How To Be Productive If You Stay At Home

Being a stay-at-home or work-at-home wife isn’t about Netflix binging or nap taking. A big challenge for stay/work-at-home wives or really anyone who does the majority of work inside her own home is how to stay productive. It can be easy to spend the majority of your time on the couch, watching TV or doing whatever it is that interests you more than actually working. People often ask me if I’m finding things to do or if I’m keeping myself busy or sometimes if I get bored. Usually, I answer yes, yes, and no. But, I don’t aim to have a schedule that’s filled every minute of every day; I don’t view that as a healthy, productive schedule.

It’s easier than you think to find thing to do within the home, and in my case, I prefer and enjoy being at home over a conventional job. I’ve written a post in the past about why I’m a stay-at-home wife (post here), how I got my dream job (here) and today I want to share how I follow through.

This is my motivation for staying productive:

Proverbs 31:27

She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

(And all of Proverbs 31.)

Colossians 3:23

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

1 // Pray

You can never pray too much. We know from the Proverbs and various New Testament verses that God isn’t pleased by laziness and idleness; we are supposed to work and completely fulfill our God-given roles in order to live and prosper. He always wants to help you if you ask according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). Pray for God to help you stay motivated, productive, and that you’ll know what you need to do throughout the day. Pray that you’ll find plenty to do and have patience to deal with the unexpected as you work through your day.

2 // Establish a Schedule

Working at home is going to require a more strict schedule because of the environment you’re in. Because you’re surrounded by couches and fluffy chairs and pillows and beds, it can be so easy to just turn on the TV and get comfortable! So I use my Simplified Planner (post on how I do that here) and I establish myself a constant daily schedule. Depending on the size of your house, these things could take a substantial amount of time: Monday-Saturday I do one big cleaning task, plus at least one load of laundry (adapted from cleanmama.net), and I’m working on establishing a blogging schedule. Sunday is reserved for worship, relaxing with my husband, and preparing myself for the next week.  A couple days a week, there’s an extra task, like grocery shopping and a ladies’ morning Bible study, and I study my Bible alone one or two times a day.

Aside from my big tasks, there’s always something I can find to do; I can take my dog for a walk, prep for tonight or tomorrow’s dinner, something can always be organized or cleaned and put back in its place.

3 // Get Some Exercise

I take a few short walks throughout the day because I have a dog, and I like to do around twenty minutes of yoga when I can. An option for someone who doesn’t walk a dog would be to start with or pause your day to do some kind of physical activity. If you feel yourself getting sleepy, wanting to quit and sit down, you could take a walk or a jog, do some stretches, or even head to the gym for a set amount of time, then get back to your task. (It’s also energizing just to get up, get a drink of water, and walk around your house for a few minutes!) Now, I do take breaks, but when I find myself slipping into quitting mode, it’s always helpful to get back up and move around. Getting exercise regularly will help you stay energized and increase fatigue, as well as keep you healthy throughout your life (source). Taking care of yourself will pay off in every other aspect of your life.

4 // Eliminate Distractions

Trying to do more than one thing at once is not only unproductive, it’s bad for your mental/brain health (source). If there’s something that’s been standing in the way of your ability to get things done, eliminate it. For me that can be the TV or the apps on my phone. I often keep the TV on during the day for noise, and I usually have my phone close by. So if I see that one of these things is getting in the way, I’ll either turn off the TV completely or change it to a Pandora station or podcast, and I’ll put my phone in another room so that I’m not tempted to sit down and scroll. Figure out what it is that distracts you and make the necessary changes so that they no longer get in the way.

5 // Keep a Clean House

This is a little bit circular, BUT, if you keep a clean (or at least clutter-free) house you’ll likely be more motivated to stay busy around the house. One study showed that people who live with more clutter are susceptible to more stress, anxiety, depression, and joylessness. Another study showed that people who keep their homes clean experience a boost in their mental health as well as some physical health benefits (source). So, even though cleaning is probably one of the things you’re trying to stay motivated to do, just think about all of the benefits you and your house will have once it’s clean and stays clean (related blog post here from another blogger).

6 // Make a Reasonable To-Do List

“We are too busy (or lazy or intimidated) to prioritize, so we may never be getting anything important done. We are too busy to be effective.”

