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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Balancing it All

Our question this week is one that will resonate with a lot of you. I found myself eager to read our Matriarchs thoughts because it certainly is a timely question for me. Because this is such a pressing issue for so many of us, and because I got such great answers from our Matriarchs, I have allowed this post to be a little longer than our usual AtM.

Our colleague writes:

I find myself getting busier and busier
(not unexpected given the life I lead as the mom of three elementary
aged children, the wife of a very busy professor who travels a great
deal, and a part time pastor). I begin to feel as though I am on a
racing train. So I will say to myself "OK, I am very busy this week
but next Monday once the girls are all in school I will have time, and
I will get my sermon started, and I will be able to deal with this
very very messy house." And then something happens - a funeral comes
up, or one of the girls gets sick, and I am back to scrambling through
my week, doing everything in a half-baked sort of way, resenting the
fact that my plans have been altered once again, resenting the idea
that I NEVER get caught up, no never, that my children will be wearing
shorts in November since I still haven't had time to get out their
winter clothes, resenting the thought that once again, I didn't get to
research my sermon the way I wanted to or needed to, resenting the
fact that I am waking up at 5:30 in the morning and my mind is racing
and I don't even know what to do first.

This is my life. I know it isn't going to change. The life of a
pastor, and the life of a mom, is "interrupt-driven". So how do I
deal with it all without going absolutely nuts? I walk every day for
an hour before dawn, I spend time with my kids every afternoon when I
pick them up from school - but the sermons don't get written well, the
house is a mess, and my brain is on overdrive.

HELP! please..I need ideas. I need a brain that works...I need to
slow down my racing heart. How do I live in the NOW and still be
thinking of the next sermon, the next eulogy, the next Bible study
class, and not forgetting to pack the gym shoes for the
kindergartner's gym class tomorrow?

From Sunday's Coming:
This question breaks my heart – I can feel my pulse-rate rising with each sentence. I hesitate to even try to reply because I don’t want to come across as the know-all telling a fellow-traveller what to do. But I can’t fail to respond to such a heart-rending level of honesty.

It sounds like you are doing amazingly well in a hugely difficult situation. My ‘little girl’ is now 15 but for over half her life I have been on my own and doing a full-time ministry job – I’m speaking from my own experience when I say there were days I felt totally frazzled, inadequate, and (yes, you used the word) resentful. When I was working I felt guilty I wasn’t at home: when I was at home I felt guilty I wasn’t working.

One phrase that kept me going was to say at the end of a hard week or a hard day ‘I have done the best I can for everyone – church, family & friends – in the time available: God grant me rest tonight and strength tomorrow’.

The hardest thing for me to let go of has been the feeling that as a ‘Minister-Mother’ I should be perfect – or at least good at everything – well-turned out child, unflustered me, tidy home, and a home-made cake for the church event! I found that I had to cut myself some slack, talk to my church about the help I needed, admit to close friends how I felt, and learn to slow down sometimes.

I have NOT got my life completely sorted out, but I’m still standing and happier than I was 10 years ago.

What surprised me most when I talked to people about how badly I felt I was doing was that so many said ‘But we think you cope really well!’ - my feet were paddling like mad, but they only saw the calm swan on the surface. The other great surprise was the number of people who wanted to help: in my case it was to do with offering after-school childcare, evening baby-sitting, and even occasional holidays for my daughter. At other times I’ve had people do meals for me, and the best 3 months of my life were when I had a cleaner! - there is help out there, I feel sure. May God grant you the wisdom to ask for what you need – and give others the grace to support you as you need.

