One Habit a Month: Technological Guidelines

I was so busy with the No More Student Loans Giveaways last week that I didn’t get my new habit for March posted. [There are over a dozen prizes from some of my very favorite authors and businesses. If you haven’t yet, click here to enter the giveawaysEntry closes tonight!]

Rather than make resolutions for 2012, each month I am working to establish one new habit. I would love to have you join me!

In case it got buried in the midst of all the giveaways, here’s the update on February’s Habit (establish a lunch routine).

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,” said Aristotle. Habits, both good and bad, help shape our character.

Lately, I’ve been slipping into a bad habit. It’s called checking my phone for emails/Facebook updates a dozen times a day (or more!)

I’ve excused myself saying, “Oh, it only takes a minute.”

Often though, that minute grows into five or ten minutes. Even when it really does only take a minute, checking email distracts my mind from the task at hand.

In Amy’s excellent book, Tell Your Time, (enter to win one of 3 copies!) she encourages us to step back and evaluate our longterm life goals. To evaluate the kind of person, wife, mother, homemaker, writer and/or      fill in the blank      we want to be.

Once we have a vision for our lifetime goals, we must arrange our days and Tell Our Time so we can fulfill those goals.

Needless to say, the kind of mother I want to be does not check her phone constantly while she’s coloring with her kids.  The kind of wife I want to be isn’t reading an email when her husband has time to talk. I want to use those “extra” moments to tie heart-strings with my family.

Thanks to Amy, I do have blocks of time set aside for blogging, Facebook and all the other online fun. My habit for March is to stick to my online time budget and not let technology distract me from whole-heartedly pursuing my calling as wife and mother.

If there are down times during the day and checking email will not distract me from other priorities, I am allowing myself two (and only two) unscheduled quick checks.

What about you? Are you working on any new habits this month? If so, I’d love it if you linked up or shared in the comments! 

Linked up at Motivation Monday, Better Mom, Raising Arrows and Handful of Heart

February’s Habit: How Did you Do?

(taking a break from our “No More Student Loans!” Giveaways, for our One Habit a Month check-in! Be sure to enter the giveaways for Money Saving Mom’s Budget, Vintage Handmade Soaps and Tell Your Time…. more coming soon!)

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“Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them, either. They keep you,” said Frank Crane.

Habits create a rhythm in our days, whether good or bad.

Establish a lunch routine

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February’s habit: how did you do?

Establishing a lunch routine was my new habit for February.

With the many variables each day with little ones holds, strict schedules haven’t worked for me. But, as Amy writes in Tell Your Time (enter to win one of 3 copies!), you must order your day to make time for the things that are important.

Intentional routines ensure that the important things are worked into the fabric of your day.

For months I wanted to start reading chapter books consistently to the kids. It kept on not happening.

Now that reading a chapter to the children is worked into my lunch routine, it’s happened. (We’re finishing up In Grandma’s Attic–and the kids are loving it!)

Here’s a peak at the lunch routine that has worked for us:

  • Tidy home
  • Fold laundry (if there’s any dry!)
  • Eat lunch (good part of a lunch routine, don’t you think?)
  • Clean up kitchen, while kids finish eating
  • Do any necessary dinner prep
  • Lay kids down for nap
  • Read a chapter from a children’s book while kids lay in bed and listen

We’re reading together, but the lunch routine has helped my day in other ways too. Spending a few minutes tidying up and planning ahead has made such a big difference. My afternoons are more productive since I’m not dealing with morning clutter and dinner doesn’t sneak up on me quite as easily.

What about you? Have you been working on a new habit? If so, how have you done? Link up or join in the comments!

Join us tomorrow for the March Habit link-up, Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop (with The Purposeful Mom) and more giveaways!

Linked up at Encourage One AnotherHomemaking Linkup, Wise WomenWomen Living Well & Provebs 31 Thursdays

 

(Full Disclosure: Links to products in this post are my referral links.)

Feminine Adventures is on Facebook!

Interrupting regular posting because…. (drumroll please) …

Facebook profiel

Feminine Adventures finally has a Facebook page! (It only took three months of procrastination!) I would be so honored if you stopped by and liked Feminine Adventures on Facebook.

(many thanks to Crystal from Your Pic Photography for the original picture for this and my header, and to my wonderful husband for the lovely design!)

 

One Habit a Month: Establish a Lunch Routine

“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character…” Steven R. Covey

Once established, habits are unconscious patterns. Patterns that shape the fabric of our days.

