It’s Hard to be Consistent

Consistency is my word for the year.  Let me tell you.  We are only in February and wow, is it hard!  As I was praying and thinking through my word for the year, I knew that one of my personal issues was “knowing what to do, but not doing it.”  I hope you can relate. Surely I am not alone in this.  Scripture even speaks to this issue.

I had a number of goals I had not met.  As I thought through the “why” I realized two things:  First, some goals could not be achieved in a year.  They were long term goals which would require long term effort.  Secondly, instead of abandoning goals, or setting the same ones over and over, I dug deep to determine some steps I could take to make more progress.  In effect, I needed to determine ways I could be more consistent.

Self-discipline is key to achieving goals.  But so is accountability!  I was lacking accountability in some areas.  My health being one such area.  You would think that as a mom spending a majority of my time at home homeschooling, and the other managing a part-time organizing business, I would have plenty of time to eat correctly and exercise. NOT!  Very little of our home management is delegated, primarily because I am home 50% of the time and not bringing in income to justify delegating.  So, I clean my own home, we send out very little laundry/dry cleaning, we eat at home on average 5 nights a week, we care for our pool, we do our own yard…  The list goes on.  Add those tasks to homeschooling, shopping for supplies, working part-time organizing other people’s spaces and my time is gone.

I am approaching 50.  I have upper neck issues and some autoimmune health concerns. Those are not the types of things that get better.  My metabolism isn’t going to jump start itself as I age and continue through hormone changes etc…  I had a gym membership.  I was walking and doing some weight machines, but seeing little results.  I decided what I needed was some training and accountability.  I was needing at least an hour in the gym to come close to even burning the number of calories I wanted.  I knew that with my flexible schedule, relying on classes at the gym would most likely not work.  So….  I bit the bullet.  I took the plunge and signed up for personal training one time per week.  I am not going to lie.  I felt guilty.  I cringed over the thought of spending the money.  I cringed over the idea of someone knowing how out of shape I was.  I pushed past all of that.  Everyone else in my family has a  sport, an event.  We invest in that-gladly.  It was time for me as mom to invest in me.  Not in a selfish way, but in an “improve myself so I could be the very best version of myself” kind of way.  I have only had two sessions, but already I can see change.  Already I have lost 4 pounds (when you are 49 and menopausal 4 pounds is like 15 in your twenties!).  Why is it working?  Accountability.  I want to “please” my trainer.  I don’t want this twenty something, fit young man to think I can’t do it.  While the accountability is great, and really is a driving force, I am also learning.  His expertise is able to show me ways to challenge my muscles and increase my heart rate all in one single exercise.  He is helping me find ways to minimize impact to my neck.  He is showing me that in 30 minutes, doing the right things, I can get the same impact, if not greater impact, than my old way of an hour to hour and half at the gym.  I can find 30 minutes!

Consistency is hard.  If you are struggling to be consistent here are my recommendations:

  1. Step back and pick one goal as the most important goal for this month.  Focus.
  2. Dig deep.  Get honest with yourself.  What is keeping you from being consistent.
  3. Adjust your action steps based upon your answers to number 2.
  4. Set up an accountability system-whether it is a personal trainer, business coach, life coach, accountability meeting with a friend, establishing a Facebook group etc…
  5. Learn.  Find books/blogs/websites that relate to your goal.  Read.  Take notes.  Identify one to three things per week you can do/add to your weekly regiment.
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Follow Up to Editing

In follow up to my post today about editing as a means of moving towards more consistency in certain areas of my life, I wanted to share the post from Arabah.  I love her writings and this post, in particular, spoke to my heart as I move towards consistency, wrap up a study in James and obedience and edit!  May it encourage you as much as it encouraged me.

http://arabahjoy.com/promises/

Edit-The Path to Consistency

2016 is about consistency.  Purposing to be “unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time.”  It is a struggle.  I so often know the things to do, yet do not do them. Sometimes though I am not sure how to be more consistent-the path seems foreign. Sometimes I just feel stuck.  I keep doing the same things, and on some level they are working, yet the outcomes seem stagnant.  I want 2016 to be about more than just trying to be consistent, I want to uncover the ways to consistency.