Matriarch Jennifer writes:

We feel your pain! It’s a tough job, and so hard to feel as though life and work are balanced or harmonized. We understand.
For me, living in the now is all about planning ahead…way ahead! It helps me a lot to do some sermon planning in advance. I try to work at least a quarter in advance on themes and texts and choose the hymns that far in advance, so that our musicians have good ideas to work with. I find this plan frees a lot of time for the unexpected and still provides some good sermon writing time.
I do a lot of organizational stuff with my kids the week before and the night before events. (We get gyms shoes in backpacks the night before!) I need to say that my spouse is a gem and is an equal partner in domestic stuff. Whether or not that’s a gift you have also received, it’s still possible to do lots of pre-planning and trouble shooting and involving others in managing the day-to-day and creating amazing, self-reliant kids. (This comes in handy later…) Is there any room in your budget for a domestic god or goddess? If so, I’ve heard that they bring a lot of peace of mind as a by-product of their time helping with dusting and vacuuming and such.
How great that you’re caring for yourself by walking daily and caring for your family by mapping out time with them!
Matriarch Sue offers:
Oh wow, what a timely question. I have the luxury of having entered ministry after my children were grown, so I never had to juggle ministry and soccer practice, but I do hear you on the other aspects of the "ministry of interruptions". My mistake over the years has been in thinking that every request made of me was a crisis that needed my attention immediately. I was wrong. Certainly some things, such as funerals and crisis calls from the hospital, need to handled immediately, but a lot of the rest of the "stuff" can wait. There may be people in your church who don't like the fact that you don't "snap to it" when they make a request, but they'll get over it.

It's taken me a very long time to discover the word "No." It's taken me eleven years in ministry to assert my own right to self-care and to realize that without it, my shelf-life in ministry is going to be very short.

So, for example, there is a special Christmas function at your child's school one afternoon, but it takes place during the week that you usually set aside for home communion prior to the holidays. In the past, I would have done the home communion and apologized for missing the "personal" event. Not any more. NO WAY. No one is going to die if they don't get their home communion until the next day, and they will probably love to hear about your child's school event while you visit the next day.

Another example: a funeral comes up and must be dealt with along with Sunday's worship. See if you can delegate the children's story, or the Prayers of the People or another part of the service for Sunday, just to lighten the load because you are busy with the funeral. The worst that can happen is that someone you ask might say no. If so, go to someone else. The funeral will add extra hours to your week regardless of how much you delegate, so be sure to take back those extra hours - the following week. Not next spring, sometime after Easter. Not during Epiphany. Not during July when it's quiet. Next week, when you need to take a breath and take back that extra time. If you don't - all of those overtime hours (in the UCCan, full time ministry is officially described as a 40 hour week) - will build up to the point where you will just never take the lieu time at all.

I found out the hard way that the church will never thank you for a 60 hour week - they will simply absorb it as their "norm" and expect more. YOU are the only one who can set and insist upon boundaries that give the best of yourself in all parts of your life. The church is better off when you're not spinning your wheels at 150 mph every day. Your family benefits when you take back the extra time you put in at work when it's necessary. Most importantly, you benefit when you slow down, enjoy every element of your life and don't have to feel resentful of any of it.

A question for you: When was the last time you took a whole day and just had FUN? - your kind of fun - a day with your girlfriends of shopping and pedicures, a movie, a date night, whatever.....If it's been too long, do it. Soon. You'll be glad you did.

Matriarch The Vicar of Hogsmeade writes:
I hear you. I've been a single mom and full time pastor for more than 10 years. Being flexible without being chaotic can be quite the trick. So, as the saying goes, let me give you my advice, I'm only using some of it ...

At the risk of being too basic, and missing the point, first, get a calendar and use it. I used to use a 1 page per day Daytimer now it's Outlook. I need something that lets me see a month at a time and yet track daily activity, too. I put everything for every person in the family on the calendar. Let the calendar remember all of the stuff so you aren't trying to carry everything in your head at the same time. Use the alarms on your cell phone to remind you or notify you of the next thing. If I need to pick up a kid at 3:00, an alarm tells me at 2:45. Then I work on whatever I need to until I hear the alarm without constantly checking the time. Also, use the calendar to track the time spent for church so you don't over work without knowing how much it is. When you must over work, be sure you compensate later. The church will not take care of you. The church will always take care of itself. You must take care of you. A retired preacher once said to me "As a preacher, your inbox will never be empty. When it's time to go home, go home."

