9 January 2018
Friends, I am so excited about this series!!! I loved hearing your guesses — everything from another round of Marvelous Mama to an extended personal finance guide (both of which sound marvelous, by the way) — but dare I say what we have planned is even better…?
A month or two ago, I was searching on Nancy’s blog for something when I stumbled upon the “organization” series she wrote in 2014. I remembered loving the posts when they were originally written, but as I re-read them, it hit me how much her life had changed in the last four years! I thought about how I would love for her to revisit the same topics, and then realized that they dovetailed perfectly with the most-requested topic from my reader survey last year: rhythms, habits, and routines. How do I make space and time for what matters most in all areas of my life? How do I get things done? How do I do it???
Well, I most certainly do not have all the answers, but one thing I have been given is a confidence in the decisions we make for our family and a willingness to share them. So here we are! Nancy was totally game for a revisit when I proposed the idea to her, and what I love most about this is that throughout this series, you’ll get to hear from two people who have similar hearts but different ways of living them out. There is no one right way to do things! Instead of a prescription, we hope to offer you inspiration, ideas, tools, tips, and encouragement. I am so excited. I also have WAY too much to say on each topic and am already having to rein myself in, ha!
Let’s start at the beginning: with time.
Readers who’ve been here awhile know I’ve written about this topic before, and I would definitely encourage you to check out those two posts! The most important takeaways: I have a permanent moratorium on the phrase time is flying by, the response busy but good, and anything else that sounds remotely similar. I also have learned to embrace this paradox: time is both precious and plentiful. To have as much time as I need for the things I want, I must be ruthless about not filling time with things I don’t care about or that aren’t a priority for me.
So let’s start there. What do I NOT do? Here are a few from a very long list of things. In general, I do not…
— Paint my nails
— Browse in stores or go to the mall
— Wash my hair every day
— Clean (well, I do clean – ha! But I pretty much do the bare minimum and let the rest slide.)
— Tidy (again, I do this – but there are MANY days and hours when things are NOT in their proper place.)
— Sell clothing I’m getting rid of (I just donate it.)
— Scroll on Facebook
— Get together with girlfriends (except for Articles Club and a neighborhood book club)
— Switch my accessories (I wear pearl studs and my wedding and engagement rings and that’s it.)
— Own a dog
— Text (pretty much only with my family and only in reply to texts sent to me)
— Curate my Instagram (I am a stylist by trade – if I spent more time on it, it would look different!)
— Binge watch TV shows
Are any of these things bad? Not at all. But in a full season, I have to say a firm no to good things to make way for better things. (Things like puzzles with June, prayer, making dinner for my family every night, reading, weekly calls with my sisters, evening walks, writing on EFM, and SLEEP. I love sleep and get 8-9 hours every night.) I look forward to doing some of these things in other seasons. Your list might look very different from mine, but it’s important that you have it.
An integral tool for helping me prioritize my time and clarify my yeses and nos: PowerSheets. Y’all have heard me talk about them extensively at the end of each year and in my monthly goal posts, but they deserve a mention here, too!
As for how I organize my time from day to day, I am a paper calendar gal. In fact, I am an old-school paper calendar gal: I use an *original* Simplified Planner, purchased in 2012, which is really just a pretty blue binder that I fill with printable monthly calendar pages. And yes, though bulky, it travels to and from work with me every day I’m in the office! :)
Why paper? I want to see every event on every day of the month at the same time. So much of what I’m scheduling needs to happen in relation to other things, and I hate having to click back and forth between days or switch between the day view and the month view so I can see every event happening on a certain day.
You can read more about how I use my Planner here.
A Lindsay Letters Creatives calendar is the newest addition to our home, and I think it will become increasingly important as kiddos grow and our schedule gets more complicated! It hangs in our kitchen, and at the beginning of every month I transfer over from my Planner events that affect both of us as well as our meal plan for the week. We’ve only had it for a short while, but so far it has been super helpful to get John and I on the same page!
A final tip: there is NOTHING in my life that makes me feel more like I’ve wasted time or that I don’t have enough time than scrolling on social media. Nothing. If your schedule/life feels out of your control and you spend any amount of time on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, that might be a good (though hard) place to start. More about this and my social media boundaries later in the series :)
Friends, I hope this post was helpful for you and that you’re excited for what’s to come!! Don’t forget to read Nancy’s post here.
How do y’all manage your time? Are you a paper or electronic calendar gal? What do you say no to? I’d love to hear!!
The rest of the series:
Time: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Home: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Personal Lives: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Work: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Relationships: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Kids: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
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15 September 2017
When I read this post from T.J. Mousetis last year, I immediately knew I wanted to do the same thing for our five year wedding anniversary. I love T.J.’s boldness and honesty in sharing that he thinks his marriage is awesome. I also love that he is so open and unashamed about the work that can be done within it. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. That’s not a message I hear often, but it’s one that fires me up.