-Corey Kohn (source)

Aim for productive, not busy. Nothing makes me want to ignore a to-do list more than when it’s packed completely full — I just get overwhelmed. Try to remember that you only have 24 hours in a day and make a reasonable to-do list — God gave us plenty of hours in the day, we just have to choose how to use them effectively. Pick the most important things to get done that day and prioritize down from there (read The Difference Between Being Busy and Getting Things Done). My to-do list usually consists of Bible study, walk Widget, my big cleaning task for the day, laundry, and make dinner. When other things come up, they’re prioritized from there by importance and time. I never pack my day so full that I can’t sit down for a minute. Depending on your lifestyle, your list might look different, but I highly suggest taking a minute to evaluate what’s important to accomplish during any given day and stop glorifying busyness (related post here).


Related: Why I’m a Stay-at-Home Wife / Because I Need Routine / Full, But Not Busy on BlairBlogs.com / Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Career, New Studies Suggest on Forbes.com

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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. Have a blessed day.🙂

How I Use My Simplified Planner

I’ve been using my Simplified Planner for almost a year now, and I LOVE it. It’s helped me sort out my thoughts and plans and lists and generally just kept me more sane than I was before I had it. (By the way, her 2017 planners just debuted, so check them out!) I’ve thought about writing this post several times, and now that I really do have a set way that I use the planner, I decided now is a good time — especially if there’s anyone reading who’s considering purchasing one for 2017 or even for the academic year!

My Planner

I have the Daily version in Happy Stripe. The Daily Simplified Planner has a full calendar spread on the first two pages of each month, and two days per opening throughout the month. There are time slots from 6am to 9pm down the left of each day page, an empty to-do list to the right, dinner for the night on the bottom left and a section for extra notes on the bottom right. Every planner has monthly tabs on the sides of the pages and a sturdy pocket in the front that I use for lists, receipts, coupons, etc. — you’ll see them poking out of the top of my planner throughout the post.

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The beauty when I got it last December

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I’ve smudged the gold foil over time 😦

How I Used It

How I use my planner isn’t complicated or drawn-out; I don’t even use stickers because they seem to defeat the purpose of simplicity and take up too much time to use for my liking.

There are two ways I’ve used my planner that have been successful throughout the year. When I first got my planner, I tried using a pencil (just in case I messed up), and then I was just getting eraser smudges all over it, and I don’t keep many pencils on hand. And let’s be real, I just don’t like pencils. So that just didn’t work well for me.

Second, I tried color coding with these amazing pens. I mainly used light blue, lavender, pink, fuchsia, orange, and occasionally red — all depending on the tasks I had to do that day. I loved this because I could easily separate the tasks from each other and visually prioritize them if they weren’t written in order of priority already. It worked well for me until I started losing pens or leaving them in my car so that I couldn’t get to the color I needed when I needed it, and like the stickers, it took up a little too much time — it looked pretty, though!

When I was using these pens, I was thoroughly planning my day by time (as in, if I needed to clean the bathroom, it was in the time slot at 11am or whenever I decided I needed to do it the next day). I was completely filling the planner pages, and that quickly became overwhelming. This may work for people who can stick to a timed schedule like that, but sometimes I prefer to change up when I do a task, so it didn’t quite cut it for me.

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How I Use it Now

I really use my planner interactively; I use everything that’s printed in the planner to my advantage — which I’ve done since I first got the planner. For example, there are quotes at the top right of each page, and if I see that those quotes are going to be an encouragement or even a good mantra, I’ll bubble it or put a star next to it or highlight it (anything to draw attention to it). I also use the checklists next to “Sunday,” and the slot that says, “write a happy memory from this week.” They help me to live each week intentionally.

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I don’t know, I was just really excited about the taco salad that week. And I don’t think I stuck to those meals.

I’ve switched to using whatever black pen I deemed as my favorite at any point in time. 😉 Right now it’s a ballpoint click pen with a clip and a blue, white, and purple paisley pattern on it. I no longer color code, and I only write what’s necessary or what I think is important to make sure I remember throughout the day — sometimes I even write tasks that aren’t my favorite, but they feel more concrete in my planner (so that way I have to them, right?!) Although I don’t use stickers, I do occasionally put a sticky note wherever I need extra room to write, but don’t want to take up space in my planner in case something changes.

