How To Find More Time in Your Day

How To Find More Time in Your Day

Do you ever wish there was an extra hour in the day? Think about all the amazing stuff you could accomplish in that extra time! What if I told you that the extra hour is real and that it’s actually possible to find even more time in your day?

I know what you’re thinking. Your gigantic daily “to-do” list is running through your head, reminding you that school pictures are today, your kindergartener is on the hook for snacks, and you have a dentist appointment at 4. I get it and I’m right there with you. Life is hectic! But if we don’t take the time to be intentional and do the things which bring the spark into our lives, what’s even the point?

Finding more time is a topic I have obsessed over basically since I first became a mom eight years ago but this preoccupation has intensified over the past three years, courtesy of the graduate nursing program I recently completed. Graduate school coursework on top of maintaining my role as a wife, being a mom to three littles, working, and trying to keep some shred of self-care was no small feat.

Despite the insanity, I learned to make each and every second of my day count. Sometimes finding more time is simply a matter of carefully evaluating whether time is effectively being used. A great place to begin is with time spent in the car. We do a fair amount of driving on the weekends and since my husband generally drives anyway, I began bringing my reading assignments with wherever we went. I was amazed at how much material I was able to cover this way.

And for those times when I was the driver? Podcasts and audible books nicely maximized my study time during those solo drives. I tried listening with my kids in the car but they loudly objected to hearing about the cardiac system and effective managment of heart failure. I can’t say that I really blame them.

Taking a closer look at my daily schedule also revealed chunks of time which were not being used effectively. I was shocked to realize just how much time was spent surfing social media once I began paying attention to how my time was being used. Opening the rabbit hole of Facebook or Pinterest only resulted in possibly hours of truly unproductive time which was no help when it came to finishing papers or preparing for exams so my time was better served staying off social media altogether.

I also began finding ways to make necessary household tasks both faster and easier. At times, a mindset shift was all that was needed. If I approached the task with an expectation that it would only take 2 minutes to do, it was much easier to actually accomplish it within that time frame than if I told myself it would take forever. There are so many times when I talk myself out of doing something because I tell myself that it will take FOREVER but if I approach it from the angle that it will ONLY take 5 minutes, it’s much easier to dive right in.

Shifting your mindset is incredibly helpful when you know there’s a task which needs to get done but you are procrastinating doing said task. I use this trick of telling myself that I only need to work for 15 minutes on the task but will put forth all my focus and energy into it for a brief period of time. Once 15 minutes goes by, I am always surprised at how much progress I have actually made. This trick sometimes works in sucking me into the task and on many occasions, I have finished the task in that one session. Shorter tasks can obviously be accomplished in less than 15 minutes but sometimes bigger projects are also completed sooner than expected with this technique.

And speaking of saving time … I recently tried the WalMart grocery pick-up app and it truly is a life saver! That store is such a time and energy suck for me so I truly appreciate the ability to simply choose my groceries on the app and they are ready to be picked up when it’s convenient for me. My only regret is that I didn’t try it sooner. It is an incredibly exhilerating feeling to know that I never have to step foot inside the store again!

An obvious place to find more time in one’s day is by getting up earlier. This one was a struggle for me when I started graduate school because I also had a 3 month old preemie who only slept about 3 hours at a stretch. He had a three week NICU stay and we never perfected breastfeeding so I was frantically trying to keep up an intense pumping schedule on top of everything else. Sleep was incredibly precious and elusive in those days!

Needless to say, getting up earlier than I absolutely had to was not an option at that time in my life. I definitely would not recommend trying to find more time by impacting your sleep cycle if you have an infant. You need sleep to survive. It’s one of those basic necessities. Get all the sleep you can and find other ways to prioritize your time if you are at that stage in your life.

Once my youngest started sleeping and I stopped pumping, I realized that I had a treasure trove of time in the hour before my kids awoke in the morning. I generally used this time to hit the gym because it actually gave me more energy for the day and I found that I slept better at night. Listening to motivational and inspirational podcasts during this time changed my mindset from negativity to one of positivity and personal accomplishment. I suddenly felt as if I had even more time to accomplish my personal goals and self-care tasks.

Regardless of the stage of motherhood you are in, I hope you found these suggestions helpful. Even despite these tactics and mindset shifts, I still have days where the hours tick by so quickly that it’s unbelievable and at the end of the day, I’m not even sure what I accomplished. Life is messy, chaotic, and hectic and on those days all you can do is be thankful for the time you’re given and do the best that you can do with what you have. I’m always looking for ways to be more mindful of my time and would love to hear your thoughts on how you manage the insanity that is life so please feel free to leave a comment below!

Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig

Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig

Side gigs have always intrigued me. They represent another side of you, a side which may not be immediately apparent to others. An opportunity to break away from the person you are for 40+ hours each week.