Then, laying aside the organizational/time tracking part, figure out what is most important to you and what you can tell yourself to let go. For example, long ago when I couldn't get everything done, I decided that house work would not keep me from spending time with my kids. So, until I could afford to hire help, our house was "passable," not sparkling (and now it's sparkling every other week on Tuesdays). And, even today, most of the time clean laundry is found in a basket or on a hanger close to the dryer rather than in drawers. My mom used to give me grief over such things & I said, "My kids are only this age once. I'm playing UNO with them now while they'll still play with me. I'll have a museum house when they're gone." It wasn't that I didn't want an immaculately clean house. It was a decision I made to keep sane and I didn't/don't give myself a hard time about it. Not everything has to be done well (or "right") to be good enough.

So, give yourself a break, too. While your sermons may not be printed in Christian Century, I bet there are people every week who hear the Word of the Lord. And when there are funerals, I'm sure they receive comfort. Do what you can do and trust the Holy Spirit to have your back.

You are the only one who can make the choices that will give you peace. Be ruthless in deciding what you really can do and how you will prioritize it. Look honestly at the things that give you joy, peace, & the other fruits of the spirit. Try to minimize the things that cause resentment. (I don't do breakfast meetings. I am not a morning person & I resent them so I don't agree to them. I shamelessly use getting my children to school as my excuse if needed. Usually, "That doesn't work for me." is enough.) Then stick to your decisions until it is time to change based on the foundational principals of what is important to you -- not the moment of the day. You have a whole life to live, it all does not have to be done now.

Thank you, dear Matriarchs, for sharing your wisdom. I have to admit that found myself wondering if I ought to hire a cleaning service! (Seriously - I'm very interested to read that piece of advice from more than one Matriarch. I'm the only Mom my kids have, but the house could be cleaned by anybody!)

So, what about the rest of you? How do you handle trying to achieve some sort of balance, or at least sanity? I know that for myself, I have had to let go of the idea of "balance" as something that is ever going to be achievable in some sort of perfect state - the idea of balancing it all just became one more burden of unrealistic expectation on my life. We're interested to hear thoughts from the rest of you. I will be away at a meeting (actually a mini-retreat after I drop the kids off at school!) but will check back in later today.

We have several questions in the queue right now, so if you've written and are wondering when we'll get to yours, know that it will be in the next few weeks. As always, if you have a question, please send it to


  1. Wonderful question and one I can relate to SO well. I've just started a new call at a little church and although I am doing a lot of things I've never done before, the only thing that has me worried is boundary issues.

    Being extremely organized does not solve my issues completely, but it is a huge part of the puzzle. I am a big, big believer in Getting Things Done, a book and system by David Allen. The idea is to capture absolutely everything in one place and get it out of your brain. Then when the interruptions of life and ministry happen, at least you can see at a glance what things need to be delegated, delayed or just let go of.

    I also want to chime in about a cleaning service. This is a huge part of my self-care. I feel very blessed that this is an option for us--I know not everyone can afford it. But even monthly can make a difference in one's mental health. I will eat ramen and wear burlap sacks before I give up my twice-a-month cleaning angels...

    To the letter-writer--I so relate. Hang in there and know you're not alone.

  2. Thank you for this VERY timely ATM. I am in a new call and a new home situation (my parents live with my son and I) and my head lately has been absolutely spinning with what to do and when to do it.

    Thank you for the question and let me add this as well.

    The FIRST thing I did when my husband left and our finances were crap and I was a solo pastor making minimum was hire a twice a month person to clean. I KNOW it was the best decision I made in that chaotic time and was well worth what ended up being minimal sacrifices to make it happen.

    It. is. worth. every. penny.

