Today marks Day 1 of a 10-day series on simplifying our lives. Thank you for joining me on this journey to trim the unneeded stuff from our lives.
We live in a culture of excess. And while I’m thankful for the opportunities, the choices of what to do with my time, money and energy can overwhelm me.
There is something deep in my heart that cries for simplicity.
That’s why I’ve chosen the name of my blog as Room to Breathe. It’s my heart’s desire to have abundant margin in my life – not to be scheduled down to the minute with things to do and places to go.
My brain craves time to think, create, dream. My schedule should be pleasantly productive with flexibility to help a friend or head to lunch with a family member. My home functions better when there is a foundation of order. Truth be told, I’m a much nicer wife and mother when I’m not stressed out about mess.
I always say, if something isn’t a problem, then it isn’t a problem. What I mean is if clutter doesn’t bother you or your family, or it doesn’t hinder you from doing what you want, then it isn’t a problem. But for those who feel they are in a constant battle to reclaim some breathing room in their lives, this series is for you.
I want to share 10 things that have made a difference for me as a busy wife, mother, homemaker and employee. These will be tips or ideas you can use that day. They won’t be long blog posts. I just want to dash in for a moment, and help you make some small changes in your life.
Small changes make a difference. Success builds on success. Over time, you’ll feel more in control, and less like the world is against you.
Without some sort of approach, thought or plan, our lives will not become simpler. They will continue to expand as we say yes to choice after choice. This leads to clutter, hurry, exhaustion. But the Lord’s way is peaceful, ordered, simple.
So, that’s our goal. Let’s start Day 1 with what made the most difference in helping me create a manageable schedule:
Create a Master To-Do List
About 10 years ago, I’m pretty sure I had a panic attack. I sat sobbing, couldn’t breathe and felt immobilized. Why? I had too much to do. Too many deadlines, too many people needing things from me, too many demands. I had gotten myself to an unreasonable place. With a husband, five children and working from home, I’d said yes to too many things.
So, desperate for help, I ordered a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. I was certain that was all I needed – to get things done. Well, it wasn’t ALL I needed, as there was a lot of underlying issues. Because as soon as I would get one project done, I would take on another. But Allen’s book really motivated me to take a look at why I was ridiculously busy.
First, I had to be honest about the amount of things I had to do. And there’s where creating a master “brain dump” list comes in.
So grab a notepad, or open a document on your computer and start listing everything you need to do – now and in the future. If it’s been on your mind, on a sticky note or on one of several to-do lists – put it all in one place. List small things, like phone calls, errands, emails to send, bills to pay, appointments to make, presents to buy, photos to print, etc. And include bigger things like repair projects at home, vacations or parties to plan, applying for scholarships, preparing to teach a Sunday School lesson, writing a book. Include things to do today, next week and next month.
This might take days, as things pop into your mind. So add to this list as you think of things.
At some point, you’ll have a pretty good summary of everything you need to do. You’ll probably feel two different emotions. 1) Panic at all you have to do. But 2) the better emotion will be relief. Because finally, the truth is out there, and now you can do something about it.
Once you’ve got this master list complete as possible, there are a few things you can do:
- Organize it into tasks and projects. A task involves one step (make a phone call). A project involves two or more steps. These two things shouldn’t belong side-by-side on one list. Only tasks go on a to-do list.
- Use this as your master to-do list and pull 3-5 things off it at a time for your daily to-do list.
- Create a project management notebook, with tasks on one page, and a page for each project.
- Pray about what responsibilities to remove permanently in order to simplify your life over time.
When I first did a brain dump, it was obvious no single person could continue that pace. I had to resign from some volunteer positions – which I did over time and without leaving anyone in the lurch. I also realized I had a problem with procrastination, so I made myself tackle some thing things I had been putting off. Then I wrote a book about it, called Taming the To-Do List.
I continue with this practice of keeping a master list to this day. It keeps me in check. And I feel a sense of peace knowing everything I have to do is in one safe place. I’m confident it will be a great start for you too.
If you missed the series, here are all 10 days:
Day 2 – Create Homes Within Your Home
Day 3 – Finish What Your Start
Day 4 – Create Distraction-Free Zones
Day 5 – Take a Sabbath Rest
Day 6 – Begin the Day the Night Before
Day 7 – Only Keep What You Use
Day 8 – Create A Brain In A Binder
Day 9 – Plan Your Gift-Giving
Day 10 – Let the Holy Spirit Do His Job
In His love,