Do you ever use psychology on yourself to help you work more efficiently? I do all the time.
For instance, yesterday I worked really hard and got a lot done. That was easily proved by looking at my to-do list and taking note of all the things that had been checked off. But at the end of the day I was discouraged. I felt like the house was a mess and I got nothing done.
This morning I knew I had to think through what it was that was discouraging me and come up with a remedy for it. If I'm discouraged I do not work well. I feel like my house is a hopeless case and wonder why I should even bother trying to clean it up.
In reality, it's never as bad as it feels like it is.
I have to use psychology on myself to encourage myself not to give up. If I give up things really will get bad and it will be an absolute nightmare to catch up.
I have two choices when I'm starting to feel discouraged about the housework.
1. Start with the easiest things first (like I do on Mondays.) When I do the quick and easy things first (like putting things where they belong as opposed to deep cleaning the bathroom), I can see immediate results and I realize things really weren't as bad as they looked. I am then encouraged enough to finish up the rest of the housework.
2. Get the hardest thing over with right away. This was what needed to happen today. I really needed to clean out the refrigerator, to be exact. I thought about the reason I was discouraged at the end of the day yesterday and realized that although I had gotten a lot of cleaning done, I hadn't accomplished the one thing that was really bothering me. Knowing how icky the inside of my refrigerator was was messing with my head. It was making me feel like everything was dirty. So I broke my rule about getting the dishes done first and started in on the fridge first thing this morning.
As soon as it was done I immediately felt better. My mind became clear enough to see that the rest of the cleaning could easily be finished up.
What is holding you back from being more productive? Do you need to do something that will help you see some quick results? Or do you need to dig in and work on something that's been hanging over your head and discouraging you?
Our emotions affect our productivity more than we realize. There are no rules that says a house must be cleaned in a certain order. If you are struggling and feel like you are never going to get it all done, try to figure out what will help you feel better. (Sorry, chocolate doesn't count!) Take the time to identify what is dragging you down emotionally and work with yourself, not against yourself.
You may be wondering what this business about the Ebenezer is all about and what it has to do with my Anti-Procrastination challenge today.
In the Bible, an Ebenezer was a stone of remembrance. In I Samuel 7:12, Samuel set up a stone “and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” In Joshua 4, the Israelites were commanded to take 12 stones out of the Jordan river (one for each tribe) and set them up when they reached the opposite shore. The purpose of these stones was to serve as a memorial to the children of Israel that would remind them and their children of God's power and deliverance all the way from their leaving Egypt until the point when they reached the Promised Land.
I believe that we as Christians should set up “Ebenezer stones” as reminders for ourselves and for our children of how powerful our God is and how He cares for us. When discouraging times come, we can look at those memorials and remember what God has done for us in times past. It is so encouraging to look back and remember specific prayers that received specific answers. God has done miracles large and small on our family's behalf. I don't want to forget those things. I don't want my children to be ignorant of those things either.
“Ebenezer stones” for me come in the form of a journal. I like to keep track of things we're going through and how God overcomes those situations. There are so many times that God has obviously been at work in certain situations. If I don't write them down they will go unnoticed and forgotten throughout the rest of history. If I do write them down, I can look back on them and be blessed. I can show my children what a big God their Mommy and Daddy serve and teach them that they can trust Him too.
My journaling lately, though, has been sporadic at best. The more kids I have it seems the harder it is to fit it in. But I have to make time for it. God commanded the children of Israel to set up those stones because He did not want them to forget who He is and what He had done. He doesn't want me to forget either.
I may not be able to spend an extensive amount of time every day, but when the Lord has worked in my life in a specific way, I'm going to make it a point to find the time to write it down.
If you're a Christian, I believe you should be keeping a memorial of God's working in your life too. (If you don't know for sure that you're a Christian and on your way to heaven, please don't let this day pass without making sure you know! You can find out here or email me for more information.)
Your “Ebenezer” may look a little different than mine. Maybe it will simply be a prayer list on which you record the specific answers that God gives you. Maybe it will be a detailed journal. Maybe it will be an index card file on which you write down one line a day of God's blessings, answers to prayer, or what He has taught you.
Whatever you decide – make the time! Not only will it be a blessing to you personally and be a tool for you to teach your children, but ultimately, as God said in Joshua 4, “That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.”
This Anti-Procrastination challenge has helped me identify so many of the excuses I make for not doing things. The excuses are many and varied, but are usually such things as “I don't have enough time”, “It's too hard”, or just plain old, “I don't feel like it.”
Today I identified yet another excuse, and I realized yet again that all my excuses are pretty lame. This time the excuse was that the thing I needed to do was too simple. Sure, I wasn't verbalizing it in those terms, but when it was all boiled down that's all it amounted to. Isn't that just stupid?!
What I (we as a family actually) have been neglecting for way too long is to pray for missionaries around the world. My husband and I both pray for missionaries in our private prayer times, and we as a family will pray for specific needs of missionaries when they are brought before us. But regular prayer for missionaries as a family has been…well…this sounds so harsh, but it's true…nonexistent.
The reason we kept neglecting it is that the process was just too simple. We've had a simple system in place for a very long time, but we have never once used it – just because it seemed too simple. We felt guilty because we should be praying together for more than just missionaries. We felt like we needed an elaborate system to make sure we were covering all of our prayer bases. Because we felt like we couldn't do it right, we weren't doing it at all.
A couple days ago I finally pulled out our simple system and just started using it completely impromptu with the kids at lunch. And while I do hope to eventually come up with something a little more elaborate, at least we're praying for missionaries together a whole lot more than we used to!