  3. Let me add my voice to the chorus: if possible, domestic help makes a big difference. It's more than the practical aspect, though I appreciate that. It's a reminder that not only can I not do it all, but it's okay that I can't. Like most people we have made some changes to reflect the difficult economy, but I would give up many other things before I stopped having help at home.

  4. This question just smacks me across the face as a reality check. I have been absolutely overwhelmed lately... in part because of all of those names that we carry: sister, wife, daughter, pastor - and I don't have kids yet... and I'm pretty sure my chaotic life is one reason my husband isn't so keen on them yet.

    This week has reminded me that I have to set boundaries. I had endless phone calls on Sunday afternoon from a few people that the church is helping financially and I refused to answer them until Monday... I knew it wasn't an emergency and that it could wait. And I had my sister hat on at the time, I was helping my bro paint his new house.

    In the midst of all of our roles, I have found that there is no room for the stuff that needs done. I can't spend all morning being a good daughter and then spend all afternoon and evening at the church and have time for laundry. For the most part, I let the cleaning go - until we have company and then my husband and I tag team turbo clean.

    I loved the difference between "passable" and "sparkling" The kitchen floor gets swept when it needs it and swiffered every once and a while. The dirty laundry piles up in the baskets in the closet until I need something (I run out of clothes far quicker than my husband) - but yesterday I took the afternoon off from church (well - I had a funeral the day before and needed the time off to regroup)... and I spent it on my hands and knees scrubbing floors in my house and doing laundry.

    While I'm glad I did it - because it really needed to be done - I felt even more exhausted afterwards.

    Once my husband and I stop paying off student loans - that money is absolutely going to a cleaning service. Just someone to do the floors and dust twice a month would be a godsend.

  5. Vicar - I'm so glad that you mentioned that saying "That doesn't work for me" is enough. We make our priorities, stick to them (unless, of course, it's a genuine crisis)- but we don't owe anyone apologies for our self-care.

    I no longer say "I'm sorry, I can't be at that meeting" - because I don't have anything to apologize for! If I can't be there, so be it.

  6. yes, this was a great question, and one of the reasons I didn't get an answer in on time is that I was so busy, with meetings every time. I'm still negotiating the boundaries, after 15 years in parish ministry, trying to learn flexibility (if you have meetings three evenings in a row, you CAN take time off during the day), and working between the question:
    How can I get it all done? and the realization, I can't get it ALL done. (there's always one more person I COULD visit, for example, one more thing I COULD do.)

  7. Cleaning service. If you can't afford it, ask for it when people ask what you want for Christmas or birthdays or anniversaries.

    Cleaning service. (Hate to sound like a broken record ...) When your house is dirty, even if you are CHOOSING not to deal with the mess, it will make you feel out of sorts and anxious. Having it clean, even once every two weeks, makes it a more peaceful place for you and your family to live in.

    The other thing I did when my kids were still at home and we lived in the Washington, DC area was use a grocery service. You put your order in online, pick a delivery window, and they bring you all your stuff right to your door.

  8. What a great question, and as just recently I went about three weeks without a full day off, it will be good for me to reflect on all of the great responses.

    VoH's suggestion about a calendar triggered some advice given to me by our General Presbyter. Granted, the rhythm of his weeks is different than in parish ministry, but he does travel all over the state preaching, doing officer training, etc.

    Anyway, at the beginning of each month, he looks at his schedule and he crosses off days on his calendar that will be his days off. Those days are sacred but for funerals or other pastoral emergencies. By having the days off marked on his calendar, it helps him to see the balance between professional and personal time.

    Along the lines of "that doesn't work for me", he also encouraged me, when someone pushed me to schedule something on the days I marked off, to simply say "I have another commitment." As he said, "they don't need to know that your commitment is with the hair stylist or spending time with your husband."

    I'm hopeful that sometime next year we'll be able to have domestic goddesses come in twice a month.

  9. THANK YOU! This is also what I am wrestling with at the moment. We are considering adding kids to the mix here and it is hard to imagine under the current circumstances - we're so crazy busy all the time, where would we find the time/energy?

