I Can(t) Do It All.

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Today, I rise with the sun. Greet the morning, pour the coffee, wrestle tiny protesting bodies into fresh socks and thick, wooly sweaters. Brush teeth, comb hair. Revel in a luxurious shower. Put on makeup. Provide a nutritious breakfast AND leave the kitchen gleaming afterwards. Today, I can do it all.

Mounds of laundry, stacks of dishes, today you are no challenge at all for me! A frenzy of vigorous activity and before I know it, you are folded, shining, and put away in drawers and cupboards. My children--see them smiling over there on my impossibly white living room couch?--They have been quiet and well behaved all morning, reading books they have no desire to tear into tiny pieces and playing with their toys that do not end up scattered all over the house. The dolls are with the dolls and the blocks are with the blocks and I’m tearing through work I need to accomplish on my computer, checking item after item off my to-do list. Because today, I can do it all.

What’s this? An email from a client, asking if I’ve met my promised deadline? Why yes, I accomplished that way ahead of schedule. Last week, in fact. And here’s a message from a friend. Lunch soon?  “Why not come here now?” I say. My house is immaculate and I have nothing at all I’m supposed to be doing, because everything is already done. Today, I can do it all.

My husband comes home to a veritable feast I’ve prepared, photographed, and posted to Instagram. The meal is not at all difficult to prepare with the help of my darling preschool children, none of whom drop an egg shell into the batter or argue over who gets to stand on the blue chair or stir the wooden spoon. Afterwards, there is no flour settling like dust in a thick layer over the floor and I do not have to pick any of their hair out of the meatloaf. My husband and I have such a wonderful conversation during our meal and nobody at all interrupts us because our children are too busy saying please and thank you and chewing with their mouths closed, like I’ve taught them to do. Oh, how we laugh as we enjoy their company and then tuck them all peacefully into their beds, a process which they never fight because they love getting into their pajamas and going to sleep every night. After the kids are asleep, which happens instantly, my husband and I relax in our hot tub with a bottle of wine and spend quality time together, neither of us staring into our separate glowing rectangles thoroughly ignoring each other. Nope, it’s quality bonding time followed by going to sleep at a respectable hour. Because today, I can do it all.

What’s that sound? BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Oh drat. My alarm. Looks like it’s morning for real and as usual I’ve overslept. My children are screaming and hitting each other in the head with the toys that have been blanketing the living room for three weeks straight, I can’t remember the last time I showered, and I’m starting to suspect a raccoon may have constructed a permanent home in our laundry pile in the basement. It’ll be cereal for breakfast this morning and probably pizza delivery for dinner. My inbox is overflowing, I’m way behind in my work, and I doubt I’ll see my husband at all tonight because he’s way behind in his too. I pull my pillow over my face and wish I could return to sleep. Today, I just can’t do it. Not at all.

Turns out, my life is nothing like the life people appear to live on Pinterest or in magazines. My house is rarely clean, my children are messy, squirrelly, argumentative, feisty little human beings. I’m not the most patient parent, or the most loving wife, or the most reliable, dependable worker bee. I can’t do it all. Not at all.

When I can’t do it, when I wake up and want to put the pillow back over my head, ignoring my responsibilities with a “nope, nope, nope,” it isn’t me who gets me through the day. It isn’t me who picks me up and reminds me I have an incredible gift and purpose as a wife, mother, friend, and worker. It isn’t me who has beautifully and wonderfully created me and equipped me with the gifts and talents I need to do the work He has assigned me to do.

God works on my heart daily teaching me to be content with my messy house and chaotic life. He listens to my apologies and wipes my tears, reassuring me I’m forgiven when I’ve screwed up as a wife or mother for the thousandth time. He encourages me to keep going, to renew my focus on Him, to find the greater purpose he’s given me buried beneath the piles of dishes and laundry.

Nope. I can’t do it all. But:

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.

Thanks, God, for never abandoning me! You’re there on my best days, and you’re there on my worst. Thank you for giving me the strength to “be content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12). My purpose isn’t simply laundry or dishes, Lord. Nor is my goal in life to have the most pinterest-worthy existence. Instead, you have asked me to make disciples of all nations, and part of that commission means teaching my family through example and your Word to know and love you. Help me to do this with a cheerful heart Lord, trusting in your guidance. Amen. 

 

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Eight Practical Strategies - Finding Motivation in the Home, Part 3

Last week we discussed Six Mental Strategies for Finding Motivation in the Home. If you're anything like me, you may feel motivated, yet find it difficult to get started on certain tasks around your home. This week we are sharing eight practical strategies designed to help you translate your newfound motivation into action. This is not meant to be a step-by-step guide but rather a compilation of a lot of different people’s ideas and methods. Some of these things work for me. Some of them don’t work for me at all, yet they work well for someone I know. If one of these tips sounds like it would work for you, give it a try!

 

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Use a Timer

If you’re surrounded by disorder and finding it difficult to get up off the couch, try setting a timer to kick-start motivation. Start with just 5 minutes. Tell yourself, “I’m not going to complete this entire task. I’m simply going to do as much as I can as fast as I can for five minutes.” Then start the timer and get moving. When your five minutes are up, stop and do something else if you would like. Chances are the progress you will have made on the project will be enough to keep you moving for another five minutes...and another five after that. ;)

Timers are also a great way to alleviate guilt surrounding huge projects that never seem to end. Keep track of the time you spend on these projects and at the end of the day you can say “No, I didn’t finish this task, but I spent two productive hours on it and I’ve got the timer to prove it.”

