Being natural bodies, we fall under the power of inertia.

When we’re working, really working, we’re often energized and propelled by seeing progress, making small accomplishments, checking items off our to-do list, knowing that we’re finally moving in the right direction. We want to keep going to see bigger victories and reach the end of a project or mission. At least we want to finish something, some stage of work, so we can move on and not have to come back to it later.

If you were writing a report or email when someone yelled “quitting time,” would you stop in the middle of a word, or say “okay, just let me finish this sentence”? (And you’d probably keep going at least to the end of the paragraph!) If you were wiping a counter and saw food dribbled down the cabinet front, you’d wipe that too, and then seeing some on the floor you would clean that up too, which would lead you to see the pet’s empty water bowl which happens to be in need of washing before filling. While you might be thinking “when will I ever be done!?!” you would keep going because you are in motion and one thing leads to another.

When we’re at rest, we feel like staying at rest, either because we’ve worn ourselves way down with our overly long work sessions, and/or because it’s easier to dream than to act. It’s easier to worry and procrastinate than to get the blood flowing through our muscles and brains. Just thinking of all the work we have to do makes us feel tired and lost. We want another hour of rest before facing what feels like a loosing battle with life. (Hint: when we have a schedule, we don’t always have to think about all of our work—usually only the next thing on the schedule.)

When we are working there are always more things to do. When we are resting there are always other positions to roll into, limbs to stretch or retract, dreams to be watched.

But we are not only natural bodies. We are also spiritual beings inhabiting our bodies like exosuits. And it is supposed to be our spirits in control of our bodies. We are supposed to choose what’s wise and make ourselves enact wisdom. Wisdom doesn’t rely solely on willpower—it adds strategic management.

One of the delights in being self-employed is supposed to be the freedom to work when we want to, and not when we don’t want to. But that is only viable once we learn to value work and know how to motivate and schedule ourselves.

If left to my own tendencies I would probably have a 34 hour day/night cycle, but God only designed a 24 hour cycle for us. I believe He had reasons.

I’ve discovered that working to the end of one project, while other things pile up, collapsing in exhaustion and resting until bed-ache or an outside force (or family member) demands wakefulness, and then tackling another mountain of work of one sort other until that pile’s cleared away, is NOT efficient—or healthy.

You might think for instance, washing dishes only once per week would be more efficient than washing after every meal. That not thinking about laundry until you had a washer-worth of each type (lights, darks, reds, whites) would let you focus on other things for a week or two. That piling up unsorted receipts, and sorting out accounting and taxes all at once annually would be most efficient. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

While there are sometimes real advantages to grouping work into batches, cutting down on time required to get things in and out and switch mental gears from one task to another, this definition of efficiency has to be kept in check. There can also be a disadvantage we should examine—the ripple effect on life flow.

Cooking and serving in the second half of the week may take longer and be far more frustrating when the most appropriate dishes are in the dirty pile from three days before, and are filling up half of the available counter space. Picking out an appropriate outfit for your day may also take longer and be less satisfactory when most of your clothes are dirty and waiting for that one big laundry day. Finding time for several days of sorting, categorizing, and adding up income and expenses can not only be hard, but it also means pushing a week’s worth of everything else off track every Spring.

You’ll also find that you work smarter, think clearer and faster, and feel more cheerful and creative when you go to sleep before you’re on the verge of illness, and get a sensible amount of sleep at least several nights per week.

So we need a schedule where everything gets done when it’s best for the flow of everything else. A little of this and a little of that, to keep every department of our lives running well. If you don’t believe me, try imagining the only grocery store in town saying that it’s more efficient to restock everything at once. What if they didn’t care that half of the shelves were empty and you couldn’t buy what you wanted, because there was still half a store’s worth of something for sale? And then what if everyone had to wait outside in line for three days while the whole store was restocked at once? This is an example of the ripple effect “efficiency” can have on the rest of life flow. It can be very inefficient for everything it touches.

The surprising part is that we will find that we seem to have more time–enough time–when we both have a good plan, and stick to it. That’s because we won’t be wasting time in confusion, frustration, and depression. You probably don’t know how much time those negatives take until you free yourself from them.

If your life is complex or you have many responsibilities, you may find it hard to make a plan or schedule which you can stick to. It takes thought over a period of time, and trial and error. Be willing to adjust when you find what won’t work.