    I am taking a few steps to try to get things back in balance:

    1) going back to my call and the charge given to me at ordination - and developing ministry priorities from there...I know I wasn't called to be the Minister of Minutia.

    2) Tracking my time - all of it - and my tasks. (I am beginning to see why I am so tired!)

    I hope this leads me to a place where I can adjust to always having things on my to-do list.

    I do have questions for you Gals and Pals:

    1) How many hours a week is "full-time" ministry? Or, how many do you work on average?

    2) How many days off a week do folks take? (I am guessing 0-1)

  10. What do you mean by, "part-time" pastor? Are you basically working full-time but only getting paid for part? Is there a group of people in your congregation you can sit down with who will work on a basic schedule for you? "Part-time" is insidious stuff.

    You have to say no to the church. NO. You do not have to apologize. You do not have to feel guilty (believe me, I'm trying to take my own advice). No one else will say 'no' for you, though. You have to do it.

    Yes, a housekeeper would be great. Good idea. But the bigger question is really about your identity, and where you belong when. You are, primarily, a child of God. And then you are a mother and a daughter and a wife, and all those things. And then, finally, you are a pastor. This is as it should be. Jesus died for the sake of the world - you don't have to do that too.

    I'm not trying to be harsh, though it may come off that way: it's been helpful for me to be very, very clear with myself and others where the boundaries are. Once they start slipping, it's very hard to get them back. Take a stand. You can do it! You're worth it.

  11. Bethany, that question about how much is full time ministry is a great question.

    I really do try to stick to the 40 hours a week thing, because I know there will be weeks I will go over.

    But I try to block myself - never more than two blocks a day (morning, afternoon, evening). If you figure each block is about 4 hours - that would be 10 blocks per week.

    Sunday I give myself two because a) I get up early and b) preaching takes so much out of me. Which leaves 8 blocks throughout the week. I take friday AND saturday off - which means i do nothing at church but I always end up writing my sermon on those days, so technically I'm working. That is the piece I've got to fix... or at least realize that if I'm working 4 hours on friday, then I take an extra block off during the week.

  12. Bethany, I find it's very hard to quantify our kind of work in terms of hours. I think it's unusual for "full-time" in many church settings to mean only 40 hours a week, just as "full-time" doesn't mean that for doctors, lawyers, professors, etc. (granted, most of them get paid more than most of us).

    I'm technically 3/4-time (my husband and I are co-pastors and we are each 3/4-time), and I would guess I work 30-40 hours a week, depending on the week (and depending on whether or not I'm preaching that week). Some weeks it's less than that, other weeks it's more.

    I think it is impossible - and unwise - to be rigid about only working a certain number of hours a week and no more. I like the fluidity of my schedule, b/c it also means I have the flexibility to do other things I want/need to do (leave the office early so I can help out in my sons' classroom at school, for instance). I think I have a pretty good sense of when I need to cut back, say no, or give more.

    I do always take a day off (Friday). Every other week I get two days off, b/c of the nature of how my husband and I split our work. Whichever one of us is preaching is pretty much working on the sermon all day on Saturday, and the other one has that day "off" (though it doesn't feel like it, since that person is doing childcare all day long). I am pretty vigilant about protecting my day off, but the occasional wedding, funeral, or hospital emergency may interfere.

    I have found that having kids as a part of the equation is a bit double-edged. On the one hand, it has certainly made my life much busier and more chaotic, and it is much harder to recharge - there never feels like there is any down time. OTOH, kids give me an automatic cut-off for my work. I have to leave the office at a certain time so I can pick them up. I can't go to every social event we're invited to b/c I need to have time at home with the kids. I think I've gotten better at drawing the line since I had kids, and it has also made my time in the office more focused b/c I can't always count on having time to work once i get home.

