“How do you get things done?”
One of my friends who just became a new mother asked me this question recently. I was humbled that she would ask me! At the same time I wanted to tell her simply that I don’t get everything done that I would like to in one day. There is nothing wrong with this and I think it is God’s way of teaching us a valuable lesson. None of us are perfect and none of us have it all together. We all have faults and things we struggle with, but God in His goodness gives us a sufficient amount of grace if we ask Him for it. I certainly will say that I have had days where I wake up hitting the ground running, forgetting to pray, fretting about my messy house, losing my patience, and wanting to hide in the bathroom for just a few moments. I am often reminded that I need God and His grace. Even when I think to myself that life is easy and I have it all together usually something happens very soon after that to pull me out of this thought pattern. It often humbles me when this happens. So, the only way I am able to get things done is by God’s grace. When I don’t start off my day with prayer or don’t take a few moments throughout the day to pray that is when things go awry, I feel like a complete failure, and I turn to God asking for His forgiveness and mercy.
Even with this being said, I have found a wonderful practice that I use to help me get things done. As I said before I am only human, but this practice has helped me arrange my day in such a way that I am able to use my time to glorify God instead of wasting it.
This practice is called a Rule of Life. Let me explain to you what it is.
For starters I am the type of person who gets overwhelmed with schedules where every minute of every day is planned out. I have tried to do this before, but I always get so overwhelmed that I don’t even make it one day. I guess there are so many moments in my day that are not planned, which makes it difficult to have a strict schedule. I do, however, love routine. When my spiritual director told me that I could incorporate a Rule of Life into my day as a wife and mother I had no idea where to begin or what this even meant. I had heard of religious orders having a Rule, but I had no idea what a Rule of Life was. Let me tell you though, my rule of life has changed… my life!
So, what is a Rule of Life?
A Rule of Life is basically a practice in which one orders her life based off of her vocation and the duties that go along with it. This ordering of priorities in one’s life is developed into a type of schedule enabling her to complete her responsibilities consistently and in a well ordered way. It is different from a schedule as a Rule of Life focuses on the duties of one’s vocation and has a deeper intent with each moment of the day. A Rule of Life is a response to God’s call for one’s life. So, when I have a certain task to finish in the day I see it as a call from God. He is calling me to do the dishes and my yes to Him in love makes my task sanctifying and gives it a whole new meaning. Each task that I do throughout the day is my “fiat” to God as His beloved daughter.
There are at least three things that I often remind myself throughout the day.
- I am called as a wife and mother to love God through my family by offering my daily tasks, sacrifices, and prayers back to Him out of love in the spirit of total consecration to Jesus through Mary. This has become almost a motto of mine.
- “Love begins at home” and “If you want world peace, go home to love your family” St. Mother Teresa. I actually wrote a whole blog post on the phrase Love Begins at Home if you would like to read it!
- “People before things.” Meaning people are more important than things. My mother told me this soon after I had Gianna and it has greatly helped me. “Things” not only being material things, but also to-do lists, accomplishments, chores, etc.
- “Amen, so be it.” I found this while reading and praying St. Louis de Montfort’s total consecration to Jesus through Mary. In one of his prayers St. Louis writes, “Amen, so be it, to all that thou art doing in heaven. Amen, so be it, to all thou didst do while on earth. Amen, so be it, to all thou art doing in my soul.” When things aren’t going my way or something unexpected comes up I will humble myself and pray, “Amen, so be it.” Even when things are going well I will pray this just to remind myself to hand my will over to God.
So, how do I keep my Rule of Life?
Well, I started off by creating a list of priorities and use this list to arrange my day in the order of importance. So, my priorities go something like this: God first, then family (or people, including myself), then work, etc. This means that when I create my Rule of Life I start off by adding prayer or spiritual things. Then I add family things, then work or chores, etc.
Here is what my Rule of Life looks like on a normal day:
My Rule of Life
7:00am (or earlier) – Wake up and before I do anything else I will pray my morning offering, consecration prayer, and spend a few moments with the Lord
After prayer – Prepare and eat breakfast
Morning chores – I will usually begin a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, and make Adam’s lunch if he hasn’t left yet
Daily Mass or Adoration – It has been a bit more difficult recently with Adam’s car being repaired and having a newborn. If neither are possible I will usually take some time to pray a Rosary with Gianna and Maria.
Morning walk – If the weather is nice I will try to get outside for a walk with the girls.