I think my biggest problems with scheduling were being unrealistic with how fast I could work, not planning bumper time (for interruptions, bathroom trips, switching between tasks, etc), no allotment for the unexpected, and leaving no time for catching up when a project or chore didn’t fit it’s time slot. For years I refused to make a realistic schedule because I refused to accept it might take years to do as much as I wanted to accomplish in months. But I’ve found a time saver—a magic way to get more out of each day.

What’s important is to accept when you’ve found a workable schedule or plan, and then “just do it!” Know when to stop thinking thoughts like, “I wish I had a plan,” “I just don’t know how to get it all done,” “I’ll have to give up some sleep.”

Just do it” saves time. I’ll explain.

When you hear “stick to the plan” I’m sure that triggers the protest that our plans can’t take into consideration the unknown future, so we’re bound to have to go with the flow and that means we’ll get behind again, so no schedule is going to work. That’s what I used to think. However I’ve learned that the best defense here is to swap. For example, if you’ve scheduled an afternoon at the computer and your spouse invites you out on a date or your kid gets sick, tend to the family today but make sure you reschedule (and accomplish) that afternoon worth of computer work on the next day where you had intended family time. But only swap when it’s wise to, not when your whim dictates.

So I’ll say it again: once you have a workable schedule, just do it! Whether you feel like it or not, you can just do it. Do what your plan calls for, when it calls for it. If you’re scheduled to load the washer tonight, do it. Don’t say to yourself, “oh I know I’m supposed to wash laundry, but I have clothes for tomorrow and I just want to go to bed. It will be okay.” You could have done it in the same time it took you to debate and excuse yourself. Stay on track and you’ll feel incredibly energized! Telling yourself “Just do it!” is like revving your own engine—you’ll go farther faster. You’ll rest better knowing you’re on track, and wake up happier knowing your not starting the day behind on your chores.

Once you have a good schedule, you won’t have to constantly waste time thinking about what you’re forgetting to do, trying to figure out where to start, calculating what will happen if you put something off, and wallowing in negative thoughts.

Every time you “just do it” you find out you can do it, which makes you feel like you can do anything. And you can. Without wasting energy and time thinking and rethinking the routine and mundane, you’ll have more time and energy for bigger and better things. After a while your schedule will become habitual, and that will free up even more time and energy for whatever you choose.

ANOTHER TIP: Once you have scheduled time periods for each type of work, be thoughtful to choose the most important or forward-moving activity for that category. For instance, if you’ve allotted one hour with your child, which adds most to the quality of your relationship: passively watching a TV show together, or interacting imaginatively with action figures? If you only have an hour per week for social media, decide which will move you closer to your goal: to write a blog post, browse other people’s FaceBook pages, Tweet encouraging responses to other people, search for an ezine which might publish your article, or what? Accept the length of time you have for a type of work, and focus on using that time slot wisely.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3).  It’s our job to discipline ourselves to do the right things at the right times.

 

© NPM

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Is there a bit too much of you after all those holiday dinners?

You can give “yourself” away on EVERY ordinary day.

Giving away your food, or the time you would spend preparing food and eating, reduces your intake which over time will reduce your size. This can be done within your ordinary routine—there’s no need to join a club or charity or diet. You can even give to yourself!

When you give something up, you won’t feel deprived if you focus on the joy of sharing and seeing someone else enjoy what you’ve just given (or the joy of giving yourself something unusual and fun).

Your kind act should give you an emotional boost to counter any lingering hunger. If you need extra help, take a deep breath stretching yourself tall while pulling your tommy in, and tell yourself, “I’m getting thinner.” Then go on to your next chore with a cheerful mood.

Here are some examples:

