From Mess to Masterpiece: 10 Tips for a Fulfilling Day (Episode 305)
Are there those days you feel like everything is an absolute mess? My mother is an artist through and through, and loves to share the perspective of turning a "mess into a masterpiece".
One of the work emails I always appreciate getting is from my DISC mentor, Deb Ingino, who shares a valuable email on leadership every week, really looking at it from the perspective of knowing personality styles.
And, like has happened so many times, I immediately saw all of this application in leadership and how it could apply to families with this post she shared on 10 Steps To Make Your Day a Masterpiece.
As new parents are figuring out routines and navigating overwhelm, these handy little steps can not only help you but those little ones you're raising, too. It impacts us at every season of our lives, and we can find the tools to help us keep our sanity no matter what stage.
These are the life skills tools I want to teach our kids. As they get older, and you get to the stage we're in with teens and pre-teens in the house, I not only want to do these steps myself but offer these as tools for my children to live a fulfilling life.
So as we go through this list, we're going to kind of break it down into how we can apply this in our personal lives to have a bigger impact and be able to kind of keep our sanity and enjoy this masterpiece we're living in.
Prioritizing your big rocks allows your big rocks to happen. And when you don't prioritize them, the little daily reactions can become the grains of sand that fill in the crevices so the big rocks no longer fit.
There Are Seasons For Ceremony
The reality is, as we work to create our lives into beautiful masterpieces, it's a fine art that is constantly evolving. The hard work we do to create a system or routine may end up not working anymore. It doesn't mean it was a failure; it could have simply been a season.
Because I recognize with every transition comes a new season, I'm always eager to create some sort of routine and ceremony. Not to cling to; simply to open the door for appreciation and consistency through a transition.
I love the reverence of a ceremony. And, when I say "ceremony", it can be as elaborate as a powwow or as simple as heating your kettle for a morning cup of tea. It's taking the time to focus and appreciate and be in the moment.
What if you add some ceremony in your morning time and add something that is just a joy spark that you do in the morning?
Tip #1: Start The Night Before
How often do we wake up in reaction mode of, "Okay, what do I have to do today? Oh, crap, I've got that meeting in ten minutes!" I know I've been guilty of this, and it always happens when I haven't been proactive the night before.
We have found that a great way of eliminating some of that chaos in the morning is planning the night before. We call it dummy-proofing our day or book-ending our day.
When we book-end our day, we know what steps to do the night before to lessen the decision-making when we first wake up. We get proactive at night to create the space in the morning for our brains and bodies to ease in a bit more with focus and intention.
That way you have a roadmap already written out.
If you don't like something, you have to change it. I know I personally didn't like the feeling of waking up in a rush and reacting without even feeling fully coherent some days. I remember times when I struggled with depression and focused more on my to-do list than joys in my life. I didn't like those feelings anymore.
So I looked at one little thing I could work on to change it. Looking ahead and seeing what the next day - and week - was bringing allowed me to work in those things that brought me joy - and a life I looked forward to.
Try to create as much of an environment for that to occur as possible. And it takes everybody being on board, communicating what you want and kind of trying some stuff out and seeing what works and what doesn't and playing with some levers and seeing what falls into. Like always, it's a bit of a red-light-green-light approach to learning what works...for the season you are in.
Note: Grab The Reins Of Your Week
Don't simply look at your calendar the night before. That is just your last-minute checkpoint. Prioritize going over your schedule with your family at least once a week so everyone is clear on what is happening and when for anyone who needs to know. Then you're navigating reminders the night before and not a last-minute freak-out you weren't prepared for.
This helps eliminate the frazzle opportunities that occur in daily activity. If you wake up every morning not knowing what you're wanting and you haven't communicated anything, then, if somebody does something that agitates you, there can be absolutely no reason, you simply fly off the handle. Why? Because it can be frustrating when something is off your agenda...and you don't even know what your "agenda" is!
When you start putting concrete parameters around what is important, you can create a whole different energy around your mornings and evenings as you plan for and anticipate the big things coming up in your life.
Tip #2: Get Your Rest
I used to tell Nathan, "You can sleep when you die." At some point, I finally realized I was going to kill him dragging him around everywhere sleep-deprived!
Give yourself some grace here. I know there are seasons when it's hard to get your sleep, especially as new parents. Yet even then, it's critical to get it in when you can.
Coming from a former night owl, I just can't justify nighttime as being more productive. I end up on a high that keeps me from sleeping after I've accomplished something and then am supposed to settle myself down to sleep. How much easier to launch into the morning that way!
Work sleep in when you can. You cannot just "roll over minutes" on the weekends. Especially with young children at home - I'm sure they won't get the memo to stay asleep longer on those days!
So take the moments to rest. Even a 5-10 minute recharge can be a great rejuvenator to keep you moving forward. And be very, very careful about what you do while sleep-deprived. You can have just as much of a dangerous impact as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Tip #3: Early To Rise
Oh the irony - I focus on the importance of sleep, and then tell you to wake up earlier. Yet, there is something magical about that morning time, especially when you can work in some special time just for you before your children wake up.
When you're an early riser, you can take control of your day in the driver's seat versus being driven by a reaction to what is coming your way.
