Real Time Management Help

Historically I have loved reading time management and productivity books. However, lately they just make me roll my eyes.

The reason I read books like that is because I am lazy. I am not naturally a productive, get things done, workaholic. I can spend an epic amount of time playing games on my computer, watching netflix or just staring at the walls. I really like it when I am productive, get in my runs, write a great blog post, contact clients, write contracts, organize a closet, make a great meal, read a book to my daughter, etc but honestly, if those things aren’t staring at me my natural inclination is not to make them happen, it is to sit my butt down and let the world pass me by. I am constantly fighting the urge to de-evolve.

For some reason the last few years the only people writing on this topic, and I presume publishers feel the only people reading on this topic, are high achieving, executive, workaholics. People who are in non-stop work mode and need to learn to manage their time better so they don’t work as much and burn out. So they write books and articles with titles like, “Do Less” and “How to say ‘No'”.

Seriously. I cannot relate.

I am not this person. I have plenty of margin in my life, I am not afraid to stop and take care of myself and I generally would rather spend time with my family and allow them to define me than a career. One might think I lead a perfectly balanced and productive life. Except maybe I have tipped the scale a little too far. Maybe my value of relaxation and presence in the daily of my life has gotten a little out of hand. Maybe the 3 hours a night my husband and I have spent binge watching a 13 season show for the past month is becoming problematic to our ability to engage in parenting, finish building the desk area we started or sell the car we stashed in my parents garage for the winter before they return from Florida. Maybe. And probably the over 600 games of candy crush I have finished while waiting for John to come home and watch netflix with me is a little excessive. Probably.

I just really believe there are other people like me out there. Maybe they just aren’t writing blogs and books but I think they are out there and can relate to what I am saying here.

I do try to take the ideas from the workaholic guides and incorporate them. I have a few overlapping issues. I do get a lot of emails and information I need can get lost under 50 emails I don’t need pretty quickly. So I am working on creating folders for relevant information. Step two will be remembering I put stuff in that folder and looking there when I need it. Also, I am a master of the google calendar (not really a master, don’t ask me any questions about it, but I rely on it greatly and like to tell myself I am the master of anything I use on a daily basis.) And, I have a to-do list so if I were to turn off netflix I know which projects I might think about working on.

And, truth is there are so many things in those books I am already good at. I am very aware of my need to take care of myself and although I am not great at doing it all the time I am not afraid to admit defeat and take a day off. I try to be available to my clients 24/7 but am not afraid to tell them I have an appointment and can’t meet them even if that appointment is to see the latest Marvel movie with my family.

But while I am not perfect and don’t even want to become perfect, I do like to have new ideas to incorporate into my life, I like to improve, I like the option of becoming more productive and knowing what steps I can take to do that. Specifically with today’s technology.

One thing I could do if I learned to manage my time better would be to write a little more and actually post here more than twice a year…I have a lot of thoughts beyond, “productivity books suck” on this topic of managing my time and have been doing a lot of thought on the topic of work and how God calls us to work. And by work I don’t necessarily mean a job/employment/making money, although that could certainly be a big part of it for many people, but work, getting things done, not spending every free moment on your butt. God values work. And there is plenty to do if you are willing to get off the couch and do it.

I am seriously considering heeding that call from God and getting off the couch…Once we finish this stupid long series…I did delete the candy crush app from my phone.




Tech practice

My sister recently told me to pull it together regarding my aversion to mobile tech. She didn’t exactly say it like that. I would tell you it is because she is nicer than that because she typically is but we are sisters so she isn’t necessarily with me. Although I am the older sister so she is nicer to me than I am to her…

Anyway, I am writing this from my phone and curious if I can take and post a picture directly to a post…

I don’t see anything….do you?

Ok there I am! Apparently you have to allow your phone to do this. I figured this out by actually reading the pop up I was clicking past…I am really mastering this mobile thing.

And an embarrassing video. I admire people who are comfortable talking to themselves through a camera. Although if I am honest I have had some serious conversations with myself in the mirror which I guess is what taking a selfie video is like. Not sure anyone needs to hear those conversations though…

Ok possible real post coming soon written on my laptop. I cannot hunt and peck out deep thoughts on this baby phone keyboard.