Usually on Saturdays or Sundays, I go through and write out tasks and meetings for the week, plus I meal plan in the dinner slot. I try to keep the time slots fairly open in case something comes up that I absolutely have to attend. There are usually one or two tasks in the morning, one around noon, and depending on the day, one or two in the evening. Then, I’ll fill in my to-do list section with whatever else I need to get done but don’t necessarily have a time constraint as long as they’re done that day.

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My notes section is mainly used for birthdays, important dates, or something I don’t want to forget but isn’t a task. I’ve used it for phone numbers if I need to call someone that day or even something I don’t want to forget at the grocery store (which can also go in the dinner slot).

And that full-spread calendar at the front? I use it, too. I put birthdays, holidays, my husband’s off-work days, football games if it’s football season, and vacations there all where I can see it over the span of a month. I don’t use it as much as the daily pages, but when I need to visualize how much time I have left in the month or until a particular day, the calendar is so, so helpful.

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I have fun with my planner! I used to get completely bent out of shape if I had to mark something out or rewrite it on the next page or misspelled something in the planner until I realized that that’s just life. I’ll have to scratch things out and make changes, and Emily Ley says it perfectly when she gives herself and anyone using the Simplified Planner “a standard of grace, not perfection.”

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This is inside the back cover.

Because not every page of our lives are going to be picture-perfect, neither are our planners. 🙂

 

3 Ways To Declutter Your Life This Holiday Season

During this busy time of year, it’s easy to let things get in the way and clutter our lives  – for me that leads to stress and anxious feelings. If I let clutter happen without trying to make positive changes, it will completely alter my mood. It can escalate until I just don’t want to get anything done and have mountains of laundry, dishes, and undone to-do lists engulfing me. A friend asked me last week what I do get rid of the “winter blues.” One of the things I talked to her about was environment; managing my environment well is one of the biggest factors in keeping the blues from creeping in.

In this context, I’ll define “environment” as anything surrounding me, both physical and emotional, that can work to either help or hurt me. Here’s what I do:

1. Keep your environment light and cheerful.

I mean “light” both literally and figuratively. One of the things that helps me the most is to open the blinds and let in natural light – even just pulling back the curtains lets in enough light to brighten a room. I do usually keep a few lights on in the room or rooms I’ll be in the most, but something about natural light just makes me feel more connected to what’s going on around me. Plus, there’s nothing worse to me than sitting or working in a dim room for hours (it also helps to cut back on the light bill since I’m not turning on every light in the house). I try not to watch too many dark or heavy TV shows and movies, lighten up the mood with cheerful music while I get ready keep the decor fairly simple. I love pillows and blankets, so I like to have those ready next to me if I’m relaxing and need a couple of them. If I’m not using them, they warm up the space even just sitting folded and pretty. Right now I’m all about holiday-themed throw pillows and blankets! If there’s something  small that cheers you up and keeps you going, use it to your advantage – even just as a decoration.

2. Keep your space neat and fresh.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, having a tidy, clean home is important to me. I can’t focus well unless it’s clutter-free. Not only that, but I don’t like living every day in or around filthy rooms. When I don’t get my cleaning done, I feel like I’ve fallen down on my job. My home isn’t always clean – just like everyone, I have those days when I’m a little lazy or I just don’t get much done. But I know that when I do keep my home neat, clean, and fresh, it will help me physically and emotionally in the long run.

Usually, to help further freshen up, I’ll diffuse essential oils (lately I’ve been loving Young Living Christmas Spirit, Clove, and Tangerine – either a blend of all three or just a couple). Diffusing makes the room smell delicious, and it has great health benefits. I even do this while I’m cleaning to help motivate me to get it all done so I can relax and enjoy my clean house for a while. You could light a candle or spray a room-freshener (I have a homemade Tangerine spray I use on occasion) – anything that works to make you feel cozy and comfortable!

3. Keep your calendar open and breathable.

Don’t overdo it! I don’t like filling my schedule to the brim with places to go and people to see. I like to keep in touch with people I have relationships with, and seeing those people face-to-face is extremely important in order to properly maintain a relationship. But I get mentally and emotionally exhausted very quickly in social situations, to the point where I even get out of breath and can’t wait to go off by myself (this is an extreme example, but it has happened). So, in order to keep mental exhaustion from leading to worse or physical exhaustion, I have to make sure I’m not packing my schedule too full. In order to keep the groups from becoming so large and overwhelming that I can’t visit with everyone there, I like to spread out the days I see people – and I try not to make every encounter a big event. Sometimes the best thing you can do is slow down, have a cup of coffee or tea, and simply be with a friend or family member. This can be hard to do during the holiday season because we want to do as much and see as many people as possible!

