The other day, I was talking with my friend Em about an old series I posted on my blog that people LOVED. I had more interaction with those blogposts than I expected! It was a simple series on how I organize specific areas of my life:
Em said, “What if we brought that blog series back, and wrote it together, and added a few more? Including..”
I gave her a resounding YES!
So… I’m so excited to kick off this organization series with my dear friend, Emily Thomas. Her blog, Em For Marvelous, is warm and helpful and witty and informative and intriguing… all the things one would love about a blog. So, I’ll be sure to end every Organization Post we share with a link to hers as well, because I’ll be honest: I’m super excited to read what she has to say!
Each Tuesday for the next two months, you will be hearing all about How We Do It! Excited to have you follow along.
How We (Emily and myself!) Do It: Organizing Our Time
I’ve always been fascinated with time management. ? I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a personality thing, maybe it’s my weird love for efficiency (my husband has rubbed off on me), maybe it’s the fact that I constantly find myself needing more help in this area. Whatever the reason, the truth is this: we all have the same hours in a day as Beyoncé, amIright? So there’s more to living life than just letting life happen as it happens, ya know?
Disclaimer: I get pretty nerdy here. Some of my favorite books are on productivity and time management! 168 Hours, What’s Best Next, Ordering your Private World, to name a few. But this whole “Organizing our Time” subject is too important to not take some time to learn. I’ve officially decided:
I want to become a student of time management for the rest of my life.
Because my heart is the fullest when I know my hours have been spent well. Matt Perman says it best: “You are satisfied with your day when there is a match between what you value and how you spend your time.”
Over the last 10 years I’ve read many time management books, I’ve run a business, I’ve managed a team, I’ve had two babies, I’ve volunteered with the youth and the worship team at my church, I’ve run 3 half marathons, and I have had to put some systems and tools in place to help me do all of these things well. Today, I want to share my favorite tactics for time management with you! I’m confident that even if you adopt just ONE of these, it will change your days for the better.
8 Tactics to Organize your Time
1. Track Your Time
This is an exercise I learned when reading 168 Hours, and it was the BIGGEST eye opener. Highly recommend that you do it for 2 weeks straight, then assess. It works like this: You write down how you spend your time in 30 minute increments. (I usually would do life for 3 hours or so, then fill it out so I wasn’t stopping every 30 minutes.) You can highlight the big chunks of your time: work, sleep, leisure – then accurately know how you are spending your days. We tend to exaggerate how much we work, and we don’t give enough credit to sleep or leisure time, OR we realize just how much time we spend on our phones. #facepalm. It was so eye opening and helpful for me, you should absolutely do it this January. Grab your FREE Time Tracker Download by CLICKING HERE!
Funny story time: one time I posted a picture on Instagram of how I tracked my time when Will was the youth pastor at our church. One of the lines said “sex!” Yep – I totally put that in how I tracked my time. All the youth leaders were cracking jokes that night and we had no idea what they were talking about, until one of them pointed it out to me! I was terribly embarrassed and took it down immediately, but we all got a good laugh out of it!
2. Big picture planning for the year
At the start of each year, Will and I write in the things that we know we want to set aside time for. Examples for 2018: Camping Trip, Father’s Day in Beaufort, Anniversary Trip (we’re going to Europe for 10 days!), Myrtle Beach, Mountains at Thanksgiving, My Speaking Engagements, and Training dates for his work. Putting these things in our calendar helps us fight for them, or at least reschedule them when other invitations come up. If we didn’t do this, these trips that mean the most to our family simply wouldn’t happen.
3. Create an Ideal Week
I first heard about creating an ideal week from Michael Hyatt. (You can see my pre-babies ideal week here!) It is brilliant and quite helpful, but to be honest, it’s a bit more difficult to live by when the babies are small. My best advice it to draft your ideal week, then allow for flexibility. With that said, I’m still a HUGE believer in this practice, and I plan to draft one for 2018 this week!
4. 3 Priorities
“Efficiency doesn’t matter if you are doing the wrong things in the first place.”
― Matt Perman
This is where we win and we lose our time, friend. PRIORITIZATION. This also is my biggest struggle. I’m constantly getting distracted by things that need to get done (laundry! clean out that drawer! reorganize the girls clothes!) instead of the things MOST important for THAT particular day. Here is one simple tip that is so dang simple it’s crazy:
Set your 3 Priorities for TODAY before you do anything else.