Around 11:00am – prepare and eat lunch
12:00pm – Get cleaned up from lunch and get ready for nap time
12:30-1:00pm – naptime
During naptime / quiet time I will:
- Pray for the first 30 minutes
- After my prayer time I just started exercising again for 20-30 minutes
- Take some time (even if it is just 15 minutes) to work on chores and items on my to-do list
3:00pm – Gianna wakes up or has been awake and we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet
Light snack after we pray the Divine Mercy chaplet
Around 4:00pm – dinner preparation (time varies depending on how long it will take to prepare dinner)
5:30-6pm – dinner
After dinner routine:
- Family Rosary
- Brush teeth
- Family Night prayer
7:30-8pm – bedtime for the kids
After kids’ bedtime:
- Spend some time with Adam
- Clean all the dishes
- Finish any laundry
- Any other chores that need to get done and work on items on my to-do list
- Meal preparation for the next day (usually just dinner as breakfast and lunch are typically pretty simple meals)
- Personal Night Prayer time
- Get ready for bed
10:00-11:00pm – My typical bedtime
Some things to note:
- I really thrive off of writing things down that I need to get done. I will create a to-do list and add anything I need to get done. I then try to tackle about 5 items on my to-do list each day. I use my Blessed is She mini planner as well as my to-do list to organize this. (I will share how I use my to-do list and planner in another blog post coming soon as it might make this post rather lengthy)! For now though it will suffice to say that I just focus on five items (based off of my priorities) on my to-list for each day. These items are separate from my daily chores like cleaning the dishes, laundry, etc.
- Maria is nursing on demand, so no matter where we are in the day I will nurse her when she needs. If I can nurse her while still doing a certain task I will, but if not I will just take a few moments away from what I am doing to nurse her. In a special way I think that in order for us busy mothers to heal from having a baby God created nursing to allow us to take a few moments to breathe, relax, and heal. I again remind myself that people are more important than things especially when it comes to something special like nursing my baby.
- I have two children – a toddler and newborn. As they continue to grow older my daily Rule of Life will grow and change too.
- I usually try to do some fun activities with Gianna each day, but I do not plan these things out for specific times of the day. When I have to nurse Maria that is typically when I will engage Gianna in some type of activity. More on this later!
- I usually pick certain days of my week to go grocery shopping, work on my blog, see friends, go to appointments, etc. These things are just not listed above as I don’t typically do them everyday, but I do make them a priority!
- My Rule looks different on Sundays as I try to take a break from all the tasks of a normal day. I will only do the minimum that is needed and nothing more.
Since starting a Rule of Life I have found that if I don’t follow it that is when I waste time and feel lazy. Keep in mind that a Rule of Life changes based off of growing children and other circumstances. For the most part though no matter if I am traveling, at home, have visitors, etc. I try to keep my prayer consistent. Morning prayer, my mid-day prayer, family Rosary, and night prayer. I can typically slip away to do these things without any issues (even if that means bringing Maria and/or Gianna with me).
Since beginning my Rule I have also found that when I avoid my nighttime duties like finishing the dishes, tidying up the house, or preparing meals for the next day that is when I wake up hitting the ground running and create more work for myself in the process. There are obviously times when I am unable to prepare the night before due to legitimate reasons, to which I remind myself, “Amen so be it.”
Why have a Rule of Life?
There are so many great reasons to have a Rule of Life!
- One thing that is great is that if I get thrown off schedule I can always pick back up where I left off. The day is not ruined! I give God everything and take a moment to ask for His grace to continue on with my day.
- Another great thing is that in having a Rule I am better able to remember to pray all the prayers I would like to throughout the day. It makes it more difficult to put off prayer until the end of the day.
- I am able to get so much more done during my day than I could have imagined! I was amazed when I first began how I completed all my tasks for the day and still had extra time to spare!
- By having a Rule it allows my family and me to keep our sanity. We avoid meltdowns from our kids because we know that all their basic needs are met (food, sleep, diaper changes, etc.). If there is a meltdown though we can better figure out why it is happening. Like if we are near nap-time and someone starts acting up because she is tired.
- I have found that there is more ease and less stress knowing that things will get done at certain times. Instead of staring at my mile-long to-do list and wondering where to begin I can relax knowing that it will get done in order of importance as well as in God’s timing and my “yes” to Him.
- If certain things don’t get done for the day then I can rest easy knowing that my top priorities were taken care of. I again remind myself people are more important than things, Amen so be it, Love Begins at Home, etc.
So, to answer my friend’s question of how I get things done I would say that relying on God’s grace and using a Rule of Life have best helped me to accomplish my daily tasks. I do have to remind myself throughout the day that people are more important than things. I hope that this helps!