I do understand that a lot of people can handle a fuller schedule than I. But I believe it would help everyone to find his or her limit and stop there to recuperate.


 

Of course, these are just three simple things that help me, especially when I’m needing a boost. Maybe there’s something you can add to my list! If you’ve got something, let me know in the comment box. 🙂

I hope the beginning of everyone’s holiday season is cheerful and stress-free!

 

How I Prepare For A Trip

Something that’s very important to me is leaving my home clean and orderly before I leave for an extended period of time. I like to know that I didn’t leave things to sit undone for days while I’m not there to do them. I love even more the feeling of coming home to a clean house and not feeling frantic right when I walk in the door because there’s so much to do right when I get back – especially if I’m going to be getting in late. As I mentioned in my last post, John Mark and I will be leaving for our hometowns today celebrate Thanksgiving with our families – apart from packing a suitcase, there a few things I’ll always do before I leave. They only take a little time and effort, and are so worth it in the end.

1. Make the bed

You all know by now how important making the bed is to me. It gives the whole room a fresher look, and I’m not tripping over throw pillows or staring at a wad of sheets and blankets the whole time I’m getting ready or doing other chores. I think what could be even better than this, though, is that when I come home after being away for a while, I like to crawl into nice, untangled sheets. I don’t like leaving the bed sheets tangled because, even though I have to turn down the bed before I get in it, I don’t have to crawl into a mess. It’s also comforting; it reminds me of when I was little. My mom would turn down and straighten up the bed for me after a long day because she knew I was exhausted, and when I came in from a 3.5 hour trip from school she had the bed all made up with clean sheets, ready to go. Now I’ve adapted that method, and I just don’t leave without making the bed.

2. Finish the laundry

This is something I do the day of or couple of days before leaving. Let’s face it; we all let laundry pile up too much sometimes. Depending on the load, it can take more time, but before I leave I like to make sure all of the laundry I can finish is finished before I leave – since laundry is never really “finished,” I just make sure to wash all of the clothes sitting in the hamper. I have a couple of reasons for this. 1) It’s much easier to pack when the clothes are clean, and I know where everything is. Not to mention, I don’t have to worry about a shirt or pants I’ll want to wear being dirty last minute. 2) I simply don’t like leaving old, dirty laundry in the hamper when I leave. I feel so much better having done the laundry so I’m not rushing to get it done when we get back in, in case there’s something in there one of us wants (or needs!) to wear the next day. My laundry rule takes a lot more planning and time than making the bed, but it’s totally worth the trouble to have clean clothes to take with me and come home to.

3. Clean the kitchen & bathroom

When I say “clean” I don’t mean “scrub down every surface and deep clean the floors, sinks, bathtub, and oven.” I simply mean this: I cannot stand to leave dirty dishes in the sink while I’m gone. If they sit for too long, they start to smell, and no one wants a smelly kitchen. So, if I need to, I empty the clean dishes and put them all away, then I load the dishwasher with all of the dirty dishes sitting around. If it happens to fill up the dishwasher, I’ll go ahead and hand-wash the rest, and put them all away. If the dishwasher is still running by the time we have to leave, I’ll just leave them as long as they’re clean and put them away when I get home. I try to make sure the sink is free of old food and scrubbed down. The last thing I’ll do is make sure all of the surface is wiped down with Thieves Cleaner. I wipe down all of the counters, the stove-top, and the hood over the stove if it needs it.

As for the bathroom, I try to keep it clean on a regular basis. But before I go on a trip, I like to make sure I’ve picked up any dirty clothes, washcloths or towels out of the floor and wipe down the counters. I also make sure that the toothpaste or face wash (or anything else for that matter) is in its proper place.