Don’t get me wrong. My 9 to 5 is great (most of the time anyway!) but it does not completely fulfill my desire to contribute. Sometimes we have a tendency to be so completely wrapped up into our identity at work that we forget we are actually so much more. I believe that everyone has been given a creative gift of some sort and whether that is painting, crafting, or singing, there are opportunities everywhere to turn your creativity into a side gig. Although there are arguably dozens of reasons why you need to pursue a creative side gig, this post outlines my top 3.

1. Creative side hustles make you a more well-rounded person. Sure. You may be great at accounting, being a nurse, or writing contracts. But what about that tiny voice inside reminding you that you used to be really great at ____ (you fill in the blank here with whatever creative activity applies to you)? Remember the feeling you got when you pursued that activity? And how about the extra skills which came along with it? Wouldn’t it be great to hone in those skills again? Along with creativity comes a host of important aptitudes such as ingenuity, problem-solving, and perseverance which may actually benefit you during your work day.

Despite my current day job as a nurse practitioner, my first course of study was actually a liberal arts degree in music. People often give me funny looks when I tell them my background because it seems worlds apart from where I am today however I have always valued the lessons taken from my first degree. Music taught me to never give up on something you think about every day because it adds purpose and value to your life.

Through the course of this degree, I also learned that you get out of life what you put into it. If you work dilligently and with focus, you will see positive results. Lastly, when gauging progress, you can only make comparisons to yourself. Everyone has been given completely different skills sets but only you can sift through to figure out how to optimize your individual gifts. Comparison to others is useless and only serves to discourage you from your individual progress. These are incredibly valuable lessons which are beneficial regardless of the path I ultimately chose.

2. Doing something completely different pushes you outside your comfort zone and inspires growth. When was the last time you said “goodbye” to your comfort zone? Was it last week when you took a cooking class? Last summer when you signed up to run your first half marathon? Or maybe it was ten years ago when you took a yoga class?

You will never make progress or grow as a person by continuing to do the same old thing day in and day out. Growth requires challenge of some sort. You have to be vulnerable, put yourself out there, and possibly even experience failure to become a new and better version of yourself. Even if you didn’t feel exhilerated or even moderately intrigued by the activity, at least you tried it and perhaps realized that it actually wasn’t your jam. Congratulations … You are now that much closer to finding your actual creative outlet!

3. Who doesn’t love extra income? There are opportunities everywhere to collect a paycheck for everything from knitting cute baby outfits to being the bassist in a band and playing local bars every Friday night. Maybe you’re an amazing violinist and also excel at teaching others. Check into offering violin lessons to others who want to learn. People out there are looking for your specific type of creativity and are willing to shell out for it. Don’t keep them in suspense any longer!

I hope this post has gotten you thinking about the possibilities out there. Maybe you already have a creative pursuit in mind or maybe you still have no idea what that would even entail. Either way, take a few moments to clarify what your next action step toward pursuing creativity would involve. Granted, my time is valuable as it is divided among being a wife, mom of three, and working full-time, however freelancing as a pianist and organist makes it so much more fulfilling and meaningful. It’s truly the icing on top of the cake!

Do you have a creative side gig? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Living with Intention: The Busy Mom Version

Living with Intention: The Busy Mom Version

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Have you ever been initially intrigued with an idea only to find out that it actually didn’t fit into your life as advertised? One example from my own life is the Bacon Express. I dislike cooking bacon and therefore never make it but my husband is obsessed with it. To clarify … he is obsessed with the eating part, not the cooking part.

This past summer we were walking through a store when my husband spotted the Bacon Express, a device which advertised the cooking of bacon as mere child’s play. Since it was on clearance, we took the plunge and brought it home. We used the Bacon Express a couple of times before we became disenchanted with this product advertised to make our lives easier.

Our first issue was how long it took to cook an entire package of bacon. The device was so small that you could only fit about 5 pieces on at a time, a highly inefficient feature when trying to cook for a family of 5. Our second issue related to its cleaning. One had to practically dissemble the entire device to clean it, which wasn’t necessarily the issue. The challenge arose when I realized that I clearly lacked the engineering degree required to re-assemble this thing. Highly disappointing.

A similar experience occurred when I became interested in living with intention. The idea is that you essentially take a long, hard look at your life, figure out your values, and re-align your activities based upon those values. Intentional living captivated me because it facilitates an alternative goal setting method and I’m a sucker for anything and everything related to goals. Once I became aware of the concept, I set out to uncover how I might incorporate living with intention into my own life.

Although some of the advice I found was helpful, some of it was clearly not adapted for a busy working mom of three kiddos. Ideally, I would love all the time in the world to sit and brainstorm about my values and how to adapt my activities to reflect said values. But let’s be real. I work 40+ hours a week and have primary responsibility of the housework. Quiet reflection time is almost non-existent in my world.