When I wake up in the morning, I'm ready to go. I've got all my morning ahead of me. Nathan is the king of this. This morning, he did a ten-mile bike ride. He made breakfast for everyone and cleaned up. And there he was, at 8:30 am, ready to make lunch. Ha. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're up early. You've got a full day ahead of you.
Tip #4: Create A Plan
If you want to move forward with the things that are important to you, it's important to identify them and recognize the size they should have in your daily life. Steven Covey has a great demonstration to explain what "big rocks" are in your life:
Tip #5: Prioritize Those Rocks
Pay attention to what "big rocks" you have, and prioritize them. Before you organize your day with all the little tasks that can eat up the day, focus on those bigger rocks you need to prioritize first before anything else.
Tip #6: Focus On Your ONE Thing
It can be so easy to fall into the trap of multitasking. I know I can be a pro at it...and end up also dropping the ball as I bounce all over the place.
You can definitely fall into a trap of a full day of activity without much true productivity to show for it. While you don't have to have every second of life productive (see Tip #2), you are going to get way more accomplished when you focus on the task at hand.
Don't confuse activity with accomplishment. Stay true to one thing and follow through.
Tip #7: Rejuvenate
Don't burn yourself out trying to keep all the balls up in the air and switch back and forth. Having focused times to really zone in on one thing, and then add a break at each transition to rejuvenate, makes a huge impact on both my productivity and my peace in the process.
What is a little recharge you can add in, and create these focused areas of concentration with transition times instead of trying to keep all balls up in the air at once?
Tip #8: Be Prepared To Be Present
When you're working on work, be fully present with it. When you're hanging with your kids, be present with your kids. Working from home can be overrated.
When you work outside of the home, it's a given that you're going to have childcare for your children. However, when you work in the home, it's often assumed that you can cover the child care and the work.
And so you're taking on two different jobs, not to mention the household manager and all the other things that happen in a household that are a full-time job in and of itself. It can be very difficult to play the role of parent and professional at the same time. I'm a huge advocate for keeping it separate at times.
Now, the older my kids have gotten, the more they've been able to get involved with my work. Yet in order to really show up in each arena, I'm very strategic about when it's helpful for them to be involved and when it's better for me to knock something out and then fully show up with them outside of work.
When your kids are younger, look for somebody that can give the attention a toddler and infant demands. We're at a point now where we are in the golden years with our children, where they are old enough that now when I work, a lot of times they work with me and they're learning alongside me.
It's a beautiful thing where I can have them involved in the process. And, that was a long time in coming. And there were many years where my ability to show up better as a mom was because we got a babysitter, a nanny, a family member, and other people to help with our kids, to let me fully focus on the work that I needed to do so that I could put it down and fully focus on the children and be present for them at other times.
Tip #9: Minimize Distractions
I got very strategic in my planning because I wanted to be able to have something left to give my family. I would wake up early in the morning and get stuff knocked out, and ensure I prioritize those big rocks before I had any distractions come my way. The more focused I was, the more refreshed I was knowing I drove my day.
The more we can eliminate distractions, the more we are going to be able to accomplish. A lot of times distractions are technology. And it's truly difficult when it's in your face. Look for ways to eliminate that. Don't have your phone in the room when you're working on your computer. Don't have the TV blaring a show that's sucking you in while you're trying to accomplish organizing the pantry.
Think about what is helping you and what is pulling you away, and make it simple by eliminating as much as possible. It helped me so much to turn off notifications on my phone, as I was always a sucker for hopping over to look at them!
Two ways I minimize distractions are to:
- Make it inconvenient - don't have notifications up and distractions handy, whether that's junk food or your phone.
- Make it full - the more full your day is with the stuff you DO want to add in, the less time you have to get distracted. This is a great way to get kids off of screens. Instead of boycotting a screen, spend a day outside where there are no screens, and they may not even be thought of due to what else is distracting your attention.
Tip #10: Evaluate Your Day
At the end of the day, it's important to download.
Here's what I saw.
Here's what's going on.
I felt this kind of energy when we did this.
I felt like they were distracted when we did this.
It's debriefing with your family on what went well and what didn't. We talk about how, when adventures have gone awry in our travels, we have a four-part process. We assess, assign, act, and then appreciate.
We look at what went well, and what we can learn for moving forward. When we make space for these important discussions, we make space for growth to not keep repeating the same conflicts over and over again in our lives.
What can we learn from this? What does it make possible? It really can shift our approach and help us to reframe what habits we want to continue to add.
And that creates intentionality in your life, and it creates the ability to really be intentional with your flow and find the rhythm that works for you.
That rhythm will change throughout your life. We're seasonal people. We go through all kinds of seasons because transitions will happen for all of us as parents. We're going through every transition with our children, coming from baby to toddler, to child, to teenager to adult. And all of those transitions, are new opportunities to adjust and learn together.
When it comes to creating a masterpiece of your life, I love going back to my mama's saying.
"Make your mess into a masterpiece."
We are all a bit messy. Yet it creates layers of empathy and connection between us.
There are days when life doesn't go as planned. There are times we get so frustrated we lose track of what we want. And in that messiness, we still have the ability to make it into a masterpiece.