After the birth of my 3rd child, it began to dawn on me that I was more than just a tired mom. Day after day I waded through a dark fog, barely able to place one foot in front of the other. My children were all good sleepers, so there was no logical reason for me to be so tired.
Although I've never been one who's quick to run to the doctor, I scheduled an appointment for some bloodwork. Unfortunately I came away from the appointment with the answer that everything was “normal” and that I should “take more vitamins.” But I most certainly did not feel normal!
To make a long story short, I spent the next seven years trying new doctors, new supplements, new dietary changes, and I’ve lived through all of it with the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which basically means “You’re extremely weak and tired all the time but we don’t know why.” Yeah, thanks doc. I kinda already knew that. I could go off on a rabbit trail and talk about how so many other diagnoses are the same way -pretty much just giving a fancy name to something you already know. But I won’t get sidetracked there. All I’ll say for now is that praise the Lord I have found some answers that have truly been life-changing for me and my family. I’m not yet at 100% (will any of us ever be until we get to heaven?) but I am definitely in a much better place health-wise than I was 10 years ago.
What I want to focus on is how I survived all those years of living in a deep fog, with small children to care for and homeschool.
Whether you are chronically ill or whether you’re just tired all the time because you have a lot of demands on you that wear you down, here are 3 ways you can be productive even when you’re exhausted.
I say this a lot, but I'll say it again: True productivity occurs when you’re productive at the things that actually matter.
My house was a disaster all the time during those early years (my house still needs help – I’m still catching up from years of neglect!) I rarely went to bed with a clean kitchen. My husband took so many of the household responsibilities on him every evening after he’d already worked a full day.
I didn’t do a whole lot, but I was intentional with what I did do.
The children needed to be educated, so I made sure to prioritize their homeschooling each day. I spent my time learning ways to help them self-educate so that they could still be learning even when I wasn’t able to teach them.
Whether you’re chronically ill or just exhausted, you can be productive when you realize that being productive doesn’t mean “doing all the things.” It just means carefully choosing what is most important and keeping your focus there.
You may feel that you’re too busy to stop your day and prepare healthy meals for yourself, to exercise, or to take a nap.
But if you’re exhausted, one of the most important ways you can spend your time is to take care of yourself! Running on caffeine may make you feel like you have more energy, but if it’s becoming a crutch and causing you to neglect proper nutrition and rest then it’s only defeating the purpose. And if you’re tired because you’re not sleeping well at night, you may want to re-think the caffeine for that reason too.
I get it. It feels like such a pain to stop what you’re doing and chop vegetables so you can eat a salad for lunch. It feels like it’s taking up so much time that you could be spending in other ways. But if you prioritize your health, you’ll find that 1. You’ll have more energy for the other things and 2. You’ll think of creative ideas to make self-care more streamlined. For example, you might prepare a list of quick and easy, yet healthy lunches you can stop and eat. You might decide to cut up enough vegetables for a week at a time so you don’t have to do it every day. You’ll learn exercises you can do while you stand at the kitchen sink washing dishes.
When I was so ill that I spent large portions of my day in bed, I used that time to research things I could do to overcome my health struggles. I was productive, but my productivity didn’t look like doing all the things. It looked like having one goal and chasing after it with everything I had.
If you’re exhausted, you can be productive by taking steps to improve your health. Spend time soaking in a warm bath so you can let go of some stress. Take the time to eat well and hydrate yourself throughout the day. Take the time to nourish your body with gentle movement. Take the time to go to bed at a decent hour.
Burning yourself out by going, going, going might make you feel productive, but are you being productive at what really matters? Does your family want the I-got-all-the-things-done-but-I’m-so-grouchy-and-tired version of you or do they want the happy, stress-free version of you who chose to let some things go?
I need to be careful that the advice to never give up doesn’t come across as contradictory to what I just said about taking care of yourself.
By telling you that you can be productive by never giving up, I don’t mean to push yourself to do more, more, more.