This week as I have given thought to this, prayed fervently for direction, and delved into some reading.  At the same time, I found myself struggling to make some decisions I knew I needed to make.  They weren’t life changing decisions.  They weren’t moral decisions.  They were just those kind of decisions that come as the result of some gentle whispers, nudging.  As I thought about each of the decisions I was avoiding, I realized each had to do with editing.

edit:  to correct, revise and get ready for

I talk a lot about editing when I work with organizing clients.  Editing is an important part of organization.  Being organized is about being able to manage what you have AND enjoy it.  To be consistent in what I do, who I am, is about editing.  The less I have to manage, in terms of things, the more time I have to focus on developing good habits and developing character.  To have the time to make improvements in areas often means I need to focus more of my time on that area.  This again, requires editing.  I have to look intently at where I spend my time.

I want to be more consistent in my prayer life, in homeschooling, in caring for my health and using time to be creative. This week I spent time really looking at what I could edit.  I made the decision to edit several things.

  1. Purge photographs.  I long to have photo albums up to date and perfect Project Life albums created for my girls.  Yet each time I consider setting aside time to work on photographs I procrastinate, dreading trying to figure out where to start, where to find the right pictures.  This week I approached instead by focusing on editing-getting rid of pictures that were duplicates, didn’t really tell a story in and of themselves, or just flat didn’t speak to me.  As I did this I also made piles by date. Wouldn’t you know it in no time flat I had discarded 1/3 of the pictures, sent duplicate family pictures to my sister-in-law, and had three envelopes of pictures by date.
  2. Partnered with my girls to clean out the media room, packing up all the children’s books they wanted to keep for storage in the attic, getting rid of DVD we really won’t ever watch again, and editing the gift wrap station.
  3. Announced a reprieve from Facebook.  I too often get “sucked” into the abyss of mindlessly scrolling through news feeds, getting emotionally worked up over religious or political statements or self promotion, and/or “wishing” my life was more like…  I felt strongly convicted that for me, this moment in time, I needed to step back from Facebook and focus on creativity, face to face time with family and friends and studies.
  4. Revised my work schedule to protect more time for homeschooling and studies.

Editing is going to be key to becoming more consistent.  What might you need to edit so that you can move forward with a goal, or project, or decision?

Schedules, Daily Habits & White Space

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.

Consistent

This year my word is consistent.  In the past my word for the year has been more about a quality I want to have or a skill I want to improve.  However, this year, after a roller coaster of a ride these past three years, I felt prayerfully led to be consistent.  Like Paul, I so often know what to do, and yet I fail to do it.  I desire to serve God with my whole being-body, spirit and mind.   Yet so often these past three years I have let fear or doubt sink into the depths of my mind, keeping me from God’s best.

It is scary approaching 50.  Not only that, but as I approach 50 my twin girls turn 18 and leave the next for college.  I find myself longing to have something to take the place of 18 years at home, giving full-time to manage our home and raise our daughters.  In the midst of thinking toward the future I can fall into the trap of second guessing, wondering if I have been enough, and doubting there is a place for me.  I am learning though, learning that Satan knows just how to sidetrack me.  I am learning how to overcome the doubt, stop the negative talk before it settles deep into my mind.  I am growing.

I am grateful for the lessons of these past few years.  I can’t say I have any clearer sense of what lies ahead, but this I know.  The more consistent I am to fill my mind with God’s word, to establish habits that bring me greater health and physical strength, the more able I am to see the appointments God has placed before me right now.  I am also reminded as I stop along the path each day to sit in His presence, He desires nothing more from than I finish this stay-at-home mom thing strong!  I am so thankful for friends who speak truth into my life.  I am so thankful for the habit or morning quiet time with God that sets my heart, mind and spirit straight for the day.  This year, the task at hand is to keep my heart, mind and spirit straight-to be consistent:  unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time; compatible or in agreement with something (God!)

Do You Need to Go Off the Grid?

