Originally published Tuesday, 19 June 2012.
Yeah right!, some of you may be thinking. The elusive balanced life that many of us aspire to seems harder to achieve than ever before. As parents, we are balancing soccer practice, house cleaning, full-time jobs, family duties, friendships, church functions, and more. How do we do it? How do we manage our to-do lists, while still finding a way to enjoy our families?
That is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. I am a mother of three children, two of which are year-round athletes. I am a wife, friend, sister, founder of a global nonprofit, writer for several publications, speaker, counselor, chauffeur, dishwasher, and much more. And I know you answer to just as many roles in your own lives. The reality is that most of us are busier than ever. I want to offer a few tips that I have learned through the years to help me balance my busy life.
It is okay to say “no”. Whether it be business or personal, we are constantly bombarded with requests to add yet another thing to our list of daily activities. As the old saying goes, “Give the busiest man more to do. He'll always get it done.” Bosses want us to oversee additional projects. Volunteer coordinators ask us to put in a few extra hours at the shelter. Friends invite us to countless birthday parties and get-togethers. Our spouse makes the honey-do list. And none of those things are wrong. For each thing, there is an appropriate time. There is a time when you should be doing each of those things. However, it is perfectly acceptable (and quite mature, I may add) to simply pray about what tasks should and should not be on your to-do list today, this week, this month, and so on. Respect is earned by co-workers, friends, and family alike, when you stand your ground for family game nights, vacation time, or date night with a spouse, and respectfully decline to take on that extra project.
Have fun. “Jennifer, are you serious? I am barely managing my day much less squeezing in some fun!” I know. I've been there. Fun wasn't on my list of things to do. It was purely optional, so I chose not to have any! The trick is to have fun while you are accomplishing your daily tasks. It sounds simple, but far too many people have lost their joy in life. Re-learn how to enjoy the tasks for which God has assigned you, whatever your life's path. We know that the Bible teaches us to do everything as if we were working directly for God. So if we've been hired to sweep floors, we do it with integrity and enjoy it. Sometimes that's as simple as completing household chores with your kids, while playing a counting game or “I spy”. Sometimes, it means you give yourself a little extra treat at work when you complete a file. Whatever the task, learn to implement fun into it. When we are making a conscious decision to enjoy our days, we find that our tasks become far easier and surprisingly, we accomplish more, in less time..
Most importantly, spend time with the Lord daily. Some of you are wondering how it is that you can possibly add Bible and prayer time to an already jam-packed schedule. I recently heard an interesting fact. Studies have found conclusively that the first seven minutes of our day (and what we think about during those seven minutes) closely determine the outcome of the remainder of our day. If you awake, energized and excited about what God has planned for you today, filled with gratitude for the things you have been afforded, then you are more likely to emit that vibe to others. The opposite is also true. Even on my busiest days, if I can get up a few minutes before the family, sip a little coffee alone, and read my Bible, if only for a few minutes, my mind is refreshed. I have received vision and direction for the day.
Jennifer Maggio is considered one of the nation's leading authority on single parents' and womens' issues. She is a critically-acclaimed author and speaker who travels the country sharing her riveting story. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including Focus on the Family, DaystarTV, The 700 Club, and countless more. For more information, visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.