I mean what I keep saying over and over: Never give up on what’s most important.
When I spent many of my days in bed, it was discouraging to leave so many things undone. But each day I woke up determined to chip away at my priorities.
Regardless of how much or how little you can do, don’t quit! Don’t decide that because you’re so exhausted you’re just not even going to try.
No matter how little you might think you’re doing, if you do the same thing consistently day after day, eventually it amounts to something big!
Teach your children about Jesus today. Then teach them some more tomorrow, and some more the next day.
Eat your vegetables today. Then eat them again tomorrow and again the next day.
Learn a little bit about health today, then learn a little bit more tomorrow and little more the next day.
Whatever goal it is that you’re trying to reach, keep heading in that direction. Don’t worry about how long it is taking you. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually you will get there.
If you're looking for more resources and ideas about becoming more productive, you can use the box below to sign up for a free 5 day email course on time management.
What do you do when you just don’t feel motivated to do anything?
As I write this series, it’s the end of winter – those days where everything just feels “blah”, and all I want to do is sit around in my pajamas and watch movies.
Sometimes our flesh just gets the better of us and tells us that it would be more enjoyable to sleep an extra hour than it would be to get up and get our day started on the right foot.
I'd like you to grab a scrap of paper or print out this worksheet and record a few thoughts over the next few days.
When you realize how much stress you take out of your life by staying on top of things, you become more and more motivated to do it. Sure, you may be tired when you stay up to finish those dishes, but when the next day is so much more peaceful, the reward is worth it. And the chemical reaction in our brain says “I want more of that.” So in order to get more of that reward, you have to put the work in to get it again.
The more you do something, the more you are engraining that pattern into your brain. They’re becoming habits now, and a habit is something you do automatically without even thinking about it. So instead of agonizing each night, talking yourself into finishing the dishes, you just do them because that’s what your brain knows to do. It gets easier and easier!
Decide on three habits that you will work on for the next month, and use the habit tracker to keep yourself on track. Once you’ve developed the brain pathways and created a habit, the task will turn from something you have to force yourself to do to something you just do.
Need more help being productive at home? Check out the Ultimate Productivity Bundle!
In one of my recent emails, I asked my readers about their biggest hindrance to being a productive homemaker. This question really hit a nerve! The responses poured into my inbox, and it was obvious that being more productive is something we all care deeply about.
As I collected all the responses, I placed them into categories. I identified 10 different areas where we get tripped up in being productive.
2. Lack of Motivation and Discipline
3. Failure To Plan
4. Feeling Overwhelmed/Not Knowing Where to Start
5. Distractions/Feeling Pulled in Too Many Directions
6. Poor Time Management
8. Too Many Responsibilities
9. Exhaustion or Poor Health
10. No help from family members
You will notice that I listed procrastination as the first reason you struggle with being productive. That is because it is often a direct result of the other nine things on the list.
I can’t promise to make you stop procrastinating, but I can help you understand some reasons why you do. When you know the reasons behind your procrastination, you can actually cut it off at the root instead of just trying harder to overcome it.
For instance, you may procrastinate because you don’t have an organized system of doing things. You feel like you don’t know where to start — so you don’t.
Maybe you feel overwhelmed with all of your responsibilities so rather than just starting somewhere, you shut down instead.
Maybe you procrastinate because you feel like your efforts will be worthless. (“Why should I organize the kids’ closet? The kids will just have all the clothes off the hangers and on the floor tomorrow anyway!”)
So often we feel guilty about our procrastination because it makes us feel like we’re being lazy. Maybe that is the case sometimes. I used to memorize Bible verses all the time about laziness, and I could not understand why I was so lazy because I wanted so badly to overcome it. Maybe laziness was partially an issue (we all have a sinful nature, after all) but what I didn’t realize was that I was mainly just overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to juggle everything that needed juggling in a busy household, and I just shut down.
