Recently people have asked me, how do you do it all? How are you teaching full-time, maintaining a house, raising two kids under three, and writing? The truth is that it is a struggle each and every day. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance takes practice, discipline, and a strong dose of grace! I have listed out some of my favorite time-saving tips to help you make the most of each day.
Matthew 6:33-34: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Here Jesus says to keep your focus on God, and the immediate issues that must be solved today. Too often I let things that may or may not happen in the future dominate my thoughts and steal my joy. God knows my every need, and I am under his care. I am sure to read my Bible, and when I get home from work, I strive to put everything aside except for my family. I help my husband feed the kids, and do the dishes. I put my undone housework out of my mind (unless it is a chore that I can include my children in!), get on the floor, and play. I listen and talk to my children. We go for a walk. I am tired, but I know that this time is important and soon to be over. Spending quality time with my family restores my soul.
I would love to have enough time and energy to be an A-student in every aspect of my life, but realistically there are not enough hours in the day. I work in a profession where it is encouraged and even expected for a person to take their work home with them. Honestly, I have stopped doing or thinking about work the moment I leave for the day. I try not to repeat the day’s problems to my husband, either, further solidifying the stress’ place at the forefront of my mind and heart. It is not the best use of my strength at this time. I am kinder to my students and work harder and faster when I know that I will devote eight hours to school, and the three precious hours that I have left before the kids’ bedtime to my family.
Prioritizing can also mean that you don’t have an A+ social life. You might have to say no and disappoint someone. It can be difficult to stop doing an activity that, in and of itself, is not bad, but not everything we believe is necessary is always necessary. Oftentimes we put far more pressure on ourselves than others put on us. Your health and stability are just as important as your calendar and your reputation.
2. Set aside time to rest
Genesis 2:2-3 “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” In the pattern of creation, notice that God himself worked for six days, and then rested. Six days, not five! Most Americans have it easy! It helps me feel better about devoting my Saturdays to laundry and meal-prepping when I think about it that way!
When I begin to feel sorry for myself for the amount of work I have to do (work which, by the way, is a direct result of how richly God has blessed me–I have a home and children!), I read about the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:15-18:
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.”
This is a woman who gets up early and stays up late. She is active and industrious. It doesn’t come naturally; she steels herself and works for it. She knows how much fruit her diligence is going to bear. When we follow God’s natural pattern of work and rest, our lives will show the benefits. Try not to do much if anything on Sundays. Meet with family and friends instead. Put on some cozy socks and do a grocery-store facial. Sleep. It is precisely BECAUSE I know how much work I have to do that I take the time to refresh, restore, and reset for the week.
3. Don’t freeze up
My post-work routine used to be to sink into the couch and decompress from the day. Then, (if I hadn’t dozed off!) by 10:30 at night, my husband would wish me good night. “What?!” I would ask him, glancing at the time. I still had to rinse off the crusty dishes and shower for the evening. My alarm would be going off in only six hours. Since then, I have learned to do whatever I have to do with the little momentum I have right when I walk in the door. “Bad mom” confession–I let my kiddos watch TV when we get home! Everyone’s parenting style is different, and you can get pretty discouraged if you spend too much time online trying to keep up with others. I find that my children need to unwind a little too after a hard day of playing at the babysitter’s, and are happy to rediscover their toys for a few minutes while my husband and I take care of what we need to get done. This twenty or so minutes per day can help make the workload on Saturdays not feel so overwhelming. My grandmother, who has five children, always would tell us to set a timer for ten minutes. If I say I am going to pick up toys in the living room for ten minutes, then stop, I am not sitting around thinking about how I can never get it done and never keep up. My daily mantra is “progress, not perfection.” If your home or workload is better after your effort than it was before, that is a victory and a blessing!
4. Pray without ceasing
I am ashamed to admit how many times per day I worry or feel down when I haven’t taken the matter to the Lord in prayer. Is the rust spot not coming out of the cast-iron pan? Pray about it. Can’t find your hairbrush (this is a near nightly occurrence for me!)? Pray about it. Can’t get your toddler out of diapers? PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! Ask for help and let it go. I love my former pastor’s comment when it comes to feeling embarrassed about praying for minor details. He used to say, “All of our problems are small to an Almighty God!” But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about the problems. We need to be more connected with our Strength and our Hope to survive each day. Pray for wisdom that you will know how best to balance your time. Pray for more time! Confess your weaknesses and your burdens to your compassionate and merciful Friend. He will help you perform the job he has equipped and called you to do.
One of my favorite prayers is based on a song, “Love Take Me Over” by Steven Curtis Chapman. The lyric is “Love, take up all of my space…” but I usually say “Lord, fill up all of my spaces!” You know the Lord can do that? When I make a mistake as a parent, the Lord can make up for that deficit by putting people or experiences into my child’s life that teach them about God’s faithful love. Remember that ultimately, he is their Creator and Father, and he will be there for them just like he has been there for you. In gratitude, we do the best we can to honor this gift.
5. Remember the benefits and challenges of every stage of life
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. In high school all I wanted to do was be married and have a baby. In college, all I wanted to do was graduate. As an adult, I missed the alone time, coffee runs, and easy victories that came with being a great student. After having children, I mourned (ok, let’s be honest, am still mourning!) the loss of closeness and time together that occurs after early marriage. I can’t move anymore without having children hanging all over me and banging on the door when I do leave the room. So many people have told me how much they miss the stage that my children are in–the smiles, the cuddles, the passion for learning, the new discoveries and accomplishments.
I strive to enjoy each day and the “small” blessings which will later become some of my brightest memories, even though it is hard and tiring right now. Time is moving so fast and I want to use the time I have been given, especially while I have the health to do so.
No, I’m not kidding! Besides reading the Bible, working, resting, and spending quality time with others, spiritual singing is a great defensive weapon against the lies and discouragement of the enemy. Singing the beautiful, scripture-filled words of a hymn while I wash dishes–are you all noticing how much I do the dishes!–can turn a troubled and anxious mind into a productive and power-filled one, without taking any extra time! Try it sometime, you’ll see!
I hope I gave you something to think about; let me know in the comments if you have any more strategies to share! You can do this! <3