Planning to stick to the plan

Working and homemaking/parenting is a juggling act. Summer working is juggling with fire sticks and knives. And apparently I find that so exhilarating I have decided to homeschool this year. Which is like adding a watermelon to the fire sticks and knives.  We are also preparing to move so I have greased the watermelon.

I have been thinking about self control lately. I am developing that mid 40’s softness and have found a new unfriendly number on the scale. It isn’t that I don’t know exactly how to eat to return to, and maintain, my previously more friendly weight but for several years now I have been slowly abandoning any sense of self control and putting whatever happens to be in front of me, in whatever quantity is available, in my mouth. I still like to run but I really only run when I feel inspired to do so, which is not as often as I should be doing it. And then it isn’t as fun when I am out of shape which inspires me less and well, here we are a little soft and a little heavy and lacking self control.

I have also been realizing that self control and self discipline are not entirely different and that if I am going to successfully work, parent, homeschool and set up housekeeping in a new home this fall I am going to need a bit of both. I can’t just wake up each morning and think, “what should I do today?” Sometimes it takes me half a day to answer that question! I need a plan. And I need another plan to stick to that plan.

Often goal setting coaches will tell you to start with your “why”. Why do you want to accomplish goals? What will cause you to stick with them?

What is my why for pulling it together and not letting this crazy life crumble before me? Well, the obvious answer is family, my husband and daughter. I want to be on top of my life this year so I can give time to them, make them feel loved, safe, valued. It is a good answer but for me it isn’t overly motivating because I know that my husband and daughter will love me even if the house doesn’t get unpacked for 2 years,  I use the history channel as my history lessons for homeschooling and I make so little money we go into bankruptcy. So for me my why might start with family but it has to go beyond family.

So my why beyond family…I want to say my why beyond family is God. On the one hand a great answer, the perfect Sunday school answer. On the other hand he loves me even more unconditionally than my family does.

I do desire to do his work and be a godly woman, to be used by Him for the purpose in which I was created. And I am not sure I can do that if I don’t learn a little self control. And while I can’t tell you exactly at this moment in my life what my purpose is, I feel like I have one. And I won’t discover it laying on the couch wondering what to do next.

Probably my why is the answer to purpose but it frustrates me when I am supposed to announce my purpose after taking a 2 hour seminar on goal setting or going through some book. Some people determine their purpose and march forward and never look back. Good for them. I have never come up with a purpose I found so compelling I didn’t want to continue looking around as I walked whatever path I was on. So I am not sure I have a singular purpose. I think the short answer right now is that my purpose is to work and support my family while my husband is in school. But I feel I have the ability to do a little bit more than that, or that there is something God is preparing me for during this time that I will do when he is done with school. I just don’t think that what I am doing right now is my life purpose, it is just my “for such a time as this” stage. Or maybe more accurately it is Paul’s time in the dessert making tents. It is my time to learn, grow, prepare. For what I don’t know. Paul didn’t know what God was about to do in his life or how significant a role he would play in the history of the church. He was just out there learning and working and being ready for whatever God had for him in the future. He wasn’t just building tents and then going home to watch tv too overwhelmed by his own disorganization to hear God’s calling.

My why is about not letting life be about my job or my family but about having the ability to pursue my own interests, read books I like, write, learn, hang with friends, go on guilt free runs. But I can’t do those things if work and homeschooling and homemaking and family take up every minute of my day because I didn’t make a plan to stay on top of life and became too overwhelmed to get off my couch.

Is it wrong that my why is ME? Is that weird? Or is that just honest? I am motivated to create a more self controlled/self disciplined lifestyle so that I can pursue my own interests. That is my “why”. If I create a plan I will stick with it because I want to pursue my own interests. (Of course I also love myself unconditionally but apparently I am more motivated to help myself than my family.)

Now that I have my why, I need to create a plan. It is labor day weekend. I have actually been trying to convince myself to sit down and make this plan for a month but somehow August is the month where I want to soak in every last moment of lazy, outdoor, picnic, pool, hot sun time I can get and planning for the fall is a real buzz kill for that kind of thing.