 

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Make a to-DAY List

I know that whenever I sit down and write a list of everything that I need to accomplish both now and in the future, I can fill an entire page. Instead of motivating me, this page of unfinished projects typically overwhelms me to the point of apathy.

If you feel the same way about to-do lists, consider making a to-DAY list instead. Ignore the projects that don’t need to be completed for awhile and consider only what you hope to tackle TODAY. Write down the projects you feel you can realistically achieve in one day, and then add one extra project “just in case.” Add a few fun or easy tasks too. I like to add “make a to-do list” to all of my to-do lists. That way I can immediately cross something off when I complete my list! At the end of the day, if a few items are left on the “to-day” list, simply add them to your “to-morrow” list and try to tackle them first thing the next day.

 

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Start With Your Most Dreaded Task

“Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” -Mark Twain

Sometimes I wake up cranky because I have a particularly unpleasant task on my “to-day” list. Naturally, I put this task off for as long as possible because I just don’t feel like doing it; I do everything else first. Meanwhile, the unpleasant task doesn’t go away. It remains an inevitable conclusion no matter how many other tasks I do first. I spend my entire day feeling cranky and full of dread and reluctance, and then at the end of the day, I still have to complete the unpleasant task.

Don’t avoid the dreaded task. Do it first thing in the morning and the rest of your day will be easy in comparison.

 

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Take a “Before” Picture

Is your room a good candidate for an episode of “Hoarders” and you just don’t feel like cleaning it? Do you have mildew in the shower threatening to declare its independence and elect a President? Here’s a tip: Take a “before” picture. Better yet, take a before picture and immediately post it to Facebook, Instagram, or your blog and title it “Before.” Every “before” picture demands an “after” picture. You cannot leave a “before” picture hanging by itself! ;) Clean your room, vanquish your mildew, then post your “after” picture. Sigh with contentment at the visible progress you’ve made. Those pictures make it all look so easy, don’t they?

 

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Set Deadlines

Some household tasks come with built-in deadlines. Dinner has to be on the table by the time everyone wants to sit down for dinner, for instance, or everyone will get hungry and complain (particularly the 3-year-old. And ok, sometimes me too). Other tasks have no deadlines. They can be postponed indefinitely, in fact, and no one will get fired. While I want to look at this fact and postpone accordingly, my family tends to get cranky when the house is crumbling around them and nobody can find anything. This means that in order to get things done, I need to put on my big girl pants and set my own deadlines. So I commit to getting two loads of laundry done by lunchtime or putting my shopping list together by monday so i can go shopping tuesday morning.

This may sound archaic and very “50’s housewife” of me, but one convenient deadline for me is 5 p.m. when my husband gets home from work. I like to feel like my work day ends at 5 just like his does, even though I work at home. It helps to foster this illusion if I can finish the bulk of my tasks before he walks in the door. I also find it makes for a less hectic, more peaceful evening for all of us if he walks in the door to a clean living room and dinner on the table. It’s never fun to start our evening with a frantic “Ach! Help! Can you get the kids out of the kitchen so I can finish dinner? And take the dog out please. Here, take the baby. No, wait--STOP HITTING YOUR SISTER--I need you to get the kids to clean up this mess in the living room.” Crazy days certainly happen, but this particular personal deadline helps ease the 5 p.m. tension.

 

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Turn On the Music

This one speaks for itself. A little music can boost your mood and get you up and moving (and dancing!). Consider Christian music to fill your ears and your heart with praise as well.

Nothing like a renewed spirit and moving feet to help you take your home from “blah” to “Ta-da!”

 

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Use Rewards and Incentives

Sometimes I bribe and bargain with myself.

“Alright, self, after you finish this sink full of dishes, have a cookie!” (woo hoo! Thanks, self!)

“Do 20 minutes of exercise, self, and then you can enjoy 20 minutes of time on facebook.” (Sounds fair, self. I’ll get right on it).

“If you can remember to make your bed every day this week, self, you can treat yourself to an overpriced coffee shop mocha.” (SO making my bed every morning).

*slaps self’s hand away* “Nuh, uh, uh, self! No Battlestar Galactica marathon with your husband until you’ve finished the dinner dishes!” (ok, now you’re just getting on my nerves, self).

Some people say that accomplishing a task is its own reward. Others would rather the reward be made of chocolate. If you’re the latter type, try bribing yourself. It just might work.

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Compete Against Yourself (or Your Children)

“Let’s see who can get into their pajamas the fastest!”

I issue this challenge every night at bedtime. It sends my 3-year-old into a flurry of pajama donning while my 1-year-old does half her part by undressing and streaking around the house naked to show us how “fast” she is.  Both of them shout, “I’m gonna win! I’m gonna win!” I let them get about halfway into their pajamas and then I join in the fun, pulling on my own pajamas with lightening speed while shouting “no, I”M gonna win!” No matter who wins, we laugh and say “good job!” to the winner. In the meantime, we’ve accomplished getting dressed.

Light-hearted competition works for other tasks as well. See if you can break your laundry-folding record or race the clock to finish the dishes. How many thank-you notes can you write in an hour? Can you make five phone calls during nap time?

 

Are you ready to turn “thinking” into “doing” at home? Hopefully one of these tips has given you some ideas for how to turn intentions into actions. What tricks and strategies do you use to get things done at home? Do you have any tips to add?

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