in many ways jolted into a new reality. We had once been able to give generously to our church, ministries, friends and family.  His telling me to “Come Home” made no sense.  While we had made the financial changes we could, some that should have been made years earlier, we were by no means in a great place financially.  Nor did it look like there was going to be any great turnaround in our country’s economy. Yet, the more I prayed, the louder the words.  The more often something hit at those words.  The more I prayed, the more frustrated and unhappy my family became.  We were all scurrying around and behaving like little grumps!  Thankfully I am married to a man of faith.  After spending time in prayer himself and hearing me out, he knew to bless my decision.  We’ve learned the hard way not to mess with God’s guidance.  So, home I came.  No more working outside the home full-time for someone else.  I got my real estate license and began researching professional organizing.  

The next year, I felt strongly God saying, “Provision not Position or Prosperity”.  This time I heeded quickly.  At first I thought God was challenging me to have a little more faith.  To trust He would provide.   Didn’t sound too hard.  That was part of it, but certainly not the crux of it.  As I prayed over those words, found myself stumbling upon scripture hitting on that theme, I realized God was asking me to let go of what I thought had to be, what I thought I needed.  He was asking me to let go of my need to achieve, to do, and focus on being.  A huge part of the process was also developing a heart of gratitude.  The journey wasn’t easy.  Next to my six year battle with infertility, this past year was probably one of the most difficult spiritually.  I took almost a full year to go through Beth Moore’s “Breaking Free” study (lots of rabbits to chase as the digging in led me to other books, conversations and scripture), coming to grips with things holding me captive, keeping me from a full life in Christ.  It has been a freeing year, but I have felt bruised and battered at times.  I found comfort and words of encouragement as well as instruction and wisdom in blogs and/or books recommended by women of faith I follow on social networks.  Thus, the birth of this blog.  I saw a level of community, a way to develop my love of writing and most importantly a place to hold myself accountable.  

I share all of the above with you to say this:  I no longer set lofty goals or resolutions.  Instead, as the year comes to a close (about October) I begin earnestly praying for God to give me a word and a verse-a theme for the year.  I am open to the idea He might not change the word(s) because He might not be done with that area of my life yet.  I pray.  I wait.  I listen.  I watch.  I write (journal).  The words, the theme, become my guiding principle for the year.  As I make decisions about what to do, where to go, changes to make, I look at them through the lens of these words.  If there is a connection then it makes the list, it gets to stay.  If not, I put aside, knowing that if it is meant to be God will provide the way when the timing is right, when I am really ready.  

This year the given word is PEACE.  The scripture:  “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.”  Isaiah 26:3.  While my mind initially went to ideas of quiet days at home, no children fighting, a less than full schedule, time to curl up and read, that’s not what God had in mind when He gave me the word PEACE.  The verse speaks volumes to where He is leading me.  He desires I have peace of mind.  I struggle with that one.  It was an issue I had to face last year as I studied, learned to accept His provision and trust Him for future provision.  I am a worrier.  Yes, I am well aware that is a sin.  If I could quit cold turkey I would have years ago.  I am not going to say I can’t, because I know I can.  It hasn’t happened yet because quite honestly I haven’t been ready to really let go.  I believe this year He will do a BIG work in me.  So, I enter the new year claiming His word to me.  I claim the scripture.  I will spend the next few weeks listening for His guidance as I pray over what activities to continue, new opportunities, what bible study to engage in etc…  Here are a few things I will focus on this next year as I seek PEACE by keeping my mind on Him and developing FAITH that truly trusts, trusts enough to let go:

1.  Read through the Bible.  I have failed at this many times.  This time though it is not a task or just something I want to do.  He has called me to keep my mind on Him.  I have a morning quiet time each day, but I feel compelled to spend it this year in His word and His word alone.  No devotional, just His word.  I have combined this with my desire to give each of my daughter’s a bible read by me, with notes and comments made by me for them.  This year I am using a bible my daughters bought for my grandmother a year before she passed away.  I will give it to one of my girls next Christmas.  The following year I will use a bible my mother-in-law left me before her death.  I will once again read through the bible, this time thinking of my other daughter.  I will give it to her Christmas 2015.  

2.  Advocare 24 Day Challenge followed by healthier eating and 5 days of exercise per week.  I have come to grips with the fact my body, at age 46, does not behave as it used to.  My mind is WAY TOO engaged in thinking about my body-how tired I am, the hot flashes, the pants that are too tight or don’t look flattering…  I need to kick start my system and work towards a healthier me so I am not thinking about my body so much.  It has been said we spend most of our thinking energy on those things we have not done, robbing ourselves of the energy and thought to carry out the things we want to do.  

There are some other things swirling in my mind, but I haven’t quite yet been able to get them articulated.  On January 31 I will do as I always do.  I will have my 31st Retreat.  I have blocked off the day, keeping it open for planning and reflection.  (see previous post about how I practice this throughout the year on the 31st)  I usually make the January 31st Retreat a big deal.  In fact, I will probably be in a hotel (in my city) alone with my journal, family planner, calendar, bible and a couple of my favorite devotional books.  I’ll have paper, highlighters etc…  This year, not only will I be finalizing plans, but I’ll be celebrating the end of the Advocare 24 day Challenge and hopefully will have a new sense of well-being and be able to get one thing off my mind!  I might even have to indulge in a little sliver of chocolate cake to celebrate!