Life tends to hit me all at once. If something can go wrong, 15 go-wrong things will follow, all in the same time period.
I find that these maddening time periods cause my chronic illnesses to go haywire. As someone with chronic migraines and rheumatoid arthritis, it is physically painful anyway, but pain is tripled when flares happen during times of stress. The cruel irony is, stress is a factor in flares and flares add to the stress.
Over the years, I’ve found some strategies on how to deal with being overwhelmed. The first and highest priority is time with God.
Even if my body will not allow me to get out of bed to greet the sunrise, I still make a point of going to the Lord in prayer while in bed. I pray for my husband as he drives to work and for each of my children. I pray for people the Lord lays on my heart or who I know are having difficulties themselves.
I pull up a Bible app on my phone and read Scripture. As I’m preparing to write a Bible study on Habakkuk, that’s the book I’ve been reading right now. Time in the Word is crucial for dealing with a life set on the spin cycle.
After time with God, I shower and dress – apply a bit of makeup, take my morning meds – all the while thinking about what I need to get done that day or week or month. The best way I know how to do this is to write it out. I use a technique called “life mapping.”
On a sheet of paper (I usually use a large sheet of drawing paper, but I’ve made this into a PDF for you), I make squares for each area of my life. Within these squares I write a list of either tasks that need to be done or important aspects of those relationships or areas of my life.
For example, one square is labeled “God.” Within this square, for me, are listed “devotional time,” “Bible study,” and “prayer.” This is not meant to be legalistic but to make sure I have God at the forefront of my life.
Also at the top of my LifeMapping exercise is my husband. Since men and women may do this, I’ve listed this square as “spouse,” simply because “husband/wife” was too long for the square. In this square I may list “date night,” “conversation about _____”, or even my husband’s care since he is paraplegic.
LifeMapping helps me to organize my thoughts and actions depending on each area of my life. The square in the center has my name in it. Taking care of myself is important. I’m not much good for my family if I’m down for the count.
While I’ve made available a template for you to use here on LifeMapping, and encourage you to do so, there are a number of other strategies I use. I’m not saying that these things will prevent a crazy-busy life, but it may help make it manageable.
When I am writing grants for a non-profit, I’m there: physically and/or mentally. Sometimes I research and write grants out of my home and I don’t go in the office to do that, so while I’m not there physically, I am mentally there. I don’t have social media or my blog stuff pulled up on the computer or laid out on the dining table where I write. I am a saying, “Be here now.” It just means, in this time, in this moment, be absorbed by what needs to be done and focus on that.
When I am writing a blog post, like right now, I have grant stuff packed up and my Bible out, as most of the time I’m writing based on a verse from the Word.
We’re in the throes of VBS set-up as I type this. I made the decision, as we’re running out of clean laundry, to stay home today and work on the house, as well as my blog. I’m also cooking chicken to make chicken salad for dinner tonight, as I’m meeting my husband at the church. We will meet our decorations team and finish setting up the church gym for VBS. But right now, as the chicken is finishing cooking and now, the washing machine has just beeped, this blog post has my attention. And this post will continue to have my attention after I switch laundry loads.
After all, you have to remain flexible.
You also have to utilize tools.
Tools for Time Management
The best tool I found for time and body management is the humble slow cooker. Since I have more energy in the morning because of my chronic illnesses, I can put dinner in the slow cooker in the morning and have a fuss-free dinner ready by dinner time. This gives me more time in the evening to clean the kitchen while dinner’s preparing, work on laundry, help Laura with reading, or work on blogs, grants, my book, and other writing projects.
There are many slow cookers available. Some are fancy and others are not. It depends on what you want to do with it and your needs. I have two I use most often, and have provided affiliate links for your perusal. One is a simple slow cooker that has a removable liner (a must-have in any slow cooker) with which I use to cook beans a lot. The other also has a removable liner and offers three cooking levels (hot, low, warm) as well as a meat thermometer. This second one is larger than the first so I can cook an entire pot roast, with veggies, and it comes out delicious each and every time.
Another tool [aff] is a rice / vegetable steamer. This appliance can cook rice to perfection without you worrying if you’re burning it. Some steamers can also use the same energy and steam vegetables while you’re cooking the rice. This is incredibly energy-efficient and a time saver.
A good planner is also a must. Now, some love paper planners and others adore planners that are smart phone apps. It’s all a personal preferences. The important thing is this: no matter what kind you use, use it. Personalize it. Carry it around everywhere. Refer to it. I like a planner that is a calendar as well as a place to jot lists. I also use the notes app on my phone a lot – for spur-of-the-moment ideas or a grocery list. Or to save a link to a website I want to explore later.
My daughter is still young enough that I stay in the bathroom while she bathes. Often she bathes herself or I wash her hair and she does the rest. Regardless, I’m in there with her. I use this time to straighten up the bathroom. I can clean the toilet, wipe down the sink, put toiletries away, sweep the floor, and do everything except clean the tub. When she’s finished, I rinse the tub out really well and put up her bath toys. The point is, I combine these two tasks of keeping an eye on her and cleaning the bathroom, instead of sitting there checking social media on my phone.
Especially in the summer, I try to use the stove or oven less, so as not to heat up the house unnecessarily. About twice a week, I will cook a large amount of chicken breasts for more than one meal. Today I’m cooking chicken to be used in chicken salad, which will feed us for several days. There’s nothing wrong with leftovers!
There’s also nothing wrong with cooking potatoes in the microwave for loaded baked potatoes (pierce with a fork, place in microwave-safe bowl with water halfway up potato, microwave for eight minutes. Load up with favorite toppings) – combine that potato with a salad, and you have a healthy lunch or dinner. During that time that the microwave is going, I can unload and reload the dishwasher, wipe down countertops, sweep the floor, and fold a load of clothes.
It’s important to choose priorities and get things done. For me, the highest priority is God. Having an attitude of prayer all day long, concentrating and meditating on His Word while I do dishes is important. It’s not regulated to just morning devotions. My next priority is my husband. Since he is paraplegic, and he also works outside of the home, my focus is to make his life if not easier than more bearable. If that means washing the sheets four times a week because it’s more comfortable for him, than I gladly do that. My next priorities (children, church, ministry opportunities, blogging) are all in line after each other. If something falls outside of those six priorities, I evaluate and pray on it, and if it’s not a good fit, than I have the personal freedom to say this small but powerful word: NO.
And so do you. You have the power to say no, and not do everything. Allow others the blessing to serve God in ways they are called. If you are not called to do something, don’t do it. Misery and strife accompany ill-conceived and non-prayed-about “calls” for your time.
This post may contain affiliate links to products and/or services, including those available on Amazon.com, as Near Your Altar is a participating member in the Amazon Affiliate Program in addition to other retail affiliates. These affiliate links help provide for this website as well as a small income to my family and I. Please consider clicking on the links to purchase or to browse the affiliate's website, which will open in a new window. We thank you for your support. ~ Terrie
Read Disclosure Policy here