How does my life look different today than it did before my October diligence revelation and commitment? What does diligence in the home look like for me? Several readers asked me this following my series of homeward diligence posts (more posts on this here, here, and here); this post will answer those questions.
First a reminder: diligence is is not a to-do list or an organizational system. It isn’t legalistic and thus can’t be distilled to daily action items. Rather diligence is a mindset and a heart commitment. It’s Spirit-empowered focus and attentiveness to the tasks God’s put before you – to optimally stewarding your life and all its details. So there’s nothing right or magical about my specific habits in pursuing homeward diligence. They’re things that work for me, allowing me to convert diligence from theoretical to practical. Another mom’s diligence in the home might look entirely different. That by way of disclaimer, to encourage all moms to reject legalism in favor of straight-up faithfulness to God and his call on them, as a lead-in to my list. My personal “Top 8 Things that Foster Homeward Diligence“:
1. Undergirding diligence with Scripture. The two verses that God used to spark diligence in me – through a kick in the butt by the Holy Spirit – were these from Proverbs 31 about the wife of noble character: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks… She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (Verses 17 & 27). I read these verses over from time to time during my morning prayer times, and I whisper them to myself sometimes as I go about my household tasks as a form of active meditation and on-th-go prayer.
2. Investing in the necessary tools to manage my household effectively. Until three months ago, I used my Outlook calendar almost exclusively. Great for my personal and professional lives, bad for centralizing information for family life. My main tool for daily reminders were post-it notes… strewn all over my kitchen. Not optimal. So I thought through the items that would best foster my household management and then purchased them. These included: two white-board calendars (a month-planner and a week-planner) that hang side-by-side in my kitchen; a whiteboard to-do list on my fridge; kitchen step-stools for my preschoolers; two recipe binders with labeled tabs to organize my cooking; craft supply organizers for my pantry cupboard. Total investment about $80, which I overcame my reluctance to spend by meditating on the fact that my heart will reside where my treasure is spent. And also by drawing the parallel to professional life – how effective of a consultant would I be if I used dial-up internet or a typewriter? One must equip oneself for success, whatever the realm of work. And because I acquired the tools after the commitment was firmly in place, they’ve worked wonders.
3. Establishing milestones throughout the day to maintain focus and efficiency. Pre-homeward-diligence, I had a Saturday-morning mindset every morning. I was often in PJ’s till 9 AM or later; I was checking my email while I stirred my coffee. I had no set time or goal for when my bed might get made or the laundry put away… and it showed. The solution for me was to set a few clear goals for what, in an ideal world, I wanted to accomplish when. What would I like to do before my kids are up? Wash, dress, and make my bed. What would I like to do by 8 AM? Unload the dishwasher and consider dinner so I could thaw meat (etc). When would I like to do my quiet time? During the kids’ room time. I made a little chart on the fridge to remind myself, and then I gradually implemented these baby steps.
4. Planning fifteen minutes of time with God into my morning. Before diligence adoption my quiet time was sporadic and very hit-or-miss (usually miss). Now I take a prayer and Bible-reading time at least three weekday mornings during the first half of my kids’ independent playtime in their rooms. This timeslot works better for me than the early-hours timeslot some folks use and is eminently doable now that it’s planned. The regular time I now spend, though short, makes a world of difference in my mood, mothering, and focus.
5. Making and sticking to a meal plan. I’ve been meal planning for 18 months but previously my plans lacked zeal, organization, and sometimes follow-through. Now I build dinner-planning for the week into my Sunday afternoon planning – the same time as when I change out my week-whiteboard and write my shopping list – and actually (gasp!) put some effort and thought into it. I also added a few food-focused blogs I like to my Google reader to help inspire me toward new dinner ideas. Knowing what we’re having for dinner eliminates a lot of stress.
6. Limiting laptop use during the day. My laptop battery fortuitously died the same month as I took up diligence (could God hint any more blatantly?). I found the temptation to tap into online life significantly reduced once my laptop was docked in my office – greatly reinforcing my goal of using it less. I’m much more present to my kids, the house, and the needs of both when I only go online during room time, nap time, or in the evening.
7. Involving my children more in household tasks. I’ve been thinking about kids’ jobs and chores for months now; since October I’ve been involving them much more in my daily tasks. They help prepare dinner, standing on their stools. They help empty the dishwasher, wipe their placemats after meals, and set the table for dinner. They’re learning to push the vacuum cleaner when I do my Monday morning once-over house clean. Slowly we’re developing a more holistic approach to household management that involves everyone – good for the household, my kids, and me (or will be once they’re a little older and better trained!).
8. Cleaning as I go. I am terrible at this – ask my husband,sister, or mom. I routinely leave cupboard doors open after retrieving a glass; the kitchen looks like a bomb went off when I’m done cooking. The reality is that I have never cared much about cleaning as I go nor worked to improve in this area. Now that’s changing. I found this post on Cleaning as You Go – and even just the phrase itself – tremendously helpful, and I’m working on improving this area as a goal in 2010.
So that’s me. I’d love to hear top-few diligence items from any of you…