After all this you might think I don’t like planning but actually I love to plan, love to make lists, love organization. It has just been a little tricker to decide to sit down and do it as this year has had a lot more survival in it than usual. But as school starts and we add a new thing this seems like the perfect time to set up some structure before we establish a routine of spending half the day wondering what to do.

First Impression

I was having lunch with my husband and daughter one day when I looked up and noticed a couple guys I had known in high school sitting nearby. Normally I would have been thrilled for the opportunity to catch up with them and find out where their lives had gone over the last 20 years. How nice they were still friends. However, that day I was sitting there feeling very unimpressed with myself. I had just returned to work a few months earlier after being home for 17 years and wasn’t sure who I was anymore. Knowing that my inquiries into their lives would lead to inquiries into my life I looked away and hoped they wouldn’t notice me. Unfortunately when they finished their meal they came over to our table to say hi.  I managed to plaster a smile on my face, say hi, introduce my husband and daughter and make very brief small talk about the restaurant.  I volunteered no information about myself and asked no questions and they awkwardly moved on.  My own lack of confidence about who I was caused me to frankly be a bit rude, my lack of comfort with kind of impression I would make on someone had just caused me to make an even worse impression.

When I returned to work I was determined not to let this job define me.  Just because I was now answering phones and entering data as the lowest paid employee in the company didn’t mean I was any less awesome than I was yesterday when I was a mom and homemaker, writing a well-liked blog, leading the vestry and running the women’s ministry at my church.  But, each day as I returned to the job, answered another call, got another look of exasperation from the woman training me and seeing everyone else in the company have freedoms I was not given, I became less and less that confident woman and more and more exactly how they saw me, the dumb bimbo answering the phone. I had an enlightening conversation with a caller who told me she was an alumni of the same school the president of the company went to and asked to be put through. When I told her he wasn’t available (because he was not interested in taking the call) she asked me if I knew what the word “alumni” meant. I somehow managed to calmly explain to her that I did indeed know the meaning of the word but he still was not available. I was not defeated enough to accept her definition of  me but had come to accept that this was the first and only impression people had of me most days. When more than a third of your life is spent doing something that you are not proud of and another third of your life is spent sleeping, that doesn’t leave much time to do anything other than survive. And for a year that is exactly what I did, I sat in a job I wasn’t proud of and wore the first impression made not just by other people but by myself the moment I sat at that desk and answered that first phone call.

Was the problem the job or my attitude about the job? It has been 6 years since homemaker was my identity and the first impression I made when meeting someone. Today I am comfortable being a working mom and allowing people to see me in that identity. I had several jobs after that first job before finding something I loved and felt proud to be doing.  But I often look back and wonder if I had that job today would I feel just as insecure about my identity and the impression I was making as I did then, or has my comfort level with this life allowed me to feel good no matter what I am doing?

I think the answer is a little of both. That year I was going through layers of changes and transitions. I don’t think it would have mattered what I was doing because ultimately I didn’t really want to be working. Today I have embraced working mom and enjoy this identity.  On the other hand I think there is something to be said for the wrong job and the wrong path. That job was both. No matter how confident I don’t think I could ever make a good first impression while walking the wrong way. But I think today if I had that job I would be able to muster a little friendlier response if I ran into old friends from high school.


A godly woman

I was recently reading a book called “the Grace Filled Parent”.  And then I heard a story about a woman who wanted to be a gentle mother and was reading blogs about being a gentle mother. In her story she still found herself struggling with to be gentle with her children despite all the reading on how to be a gentle parent.

It got me thinking about my drive to be a grace-filled mother. Why am I trying to be a grace filled parent? Why not just grace filled? Do I not want to live grace filled in other areas of my life? Why is she trying to be a gentle parent? Why not just gentle? Does she not want to be a gentle wife or friend too? And why I am trying to figure out how to be a working mom, working homemaker, working Christian, working wife, working…? Instead of focusing on my roles and defining myself in each area why not just learn to be a godly woman? Wouldn’t everything else fall into place behind it?

Who Runs the Home?