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Blogs, Snapchat, Internet scrolling etc…  The digital age is indeed a blessing.  We have information readily available.  We have immediate access to current events and up to date information of family and friends afar.  Creative inspiration is at our fingertips.  However, with every blessing can come pitfalls.  Those very digital sites holding information and hope, can capture our attentions for far too long.  We can move in a matter of seconds from seeking creative inspiration to spiraling into a depression feeling inadequate, less fortunate etc…   As easily as we can access others and their information, we too can be accessed, often leading to increased obligations, some not really meant to be, yet in that digital nano second we say “yes”.

The week before Thanksgiving found me in a state of mess.  Fortunately I live by my own mantra – keep lots of white space.  As a result emergencies or unexpected events don’t cause as much havoc in my life as they used to – when I lived full throttle, filling every moment of every day.  The white space in my life and on my calendar affords me room to deal with the unexpected.  However, sometimes life throws us more curve balls than we could ever imagine.  Not only that, but sometimes the things we are involved with present to us all sorts of appealing opportunities.  I was in the midst of both – the unexpected and the allure of many good things.

I have found the longer I practice Sabbath living, a more simplified lifestyle, the more my spirit and body react to the “mess”.  The tension mounts in my neck.   My eating habits change and my stomach doesn’t act the same.  I lose focus.  What can be my best traits begin to compound and become my worse traits.

Have you been there?  Are you there now?  Do you feel yourself slipping into the abyss?  Don’t let it go any farther.  I have found the best solution, really the only solution is for me to unplug, go off the grid.  I don’t quit taking care of business, but I give myself permission to quit answering email, stay off social network sites, limit phone calls.  I change my voice message on my phone, I set up a vacation notice on my email…  That is what I did the week of Thanksgiving.  It was fabulous.  Not only that, but the world did not come to an end.  No one called me angry.  No one called claiming an emergency.  It was o.k.

Don'tNeedPlan

The week afforded me the opportunity to breathe, to let go, to focus.  I still had a lot to do, but I was able to get back to that which mattered most, my “best yes” tasks (as Lysa Terkeurst would say).  I was able to pull back from a difficult situation and in prayer and reflection see it for what it was.  A set-back, not a disaster.  A matter out of my control and not my responsibility.  I was able to fill some of the white space with the tasks that bring me energy, fill my spirit:  coffee with my girls, brunch with my best friend, a good book by the fire, decorating and setting the Thanksgiving table, and baking.  When I engage in those things that bring me joy, nurture my spirit I find I can more easily recognize my “best yes” tasks.  I can more readily see the good in life.  I hear the still small voice of my Savior telling me, “this is the way.”

Sometimes the plan is there.  The plan isn’t wrong, we have just lost site of the plan.  Stepping back, going off the grid creates the quiet in which we can think, be reminded, enjoy.

 

Friday Success

Friday really is key to any success I experience week to week.  I used to plan on Sunday evenings.  However, I often found myself forgetting things over the weekend, my family resisted “meeting” on a Sunday evening, I would be tired etc…  Then I read an article suggesting using Friday afternoons for planning.  When I worked full-time outside the home, Friday afternoon was perfect.  However, now that I am self-employed and work from my home, I find Friday mornings to be far more effective.

Why Friday planning?  Planning the following week on Friday helps me release all the little “reminders” running through my brain.  I get them written down on my master to do list or on the weekly page.  Second, anything critical I have failed to take care of can be handled Friday mid-morning or afternoon.

Am I always able to Friday plan?  No.  There are occasions when I am forced to schedule a client, have a meeting or a family event arises.  When that happens I try to leave some time on Saturday morning to do what I would normally do on a Friday morning.  Truth be told though, more often than not I can keep 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. or so open for planning.

What Does Friday planning entail?