Once I realized why I was procrastinating, I was able to work on solutions for overcoming it. Trying harder didn’t work because there was a different obstacle in the way that I hadn’t seen before.
What are some things on the list above that are contributing to your procrastination? If you'd like, you can print this worksheet to help you. Identifying your obstacle is the first step to overcoming it!
Want more help in becoming more productive at home? Check out the Ultimate Productivity Bundle!
Read the next posts in this series:
What to Do When You Have No Homemaking Motivation
3 Ways You Can Be Productive, Even When You're Exhausted
An incredibly important aspect of homemaking is how we manage our time.
There are so many things that need to be done, that sometimes it's hard to figure out what to do first.
I always enjoy seeing how other people manage their time, so I thought I would share a typical day at our house. (For even more peeks into our life, follow me on Instagram!)
Instead of just sharing our ideal schedule, though, I'm going to first share my ideal and then share the reality. This will give you a chance to get ideas of how you might like to order your day as well as see the pitfalls where I mess up and how you can do it better.
If you're trying to glean tips for better productivity and time management, you can learn from my mistakes just as well as from the things I do right.
HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO: Ideally I should be up by 6 or 6:30 in the morning. If I want to accomplish everything on my yearly goals list, this is the time that I need to get up each day.
HOW IT REALLY GOES: 7 AM is usually about the earliest I get up. I would honestly love to be up much earlier than this every day. I cherish the quiet that I do get, and I know I could accomplish some more of my personal and business goals if I had more quiet time in the mornings.
But after struggling with chronic illness for many years, I have learned that I need to take my days slow and gentle. When I push myself too hard, I end up crashing and then I'm really not very productive at all!
HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO: If I'm not up by now, this is when I will typically wake up on my own. I read my Bible, use my prayer journal, and go over my to-do list for the day.
Usually the kids start waking up one by one during this time. The bigger ones will start on their own morning routines and the little ones will snuggle with me for a while.
HOW IT REALLY GOES: This is the one part of my day that usually goes according to schedule. I have been blessed with 5 really good sleepers (here's how I helped my kids to sleep through the night when they were babies.) In fact, they sleep so well, that I often have to wake them up! I love having this time in the morning to get myself going slowly and gently.
HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO: At this point I am supposed to get the kids up and going so that we can get started on our school day by 9:00.
HOW IT REALLY GOES: This is when I play things by ear. If the kids have not stirred by this point, I leave them be and get a little computer work done, whether that's developing products for my shop, planning my menu, or doing my online shopping.
Ideally, if I want to follow the schedule I've written, I should be getting them up and going at this point, but I normally can't find the determination within myself to wake up 5 sleeping children and end the blissful silence.
HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO: By this time, all the children are usually awake and I start breakfast. I usually cook eggs or oatmeal for the kids and make a smoothie for myself. I don't really care for most breakfast foods, and I add enough stuff to my smoothies that they keep me going until lunch without a problem.
While I'm making breakfast, the kids are doing their morning routines, which include getting dressed, fixing their hair, tidying their rooms and reading their Bibles. Once they've done those things, they make their way to the breakfast table.
After everyone eats, I leave breakfast cleanup to the kids while I get myself dressed, fix my hair, and get the baby dressed (okay, she's 2, but I can still call her a baby, right?)
HOW IT REALLY GOES: This part of the day goes more or less like I've listed above, but I can promise you that I am putting out lots of fires during this time too. Whether it's sibling arguments (okay, let's be honest, sometimes they are full-out fights), cleaning up some crazy mess the toddler makes behind my back, or like today – finding our dog who had broken his line and run off to play with his canine friends at the neighbor's house, I am often running around, completely out of breath, just trying to keep up with whatever is going on in my house.
HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO:
I would love it if we could have school well underway by this time, ideally doing the bulk of our work from 9 AM to 12 PM.
