My Plan To Stay Offline & On At Home

We have hung up the pictures, emptied the bins and boxes, washed the linens for baby #3's arrival next month and I'm starting to wake up feeling like our new house is our home. For the last month and a half our lives have consisted of little to no routine with packing and unpacking. My conscience has told me, "Oh big deal. It's summer! This is what it's all about." As much as I love spontaneity and adventure there is work to be done. Sorry, Peter Pan. During a time of change with kids, boundaries get tested and new ones need to be made, consistency needs to be in place as much as possible, naps and decent bed times are ideal to avoid melt downs... but our hopes don't always meet reality.

Sure the meals are made (eventually!) and we get sleep (at last!) but the necessary one-on-one time with my little ones has taken a back seat as mommy finishes up just one more thing from the to-do list. The best thing I have found is trying to get them involved in the work as much as possible. Do I need to wash the cupboards? I'll give them a bucket and a washcloth. Do I need to make dinner? I'll have my 5-year-old measure, grate the cheese, and set the table. Do I need to weed the garden? I let the kids play nearby outside or weed too. They like to be little helpers most of the time but its true that sometimes their "help" is really more work for us, right? If I have this mostly figured out, what's the problem? I have to be honest. It's not my kids.

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The to-do list gets longer throughout the day:

  • get batteries
  • reupholster dining chairs
  • wood glue for desk drawer
  • weed garden on South side
  • wash the siding
  • find charger for phone
  • contact internet service AGAIN
  • garden hose holder
  • get magic erasers

Besides the large amount of things to get done I have found that something else is plaguing my to-do lists. The rectangle glowing in front of you and I right now. The computer! The internet!

I am not addicted to cigarettes but let me tell you when I need a break or have an idea, the internet is my satisfying puff of smoke. I sit in front of the computer and scroll through the Facebook feed or our Amazon wish/need list, research product reviews on the baby changer to see if there are any toxic smells, compare car insurance quotes, look for recipes, get directions... all hoping these will make my life more convenient (which they ultimately could) but I have allowed my drifting on the internet to getting little done.

Then it happens - the whine! an item gets broke! the child gets hurt! I grit my teeth in frustration as my kids have distracted me from... my distraction... wait? Yes, I said that right. By this time, my 5 and 2-year-old are bickering or need something and I'm trying to look up just one more thing and nothing has even got done from my list yet!

I have said it before and some of these Hens could quote me, "Facebooking while parenting is like texting while driving!" Now replace Facebook with Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Craigslist shopping... you get the idea.

So what to do?

With our latest move my limits have been tested. I have come up with new boundaries for myself - not just the kids.

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Here's my plan: - Installing StayFocusd. It is an internet app for Google Chrome. It starts a timer when I am on a specific website and when my times up it blocks me from it. As their website says, "StayFocusd increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites." I really only need to be on Facebook and other social media 20 minutes (tops!) a day. No more perusing and reloading feeds to see if anything new has popped up since I looked last. Ain't nobody got time for that.

- Picking a time period to look on the computer during the day. One or two times. Not a bunch of little "quick" searches. I have chosen my time to be after the kids are sleeping in bed. I'm going to print a little sign on card stock and tape it to the top of the computer that says, "Stay off the computer." If the kids are sleeping I can flip the paper to the back of the computer - voila'! If you want one too you can print a 5x7 copy by clicking here.

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- Actually turning the computer off and not just putting it to "sleep". For some reason pushing the button and waiting for the computer to turn on seems that much bigger of an inconvenience than just slightly moving the computer mouse or hitting the space bar. It's the little things. :)

- Continue making lists throughout the day but keeping them in a high trafficked area like the kitchen counter. If any items need to be done on the computer they can be crossed off the list during my computer time only.

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I do not have a smart phone but I have heard that those are equally if not more tempting to be online throughout the day. If that is the case for you check out this new app called Moment that helps you "put down your phone and get back to your life."

Instead of endless opportunities online where I am momentarily entertained, I find that having a focused time online makes me more effective in getting items crossed off my to-do list. Woot! On top of that I have more quality time during the day with the children, quality time with my husband at night, and maybe even some time for myself to take a bath and let my swollen ankles during this last month of pregnancy chill out! Sitting with my feet under the computer desk won't help there.

