I’m not going to lie. Winter in Nebraska was hard for our family.
The winter seasons of our lives usher in discouragement and doubt, creating a sense of urgency to change everything and quick.
In the never-ending winter, I was tempted to make drastic changes, yet I knew it wasn’t wise.
Instead of making drastic changes that I might regret when the shining sun offers actual warmth, I decided to make slight course corrections.
Sometimes getting life back on track is merely looking at the small disciplines we’ve relaxed on and intentionally creating a plan to bring them back to life.
I found that over the winter I ever so slightly let go of disciplines and organization methods that have always helped my life feel less chaotic.
An intentional life doesn’t happen by chance. An intentional life is created and cultivated. It is nurtured and pruned. It is assessed and re-worked when needed.
If you find yourself lacking in motivation or energy, or stressed that you never have enough time, or feeling you struggle to bring things to completion well, you may find this post helpful in giving you a gentle nudge to try a few slight changes that may have a significant impact.
Here are a few things I have in place to keep my life running smoothly. When life runs smoothly, I have more time to invest in what matters most.
Clear the clutter
When you are surrounded by “stuff”, it’s actually hard to think clearly.
My boys do their school work on desks in their rooms. Each morning I have them make their beds and create a clean and clear work space so they can stay focused. They claim the mess doesn’t bother them, but I see a difference in the pace and quality of work when they have little around to distract.
I try to maintain a clutter free house as much as possible. When mail enters the house, I stand over the trash can and quickly discard what isn’t needed and file away what is important.
We have specified times of the day where everyone goes through the house putting away anything they’ve taken out that needs to find its home.
I purge drawers and closets once a season.
When I buy a new clothing item, I remove at least one item (if not more) from the closet.
As I go through my closet, I donate anything I haven’t worn in the last year no matter how much I think I love it.
Plan what matters
In our family, dinner matters. Almost every night we sit together as a family for dinner. It’s distraction free time where we all reconnect after long days. We share what is happening in our independent worlds, we discuss topics that matter in the world, and we laugh.
Memories are created around the table. If dinner is important, I need to plan for it.
Over time, I let go of the planning. We still sat together, but I found myself frantically figuring out dinner too close to time to eat. This only created stress for me.
I bought a large calendar dry erase board to hang in our pantry. I took 30 minutes over the weekend and planned out 3 weeks of menus, writing them on the dry erase board.
This one tiny shift offered me breathing room every single afternoon when I wrapped up school with the kids. It gave my brain space and actual physical minutes. I used that time in the late afternoons to sit on the couch and read or do absolutely nothing at all. I found the boys would join me with a book or conversation.
I loved planning more than a week at a time. It means I don’t have to think about it each weekend. I no longer hear “what’s for dinner?” Pretty much loving that.
Schedule time for exercise
I don’t love to exercise at all; yet, I realize I’m happier and healthier when I get plenty of intense exercise.
At the same time I planned my dinner menus, I wrote in actual times I would go to the gym. And I actually stuck to it!
When we exercise, our bodies release happy hormones and decrease our stress hormones. The hardest step for me in exercising is the first step. The one that actually gets me out the door.
Something about writing out my intentions held me accountable to them. The very fact I exercised and cooked healthy meals at home brought me more joy than I realized it would. When mama is happy, well, everyone else seems to be as well.
Take a social media break
Another slight course correction I made was getting off of social media. It’s amazing how much time a quick scroll here and there takes up in a day. Or how much of my brain space it occupies. I reclaimed physical minutes and hours to my day.
Because of this redeemed time and mental clarity, I was able to become much more intentional with my boys. I felt no need to rush away from time sitting with them. I listened more clearly and noticed things I’ve been missing.
Remove one habit that takes up time yet offers little benefit
For some this might be watching tv. Some reports say the average adult watches 5 hours of tv a day. Imagine gaining even just one hour a day, but five can be life changing. It could give you the time to pursue that new business or hobby you’ve been dreaming about.
For some this could be removing social media apps from your phone.
For some it’s playing games on your phone or computer.
Use a timer for daily duties
One of my boys began taking longer to do tasks that shouldn’t have taken so long. I realized he needed defined boundaries and limits to function productively. He needed a goal to work towards and visuals to guide him.
We scheduled out his daily tasks, placing them in prioritized order and setting time limits on each one. I instructed him to set the timer for each task based on the time we determined was appropriate. When the buzzer beeped, he was to stop the task and move to the next. We scheduled in time at the end of the day to go back and tie up any loose ends. Turns out he hasn’t needed that extra scheduled time because working with a goal and action plan moved him forward to completion. He gained hours of his life back each day by this one slight change.
This proved invaluable to his time management skills. It also solved his tendency to procrastinate. It eliminated his stress. It freed him.
Schedule in what you feel is missing
Is your prayer life lacking? Set an alarm for a specified time each day. When the alarm sounds, stop and pray. For each person this will look slightly different. For some it’s stopping right where you are and praying a 30 second prayer. For others, it’s going to a quiet room and kneeling for 5, 10, or 20 minutes. The point is simply to go a step beyond where you currently are in your prayer life.
Do you need to spend more time reading your Bible? Set your alarm to wake you 10 minutes earlier. Don’t hit snooze. Get out of bed, leave your phone where it is, pick up your Bible and read. This one habit will change your life forever. Guaranteed.
Do you want to spend more time with your kids? Write it on your calendar. Set an alarm to remind you. You will be surprised what a 10 minute game or 5 minutes reading aloud will do.
If it’s important to you, schedule it in. We tend to do the things we write out. Sometimes it only takes the slightest correction, a small sacrifice of time.
At the end of the week, reward yourself for creating a new discipline that helped your life either run more smoothly or offered more richness or joy to your days because you did the things which matter most to you.
I’m longing for spring. Yet I find that God grows me most in my winter seasons. When the season of life draws us in more than we prefer, we have an opportunity to turn our gaze back to Him. At the same time, when we find those small, subtle shifts which make life flow a little more smoothly, the pain of the season lessens its intensity.
If you would like to read more posts like this one on breaking bad habits and creating a disciplined life, check these out:
Very soon, I’ll be releasing illuminate – Seeing God by the Light of His Word. For the person who wants to grow in their discipline of spending time with God each day, this is a great step towards that. It’s 14 days of audio devotions centered around God’s character, prayerfully crafted to bless your soul.