HOW IT REALLY GOES: Hopefully by this time we are ready to start school if we haven't already. It really just depends on how early everyone wakes up. We do things in the same order every day, so it all gets done. We just finish earlier or later depending on what time we got started.
First, we spend all together “one room schoolhouse” style. We do Bible, scripture memory, language arts, history, science, handwriting, and any other fun activities we decide to do. This is our favorite time of day when we are all together and everyone is (usually) still in a good mood. If there is anything the little ones can't participate in, they usually color quietly, but sometimes I am interrupted by a whiny 2 year old who wants markers instead of crayons and isn't happy with me when I say no.
After we finish the things we can do all together, I send the 2 oldest kids to work on their daily chores while the middle 2 go with me to the other room to do their math and reading lessons. I have always kept the oldest 2 kids basically on the same level with their school subjects, and then I did the same thing with the next 2. It will feel weird when the youngest child gets into school and does everything all by herself. But of course she already tries to participate as much as she can!
When the middle kids are done with math and reading, we switch and I send them to do their chores while the older 2 do their math lesson with me.
HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO: It's not a problem for us to eat a late lunch since we do not get up and eat breakfast terribly early. We all eat, straighten up the kitchen, and the kids finish their chores if they haven't already. After I eat my own lunch, I take the time to do my own household chores and any other miscellaneous tasks on my to-do list.
HOW IT REALLY GOES: To be totally honest, sometimes our day starts falling apart at this point. My brain is worn out after a full morning, and the brain fog that accompanies chronic illness settles in. I often can't figure out what we should be doing next, even though I have a written schedule.
I'll fix the little ones something to eat, get myself something to eat, and then go hide in my room for a bit to settle my brain down. The bigger kids are perfectly capable of getting themselves something for lunch and cleaning up their mess. (The question is whether or not they do clean it up!)
After I eat, I will fold whatever clothes are in my room, throw in a new load of laundry, and then go outside for a while.
HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO:
As long as the kids are finished with their chores and any miscellaneous homework assignments I've given them, they are free for the rest of the afternoon. They can go outside, play on their Kindles (all they have is eBooks and educational games on there, plus they automatically shut down after a certain amount of time), do arts and crafts, play the piano, pretty much anything that strikes their fancy. Everything I have available to them is either educational, active, or in some way profitable for their minds and bodies.
The 2 year old goes down for her nap at this time.
HOW IT REALLY GOES:
While the kids are having their free time and the little one is napping, I am free to work on blogging or other computer-related tasks.
However, most days I don't really get a whole lot done during this time. I'm usually pretty tired so I will often take some intentional down time. My brain is firing all day with homeschooling, breaking up sibling fights, and trying to calm girl drama, so sometimes I need some time to just rest and think about nothing! (Hello, mindless Instagram scrolling! This is my time to indulge guilt-free for a little while.)
Unfortunately, I don't always get to rest either. I may hear that the kids are arguing, or like any mother, I just feel like I need to keep checking on them, so my rest time is still not always restful.
If I do get any blogging or other computer work done, this is when it happens, though.
HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO
At this point the plan is for me to inspect the kids' chores so that they can re-do them if necessary, then I start prepping supper.
HOW IT REALLY GOES
Sometimes I get into the middle of working on something and I don't go out to the kitchen right at 4:00. Once I get in a zone I have a hard time switching gears.
Some days I go out to start supper and I get distracted with a bunch of other things – I'll decide to switch out the laundry again, or I'll realize how nice the weather is and decide to go outside (who wants to be cooped up in a kitchen when the weather is beautiful?!)
5PM – 10PM
HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO:Ideally I would have supper done and ready to go by the time my husband gets home from work. Then we could all sit down to eat, clean up the kitchen, and get the kids to bed early every night. (Which means I could go to bed earlier every night.)
HOW IT REALLY GOES:
I'm often late getting dinner onto the table (because I was probably busy playing outside instead of cooking!) which pushes the whole evening back, which then pushes the kids' bedtime back, which then puts me getting to bed later, which puts me getting up later, which causes me to have less quiet morning time to work on my personal goals.