If you’re like me, your fabric could use some fine tuning. This year, I am seeking to establish one habit each month that will help me be a more disciplined woman of God. Care to join me?

Clean those dirty dishes!

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Turn a Bad Habit into a Good Rhythm

Not so very long ago, when Joshua was study morning and night during the long law school days, I fell into a horrible habit. After dinner, the last thing I felt like doing was cleaning up the kitchen. So, while Josh hit the books again and our oldest (then a baby) contentedly played, I told myself, “It’s been a long day, why not spend just a few minuts online checking emails and reading blogs.”

Without fail, a few minutes turned into half an hour or an hour as I jumped from post to post, with the dishes looming ever larger in my mind. When I finally got up from the computer, the plates were crusty and I washed dishes while mad at myself for my lack of discipline.

Finally, it had to stop. I enforced a new rule on my unwilling self: don’t leave the kitchen ’til it is clean. Soon, a new habit emerged that changed the fabric of my evening. 

I’ve never been good at following detailed schedules (though I have plenty of practice writing them), but establishing an evening routine has worked wonderfully for me.

Routines are like gentle rhythms that ensure you fulfill basic priorities, without locking you into a strict regimen.

Each evening I follow a basic routine: tidy home, prepare dinner, eat dinner together, wash dishes (while my four-year-old dries, the two-year-old clears the table, Josh holds the baby and the kids and I sing or work on poetry together) and sweep the floor, get children ready for bed, spend family time with children and put them in bed.

Turning one horrible habit into a good rhythm has made a humungous difference in how my home runs (and in my attitude!)

One Habit a Month Challenge: February

After last month’s simple habit (that has also made a profound effect on my days!), I decided to tackle a slightly more challenging habit this month. Since our family has benefited from a basic morning and evening routine, my goal for February is to establish a lunch routine. The pattern will probably fluctuate the first few days as I try to figure out what works best for my household, but here are the things that I want to fit into it:

  • Eat lunch (good part of a lunch routine, don’t you think?)
  • Read a chapter from a children’s chapter book
  • Clean up kitchen
  • Do any necessary dinner prep
  • Tidy home
  • Lay kids down for nap
What about you? Are there areas in your life that could use fine-tuning? Want to join the One Habit a Month Challenge? Link up or leave a comment below so we can hold one another accountable. [I am having trouble with my link up. If you want to link to a post, leave the link in the comments and I will add it later. Thanks!]

January’s Habit: How Did you Do?

Rather than start 2012 with Grand Resolutions that (despite good intentions) would soon be broken, this year my challenge is to implement one new habit a month.

When there are so many areas that you want to change, it is hard to limit yourself to just one at a time. But  seeking perfectionism often paralyzes any action. Choosing one habit, committing to it, and actually doing it, will pay much better dividends in the end. (At least so I hope!)

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My habit for January was simple: get dressed before breakfast. January is already at an end. Can you believe it? It’s time to check in with a progress report.

With a few exceptions, I have actually carried through on the habit. (It’s quite the difficult task, don’t you think? Haha!) Only twice (on weekends) did I really lounge around in my pajamas and both days felt so much less productive. In fact, not being disciplined to get dressed those two days was incredible motivation for the rest of the month.

This one habit has made such a difference! I have been shocked at how much more productive my day feels when I simply spend two minutes to get dressed before the morning rush begins.

As Crystal, from Money Saving Mom, said, discipline begets discipline. The benefits of choosing to not procrastinate (even on something as simple as getting dressed) have spilled over to the rest of the day.

  • My children appreciate the fact that I look nice (my toddler comments daily, “you earrings pitty, Mama!”)
  • My morning are more productive
  • My brain feels less cluttered
  • And, if the UPS guy happens to deliver a package at 9, I can actually answer the door!
What about you? Have you been working on a new habit? If so, how have you done? Link up or join in the comments! (And don’t forget to join February’s challenge!)

21 Ways to Clear out the Brain Clutter, Concluded

As women, our plates are often stacked high with half a million urgent tasks. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when we’re being pulled in a dozen different directions at the exact same time.

Sometimes God orchestrates our schedules in such a way that it forces us to rely on Him for grace just to make it through the day.

However, sometimes the stress is of our making. Sometimes we fill our lives to overflowing with “brain clutter” and then wonder why we can’t seem to get anything really accomplished.

That’s the brain clutter I am on a journey to get rid of.