Will you join me? How do you fight the internet taking a hold of your time at home? AmandaSignature

For more strategy ideas check out Amber's series "Finding Motivation in the Home".

When You Just Can't Take a Break

We recently received an email from one of our dear HHH readers. In it, she expressed a concern that’s been heavy on her heart and mind and wondered if we might be addressing the issue at some point in the future. I’d like to share part of her email below (with her permission, of course):

"After dinner or on the weekends, my husband often tells me ‘You need to relax’ or 'Just take a break’. But I know that once I 'stop', whether doing a chore or looking after our toddler, it is painfully difficult to 'start' again. Meaning, I'm tired, plain and simple. My go-go-go activity is my coping method and is often what keeps me upright during the day. If I take a breather, I begin to wallow in self pity about my weariness. How do you ladies find the middle ground between doing too much and feeling overstretched versus giving in to the fatigue and feeling checked out?”

Oh, dear reader. Your quandary is all too familiar for me. I’ve always had somewhat of a “Type A” personality – I like to call it driven. However, there are times when this overwhelming part of my make-up hinges on anxious, maybe even obsessive. My husband might say neurotic. I go-go-go, all day long, never stopping to take a breather, a minute to relax, or even say a prayer for strength to continue making it through the day. It’s not so much a matter of not wanting to sit down, but I know that if I do, it’ll be torture to get back up again. A few weeks ago, our Friday writer, Amber, wrote a three-part post on “Staying Motivated in the Home” which focused on strategies that may help if you find yourself lacking the drive to start projects or plan activities. I -- whether a blessing or a curse -- often find myself with the opposite problem. What if sometimes we "Type A's" are almost too motivated for our own good?

Over the last few years, I’ve become more and more aware of this personality trait as it differs much from my husband’s way of thinking. I often hear similar things from mine as our reader hears from hers: “Does that really have to be done right now?” or “If you’re tired, why don’t you just take a minute to relax?” This began shortly after we were married nearly five years ago and now, throw two toddlers into the mix and it’s only gotten worse. Now that I've become more aware of this "problem", I've began attempting to tackle it from several different angles with the help of various self-help and devotional-type books, advice from friends, and even the wisdom of a professional Christian counselor. I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve learned in hopes that maybe they’ll help some of you who suffer from the same “over-productive” personality put aside the tasks at hand, put on your slippers and take a breather -- without feeling sorry for yourself.

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1. Set a time limit. If you’re anything like me, your strong desire to get things done lends itself to an extremely goal-oriented mind set. You like to see things done, reach the “finish line” of a task, if you will. This a great trait, if kept in check. It is important to ask yourself a question: is my goal for this project reasonable? For instance, if you’re working during a two-hour nap time, in hopes of completely a project which may be better executed over more like a half-a-day time frame, you’re going to feel like a failure when your child wakes up and the project is still not complete. Instead of setting a goal to finish a task, try setting a time limit. For instance, I’m going to work on “x” for one hour or until such-and-such a time. If you aren't that disciplined, set an alarm clock or timer to remind you (I have also found it helpful to set it for about 10 minutes before I really want to quit so that I can tie up loose ends...I told you I was  a bit Type A). By doing this, you transform your goal in more of a time-focused one, rather than one which is task focused. You will leave your project or chore still feeling as though you’ve accomplished something – and you have! – because you completed your time goal. Perhaps you do have a two-hour window to yourself and you set a goal of one hour for a particular task. This could actually leave you with 60 minutes afterward to “recharge” by reading a book, taking a nap, listening to music, soaking in a bath or anything else that makes you happy before you need to be at the beck and call of your family again.

Timer

If you find that you just can’t stop, even with the help of a timer, perhaps try doing it the other way around – set the time limit for your relaxation time and do this  first (sounds crazy, I know). This will all you to fit your “recharge” time in prior to launching into your “productive mode” and then you can work for as long as time allows afterward. Whichever way you decide to go about it, strive for balance between both.