When I returned to work 5 years ago I sat the family down for a team meeting. Jake was finishing 11th grade, Isabelle Kindergarten and John, while still working was busy applying to and preparing to start college full time in the fall. For the previous 17 years I had been fully in charge of our home. They all helped in some way but for the most part I was in charge of getting things done. It was my full time job and made sense for me to do almost everything. I had Jake help me with tasks more because I wanted him to know how to cook, clean, do laundry, etc when he was older than because I needed the help. Frankly most of the time it was easier to do things myself than to have one of my kids or husband do cleaning

However, I was going back to work full time in a week and things were going to have to change. Homemaking would no longer be my full-time job and that meant it was becoming everyone’s part-time job. They all understood and agreed to help. In the coming weeks and months my husband was the only one who really shared any enthusiasm for the new responsibilities. And even then it was a challenge for all of us. We had long established habits. And after so many years I was the only one who knew what needed to be done and when. Making it hard for them to know how to help. Plus, it was hard for me to let go of control, letting people do things their way and at their standards rather than mine.

Eventually we settled into a routine where I lowered my standards, closed my eyes to messes I didn’t have time to address and just focused on the things most important to me, Laundry and the kitchen.

Over the past 5 years we have slowly developed a happy medium. Things still aren’t managed the way I would like but our house is comfortable and on occasion even downright clean. I no longer feel like everything homemaking is my responsibility as John has stepped up significantly. And as I get used to the routine of work in my life I am also finding joy in spending time in my home again, taking a little extra time here and there to sweep the patio or wipe down the kitchen cabinets. Not priority items on a day to day basis at our house but things that when I have a few extra minutes give me joy as I make our home a more comfortable place to be.

This summer I have been working more than usual and my husband has been working less. Although I very purposely try to avoid treating John like my maid and giving him a list of things to do while I work, there were a few days that as I left for work I asked if he might do the laundry or clean up the kitchen knowing my underwear supply was getting low or if I came home to a messy kitchen I might lose it. It isn’t that he was sitting around doing nothing all day but sometimes he missed the tasks that were most important to me.

I have to confess that this summer as he has done all the cooking and then with the addition of me giving a little direction on household chores I feel like I have gotten a little taste of what he had all those years working full time. Putting in a days work and coming home to dinner ready, the house picked up and being able to just sit and relax. It is amazing. I know it is temporary but I am enjoying my peak into this lifestyle immensely. I feel loved, cared for and refreshed to return to work the next day. Leaving amessy house to go to work knowing it will still be a mess when you return quickly becomes overwhelming and it is easy to see why people work long hours. Sometimes I don’t want to go home when I know the work waiting for me!blog messy house

A couple weeks after I started dropping little to-do suggestions on him as I walked out the door we had a chance to go out for dinner and I asked himabout it. I was worried about him being resentful of my suggestions but he admitted he loved it. He was willing to help but said he just didn’t always know what needed to be done and when. I realized that although he has always been willing to help that I have never quit overseeing the whole process and managing our little 3-ring circus. So he needed my direction.

We decided to name me the COO of our home as I over see the daily operations and assign tasks. The summer has run quite smoothly with this arrangement. I am a very gracious and benevolent leader. 🙂

It is an every changing work in progress as this fall John is back to school while still working and won’t be home several days a week to do the laundry, grocery shopping and maintain the kitchen. We will go back to a team effort but knowing I can ask for specific help and he is ready to do whatever job I pass on to him should make this next transition go smoother than previous transitions. Future family team meetings won’t be me announcing how overwhelmed I am by all that needs to be done. Instead we will look over the coming week, pass out assignments and together we can create a home where we all feel loved, cared for and refreshed to go back out into the world.

5 years in we are still learning how to do this 2 parent working thing but we are doing it together.

Family Team Work

There are some things about being a working woman and what is happening in todays culture that I love. However…

I have noticed that a lot of the working mom/working woman/woman success stories lately have been focused on women becoming CEOs, world leaders, top entrepruners. We can’t just go to work, we must go and run up to the top of the ladder in whatever field we aspire to.  And I get that there are more men than women in roles like that in this country and the desire to see the field even out a little more. But we don’t all want that. And sometimes I feel like I am failing woman kind because I just want to make enough money to support my family and then go home and clean my own house, take my daughter school shopping, go on a walk with my husband and relax. I would rather have less money and position than work 60 hours a week. Is that wrong? Sometimes it feels like it is.

