Monday, January 8, 2018

How to Make a Good Day and Get Stuff Done (and Other Things)

I hope your day was as lovely as mine. Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed with gratitude for how God has blessed me and my situation. I love my job. I so love the kids I interact with throughout each day. I love my boss. I love my little apartment. I have good, nutritious food to eat. I love my morning routine with coffee (so much— almost the highlight of my day! haha). I always have good books lined up to read— yay! I have a truly wonderful mother who lives nearby. I love my church and pastor and small group. I adore the sound of the raining falling outside right now and how cosy it feels inside. So much goodness.

Just a couple of things I ran across in the past couple of days. First, this article by Ryan Holiday encouraging us to stop consuming news. I made this decision quite awhile back (it was how I answered one of those “How can I declutter my life, mind, spirit?” questions), and it has been such a good decision. Somehow, I always know a lot about what is going on without making any effort toward that end! Anyway, I think it is worth considering how much news (or endless discussion about bad news) we really need to consume. And, Ryan makes a good point about how much of it is fake-news, or it could be called make-news (to keep consumers connected). You may disagree with me and/or with Ryan, but I think the article is worth a read. He writes from his life-pursuit of philosophy, whereas my decision was more of a Jesus-spiritual one, based on my determination to leave broad margins in all areas of my life.

Also, who was it who asked me how I like A Circle of Quiet? Was it Tracy, or maybe “mominapocket”? I just want to say that I am loving this book! I will talk more about it , and why I like it, soon, probably in a post about what I’ve been reading.

I saw the following when I was cleaning up my computer files yesterday morning. I wrote it last summer, but, for some reason or another, I never finished it and then forgot all about it. I’m not going to finish it now, either. I’ll just post it as is because I have no idea what else I was going to write.

I’ll have more soon on all of those other topics I mentioned recently.

* * *

Recently I was visiting my second oldest daughter, who has three kids. She runs a pretty efficient ship in her home. She’s also really funny and knows how to let loose, make things fun, and let things go when necessary.

When she has something to do— clean the house, make dinner, grocery shop, run errands, package and ship out her Etsy packages, or whatever—she’s got a mental master plan, and she gets it done quickly and cheerfully, without a sense of rush. She also makes time to sit in the living room to hang out with the family, drink coffee with her husband every afternoon, play with her kids, and make a great home for her family.

I know this girl pretty well, but I was still impressed the morning of my visit. While I wandered and poked around the house, acting like a lady of leisure and slowly getting ready for the day, my daughter got a huge number of things done, all while joking and laughing with me and her kids. It was grocery shopping day, and when she said, “Let’s go!” we were all in the car in about one minute flat, ready to back out of the garage.

I asked her if she always felt cheerful, bubbly, and energetic, and I told her I was impressed with the way she got things done.This daughter has always been one of my exuberantly energetic ones (I have always had this trait, too), but, still.

She said, no, she doesn’t always feel cheerful or motivated. She doesn’t always want to do what needs doing. And sometimes she gets exhausted or stressed out.

“But, Mom,” she said, “it kind of started with something you said when (her third child) was born. I was absolutely exhausted and just couldn’t get myself moving, and you told me that I should just get up early because I was awake and knew I needed to get up anyway. You said to get up, make my bed, and open the curtains. Then clean yourself up, get dressed in actual clothes, and determine to be cheerful and energetic. You said it can help to make me actually feel that way. I did it, and it really worked. It changed everything. I still do it now.”

Well. (What do you know?)

But there’s another thing. My daughter has made it easier on herself by streamlining and simplifying everything about her home and the way she does her tasks. Because, while having a good attitude makes us way more motivated and energetic, it doesn’t necessarily help us get things done, especially done effectively and efficiently. Here are some things I noticed about Michelle that I actually try to do myself:

1. She rarely gets online. She has a smartphone, and she uses social media (it’s almost a necessity when you run an Etsy shop), but half the time she doesn’t even know where her smartphone is (and doesn’t care). Occasionally, I will see her with it in her hand, scrolling, but her time on it is brief, and it’s when nothing is going on. There are definitely times when she is just relaxing and she’ll sit with her phone for awhile, but I never see her consumed by it.

2. Her house is beautifully decorated and looks both pretty and adorable at the same time, but it is not cluttered. She declutters routinely, so there is lots of space on shelves and in cupboards and closets and everywhere. Absolutely every item has a space, and you don’t have to play Jenga with anything to retrieve it or make it fit. It makes putting things away quick and easy. This is true in the kids’ rooms as well as the rest of the house (though the kids’ rooms have more stuff in them, and her craft room is pretty packed). In her living room, she has two side tables that have nothing on them but a really cool mercury lamp on each, and because the whole living area is uncluttered— both physically and visually— throw pillows and blankets can be askew and squished and all over the place on the couch, and a few books and toys, projects, and other items can be lying around, and it still looks tidy and charming. 