  13. As a 2nd career pastor, my kids were in HS when I was in seminary. They don't talk about times the floor wasn't freshly vacuumed for a sleep-over, but my daughter does remember the time we were both out of town when she got a college rejection letter.
    I've never managed domestic help, it's still a goal. My current pastorate allows me much more control of time and is vastly different from the last church, where 2 of us pastored and both worked 60+ hours /week.
    Katie's blocks work best for me. On a day when the church gets 3 blocks (it happens, we all know it) then I don't feel bad about working 'one block' the next day.
    I read our posts and realize how we see ourselves has as much to do with the stress as the work. Letting go of self-judgment might be the best thing we can do. And these discussions and sharing go a long way to helping all of us, so thanks.

  14. I have to admit I don't get the block thing. Technically, I'm working morning, afternoon and evening today (with about 2 hours off between 4:30 and 6:30), but my evening commitment will only be two hours. So really, I worked 9:20 to 4:30, then 6:30 to 8:30. 2 and a half blocks? Do I get time back tomorrow? It makes me frazzled. Some people look at 3 hours as a block, some use 4. I interviewed once with a senior who expected 14 4 hour blocks per week, regularly. Ahem. (I went elsewhere.)

  15. songbird - I would count that as three blocks - because even if you are only there for a few hours, you are preparing yourself mentally for it. So with the block scheduling - you take another block off sometime during the week.

    I look at it this way. My friend who works a regular full time job (40 hours) also has on call work. And whether he gets called in for 15 minutes or 3 hours and 55 minutes, he gets paid for 4 hours of overtime.

    Rev Nancy is right - there is usually one day a week where I end up working three blocks. You just have to balance it out somewhere where you can.

  16. This is the "colleague" who wrote the post, and I just want to say a HUGE thank you to ALL of you who responded so graciously. You have given me ideas and insights, but most of all, you have made me feel as though I am not alone! Since I wrote the post a couple of weeks ago, things have gotten a little better, but I am realizing I need to figure out exactly how much time I am working, for my own sanity. I am hired as "1/2 time" and think I am working more like 3/4 time. I also need to give myself a break. I posted on FB asking for the name of a good cleaning service and got a whole bunch of replies, so I am on my way!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your replies, and the caring so evident in them, brought tears to my eyes.

  17. I have heard that working ANY amount of time in a "block" counts--so if I check my email for half an hour in the morning but don't go into the office until the afternoon, that still counts as working in both morning and afternoon blocks.

    I don't know if that works in reality, but it's what I've heard. I personally don't use the block system, I find it too confusing. I try really hard to listen to my body and take the time off when I need it. Granted, I'm terrible at it most of the time...but ultimately I think it works out okay. When I have a headache, I go home. When I have a full weekend, I take an extra day during the week (or two extra mornings). When I'm out late, I don't come in until late the next day. etc.

  18. Thanks for the helpful responses to my wonderings.

    Earthchick - you and I share the same situation: hubby and I share a position and a half. Therefore, I am trying to determine for myself what "3/4 time" is. I want to be fair in what I am giving to the church (so far they are getting much more than I am called/contracted to) - but as a typical type-A workaholic I need to justify to myself drawing some lines.

    I totally agree that scheduling needs to be flexible. I swap, trade, give myself comp time. I try to work towards an "average"number of hours - some weeks more, some a little less.

    As 3/4 time, I am beginning my quest to pull back to an average of 40 hours a week...including sermon writing time every other week.

    I also like and use the block method. It allows me to say, "I have done enough today".

    I, too, am comforted to hear that there are others still working this out.

    Thanks for the great discussion.

  19. PS - I mean the blocks with my own self-determined guidelines. For me, 30 minutes of e-mail doesn't count as a whole block :)

  20. Many years ago, I developed a concept of "situational best." I accepted (sorta, kinda!) the fact that my situational best was only occasionally going to be the same as my theoretical best; most of the time it would instead be what I could manage under the circumstances. Sometimes it would be very good and sometimes it would be very not good, but I'd given it--whatever that might be in the moment--what I could. Realizing both that there was a difference between the two (not trying to convince myself that a lousy job on a task because I had no more time or energy was actually a good job) and that the gap was okay helped me a lot.