One of the truest things that’s ever been said is that you can’t change anyone but yourself. If I want my marriage to be even more awesome on our ten year anniversary than it is now, that starts with me. To that end, I submit to you five things I want to work on in my next five years of marriage (I’ve already shared them in a card with John!):
1. Listen to the things he wants me to change, and actually do them. I am extremely guilty of glazing right over John voicing something he doesn’t like or wishes I would do differently, registering it as nagging, and letting it go in one ear and out the other with hardly a second thought. It’s often small things — a specific example that comes to mind is not leaving food in the sink disposal — but they matter enough to him to voice. I am committing to giving him the grace of a response (“yes, I will work on that”) and then ACTUALLY WORKING ON IT. My first thought is to start a new note in my phone so I can remember the things (baby steps!).
2. Maintain patience, kindness, and calm when faced with stressful situations. John and I are typically calm, level-headed people. (Our pediatrician even said to us, “Wow, you two seem very chill for first time parents” at June’s two week visit. Ha!) However, we have this strange but persistent habit of COMPLETELY falling apart when faced with certain stressful situations, including but not limited to missing a turn when driving and loud scenes that draw attention to us (ahem, toddler). I am committing to staying on the same team in these situations by controlling my tone of voice and not holding a grudge when things don’t go my way.
3. Respect and honor his food safety ways. Bear with me here, people. I know this might sound silly, but it is very, very real. On the spectrum of germaphobia, I am at one end (the eat things off the floor end) and John is at the other. Instead of teasing him, raising my eyebrows, or getting into arguments over whether food in the refrigerator can still be eaten (one of our most common causes of tiffs), I am committing to to respecting and honoring his preferences for how our kitchen is run without groaning or complaint.
4. Hug every day upon reentry. Simple enough :) We do this often, but I want it to be a rock-solid, never-fail, indelibly-printed-in-June’s-mind kind of thing. Home should be the best place to be, and a warm welcome goes a long way to making it so.
5. Grow in my relationship with God the Father, particularly through prayer. If I am constantly trying to be more like Jesus, my marriage will improve. If I want to be more like Jesus, I need to talk to him often and listen to him even more. This is already something I’m working on (and I’m sure it will be a lifelong pursuit until we meet face to face!) but it deserves a mention here, too.
Marriage is unique: in our case, it’s two imperfect people helping each other toward perfection. These things won’t happen overnight and they might not happen in five years, but I will try and try again (with joy and by the grace of God!) because I love my husband and I love my marriage.
Thank you for always being so encouraging, friends! It is a joy to share here. xo
P.S. Intention number six: take more photos of just the two of us?! I could not find a single one from this year without June in it…
17 May 2017
First, I just have to acknowledge the semi-ridiculousness of me writing this post. I am a well-known and thoroughly-documented introvert, it takes me forever to make friends, and up until last year, I could count the number of neighbors I knew well on zero fingers. But, I’m almost up to needing two hands for my hyper-local crew, so it seems I may have turned a corner! Let’s file this post under “if I can do it, anyone can do it” :)
Here, my seven best tips for making friends in your neighborhood.
Still my two best friends in my neighborhood :)
1. Make it matter to you. Like pretty much all goals, the only way something will be prioritized in your life is if it matters to you. Before June was born, it would have been nice to have friends close by, but I didn’t really NEED them. Since having her, neighborhood friends have become much more of a necessity. Emergencies are what pop to mind first, or a contact to give our babysitter, but there’s another reason that’s even more important to me.
I NEED to know who these people are if I’m going to feel comfortable letting our kids play outside unsupervised as they get older (a huge priority for me). I need to know their names, what matters to them, what kind of people they are, what the insides of their homes look like… I need to be friends with them, and I need to trust them. A childhood with freedom to roam matters to me, and so that’s why I was finally able to push past my discomfort and take action on making friends. If it really matters to you, you will, too.
2. Wave. That first tip was more existential, but this one is very concrete: wave. Wave to everyone. All the time. Whether you know them or not. If you want your neighborhood to be a friendlier place, let the community start with you. I recently watched a TED talk about public speaking and confidence, and there was one line that stuck with me: “fake it till you become it.” If you do something habitually, it will become a part of who you are. If you act friendly, even if you aren’t an extrovert, it will eventually become more comfortable. Small steps matter.
3. Send welcoming signals with your home. If you have a garage, it is possible to go about your business without ever breathing your neighborhood’s air, let alone interacting with another human. Appearances matter. A house with a closed garage door looks closed-off, with little way of knowing if anyone is home. We’ve taken to leaving our garage door open when we’re around as a signal that we’re available for socialization, quick questions, or sugar cup borrowing :)
A screen door is another way to make your house appear more welcoming to interaction, as again, it’s a symbol to neighbors that you’re home, and it also allows you to easily hear if something’s going on outside! (So then you can go join!) Screen doors were a huge marker of my New England summers growing up, and I am desperate to have one (especially as kids get older – much easier to have them playing outside by themselves if you can hear what they’re doing from inside!). With Southern summers and the prevalence of air conditioning down here, however, a screen door is not practical for much of the year… boo.
