Over the past week, we talked about some things that we can do when we feel overwhelmed. First of all, we can go to Jesus for perspective on the burdens we carry. Spending some time with Him often is one way we can get His take on our lives. Second, we can evaluate whether what we are filling our days with really are His plans for us or if we are trying to merely do what others tell us we should do or be. If they are not working towards His design for us, we can say "no"! (What a concept!) Yesterday, we talked about "choosing the B" or being willing to take our expectations and standards down a notch if we need to. So that's all nice and good, but how do you actually do it? Today, I thought I'd share a few of my suggestions:
1. Start with a basic routine.
A routine is a rough outline of your day. I like to look at it in 3 segments: morning, afternoon and evening. If you work, you may look at it as before work, work, and after work. Whatever you do, I like to set an order to each of those days so that everyone knows what is coming next. It is amazing how much time we waste when we don't know what's coming next. That goes for kids too!
Now a routine is different than a schedule. For us, whether we start at 7:30 or 9:00, our routine is basically the same. I make sure that the things that matter most are in the routine first. For me, this includes reading my Bible every morning before the kids get up, some time for quiet in the afternoon, and time to relax in the evening. Values as well as tasks get put into the routine.
I am big believer in letting kids learn how to do chores. There is no rule that says a mom has to do everything. Sure, it may not be what you want and it may take some time to train them, but when kids learn to help, it really makes things work out a lot more smoothly. This probably is another topic of its own, but suffice it to say, get your kids involved in the work of the home. Even if they grumble about it.
3. Eating the elephant.
What about the things that are not so routine? One of the things that I have found helpful in times like this is to pull back and to split up the big tasks into smaller ones. I set myself a deadline and then stick with it. This, admittedly, does take a bit of discipline. So to prepare for my workshop, I made a list of the steps involved. Typically, I need time to pray over the topic and jot down ideas. Then I need time to write and prepare any handouts. Lastly, I need to practice so I'm prepared and not hemming and hawing my way through. I split each of these major tasks up into smaller chunks, then with each week, I split them up into still smaller portions.
4. Keep your to-do list short.
Each day, I pick 3 things to do outside of my regular routine. I usually try to set limits on them so that they can be done in the time allotted. I ask the Lord which ones are the most important things for me to accomplish---and they are not always task-oriented. Sometimes they are relational, like taking one of my children out for a date or playing with them or reading a book. Again, this is where the Lord needs to step in and show me what those things are. If it was left to me, I would totally forget!
By setting my top three goals for the day, I am more likely to get them done and not overtax myself. If I happen to finish early, I feel more of a sense of accomplishment when I can actually tackle the next days' work. Sometimes, I don't finish, and I need to let go of some things or be content with less.
I'm sure there is really nothing new here, and there's so much more I could probably say about each of these, but ultimately, I believe that living a life that is not overwhelming must begin with God Himself. There really is no other way. No fancy organizers, time management systems or spreadsheets are ever going to take His place. As the psalmist says in Psalm 61:2-4,
From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings! Selah
Selah, not surprisingly, is a point in the psalm where we rest. Moms, don't forget to turn to Him when you feel overwhelmed. Let Him lead you and give you rest, show you what to do, what to say no to, and where you can lower your standards. He cares about the details of our daily lives and with His help, He can guide us into developing a life that is comfortably full with all that He desires for us.
Part 5 in Overwhelmed series.