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(Just joining us? Read the rest of the series! 1- 2 of 21 Ways to Clear out the Brain Clutter, 3-10 on Eliminating Technological Clutter and 11-16 on De-Cluttering the Home)

  1. Clear your schedule so you have time for the most important things.In today’s fast-paced society, you can be as busy as you want. Learn to say “no”, even to events that sound fun, so that you can really concentrate on and enjoy the best
  2. Take care of your body: Eat brain-friendly food. (Some foods encourage clear thinking. Some foods rob mental energy.) Get outside and exercise: There’s something about just breathing fresh air and enjoying a bit of sunshine that is so invigorating and brain-decluttering.
  3. Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep saps mental energy quicker than just about anything else. Walking around in a sleepy fog makes for a very cluttered brain. Of course, sleep is not always possible, especially as moms to young children. When you can sleep though, do! If your mind starts racing the moment you hit the pillow, keep a notebook by your bed to get the thoughts out of your brain and on to paper.
  4. Stop procrastinating. Has a project been on your to-do list (and in the back of your mind) for months? Just do it!
  5. Trust God. God knows what you need. Sometimes it’s not always what you think you need. As my friend Kasey, from These Five of Mine Plus 2, put it so beautifully, “I’m a girl that needs my sleep. So God gave me 7 children that I might realize I’m really just a mother that needs my Lord!”
I wish I could say that I do all these things consistently. I don’t. But as I’m learning to do each task that lies before me faithfully, the clutter in my brain clears.
What about you? How do you clear your brain of all the clutter so you can focus on faithfully doing what God has called you to do?
linked up at Proverbs 31 ThursdayFiner Things Friday and Handful of Heart Monday

De-Clutter your Home, De-Clutter your Brain

I’m on a quest to de-clutter my brain!

Technology-overload can clutter the brain. So can a cluttered home.

A smoothly-running home creates the perfect atmosphere for an uncluttered brain. There’s something so peaceful about a well-ordered home. A home where everything has a place and is put in its place when not being used.

This doesn’t mean no messes. Homes are supposed to be lived in. Children are supposed to play. And, even though I don’t always act like I believe it, a cheerful attitude is much more important than a tidy home!

Life happens. An uncluttered home isn’t first priority, but it does help clear out the brain clutter. The following ideas have helped our home (and my brain!) be less cluttered.

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(Read tips 1 and 2 of 21 Ways to Clear out the Brain Clutter and 3-10 on Eliminating Technological Clutter)

  1. Establish a household rhythm: I am really good at making detailed schedules. I am really horrible at following them. Find the balance between discipline and flexibility that work for you. Having a basic meal plan, a morning routine and a rotating cleaning schedule help clear my brain. I don’t have to spend lots of mental energy at 4 pm trying to think of what to have for dinner and I know that my home will never get overwhelmingly dirty. Find the balance that gives you flexibility and clears your brain of unnecessary decisions.
  2. Set “mess perimeters”: Your home should be lived in, but that doesn’t mean it should always be messy. Set up a few guidelines that make your home peaceful. For example, we established a “no toys in the living room after dinner” rule. The kids can build forts in the living room during the day, but in the evening the living room is for relaxing and reading. We also have set clean-up times before naps, dinner, and bed; and before leaving the home.
  3. Get rid of stuff that clutters your home, your closet, your vehicle and your brain! Purge until it almost hurts. Clutter everywhere leads to a cluttered brain!
  4. Put things all the way away, right away!  When you’re done with something, put it all the way away, whether it is laundry or books or notes. Avoid piles.
  5. Set up a donate/sell and a “return” box. Don’t just purge once or twice a year! As soon as an item ceases to be useful and just clutters your home, put it straight into the box. When the box is full, donate it or put it into your garage sale stash. Did the shirt you bought your husband not fit? Put it straight into the return box (kept handy or even in the van) so that it’s ready to be returned next time you visit the store. (Make sure to stick the receipt with the item or in your purse.)
  6. Read, sort and dispose of mail as soon as you bring it inside. Handle mail only once (unless it’s a personal letter to treasure!) File important papers, write important dates on your calendar (ahem, this is one I’m notorious at!) and toss the junk mail. Pay bills immediately or set up automatic billing. Not worrying “did I forget to pay my water bill?” definitely clears out brain clutter!
Join me tomorrow as we finish out the 21 Ways to Clear out the Brain Clutter series. 
What about you? How do you keep your brain (and your home!) uncluttered? 