  1. Go through email making certain I have written down tasks, printed or saved any attachments/documents I need, filed correspondence I need to keep in an email folder, place critical communications requiring action the following week in my @ToDo email folder, and delete everything else possible.
  2. Process any papers that have stacked up in the Miscellaneous file box.  Yes, even an organizer stacks papers.  Processing these papers is very similar to the process for email.  Anything requiring action the following week is hole punched and placed in my PlannerPad organizer.
  3. Sit down with iphone calendar and PlannerPad monthly calendar to “sync”.  I do not typically carry my planner with me everywhere (although it is usually in the car).  I use my iphone calendar for scheduling monthly events/appointments.  However, since I am a paper person, a visual person, and driven by lists, I transfer information to my paper planner.
  4. Review the monthly calendar and transfer meeting/appointment times to the appropriate weekly pages and add to the weekly lists specific tasks that are necessary to complete for that meeting/appointment.  For example:  If I have a board meeting coming up I note the board meeting on the appropriate week.  I then back track to the previous week or week and half and note tasks like: send out meeting reminder, draft agenda, make copies of documents…
  5. Every other week I also go over my master to do list marking off any items completed and making certain I have not let go forgotten.

While this may all sound a bit overwhelming to you, I challenge you to try.  I promise about three weeks into it you will find yourself staying on top of tasks, minimizing the amount of paper stacked, etc…

Friday planning sets me up for success Monday morning.  Sunday  I can relax, rest, practice Sabbath.  Sunday evening I can glance at my weekly pages and know that my plan of action is in place.  Come Monday morning I can jump straight into work.

 

 

Stepping Away

I have stepped away from the blog for a bit.  In fact, I have stepped away from several things for a bit.  Stepping away is often necessary.  I’ll write more about that next week.  For now, I wanted to share a post by a friend I met through Holly Gerth’s site. Valerie Sisco has a heart for God and home.  I love following her blog and love when we have opportunity to share through comments.  Her post this past week spoke volumes into my heart as I was in a period of stepping back so I could step forward.

http://www.gracewithsilk.com/2015/10/when-doing-next-thing-is-way-forward.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=gracewithsilk

When Google Maps Steers You Wrong

A couple of weeks ago one of my daughters and niece and I were traveling to a church in another city nearby for a ministry project.  As we set out, I secured the address off the registration page and entered it into Google Maps.  However, I was 90% certain I knew exactly where this particular church was, having driven by it numerous times on a major through street.  With navigation set, off we went.  It was a short drive, only 30 miles or so.  As we got off the interstate and began our way towards the church the navigation guidance kicked in.  With each turn we took I kept telling the girls, ” I really don’t think this is the right way.  I swear we should have just stayed on the major through street and it would have been off to our right.” The girls quickly responded with, ” Well, then just turn around.  You are probably right.”  I did not heed their instruction, nor the quiet voice in my head.  We kept driving and sure enough wound up at a dead end, no church in sight.  The voice of the navigation system, louder than the voice in my head, had won.  I had continued on a course I knew was wrong, doubting myself, the quiet voice in my head.

maps

We arrived at our destination, meeting up with a friend and her friend.  I began telling them of our little “adventure”.  The friend’s friend had also been on her own little “adventure”.  She had chosen to follow our mutual friend who drives a white Jeep.  She had stayed right behind her.  Upon nearing the destination she had taken her eyes off our friend’s car for just a moment, but long enough for another white Jeep to come into sight.  She too felt fairly certain she knew where the church was, but began following this other white Jeep.  With each turn she realized she was nearing the local university and not the church.  Yet, like me she continued on the faulty path.

As we shared stories and laughed about our foolishness I couldn’t help but think of spiritual lessons.  So often we fail to heed God’s still small voice, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Instead we allow the loud voices of the world to grab our attention and mislead us, all the while knowing it’s just not right.  We also lose sight of God.  So often we are on a course, a good course, His course, but get distracted by someone else’s course, or a bright shiny object that looks more appealing than the one set before us.  A moment of distraction can lead us down a whole other path in life.  We hear God, our conscience sets in and alerts us, but we lose confidence.  We let doubt set in and can often kick off a snowball of emotions and mistakes.

On the way home the girls and I talked about our little “driving adventure”.  The girls asked why I had kept following the navigation when I knew it was wrong.  Tough question, but one that needed to be answered in this teachable moment for us all.

