by Mary Ellis
#1: Schedule your time carefully.
Make a weekly calendar so you don’t miss a doctor’s appointment, dance recital, or the neighborhood cookout. Keep certain times “off limits”. Don’t sign up for meetings, exercise classes, or volunteer work if it interferes with the family dinner hour, Sunday morning church services, or other events you hold sacred. Make sure each day includes personal time, whether it’s a solitary walk, devotional reading, or rocking in the porch swing. Figure out how to manage housework, yard work, bill paying, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. (a little every day, or one day for each task, etc.) Don’t allow Internet surfing, answering e-mail, chatting on the phone or texting to steal too much time. Set limits on “time-robbers” so your sense of serenity doesn’t suffer.
#2 Prioritize your tasks.
If you work outside the home, discover ways to take care of errands during your workday, such as shopping for gifts on your lunch hour or chatting with mom during the commute. Shop for groceries and stop at post office or dry cleaner on your way home to present needless trips on your day off. If you work at home, treat it like a job-schedule working hours and stick to them. Otherwise you won’t get any truly “free time.” Regarding your social life…pick and choose carefully. Don’t feel you must accept every invitation, volunteer project or committee meeting. Learn to say “no” unless you truly wish to devote the time and energy.
#3 Multi-task, but only if it’s productive.
The only time I dust is during phone calls. I check voicemail while walking the dog. I group errands into one trip to free up uninterrupted time for writing. But don’t make the mistake of balancing your checkbook during your son’s ballgame if he’s expecting you to watch him play. You will fail at both tasks. Be sure to allow “down time” every now and then to watch a sappy movie, read a book, or play a game of checkers with a child. If you’re feeling stressed, recharge your batteries.
#4 Lower your standards.
I can live with weedy flowerbeds as long as my bathrooms are clean. I don’t like clutter but dust doesn’t bother me. I take store-bought brownies (dusted with powdered sugar) to parties so I can have time to write stories about women who love to cook. You can’t do it all. Repeat that as a mantra every morning. Give up the notion you can do it all and compete with the Food Channel gurus. But if cooking happens to be your pleasure, find another area to be mediocre in and don’t apologize.
#5 Release the outcome.
Put your future in God’s hands instead of looking too far into the future. If you dwell on what you need to accomplish by the end of the week, month or year you’ll become discouraged. Like every monumental project we tackle, whether building our own house or hiking the Appalachian Trail, if we fully understood how arduous the task we would never begin. Create a schedule for yourself that accomplishes your goals in small increments and stick to it. Never compare yourself to others. Pray for guidance and then listen to your intuition. This is God talking to you. Invite Him to take the helm of your life. If your goals are part of God’s plan then you cannot fail…whether it’s climbing Mount Everest, learning to speak Japanese, or writing your first book.
Mary Ellis grew up near an Amish settlement and fell in love with their agrarian lifestyle. She has now written eight novels set in their peaceful communities. When she’s not writing she enjoys gardening, bicycling, swimming and traveling with her college sweetheart, her husband of many years. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught middle school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate–a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. Her debut Christian book, A Widow’s Hope, was a finalist for the 2010 ACFW Carol Awards. Her recent release, A Marriage for Meghan, is available now.