In my Just Ask post last week, Lynne posed the question:
How do you get everything done for your family, not neglect your relationship with God, and find time to write too?
Bobbie's question was similar:
I have a general question but want specific answers.... How do you do it all? I mean, really, HOW do you do it all? What practical things do you do every day to fit in all that you've got going on? What does a few of your daily schedules look like? Do you use the crock pot to cook dinner a lot? Are you super organized? I need tips to be more productive in my own life!
So I figured it would be helpful share my four-step tutorial on How to be Superwoman (or not). Because I prefer to use more words than necessary, I'll split this into two posts. You'll thank me later.
Step One: Never neglect time with God.
I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your Word. ~Psalm 119:16
Okay, that's not to say that I never neglect time with God. But I shouldn't. And neither should you. Know what I mean?
In my world, experiencing quiet time cannot occur if children are awake. And given my bent toward complete and utter couch vegetation after they're tucked in for the evening, the twilight hours are ruled out. By process of elimination, I've found that my relationship with God is best fostered in the wee hours of the morning.
A number of years ago I started rising an hour before the kids so that I would have enough time for coffee, prayer, listening, Bible study, Bible reading, Scripture memory, and worship. No, I don't do all of those things every morning! But I do probably tackle each of them once or twice over a two-week period.
I also don't view my quiet time as my only time of day to be in relationship with the Lord. He and I converse throughout the day. If I'm unsure about making a certain purchase while out grocery shopping, I ask God. If I am running late for an appointment but make it on time anyway thanks to low traffic and lots of green lights, I thank Him. If I have six million things on my "to do" list that day, I ask God where to start, and what to do next all day. Whatever doesn't get done, I trust is something that He didn't need me to take care of that day.
If you ever hear me being frazzled, flustered, or stressed, you can pretty much be assured that I've forgotten step one. The tough thing for me is that all of my secrets are revealed in my writing. Although, the knowledge that you will be able to tell when I'm not in close fellowship with my Abba is a pretty good accountability tool!
Step Two: Schedule, schedule, schedule.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. ~Proverbs 31:27
I like to feel organized. I didn't say that I am organized, but I like to feel as though I am. One thing that helps me is to schedule everything that I can.
Social life - While building friendships is very important to me (and also one thing God has called me to do), I tend to be very particular about how I make and take time to do so. If we're going to have coffee and a visit together, we will often email back and forth a few times to schedule a date and time - frequently up to two weeks away. But when I make these dates, I commit to myself to keep them (I really, really try not to cancel). Things like girls' night out, home parties, and so on only happen for me a couple times a year. It's worth saying that I have great friends who understand my priorities and my calling. I pray that they can say the same of me.
Marriage - I book a date night roughly every second weekend (on paydays). This has been an integral part of our marriage for several years. I also try to schedule my "work" during the day, so that my evenings are free to hang out with my man. I like to sit on the couch reading a good book next to him as he watches the hockey game. (Really, there is only so much hockey a girl can take! Even a Canadian one.)
Household duties - I used to try to get all my housework done on one day of the week. A grueling five-hour day of utter exhaustion. This house is too big for that, and the laundry far too demanding! We've recently begun doing the house cleaning as a family on the weekends, and I am really enjoying it! We tend to be homebodies on the weekends anyway, so it's not cutting into anything, and everyone seems to enjoy working together. I haven't fine-tuned the laundry thing yet, but so far it seems to be working well to simply toss in a load whenever I pass by the machines. The kids all put away their own laundry (well, put away is used very loosely).
When it comes to meals, I do best with a meal plan. Having a monthly meal plan helps me know what are the essential purchases, what meat to pull out of the freezer in the morning (or the night before), and how much prep time I'll need. Planning meals means I can decide which days require crock pot cooking in advance (activity nights) and which days I can do something bigger. I must confess that I have been lacking a meal plan for months now. The unfortunate solution has been too much eating out and too many dinners of kid fare (mini pizzas, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc.).
Family time - Busy or not, it's hard to get quality time together with a family of seven. So we try to get our time where we can... Family movie night, swimming, skating, walking the dog, going to the playground (neither of those last two really happens for 8 months of the year).
Pat and I also try to take individual dates with each child once or twice over the course of the school year. What works for me is to "blitz" them - I email Pat with four occasions (we don't really need to take Kai out yet) that all occur within two weeks. I try to combine our date nights with things that need to get done anyway. For example, I'll take someone for dinner and then we'll grocery shop together.
Pop back here tomorrow, and I'll conclude my answer to Lynne and Bobbie's question with steps three and four on How to be Superwoman (or not).