Clean one room a day. Clean to a schedule, and you know everything will get cleaned in its time. Once you've done the cleaning for today, you don't need to feel guilty for not doing more.
Plan your menu. Think of how you feel when it's 5:30 and you're not sure what you're going to make for dinner. If you plan your meals for a week, you can go to the grocery store just once and save yourself stress.
Consolidate your errands. Do you need to take the car in for an oil change? How about making a doctor's appointment around the same time or planning on going to the bank then, too? Do errands all at once so you don't have to run around every day.
Set a timer. Bonnie Marshall, a family physician, found that she was often spending far too much time on everyday tasks. Now she carries a kitchen timer when she's working in her house. She sets it for 15 minutes and spends that much time cleaning, paying bills, organizing or doing whatever needs to be done. Having the timer helps her work faster and lets her tackle big tasks in small bursts.
Include others. Many of us make our kids clean up their toys, but if that's all they're doing, they're not really learning to care for others. So let's hand them a toilet brush!
Give kids age-appropriate chores such as cleaning a bathroom, dusting a coffee table or even making dinner. You can set the timer and turn cleaning into a race or make a game out of who can pick up the most things in five minutes. Then, when you're all finished, you can reward yourselves with some uninterrupted kid time.
MAXIMIZE THE BEST
We've looked at how we can take those good things that we know are not the best, refocus them and save time. For many things, though, the line between good and best is very blurry. So let's go back and clarify Jesus' priorities.
Simply put, Jesus loves people. He doesn't want any to perish (see 2 Pet. 3:9), and He does want everyone to be transformed into His likeness (see Rom. 8:29). In other words, we're to concentrate on encouraging ourselves and those around us to become more and more like Jesus.
So let's take these criteria and apply them to other things we do. Highest on many of our to-do lists is paid work, which takes more time than anything except sleep.
Is paid work God's best for you? For many it may be, as work gives us the chance to form friendships and shine Christ's light.
My husband, a pediatrician, finds ways to bless parents within his vocation. For others, though, God may have something different in mind.
Ask yourself if you need to work. Could you cut back on spending instead? The income many women earn is actually offset by the cost of working. Child care, a second car, work clothes, meals out and snacks can easily eat up most of it.
If work is necessary but you don't feel as if it's God's best, then ask Him how you can redeem it. Jill Smith, a hairdresser from Belleville, Ontario, used to joke that she wanted to quit and be a "kept woman," though her husband wouldn't agree. Now she's grateful for his reticence. God gave her a vision of how she could be used to bless her customers.
Though a relatively new Christian, Jill opened herself up to the opportunities God gave her, and she began to tell hurting women about Christ's love and to pray with women who were going through difficult times, even women who weren't themselves Christians. Her ho-hum job has now become a place of ministry, though she never would have dreamed it.
Another area we may need to evaluate is our actual "ministry." For years, my husband and I were very involved in the church, planning wonderful outreaches that few people attended. Because of all our meetings, we rarely had a night when our whole family was home.
We weren't able to invite friends over to dinner. We weren't able to start a neighborhood seeker Bible study. We were too busy with church work. We sat down and decided this was not God's best for us, and now we're spending more time being a conduit for those outside the church who need Jesus.
As we clear our schedules of the merely "good," we can start to make time for the "best"--those relationships that God designed us to have. Sometimes this transition seems wrong because it's easy to feel that if we're not doing something, we're wasting time.
However, that's not how God sees it. We don't need to be outrageously busy; we just need to devote our time to Him. Sometimes just being quiet before God, catching up with friends, snuggling with our spouse or pulling out that Monopoly board with our kids is the best way we can spend our time because we're drawing closer to those we love.