I've started taking steps to get dinner on the table earlier. Hint: it doesn't require trying to force myself to get out to the kitchen earlier. I've learned that trying to force myself to fit into a mold that's not my personality only makes me rebel against it and makes things worse. Instead, I've been focusing more on using the weekends to prepare meals to put into the freezer. This way I have dinner already prepared, and if I want to go play with my kids instead of making dinner, I am completely free to do so!
We also need to implement a better bedtime routine – we often just get busy enjoying one another's company (which is a good thing!) but our time together often continues on indefinitely until we finally realize how late it is and then end up rushing everyone off to bed.
Of course, there's no way I could include the dozens of interruptions I have all throughout the day – potty training that needs to be attended to NOW, little girl drama that needs my gentle attention, spills that must be cleaned, boo-boos to patch up, and on and on it goes.
Every time I write or speak about productivity, my main thrust is always the same.
True productivity cannot be attained without an accurate definition of productivity.
Does it really matter how many items you have crossed off your list if they weren't the most important things to do?
Is it really productive to have everything done at the end of the day if you ignored the things that were the most important?
So then the question must be asked:
What is the most important thing for me to do today?
For me, I believe it is to love my family well.
But loving my family well may look different from day to day. Some days I may need to discipline myself to get delicious meals on the table right on time because that's what they need the most. But other days I may need to give myself grace for not having an amazing supper prepared because I spent most of my time gently helping a girl work through raging emotions. I can be productive by helping a young boy research some question that is burning in his mind. Maybe that means I skip some of my housework to do so.
When I developed my Ultimate Goal Setting Planner, I intentionally designed it to help you determine your big-picture goals for your home, family, and personal life, and then to break those goals down smaller and smaller until your priorities for each day come into clear focus. You can spend less time feeling guilty for the things you didn't do and embrace each day with confidence that the items on your to-do list are the most important things.
I've only written about Stitch Fix once before. I tried it last year and wrote about it here in A Modest Skeptic's First Stitch Fix.
I wasn't sure if they would have modest clothing to send me that would fit my style, but I was very happy with what they sent. I didn't end up keeping anything from the first box just because it was nothing I particularly needed.
However, I finally got another box a couple months ago, and again I thought they did a wonderful job picking up on my style and sending things that I liked.
Want to see what was inside my box? Maybe it will inspire you to give it a try if you've been on the fence!
1. I loved the little twist detail on the bottom of this shirt! Anything that adds a little uniqueness to clothing is right up my alley. I was so close to keeping this shirt, but ultimately sent it back because the neckline was really loose on me which made it look a little frumpy.
2. This skirt was so soft and comfortable. The quality of everything they sent was just above and beyond low end clothing. I can't explain how buttery and soft all of the fabrics are. I liked how they coordinated this skirt, the navy top, and the denim jacket in the next photo. I sent this skirt back because I was just not crazy about the color red. I put that on my notes in my account so next time they'll know it's not my favorite color.
3. I like this denim jacket, but didn't keep it because I already have a nice denim jacket. Like I said above, I did think it was nice that they coordinated this outfit. I also appreciate staple pieces that can be mixed and matched with lots of different things. This would have been a valuable piece if I had needed it.
4. I LOVED this dress, and wanted to keep it so badly! The stylist really nailed my personal taste with this one! I was disappointed because it was just a tad shorter than what I was comfortable wearing. I tried it with leggings underneath, but I wasn't really comfortable with that either, at least not until I lose a few pounds. Kinda makes me sad looking at it again. It's so pretty, and it was so soft!!/
5. This maxi dress was the final item they sent. (I was in a hurry, so I didn't do my hair or makeup. I apologize for the thrown-together pictures.) I wasn't sure about this one because it seemed a little “blah”, like there wasn't anything to make it special or unique.