4. Tidy up the living room

I like to make sure that the living room space is as neat as I can make it in a short amount of time. I’ll collect stray coasters and stack them all on the coffee table, straighten the bookcase, John Mark’s desk, and the chairs. Our coffee table has a glass top, so if it has any marks on it (and if I remember) I’ll wipe that down with Thieves Cleaner as well. I throw all of the stray shoes we aren’t taking with us in the shoe bucket we have next to the front door. The next thing I do is just make sure the couch cover is tucked in well, fold all of the blankets and either stack them neatly in the basket or lay them over the couch – the ones I use the most stay on the furniture so I can grab them more easily. 🙂

5. Take out the trash

This is a MUST for me. Just like leaving smelly dishes, I absolutely will not leave trash in the cans. I make sure to pick up trash lying around the house first, then I’ll tie up the kitchen trash. If there’s room, I put the bathroom trash in the kitchen bag, as well, and then tie it up. If the kitchen trash is overflowing too much to include the bathroom trash, then I tie up the bathroom trash separately (it’s usually in a Wal-Mart bag in the tiny can). Then I set both of the bags next to the front door so we don’t forget to take it out on our way to the car.


 

Some people have a higher tolerance and different definition of “messes” than I do, but these are all helpful things to keep in mind so that you don’t end up with chores piled up by the end of a relaxing trip. It just hits me too hard when I get back to real life and have jobs to do that could have been done earlier.

These things might take some planning, but even just a little bit of tidying up can go a long way – and it only takes a couple of minutes to take out the trash or wipe down counters! Lately I’ve been trying to do these more often so it takes even less time if I’m in a rush to pack and get on the road. Do you have any tips to make going on trips easier? Let me know in the comment box! 🙂

 

 

 

 

How I Make Mornings Easier

There’s almost nothing on this earth I love more than a put-together home. A put-together home leads to a more organized life. I’m a routine person, but I am not a morning person. There’s not a whole lot I’ve been able to do to fix this quite yet, but I have found a couple of things that make it a little easier.

When I was in college, I was used to waking up early for class, and even enjoyed getting up before dawn to go to on-campus yoga classes and run with friends in the Campus Rec, so my built-in alarm clock woke me up by 9 even on Saturdays. Well… I have no more classes, and being a stay-at-home wife makes it way too easy to sleep in until 11 or 12 on the weekdays. (Oh how I wish I could get myself back into that routine when I would get up and practice yoga into sunrise – there’s something so energizing about that). So I’ve been trying to set my alarm for at least 8 am, usually 9, for the past week or so to make sure I don’t oversleep. This way I feel refreshed enough to get things done during the day and I haven’t been lazy when I could be getting things done, and 9 is a good time for me since we don’t go to bed quite as early as we would like to. Actually, your body is healthier if you get roughly the same amount of sleep every night, and you get better sleep, or so I read somewhere….

I skip the coffee or can of coke (not actually Coca-cola for all those non-southerners out there) to wake me up – caffeine usually has negative effects on me, so I try to keep it to a minimum, especially when I’m trying to refresh myself for a new day. It just doesn’t make sense to start the day negatively. It feels better to slowly let my body wake itself up instead of jump-starting it with a jolt of unnecessary energy.

So, after I wake up I go ahead and take a shower and get ready for the day. I mean full-outfit, fixed-hair, put-on-makeup kind of ready, even if I don’t have anywhere to go. There are occasional stay-in-my-pajamas days, but I’ve found that I’m much more productive when I look like I’m ready to be productive, so I’ve cut those to a minimum. Granted, when John Mark and I first got married, I was still in my pajamas with unwashed hair by the time he got home. I’m still a work in progress in this area. Now I usually wash, blow-dry, and straighten my hair (or put it up in a bun) and put on a simple layer of makeup – I haven’t been doing the full face look with eyeliner and layers of eye shadow as much anymore because it just takes up too much time. I finish up by brushing my teeth.

Once I’m done getting myself ready, I get the bedroom ready. I always, always make the bed – sometimes I do this before I get ready, but most of the time I can do it much more cheerfully after I’ve woken up a little more. My only exception to this rule is Sundays, when I usually take a nap in between morning and evening worship services, and because we’re usually rushing around trying to get ready. Making the bed just makes the room look put together and makes me feel like there’s less to do cleaning-wise. Thanks to my mom for teaching me this nifty trick. 😉 I only really adopted it a few months ago, and it’s been a game-changer.

While doing these things haven’t magically changed me into a morning person, they have helped alleviate the grumpiness I have when I wake up, especially with that new 9am wake-up call. It’s my morning organizational therapy. I firmly believe in that, by the way; it’s kind of my thing. Maybe this can give you ideas or spark your morning creativity when if you’re not a morning person either. If you’re already there, what do you do? I’d love to know!