2. Evaluate your priorities. It’s so easy to look around your house and see all of the things that “need” to be done: the hamper is over-flowing with dirty laundry, the dust is so thick you can barely see the faces on your Willow tree figurines, you strain to remember the last time you scrubbed the bath tub (one of my least tasks, see my previous post for more), and the kitchen has remnants of each dinner you’ve made (or haven’t made) in the last two weeks. These things just have to get done, right? If the bathroom goes one more day without seeing a sponge…

What? The cleaning police are going to show up at your door and shut you down for neglect?

All too often, I find myself working non-stop to get these things done, thinking that I am surely being the best wife and most excellent mother I can be. The problem is, I also then find myself so utterly exhausted and spent by the time dinner rolls around that I'm no longer good to anyone – completely out of patience and beyond tired, I catch myself snapping at my husband and kids for silly things and lacking the energy needed to even read my girls a story before bed. While yes, performing “wifely” and “motherly” duties are part of my God-given role, did He ever say it was okay to do so at the expense of the things that really mattered? If I convince myself that it is more important to my husband and two nearly three-year olds that they come home or wake up to a clean house and a gourmet meal than having me mentally and physically present in the evening, I am only deceiving myself. It helps me to constantly remind myself about what my family really needs from me most and not just what I think they should need from me. Now, before working at chores and tasks during the entire nap time and then trying to cram in a 3-course meal on top of it, I ask myself: How much energy is this going to leave me at the end of the day? Am I going to be as pleasant when the kids wake up and/or when my husband gets home after all of this as I would be if I perhaps just chose one of these things to accomplish during this period of time?

 3. Ask for help to keep yourself accountable. If you’re hearing the line “You need to relax” often from one or two people in particular (as in the case of our reader and myself,  it happens to be our husbands), then share your desire to slow down more often with him or her. Explain that accomplishing things and being productive is part of your coping mechanism but that you want to learn how to take time for yourself, too. I’ve found it extremely helpful to tell my husband (on days that he’s home, of course) that I only want to do “x” (i.e. organize my closet, weed the garden, or scrub the kitchen) for a certain amount of time. I’ll ask that he remind me when that time gets nearer and it’s amazing how much harder it is to go against the time limit when he’s the one telling me it's time to quit.

4. Find (or resurrect) a hobby you enjoy. If you don’t have something in particular that you like to do when relaxing, it might feel as if you are simply wasting time or wandering aimlessly if you’re not doing something else productive. I have found that certain hobbies (such as knitting or reading) work well for personalities like mine because I can set goals in them, too. Keeping busy while slowing down (what a paradox!) helps to keep my mind from going down the “woe is me” road and simply focusing on how exhausted I am because of the demands of my life. Or better yet, start finding different ways to reconnect with your spouse – play card games, start doing devotions, or simply talk about the day’s occurrences. What a great way to fill your “down time”!

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 4. Pray for strength and guidance. I know it sounds cliché, and maybe even a bit too simple, but God truly understands our plight as women. Remember the story of Mary and Martha? Martha was busy with preparations – the Bible goes so far as to call her “distracted” – and her sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to what he was saying. Martha became so frustrated that Mary did not share her “drive” to prepare that she finally demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help her. This is when the Lord told her that Mary had chosen what was better, the “only one thing” that was needed (Luke 10:38-42). Isn’t it somewhat comforting to know that women have been struggling with this same issue since sin first entered the world?

Also remember that taking time to recharge – physically, mentally, and spiritually – is not selfish. As I mentioned above, doing so can actually be the best thing you can do for your family and those that depend on and love you. Without it, you may find yourself with barely anything left to give. The Bible even sites several occasions when Jesus, in his perfect human state, needed to break away from the crowd that was following him and find rest for himself. For instance, after He feeds the four thousand (a miracle which is not spoken of quite as much as the feeding of the five thousand), the Bible says that he “sent them (the people following him) away” and then “he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side” (Mark 8:13). Even Jesus needed a recharge and this was not selfish – it was necessary.

If you find yourself with thoughts similar to our reader’s, please know that you are not alone. Perhaps you can glean one or two need ideas on ways to approach your situation. If none of them work, then at least you can rest in the comfort that there are other Christian women, just like you, struggling with the same things. Even though it may seem hard to believe, relaxing without falling in to the “pity me” mode actually needs to be learned by some of us. Practicing it will only make it easier as time goes on. And I shall be praying for all of us.

MelSignature

 

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?

AmberSignature