Here's the “system”, if you can even call it that!
It's a cheapo 4×6 photo album with missionary prayer cards inside. We pray for one missionary at each meal.
Sure, I'd like to keep the prayer cards perfectly updated. I'd like to have a way to list out specific prayer needs for each missionary family instead of relying on our memories. But for now, our missionary friends are being prayed for by a little family of five on a regular basis. The kids are so excited to see who the next missionary in the album will be. They keep very accurate records of whose turn it is to pray, and ask what exactly they should prayer for in regards to that particular missionary.
Okay, now, you know what I'm going to ask you. What have you been putting off because it's just too simple? What are you waiting to do until you come up with a more elaborate system? Just make do with things the way they are. You can always expand your system later. It's better for something to be done too simply than not at all!
Whenever I hear myself saying, “I need to…” or, “I really should…”, I know I have a great candidate for an Anti-Procrastination challenge. Instead of just saying I need to do something, it's time to actually do it!
One thing I find myself saying often is that I need to email or call one of my friends. I made so many good friends in college, but now we've all moved on to various parts of the country and even the world.
Staying in touch with them is not my strong point even though I miss them and think of them often.
Instead of just saying that I need to call or email somebody, I'm trying to actually do it as soon as I think about it, (or at least pencil it in on my to-do list for the day so I don't forget later.)
I just finished emailing a good friend before I starting writing this post, so now it's your turn.
With whom have you been saying you need to get in touch, but just haven't found the time yet? Make the time today to keep your friendship strong!
One of the excuses I tend to give as a reason for procrastinating is that I want everything to be “just so” before I start. If I can't do something exactly the way I envision it should be, I keep waiting until everything is just perfect.
The only problem is that most of the time everything is not going to ever be just exactly the way I want it to be. There are a whole lot of things that never get done because I never even get started!
That was how I was feeling about getting started with our first year of homeschooling. (We actually did some K4 last year, but kindergarten seems so much more official, doesn't it? 🙂 )
There were a lot of things that I wanted to happen before we started. I wanted to get the kitchen re-arranged to make room for a school desk so little bug could sit at the proper height to do his writing. I wanted to get all our flashcards laminated. I wanted to have a better idea of what I was doing for K while little bug did his work. These were just a bunch of little things that really weren't going to hinder a 5 year old from learning what sound letter I makes.
I finally decided that it was time to stop waiting for everything to fall perfectly into place and just start!
And start we did!
Little bug is quite happy with his letter I's.
Miss K did her best to keep up with her brother.
What have you been neglecting to start until everything falls into place exactly like you want it? Maybe you should let your expectations go and just start!
Oh, and another quick note. Some of the activities you see my kids doing are from Confessions of a Homeschooler. She has a lot of great printable homeschool worksheets (both paid and free) for preschool and K4.
If you didn't read part one, you can read it here.
Before I go any further, I want to make sure a few things are clear:
1. I am not in any way saying that sewing or doing crafts is a wrong use of your time. They're a natural part of being a homemaker.
2. I am not indicating that you haven't used your time wisely if your house isn't immaculate 100% of the time. A stay-at-home wife or mom knows that you can clean and clean and clean, but because you live there, there are always new messes being made!
3. My husband is not a domineering ogre whom I tremble before if the house is messed up or he doesn't have a hot dinner on the table when he gets home. In fact, he normally doesn't say a word even when the house looks its worst, and most of the time he simply pitches in to help without being asked. The reason I'm embarrassed when he sees the house dirty is because it's evidence of my lack of discipline. I'm ashamed of my sin, not of the dirty house. If I've been using my time wisely all day, it doesn't bother me for him to walk in to a mess. He understands that there are three little people who require a lot of attention (and who make a lot of messes behind my back!)
So, how do I determine when my house is “clean enough” to start on some other project with a good conscience?
I'm not saying this is what all women need to do in their home, but I know this is what I need to keep my own home a scene of inviting serenity.
I've narrowed it down to two simple things:
First, nothing needs to be done if there are dirty dishes undone. There's just nothing that screams filth to me so much as dirty dishes on the counter. The rest of the house can be entirely clean, but if there are dishes out, the whole place looks like a dump. When you walk in our back door, you're looking straight across the kitchen at the sink. What you see there makes or breaks your mood as soon as you walk into the house. So my first strategy is, no other projects until the dishes are done. That's all I ask of myself.
Second, extra things need to have a time limit. I will determine how long is a reasonable amount of time to work on a project before I need to turn my focus back over to my kids and other housework. I will set a timer, and when it goes off, it's time to put away the project until later. I am a very determined person, which most of the time is a good thing. However, there are times when I get so focused on conquering something, that I lose all track of time and lots of things go undone and little people get ignored. My sewing machine was being rebellious the other day, and I was not giving in until I broke its will. That's fine and dandy, except for the fact that I almost made us late for church, left the kitchen an ugly mess, the kids were left to themselves for too long, and nobody got to eat dinner.
As a homemaker, my basic priorities are, in this order – my Lord, my husband, and my children. If something, even a domestic project, is robbing my time from those three groups, it is wrong for me to spend time doing it. Was it wrong for me to sew the other day? No. Was it wrong for me spend hours doing it when other, more important things were being neglected? Yes. Having a timer set would have brought me back to the reality of how much time I was spending.
So those, my friends, are my two very easy ways to make sure I'm doing the things I'm supposed to be doing while making sure I can find time to get to the extra projects too.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you in finding that balance between doing the extras while making sure to keep your priorities in order!