What are the 3 things that you want to accomplish today? That if you did those 3 things, at the end of your day, you could say, “Hey! That was a great day and I did what I needed to do.” We do this every day in my work with our Morning Huddle, and it has been a game changer for us. We are more focused and more productive. Here’s where the problem is: On a day with a LOT to do, it’s easier to just jump in and start working on all the things. This goes for work and for our homes. I just want to feel accomplished, and I’m overwhelmed, so I GET AFTER IT. Well, the problem lies in that quote above: “Efficiency doesn’t matter if you are doing the wrong things in the first place!” You have to set your priorities FIRST, then you can methodically tackle the most important things and truly know your hours were spent well.
5. 10 Minutes with Each Kid Each Day
This will change your family if you let it. I must give credit where it’s due: Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions (an online parenting course we are taking that we LOVE), calls this “Mind Body Soul Time.” Every morning and every evening, each parent must set aside 10 minutes for 1 on 1 time with each kid. This time is completely focused and undistracted – no phone, no tidying or cleaning, no multitasking. And the kid gets to decide how he/she wants to spend that time with you! We are still working on our morning time, but to start, we just do evening time with our kiddos. (Hope to implement mornings soon!) So, for Will and I, it looks like this: for 20 minutes every evening, we set a timer. We start with “Milly Mama / Daddy Lyndon” time. When the timer goes off after 10 minutes, we switch kids. Milly’s behavior has improved so much since we’ve started this little parenting time management tool, and we are incredibly grateful. (Not an ad, but worth mentioning: this parenting course is worth every penny!)
6. Do one thing at a time
Yes, I’m a woman, and yes, I’m terrible at multitasking. It’s true. My husband can vouch for this. But I’ll keep this short and sweet: science has proven that we are much less effective when we multitask. So don’t do it! Embrace undivided focus and doing one thing at a time as much as you can.
Side note for mamas: one thing I’ve been trying to do a lot more of lately? When I have a big task to do in the home, I invite Milly in to help. I am still focused on the task, and yes it will slow things down, but she LOVES to help where she can. So I try to tackle things with Milly, but if it requires too much thinking or decision making, I tackle it during a nap or while she’s watching Frozen!
7. Set Boundaries around emails
Here are my two biggest tips for emails: first, do NOT open your inbox first thing. Accomplish something before ever opening your inbox, or you will be in your inbox all day. Second, set a time boundary for how long you will be in your inbox. Set an alarm on your phone, do as much as you can within that allotted time, and when the alarm goes off, you are DONE for the day. It causes you to be ruthless and effective in your inbox.
Here is a freebie all about how I am an Email Ninja – just for you!
8. Plan your leisure and your rest
Have you ever come home from a vacation completely worn out, needing another vacation? That, friend, is the difference between leisure and rest. Leisure is “the use of free time for enjoyment.” This includes being active and doing things for fun, and it’s so so SO important to plan these times! However, it’s equally important to plan to REST. Rest is “to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” See the difference?
We plan our leisure in the form of travel, family fun days, races we like to run, things we like to experience. We plan our rest weekly in doing our very best to maintain a Sabbath – a day free of any kind of work, a day of enjoyment of our God and one another, a day to cease. I’m so passionate about this because it’s a key to such a fulfilling life, and yet we all (including myself) struggle with this. Why? There is ALWAYS stuff to do. It’s not part of our culture. We don’t think the Sabbath applies to us anymore.
I encourage you: plan time for both leisure and rest. Put it in your calendar, or it won’t happen. Will and I try to decide on our Sabbath day at the start of each week, so we can plan for it throughout the week. (Hello paper plates, crock pot meals, caught up laundry and movie nights!) If you don’t plan for this in the pages of your calendar, you’ll reach burnout before you know it. And because I’m so passionate about it, I made a freebie about this too! Click Here to read more thoughts on how to Work Hard and Sabbath Hard!
Last but not least, my favorite tools for organizing my time include:
What are your favorite Time Organization books, tools, and tricks? I’d love to hear them!
Don’t miss Emily’s Post!! How We Do It: Organizing our Time by Em for Marvelous
Also, if you want to read my original time post: Nancy’s 2014 Organization in Time Blogpost
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