    I have gotten better at believing that "No" is a complete sentence. As others point out, I don't have to explain it, and thus I am more comfortable using preferred form being, "I'm not available then."

    That said, there have been many days, weeks, and months when I thought I was going to explode because of the chaotic whirlwind inside my head and heart, or I thought I was going to implode from feeling like such a failure and/or fraud at all my roles. And as with depression, the very times when we most need to reach out for help or step off the path to catch our breath are exactly when it is hardest for us to do so, to see those as viable options. Ironic, isn't it?

  21. No longer a pastor but a mom who works fulltime (which is MUCH closer to 60 hours a week than 40). Amen to the suggestions about organization of time, planning ahead, and household help. I also use the alarm system instead of constantly monitoring the clock and find I'm less tense and get more done. And...Please keep all of these issues in mind when dealing with working parents in your congregations. When one of them attends one of those evening meetings, he/she can NOT take time off the next day. I left the church for about 5 years after my pastor scolded me for "not being willing to give up a few hours for the One who gave His life for you." Please remember that congregation members are also dealing with many of the same issues that you are and that, although you are dealing with some challenges that they are not, they also have concerns that you do not have to confront. Respect of boundaries needs to go both ways. We are all in this together. I hope.

  22. Anonymous - what you say is very important...I just have resigned from all boards and activities that are not related to my job that have evening meetings. With my childrens' activities and my husband's schedule, our nights when we are all at home are very precious to all of us. I wonder about ways to involve parents of young children in church life without taking away from family time - I think including children as much as possible, having meetings during times when child care is available and it is not too late in the evening, etc., are all very important. I am sure you could add more ideas. Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation.

  23. In this diocese, it is generally assumed that full time means around 50 hours a week. But we are also strongly encourage to take time off w/pretty liberal holiday/vacation time.

    Like the SB the whole blocks thing makes me nuts thinking about it. I don't have anyone at home anymore, and ti would be really easy to work ALL THE TIME but I'm trying avoid that, and give myself permission to come home "early" some days.

    And I wholeheartedly endorse what has been said about domestic help. Worth every penny.

  24. The pastor who taught me the "block" method of time management described it this way: There are 21 blocks available during the week. Be sure that you have 7 of them as completely non-working time; and always be sure that you have 3 blocks "off" in a row. The rest of the blocks can be scheduled at whatever level of intensity you are personally able to sustain.

    His focus was on securing the 7 blocks of time "off" rather than on filling the 14 "working" blocks jigsaw-puzzle style, so that every possible moment is used.

    I found the block system helpful, because it is very easy for me to do "just a little" work on my day off. And suddenly I've had no day off. The idea of 3 blocks "off" in a row was helpful also... Friday is my usual day off; but if I have a wedding rehearsal on Friday evening, I make sure to keep Thursday evening open.

    It's not perfect, but it is helpful for me.

  25. I guess I've been doing the juggling for a while - being an uber-busy type of person by choice, I would double-book myself. I think I have found that I am an adrenaline junkie. I have to force myself to slow down. To take silent retreats. To schedule "bookshelf days" (where I straighten the books and read all day. :) To get the time with my family that THEY want to spend, not that I designate as theirs. So an extra trip to the mall or the zoo or DSW will not kill me. Scheduling my family INTO my calendar instead of out of it.

    I also make my kids responsible for reminding me of their appointments. They are teens. Calendar management is an acquired skill. We use timers all of the time to get out the door to rehearsals, etc without rushing. And I made friends again with my crockpot and timed-oven baking.

    I have also had a cleaner who comes every other week. Just enough to help us keep ahead of the chaos. She is very patient, and no, I don't "pre-clean" for the cleaner!

    My technological memory keepers won't replace the time I save to be with people I love. I am working hard to keep those "appointments" come what may.



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