4. Go outside when other people are outside. Again: obvious, right? But I’m a bit embarrassed to say that when we first moved in, I pretty much did the opposite. Hiding in your house might help you avoid awkward conversations, but it will not help you make friends. So get your butt outside, in the proximity of other people, and let the extroverts strike up a conversation with you, as I can assure you they will :)
And if you live in a neighbhorhood where no one is outside? Be the one to change the environment! Putter around in your front yard “pruning” things, sit on your porch, go for a walk every evening – find any excuse to be where people can see you, so they start to recognize you as a generally friendly-looking person and associate you with a particular house.
5. Be the invitation. After a few months of casual interactions with some of my neighbors, I was ready to go a little deeper. Instead of waiting for someone else to invite me over, I did it on my terms! I invited all of the ladies on my street that I had even once interacted with to a Favorite Things party, and I heavily encouraged them to invite their friends. It was a huge success as a kick starter to closer relationships and a broader social circle.
6. Start a hyper-local Facebook group. I haven’t personally tried this one, but I’m considering it. It’s something John and Sherry recommended on their podcast recently, and I think it’s smart! My neighborhood has a Facebook group with about 1,000 members, and it’s great for certain things (selling patio furniture, chatting about macro issues or upcoming events). But a hyper-local group (say, just for the 15 houses on our “L” that ends in a cul-de-sac), lets you get to know people on a more intimate basis, extend BBQ invitations, and let your hair down in a way you might not in a larger, more impersonal group (John talked about sharing funny memes about neighborhood deer in his).
7. Have a kid or get a dog. Kidding. Kind of :) The truth is that even with all of these tips, we didn’t really make friends in our neighborhood until we had our daughter. Kids and dogs are just great connectors, and they will make your job of making friends a whole lot easier. But, you know, they require a few other things of you, so make sure you’re prepared before committing :)
I would LOVE to hear: have you found it difficult or easy to make friends in your neighborhood? If so, how did it happen? Is it a priority for you, or do you fill your friend need elsewhere? Tell me, tell me!
P.S. Cultivate What Matters is celebrating and teaching on friendship all this week. So much good stuff! Sign up for the series, and check out the Fruitful Friendship guide. I contributed to it, so you know it’s good :)
20 February 2017
How are you all feeling about your 2017 goals, if you made some? (My company actually declared last week “Cultivate What Matters Week” because February 15th is statistically the day that the majority of people give up on their yearly goals!) I am feeling pretty good overall. I’m particularly excited about one practice I’ve implemented to help with my second and third focal areas: loving my loved ones well and cultivating a rich life for my family.
If you’re curious about my planner, you can read more about it here!
It’s my monthly prep days! When I thought about what had stopped me in the past from doing kind and fun things for the people I love, it wasn’t a lack of money or time, it was a lack of preparation. This came up over and over again as I filled out my PowerSheets, and eventually led to my word of the year (preparation!).
Starting in January, I’ve designated one day a month my monthly prep day. They’re usually on the last Sunday of the month, and I’ve already put them on my calendar for the rest of the year. I’ve noticed a huge difference in just the two months I’ve tried them so far, and wanted to share! Here’s what I do:
— After June goes to bed, I sit down with a few supplies: my laptop, my planner, my perpetual birthday calendar, and my phone.
— First, I note any birthdays coming up in the next month. If I’m going to send a card, I write the card, address it, and put a stamp on it. If I’m going to get a gift, I decide what it’s going to be and order it (or make a plan to buy it). I also set individual reminders on my phone to call or send a text to each person on his or her birthday.
— Then, I look through my planner and note any upcoming holidays or events. Where appropriate, I decide how we’re going to celebrate, and then make a plan. For example, in February, we had the Super Bowl, the Walking Dead premiere (ha!), Valentine’s Day, the Oscars, my Favorite Things party, and my birthday. Right then and there, I decided what special game day food we were going to make for the Super Bowl, I made a note to buy a Valentine’s Day card for John, I decided what we were going to do for June’s teachers for Valentine’s Day, I made the invite for the Favorite Things party, and more. Not everything gets done that evening, but I try to at least make a plan for anything I can’t do right then.
— I run down some of our normal monthly happenings and consider whether we want to schedule anything for the month: dinner with friends? A date night? A trip to the Museum of Life & Science? Some other sort of adventure? If necessary, I reach out to friends, make a restaurant reservation, etc.
— If a babysitter is required for any event, I text our babysitter and try to get on her calendar.
— Finally, I try to think if there’s anyone that’s been on my heart — someone who’s been celebrating or hurting, or who I just haven’t connected with in a while. If applicable, I take some sort of action there!
All told, my monthly prep usually takes about two hours. I do NOT do it perfectly, it needs to be said. Even with all this forethought, I forget things, I leave things to the last minute, I say the wrong thing or don’t say anything at all when something should be said. But I’m trying! And instituting these prep days has helped me immensely.
The downside? Decision fatigue can set in big time, and John is not always on board to be peppered with questions about what we should do for this or that (which is fair enough, since I’m working on my timeline, not his!).
One final tip: If you see someone celebrating in a way you love and you want to try it yourself, write it down! I have a simple doc on my computer, split into months, where I write down cute or clever ideas I see. Just got a lot for Valentine’s Day 2018 from all the sweet things you guys posted last week :)
I’d love to hear: do you have any systems for thoughtfulness? Or are you just a naturally, spontaneously fun and celebratory person? :)
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