But after putting a denim jacket over it, it seemed perfect!
It is so difficult to go clothes shopping. I can't drag a bunch of kids into the dressing room, and if I'm out on date night, I don't really want to use up all our time trying on clothes!
While Stitch Fix can be a little pricey, it is definitely worth splurging on quality clothes occasionally, especially when you consider the convenience of not having to go from store to store to find clothes that fit well or work with your personal standards of modesty. The more specific you are with the notes to your stylist, the better they are about sending things that are a perfect fit for what you need.
If you sign up through my referral link, you'll also get a $25 credit to go towards your first purchase!
I listed these pros and cons in my first post about Stitch Fix, but I'm going to list them out again here, just for your convenience:
I set the budget to the lowest priced items, and the prices were still between $30 and $65 per item.
So yes, while there are many more pros than there are cons, money carries a lot of weight for a lot of us. I never, ever, ever want to encourage any of my readers to spend money they don't have.
Less is more when it comes to clothing, so spending more on a few quality pieces that will mix and match is not really all that expensive in the long run. But still…please don't spend money you don't have.
Want to give it a try? Sign up here to get started.
When you sign up, be sure to leave detailed comments about what you like to wear and why. I tried my best to define my version of “modest” so my stylist would know what to send. I also made sure to create a Pinterest board of modest clothing that I like so she could see exactly what types of things I like.
As our family grows (both our immediate family and our extended family), it becomes more and more expensive and time-consuming to shop for Christmas gifts. Plus, when each child receives multiple gifts from us and from their extended family, the house quickly becomes cluttered with way too much stuff.
We like to do a lot more family presents these days rather than a ton of individual gifts. Not only does it cut down on shopping time, expense, and clutter, but it also helps us to prioritize spending time together.
When we purchase a gift that the whole family can enjoy, we are encouraging quality time together, which is so much more important than just giving and receiving a bunch of stuff.
We've also agreed with our siblings that we will give gifts to each other's entire family rather than purchasing something individually for each niece and nephew (there are a lot and none of us can really afford it.) Giving family gifts provides all of us with the opportunity to express thoughtfulness for each other without breaking the bank.
Here are 10 unique gift ideas for the entire family to enjoy.
(Note: If you have an ad-blocker running, you may not be able to see all of the embedded images and links. Turning off your ad-blocker on this page will allow you to see all of the gift ideas included.)
Disclosure: I was provided with products to facilitate this post. Some of the links included are affiliate links.
This is the perfect gift for the competitive family who is always playing together. Rather than dropping a nice chunk to go play a game of laser tag, they will be able to play any time they want in their own back yard. ArmoGear Laser Battle comes with vests and guns (you can purchase either a 2 player game or a 4 player game.)
2. Family movie night package
Set up the family with everything they need for a family movie night: a popcorn popper, bowls, a cozy blanket, and an Amazon Prime video subscription.
3. Family game night package
If your budget is tight, family games are always a hit! I've included some of my favorite family game suggestions below.
And favorite games for the little ones:
4. Ice cream night!
This soft serve ice cream maker is a huge hit with families! Pair it with some bowls and ice cream toppings.
5. Indoor snowball fight
Want to bring the most unique gift to the party? How about supplies for an indoor snowball fight?
6. Outdoor activities
The most clutter free gift for families is a gift that stays outside! Treat the kids to hours of outdoor fun with one of these outdoor toys:
7. Camping Gear
For the outdoor loving family, a gift of camping gear makes a unique and thoughtful gift.
8. Game room/Play room gear
Another great family gift is an item for the game room (or play room if the kids are still little.) Some good ideas below:
9. Slam Ball
This game is one that my extended family members love playing together. It is highly competitive, offering loads of fun for the adults and kids alike!
“Mom, this is…amazing.” That's what my oldest son told me about this set of audio dramas. These audio depictions of Biblical events are an investment into the spiritual life of your children, and are so enjoyable for the whole family to listen to together.