Becoming a mom comes with a whole package of things no one really wants to do but nonetheless, must be done anyway. Who really wants months of sleepless nights, loads upon loads of more dirty laundry than a small army could ever produce, or hours of whining and crying from a small being with so many of your own best and worst traits? No one wants that.

And yet, we endure these unpleasantries because any negatives are vastly outweighed by the gift of caring for and raising our babies. It’s true that we sacrifice so much but they also give abuntantly in return. This is the struggle in balancing all that comes with motherhood with pursuing your own goals and this is the spirit in which I present my advice to other busy moms looking to live with intention.

I know you also have goals. Whether they are personal, relational, or professional, goals inspire growth and come in all shapes and sizes. Spend actual quality time with your kids. Plan weekly date nights with your husband. Drink water. Read a book instead of watching Netflix. Get more sleep at night. Take up a new hobby. Try a cycling class. Cook dinner instead of eating out. Any one of these activities has the potential to improve your life but if you’re anything like me, the days fly by and keeping up with everything you’re already doing feels impossible. How can you possibly add one more goal, no matter how small, to your already packed schedule?

1) Take a careful look at what you’re already doing right now. If you are currently raising little ones, making sudden, sweeping changes to your lifestyle is most likely not feasible. But you can find tiny pockets of time here and there to spark larger change. Is there anything on your daily schedule which isn’t serving you? Although you may not be thrilled with your job right now, what small steps can you take to make an alternate one a reality? Or maybe you find yourself with more screen time than you care to admit. Do you feel energized and engaged after spending all that time interacting on social media? Or could you find a more productive use for your time?

Some parts of your daily routine may not necessarily be your first choice in how your time is spent but are important to the stage of life you are in. This is one of the ones I struggle with because I have all these goals and a constant feeling that there is never enough time in the day. Meanwhile, my time is sucked up by housework, driving kids to and from various activities, and grocery shopping. Hardly inspirational.

But then I remind myself that this is a season of life. Seasons don’t last forever and although they are very necessary aspects of raising kids, there are always ways to free up time here and there. Remember … you’re looking for tiny pockets of time and not hours upon hours. Grocery pick-up apps are everywhere now and are a complete timesaver! There are cleaning services out there which will come and clean your house while you’re at work. Consider carpooling with other trusted parents to and from sports and other activities.

2) Plan ahead and budget your free time carefully. You may only get a few minutes of quiet time here and there but plan this out in advance so you know exactly what you should be doing with that time. In my own life, I have found that a paper planner is the best way to stay on track with my goals. I searched high and low to find the planner that I currently have and absolutely love it because it provides space for monthly goal planning including the ability to highlight my top priority for that month. Each day of the week has space to write a daily goal as well and I use this to come up with daily motivational messages for myself.

Intention always precedes accomplishment. Think about it. When was the last time you accidentally cleaned the bathroom? Or ran 3 miles? What about that time you just kinda sorta earned a degree. Or how about the time you unintentionally ended up at the movies with your hubby on a Saturday afternoon? Ok, maybe that one could actually be unintentional but the desire to strengthen your relationship through quality time together is most definitely intentional. Accomplishing a goal, no matter how small, must always start with the intention to do so and putting it down in black and white makes prioritization much easier. Click the picture below to check out the planner which smoothly incorporates intention into your already crazy schedule!

3) Seek accountability in becoming more intentional about your goal. About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to become better about learning new piano repertoire. My practice habits in the past were terrible and I had never been great about consistent practice. It was always hours of sporadic practice here and there which never amounted to true progress.

I knew that if I wanted to improve, I would need accountability so I began searching for ways to make myself accountable. It was then that I stumbled upon an app which logged your practice time and counted up consecutive days of practice for you. This app changed my practice habits and I became obsessed with daily practice because I loved seeing the consecutive day count go up. Even if I only had 5 minutes a day, it didn’t matter because it still counted.

Find accountability for yourself in accomplishing your goal. Accountability will keep you honest and will inspire you to take action even on those long days when the work never seems to end and everybody wants more from you than you have to give. It may be a tracking app, a friend, or your spouse but find whatever makes the most sense for what motivates you and get moving on putting this into place

I get it. Change, even if it’s the best possible change, is hard. But what about that nagging voice inside reminding you of your goal to run the half marathon this fall? Or the one reminding you about how accomplished you feel after making a homemade meal for your family? What about that stack of personal development books you ordered last fall but never got around to reading? And the memories of those date nights in your pre-kid days? Wouldn’t it be amazing to bring that magic back again?

Living with intention is a powerful technique to hone into what matters to you and then going after it with everything you have inside. Without intention, a goal is simply a wish. A pipe dream which will never come to fruition. It is a road map for previously uncharted territory. When you lack intention, you are dragged in a million different directions and are unsure whether any of them are what you actually want. I sincerely hope that these 3 actionable tips for incorporating intention into your daily living are helpful and inspire you to chase after your goals even as you chase after your babies!