I had to admit to the girls that I had let doubt set in, and when the doubt set in everything I thought I knew came into question.  We talked about how that happens to us in life.  We read His word, we attend church to learn of His precepts, and then we enter the world and something else grabs our attention or someone else’s voice is louder than His.  We doubt and in those moments of doubt we begin to question everything we know of God.  That’s a dangerous place to be.  Our adventure ended fine, no harm.  Just a little late.  However, in life, those doubts can lead us down paths that alter our course for life or bring about hurt that is hard to overcome.

I am so thankful I serve a God who longs to show me His ways, the path I should take.  Psalm 33:11 tells us “the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purpose of his heart through all generations.”  I can’t thwart God’s plans.  I can chose to follow them, get off course and return, or ignore them.  I will either be a part of His plans or lose the opportunity.  Through free will He grants me choice.  Life is so much better lived carrying out His plans, being a part of the blessing.  I am so glad I serve a God of grace, who continually calls me to Himself, even when I get off course.  He welcomes me back to His path when I repent and seek again to follow His ways.  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21.

His purposes prevailed that day.  We served Him packing food for third world countries.  We worshiped Him in song and fellowship with friends.  We learned and we grew as a result of those moments of doubt and our quick response to repent and get back on track.  Nothing lost.  Nothing wasted.

“Make plans by seeking advice.” Proverbs 20:18.  Just remember that the advice of this world and Google maps can be wrong.  You have access to the Shepherd.  He will lead you in the path of righteousness.  He’s always there to get you back on course.  Seek Him.  Seek Him first.  Trust in His still small voice.

No Such Thing as Balance

We all long for balance.  The problem is there is no such thing as balance.  Life is not perfect.  We are not perfect.  Others around us are not perfect.  Harsh words for a recovering perfectionist.  Harsh reality for all of us finding ourselves battling the striving versus the being.

There is no such thing as balance.  Our days will be too full.  The unexpected will happen.  Something or everything will take too long.  As we seek to live a more organized life, to live our priorities in a meaningful way, we need to remember that balance will never be achieved.  The scales will always be tipped just a little one way or the other, AND that is o.k

scales

As long as the scales are gently rocking back and forth we can maintain, we can move forward, we can be confident we are living our priorities.  It is when the scales go crashing to one side or the other we need be concerned.  This week my business is taking more of my time, tipping the scales to one side.   However, I continue to protect our family dinner time, to honor the coming holy holiday, and limit the number of appointments next week.  When I can release the idea of balance, perfection, I can honor my family, friends, clients, home.  I can free myself from guilt as I meet the priorities of each given day or week, knowing next week there will be a shift in priorities.

It can be difficult to keep the scales gently rocking back and forth.  And there are those times, times of unexpected illness, loss, and even opportunity, that keep the scales tipped to one side longer than normal.  As long as there is a shifting back, as long as we remember the shift is necessary, that’s o.k.

My paper planner is key to helping me keep my eye on my priorities, keeping the scales from tipping too far to one side or the other.

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Across the top of my weekly pages I have a column for each of my priority areas.  My Home, Children, Business, Blog, Volunteer Commitments.  It is here I can track the weekly tasks.  Not only does this allow me to capture all the things I need to get done, it allows me to see where the bulk of my tasks are.  If week after week my business or volunteer activities require the bulk of my tasks, I can see the scales are tipped and I need to make some adjustments, focusing energy and tasks on family, myself, our home.  If I struggle to find a category in which to place the tasks, I know I need to assess my activities, determine if it is time to change priorities, let something go in order to embrace a new opportunity, new season. When a week seems overwhelming I can look to the next and make adjustments, focusing attention on another area/category.

There is no such thing as balance.  There is a gentle ebb and flow.  Once I embrace the ebb and flow, remembering the goal is to keep the scales gently tilting back and forth, I can release myself from the grip of perfection, the striving to do it all, and live more fully.  I can trust that while this week may be more about work, next week can be more about family, friends, caring for a loved one.  I can live a more beautiful life of purpose.