  1. If you are making yourself a snack when your spouse or friend walks in the room, give your food to him/her, or at least half of it. (This may or may not work with kids, as they might not like the kind of food you fixed for yourself.)
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  2. When making breakfast or lunch for your kids, don’t make any for yourself–just eat the scraps or their left-overs. Give the extra time saved to your kids instead, in the form of your attention while they’re eating.
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  3. When you usually eat with family, but find yourself alone for dinner, either skip dinner alltogether or have something quick and light like popcorn or a piece of toast, and give yourself the meal time for something special instead (like a long bath, or reading a book you’ve been wanting to get to, or cleaning the closet, calling a relative or far-away friend, writing that book you’ve been dreaming about, or any other thing you don’t usually have time for).
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  4. Taking lunch to work? Watch for a homeless person and if you see one, then give away your lunch and go without that day. (You’re more likely to see a hungry person if you are looking for one.)
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  5. Taking lunch to work, idea #2: Share it with someone who has less quantity or less quality in their lunch bag.
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  6. At home OR at work, when you’re thinking of getting something for yourself to eat, look around on your way to the food for little chores that need doing, and do them (an hour or two may pass before you get to the fridge, and by then it might actually be meal time). You’ll feel happier because you were productive rather than wasteful/waist-full.
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  7. When you’re thinking of getting something for yourself to eat, idea #2: Ask someone nearby if there is anything you can do to help them right now. (This gives you a break from your own activities, and gives you an energy boost from being surprisingly & kindly helpful, while keeping you too busy to eat.)
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  8. Planning on buying your lunch? Give that money to something later by putting it in another pocket, telling yourself it will buy XYZ (or it will go with tomorrow’s lunch money for XYZ if XYZ costs more). Make sure XYZ is something you’ll feel good about, like a present for a child or spouse, lunch out with your mom, or something you could really use that you’ve been putting off buying.
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You can probably find more ways to give yourself thin, if you get started and keep looking. You’ll become happier, and so will those around you!

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© NPM

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Happy Endings Have a Purpose

December 19, 2012


My nine-year-old son and I both “booed” after finishing a short story which started with two children being left alone on an island, and ended with them still there, abandoned by their only visitor, and one of the children vowing to find a way off of the island some day. I tried to console my son by saying that when I experience a sad story that ends without an “ending,” it makes me resolve to get busy making something happen in real life. I asked him, “Do stories always have to have a happy ending?” I continued, “Real life doesn’t have happy endings—it just keeps going and going.” To which he instantly replied, “That’s why we turn to stories!”

I think he’s right.

Most adults are busy, and we can sometimes accept taking a piece of a story to ponder its points as we go on with our activities; but remember being a kid, when a year seemed like eternity? Adults may have been around enough to know a hard time will pass in a day, or week, or year; but it’s hard for a child to hold out for relief which might be so far away—so they turn to fantasy. Time goes so slowly for children that they can’t always grasp from their own real lives, the sense of hope and joy they need; but they can get it from a happy ending to a story.

We all want to know that things will be okay in the end—the end of a situation, the end of a season of life, or the absolute end of one’s earthly life. We need hope for the future in order to keep going through anything less than perfect. We fuel that hope with stories, real and fictional. Stories give us a rest from our reality, and ideas to take back into reality. Sure, we can draw positive thoughts from a story that stops sadly, but that’s work, not recreation. We all–adults and children–need happy endings to feel relaxed and happy.

Life does keep going and going, but with lots of little happy moments, if not “endings.” For those who say that kids should not be taught to expect happy endings in life, I’d say they should be allowed the uplifting pleasure of happy endings in stories, AND taught to both look for and create happy passages in real life.

It doesn’t matter so much that life isn’t “happy EVER after” ONE struggle. It does matter that we CAN get through a struggle, and be happy—and so then we must be able to get through another struggle, and another. A happy ending gives hope for multiple happy endings to multiple struggles.

So don’t feel guilty for filling your kid’s heads with happy endings. And do make happiness come true, even in difficult times.

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©NPM

Read Between the Monsters

October 20, 2011

…Monster sized books, that is. In libraries and bookstores alike, look between the multi-hundred paged eye-catchers, and you may find smaller books hiding a much better value.

Maybe if you are looking for something entertaining to fill endless hours of a hum-drum life, you might want to buy books by the pound; but when you need information, the fewer the pages the better.

How many times have you been frustrated with the time necessary to read through huge books only to find that their texts did not live up to their titles, and after having a few points hammered into you over and over again, you still don’t know the information you were looking for? So many books seem to be a big waste—of time, paper, money, shelf space, and potential. The existence of speed-reading and skim-reading methods does not excuse unnecessary bulk; they are valuable strategies which would be equally valuable if applied to books of fewer words.

Many publishers want authors to pad their manuscripts with extra words, so that they’ll take up more real estate in bookstores (pushing out competition and attracting the buyer’s eye), and so that customers will feel they are getting their money’s worth. I find it SO annoying when an author spends half of every chapter telling me what they will tell me in the next chapter if I keep reading. Many publishers feel they can charge more for higher page-count books, even if it’s all fluff and reiteration on the inside. It would be insulting to the buying public if so many buyers didn’t fall for it.