 

Eliminate Technological Brain Clutter

I’m on a journey to eliminate brain clutter, as I shared yesterday. Brain clutter comes in many forms. One of the biggest challenges to a clear brain in the 21st century is technological “clutter.”

Researches have raised concern that constant media input may shorten attention spans and may rewire the brain. Eliminating technological brain clutter is vital (and so difficult!)

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21 ways to de-clutter the brain, continued:

(Read part 1 of 21 Ways to Clear out the Brain Clutter)

  1. Stop checking Facebook, Twitter or email constantly! Smart phones serve a great purpose, but checking email when you should be doing laundry simply clutters the brain. As several dear friends encourage, put the phone down and concentrate!
  2. If it will take less than two minutes, answer emails immediately. Reading the email once and answering it right away, leaves your brain clear to move on to the next task. The same rules applies to comments, articles, etc.
  3. Set aside time each week (or day or month) to answer the emails that require a longer reply.
  4. Keep an empty inbox. I learned this trick from Blogging with Amy and it has revolutionized my mentality towards email! Emails no longer overwhelm me. [Check out her step by step instructions for how to have an empty inbox in Gmail while still keeping all your messages safely archived. Plus, learn how to install a cool “send and archive” feature.]
  5. Limit phone calls. Set aside times to make long calls to friends or family. Don’t just pick up the phone to chat when you have other things you should be doing.
  6. But, if you have an item that needs to be taken care of (and it will only take two minutes) make that call! Stop procrastinating.
  7. Think before you turn to the internet. The internet teams with ideas and advice. Sometimes though, I tend to mindlessly turn to the internet rather than thinking about the problem and possible remedies first. Don’t get me wrong. I love the internet, but it can’t replace your brain!
  8. Embrace times of “technological quiet.” It’s the 21st century and we are bombarded with “noise”  on every side all day long. Set aside time to turn off the computer, cell phones, music or tv.
…to be continued next week.
What about you? How do you navigate technology without cluttering your brain? 

 

21 Ways to Clear out the Brain Clutter

We all know what a cluttered home looks like: stuff lies scattered about and we stumble over the piles of laundry and stub our toes on Duplos.

I hate clutter.

Brain clutter is like house clutter. Brain clutter dampens our focus and distracts us. Brain clutter is all the unfinished matters we need to attend to that distract us while we’re working on a task.

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Ever been washing the dishes and remembered, “Oh, I forgot to pay the water bill.” So, before you forget, you leave the dishes and go pay the water bill. While online, you remember an email you read this morning that just has to get answered….

Am I the only one?

Recently, I read Blogging with Amy’s post about how to keep your inbox clean. That post finally turned the brain clutter light-bulb on. I used to read an email, then think about it while I did laundry, then read it again (sometimes days or weeks later) before finally getting around to responding. My response was generally late and I wasted so much mental energy!

I teach my children, “play with your toys, then put them away before you get something else out.”

You and I may not play with toys like a toddler, but the same principle still applies. Finish the task at hand.  

My brain is still cluttered at times, but it is getting tidier and I feel so much more productive! Would you like to join my journey to de-clutter the brain and keep it cleared? 

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to post 21 practical tips to help eliminate brain clutter. Not all tips will be practical for everyone, but I hope we all walk away encouraged!

  1. Start each day recognizing Whose you are. Jumping into the day feet first may seem more logical, but as Christians, we are not our own. Acknowledge God’s sovereignty over you and your plans. As Passionate Homemaking encourages, start your day by getting dressed in your spiritual clothes.
  2. Identify the tasks you tend to procrastinate on, then do them early in the day! For me that means get dressed before breakfast. Otherwise, the day picks up speed and before I know it, it’s ten and I’m still in my pajamas… which for some (rather logical) reason, makes my brain feel cluttered and behind. Get the tasks you dread out of the way first; it helps clear your mind for the rest of the day!
Do you struggle with brain clutter? How do you eliminate it?
linked up at Proverbs 31 Thursday and Hearts 4 Home and Finer Things Friday

Beauty in Praise

Does it ever feel that life gets so busy that before you’ve had a chance to stop and take a breath, another week has crept by and you have been going from event to event with no time to pause? The calendar fills up, day-to-day needs press upon us and it’s so easy to loose focus.

This evening I was feeling overwhelmed and very, very tired (many thanks, darling baby)! I stepped outside just for a minute to gaze at the stars.

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Follow me over to Walking Redeemed to read the rest.