3. She has automated her plans and routines wherever doing so is effective, so she doesn’t have to give any mental energy to doing any of them. She just starts her tasks without making a big deal of them, and— boom!— it seems like the whole house is clean, or whatever she’s doing is done. Getting started, I think, is the often the hardest part of a task, and she is good at jumping right in and getting started. But, like I said, she has streamlined her house and work so that it is quick and easy.

Her food and cooking routine is fairly automated, too. She doesn’t need a list to grocery shop because she has it so down. She knows exactly what she’s getting at each store, and she and her gang move like an efficient machine (but a fun one) through the aisles of each store. (I know, because I’ve gone along many times.) Her food is delicous and extremely simple, and she doesn’t use recipes. She has a number of dishes that she puts on the menu time and time again, and she has them totally in her head. Sometimes she’ll improvise on them.

4. If something comes up that needs to be done, and it will take just a few minutes to do it, she does it immediately. She takes care of a lot of business this way. She adopted this mindset from her husband, who is one of the most “get it done now” people I’ve ever met. I’m the type that sometimes postpones phone calls or tasks I don’t like, but my daughter and her husband both take them on immediately, and because of this, neither of them end up with a lot of things hanging over their heads that need to be done. This keeps the to-do list unoppressively short.

* * *

Okay. There ya go. That’s all I’ve got! Oh, wait. I will add one thing: As I mentioned above, Michelle says I told her to get up, make her bed, and press on. It was several years later that I began reading about the importance of bed-making. It seems like a trivial thing. Who cares? Who notices? Why does it matter? But, apparently, there’s more to it than meets the eye. According to the book, The Power of Habit, making your bed every single day is a keystone habit that sort of triggers getting a lot of other stuff done.

Add to that the exhortation of Admiral McRaven, a former Navy seal, who claims that if you want to change the world, you should start by making your bed. McRaven insists that this is not hyperbole. He says that, over his lifetime, he has come to see the wisdom in doing small, mundane things well, day after day: “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

So, make your bed, I guess. :)

And have a good day!

By the way, I have been asked more than once about my daughter's Etsy shop. I can't make a link to it because I don't follow, but she posts news and updates and a link to her blog on Instagram. She is @mumlicreates, I think. Ha. 


  1. Susan, I really enjoyed reading this post. I love having a window of insight into how Michelle runs her household routines, life with a house full of children, and a home business. There are so many valuable bits of wisdom here. I agree that positive attitude is so important, but having routines in place and a decluttered house makes life so much easier. Internet was not a distraction when my kids were being raised, and I admire all parents who have to manage their own online time as well as that of their children.

    I'm so happy for all the ways the Lord has blessed your life right now.

    1. I know what you mean about internet not being a distraction when our kids were growing up. It was becoming a thing when my kids hit their teens, but it was much easier (before smartphones and handheld devices) to manage it well. I, too, admire the young people I know who do this. And thanks, Lorrie! :)

  2. I think it's so cool when kids actually take advice from Mom. And probably when you gave the advice, you didn't think about it much, right?

    I'm so glad you are feeling blessed. God is good.

    1. Haha. I really didn't think about it again. I didn't remember ever saying anything like that. But I'm glad it helped! :) Yes, God is good, Jody, isn't He?

  3. Love it. I'm definitely not an energetic, get things done person. I'm more of the "let's examine our motives and feelings for an hour first" type of person. ;) But I've found this approach works for me as well. When it comes to running my house, I put a system in place years ago and every day I just do whatever that day is scheduled for without thinking about it too much. Get in and get it done everyday without excuses or letting yourself off the hook, and suddenly you have a pretty clean and well-run house.

    1. Tonia, this is great! It's good, solid, practical, feet-on-the-ground advice. Reality is that we live where the rubber meets the road, and we're not always super duper inspired to do each little thing. If we don't make a big deal of them, though, the routine of them adds a lot of peace and order and sweetness to our homes and lives. Thank you!

  4. So agree with making one's bed and thankful my parents installed the habit very early on. I enjoyed reading about how your daughter's home and habits are efficient and how she spends very little time online, even though she runs an online business.

    This past year, I streamlined my banking, wardrobe, and news input. It is true that a person does not miss much!

    1. Yeah, I'm sure Michelle has her own struggles juggling everything, but she's a good one! :) And good going on the streamlining! Simpler life is so much easier, and I haven't missed a thing that I've jettisoned from my life. :) Thanks for your comment!