Personally, I think book prices should be based on the value of their content, which has nothing to do with word or page count. In fact, if an author can convey the right information in fewer words, that should actually increase the value of his or her book, because it won’t waste the reader’s time.  I’m attracted to thin books that get to the point and let me get on with using the point. I don’t need an author to tell me the same thing six different ways, as if I were a little kid; I can read it once and decide if I want to remember it. I also find it appealing when an author is honest enough to write a small book, rather trying to make it look like everything you could ever want to know is inside one cover.

Next time you are shopping for a book, try not skipping over the slim ones. Maybe they can save you money and time, save the world trees, and encourage the minority of respectable authors.

© 2011 NPM

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God designed work and rest. Sometimes He set the intervals. Day and night. Summer and Winter. Six days of work and a Sabbath. Six years of cultivation and harvest, and the seventh year a Sabbath for the land (which some modern farmers have found so beneficial that they rotate their plots, always having one at rest). Sometimes God devised or allowed exceptions. There is no winter of rest around the Equator. Slaves, prisoners, and the persecuted were not always allowed a Sabbath of rest. Since Christ, we are freed from strict rules, as were made for the childhood of humanity; we are to understand, value, and aim for what the laws were supposed to accomplish, and we are saved even when we fall short.

For years I thought that at least some of the reasons for resting the seventh day, was for the Jews to gather for listening to God’s word (as they did not each have their own Bible), to exercise their trust in God to provide for them even if they did not work non-stop, to set the Jews apart from the rest of the world in an outward way, and to remind the Jews themselves (as well as the world) that God’s people were no longer slaves—that God was better to them than their old earthly masters.  I thought that if God was in my heart and thoughts every day, if I read His word frequently, and lived my life for His glory (sharing Him with others, directly or indirectly), that I didn’t have to follow the strict 6-1 schedule. I didn’t need to put one day aside for God, if every day was for God.

I still believe that. But however flexible God is, and our bodies are, there remains the rule of alternating work with rest. It’s part of the earthly human existence God put us in. It has reasons and value, which we should appreciate and respect.

Some people may be built to go all their lives on two-thirds as much sleep as other people, but each better get the rest he or she needs. When there are unusual circumstances or people who need our help, we may be able to go for weeks on a fraction of the sleep we usually need, but eventually we will stop functioning well and even collapse without enough rest. We can break down emotionally or physically—even spiritually if we allow the strain to lead us astray. Jesus didn’t take much rest during His ministry, but then He only had to go at it for about three years before He was done with His physical body.

I really extended myself all this Summer, for the sake of others directly, and for the sake of projects intended in the long run to be mostly for the sake of others.  I thought that God was my strength, and He was. I didn’t succumb or stray emotionally or spiritually under the strain, and my body lasted the summer. But then I had a month of physical trouble—a month of rest and refurbishing before I could work again. A Summer on, and month off. It’s like a week on and a day off, but on a different scale. I never would have been able to serve the people who desperately needed my love and help, if I’d stuck to observing Sabbaths for only rest and worship. But what I’ve learned is to have more respect for God’s design, and to look for when I should accept rest, rather than expecting to be “on” for the whole of my life. If I’d taken rest just a bit sooner, I could have prevented my physical crumbling. And on top of that, if I plan in regular rest, I’ll be stronger the next time I’m called upon to work a very long stretch.

I’ve learned to accept that “everything” will never be done, and I’ll make myself sick trying (giving me even less time to get “everything” done), so I’m better off taking time to rest rather than being made to take time being sick. The tricky part is knowing what doesn’t have to be done. I’ve learned to trust that God can help me get enough done, without doing all the time. I’ve long known that choices, balance, and respect were keys, but now experience has in one more way made them a reality in me. I’ve felt consequences of over-tiredness before, but sometimes we humans don’t “get it” the first time around.

I have to take care of the dearest tool God has given me to work with—my body. God knows there is only so many hours in each day, and days in our lives; so He knows what we can and can’t accomplish. We just have to not be too busy to hear His guidance on how to make the best of our time.

Someone who knows me may read this and think, “I knew she was trying to do too much; I told her to rest.” But it’s not a matter of how much I’m trying to accomplish, it’s a matter of how. Working fast when I work is fine, if I can think fast or feel guided. Working on a short night’s sleep is fine, when necessary. But what’s new for me is accepting that I can’t always cut sleep to make things work. There has to be another way, most of the time. There has to be something else to cut, or smarter ways to get things done in the given time. I have to look for those solutions, because I have to respect that God wants me to rest. Rest is a piece of God’s puzzle, and if I accept that piece as non-counterfeit, then I can search for what fits with it, until my life works. I can still amaze everyone with what all I accomplish, because God is my guide and my strength, and He is amazing.

Some people hand out advice which sounds rash to me, like ditching your spouse if he or she seems to be holding you back. I believe more often we need to look for more creative and gradual solutions. You may not feel you can commit to eight or nine hours of sleep, and let everything else work out around that. What you can do, is work toward the rest that you need, as quickly as possible, with trust that there is a way to have a balance appropriate and good for your particular body and spirit. If this post is another nudge to you, that you know you need more rest, aim for it, seriously. You can work better with a full battery, and be happier in the processes. Trust God that it is possible.

© 2011 NPM

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If you are one of us ambitious types, with always too much to do, you’ve probably been through countless bouts of frustration and despair when you felt that you’ve had too many things going wrong and too many problems to deal with. You often feel like you deserve a break–a span of time when everything goes well, long enough for you to get caught up and even to get ahead before the next batch of trouble strikes. After all, you are working for the good of someone–your kids, your spouse, your boss, your customers, your country, the world; the universe should give you a break so you can do good things, right?

Well, maybe it doesn’t work that way. Maybe rather than resenting the relentless difficulties, we should plan on them–the way we plan on other facts of life in this human form on this strange planet. Businesses have to plan on employees taking sick-leave or missing work for various reasons, so why don’t we plan on it for ourselves? Why do we act like our lives should always run smoothly, as if difficulty isn’t part of a smooth plan?

Maybe dealing with problems coming at is like baseballs from a mechanical pitcher set on high speed, is as useful in the long run as having to work for a living, interact with other humans, sleep a third of our lives, and eat on a regular basis (all things God instituted).

Maybe we’d get farther if we accepted these unexpected troubles as character-enriching experiences (teaching us humility, patience, faith, respect) and planned time for them: expect the unexpected and greet it with grace.

We wouldn’t expect to keep a job without allotting time for personal grooming and the commute to work. Lets stop complaining and start allotting time for dealing with crashed computers, relatives with bad moods, incompetent people, sicknesses, lost items, mechanical breakdowns, etc.

Sure we should intelligently try to minimize or avoid problems, but we would suffer so much less stress and less-frequently inflict a hurtful attitude on others, if we would understand and accept that we are in an imperfect world, and other people are imperfect, as are we.

As illustrated in the poem “How Did You Die?” by Edmund Vance Cooke, life isn’t about everything running perfectly; it’s about how we deal with everything, however it runs.

Lets plan X hours per week for unexpected trouble, and see how much happier we are–and how much happier we make those around us too.

© 2011 NPM

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Parted Clouds, by nuttakit / www.freedigitalphotos.net

Parted Clouds for a Good Morning ANYTIME.


Webster’s definition of “Morning”:

  • 1. first period of the day…
  • 2. the beginning of the day…
  • 3.the early period of anything; beginning: morning of life.



So, we can have a good morning, starting at ANY time of the day!

Don’t like the way your day has gone so far? Just breathe in some life-essential oxygen, think “Good Morning, God” and intend a fresh and good time, starting that very moment. Imagine God like a vapor and you are breathing some of His presence into your body and inviting Him into the space around you, so that you can cooperate. But remember to open your “will” to God, for how can two beings cooperate if one (you) insists on making all the determinations? (God doesn’t want to make all the determinations—He gave us wills, brains, personalities, creativity; but He does want to us to accept His knowledge, love, and wisdom, so that He can help us.)

God is outside of time, so He won’t be offended if you want to have a fresh “morning” with Him at noon, or in the evening, or in the middle of the night (or even several times per day). Any time you turn toward Him and want to improve the future starting with the moment you have, He will be delighted—and so will you!

Anywhere you are, any time zone, lets have a Good Morning with God right now 🙂

© NPM


Attached photo of sunshine was provided by “nuttakit” through FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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