Have you noticed how men are being praised and raised up as heros for doing the work women used to do all the time without any praise? Suddenly a man who stays home is a hero. But a woman staying home is not fulfilling her potential. Where was my hero ribbon when I was the one at home helping my husband be a success? How is what the men are doing now different from what I was doing then? Why do I feel like as women begin to dominate the work force the men are still winning this game? They were the heros when the norm was that they work and we stay home because they made the money. Now they are the heros for staying home doing the work we used to do while we make the money. Am I the only one that sees the problem here? It isn’t what we are doing, it is how we are valuing ourselves and how we are letting other people value us.

I just want to go to work, do my best, go home and enjoy my family. I want to appreciate my husband for the work he does around the house just as he appreciates the work I do around the house. Neither of us could do it alone. The task of working and managing a life is overwhelming. Nobody is an island. He couldn’t have been successful if I hadn’t been supporting him all those years, I cannot be successful without his help and he couldn’t be changing careers in his 40’s without me. Life is a team sport and it takes both men and women working together at all levels of success to get the win. I know there are single women out there that have to go it alone but even then you gather a team around you. Kids to help around the house, friends, neighbors, childcare workers. Sometimes you accept a lifestyle that isn’t as fancy so you can have sanity. Why is success only defined as money and status? If I abandon my family to achieve the top spot in my company am I really successful?

Let’s start talking about families working together doing simple day to day activities and calling them a success. Today I am working from home. My husband is sleeping after working a night shift. In a few minutes I am going to take out meat for the dinner John will likely make when he gets up. I will probably bring Izzy’s friend home this afternoon on my way to pick up toilet paper which we are completely out of and then encourage her to do her laundry tonight after dinner. I might try to clean the bathrooms which have been neglected lately. I might work more tonight. But, I also might just plop on the couch with a glass of wine and the family and watch the Olympics.

What does success look like at your house tonight?

Dumping the Summer Bucket List

Back in May I made a summer bucket list. Knowing how full our life is I didn’t crowd it with unrealistic expectations but things I truly felt could be accomplished this summer. Things like strawberry picking, hunting down waterfalls on the north shore while at the cabin, a 5K, and a list of books I would like to read. It is August now and I was reviewing the list last weekend and realized I hadn’t done any of them and with school around the corner I didn’t see them getting done. Missed strawberry picking season, have visited 2 of the 7 waterfalls on my list and am less than half way through one of the 5 books I intended to read this summer. (I did read one not on my list.) And we won’t talk about my completely inconsistent running schedule. If you can even call it a schedule.

2016-06-11 007

I was organizing several other lists that were floating around regarding work and goals last weekend. Putting them in notebooks, updating the plans, etc. My summer bucket list kept moving from pile to pile as I worked my way around. Finally it was the only sheet of paper left and I had to admit I would not be accomplishing this list in the next month. Rather than save it I decided to abandon my summer bucket list all together and move on. Sometimes you have to embrace the reality instead of trying to create the dream.

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It isn’t that I haven’t done anything this summer but what I thought the summer would look like in May, what I always think the summer will look like in May, is not how it turned out.

In May I always think I am going to structure my work schedule to be home a little more. When I am not working we (as some happy little family) are going to be exploring the beauty of nature, going to the cabin, taking long runs and reading good books while lounging on the patio.

The reality is that John and my work schedules dictate our life more than we want to admit. Our pre-teen daughter would rather not hang with us as she has discovered her and her friends are old enough now to walk to each other’s homes or hang out at the park. So the squad, as I like to call them, pretty much goes from home to park to next home all day every day. They all end up in our living room at some point most days. We love it but it isn’t really family time. And in the small condo I find myself hiding in my bedroom rather than lounging on the patio. Since she walks around 3-5 miles every day with friends she doesn’t really think she needs to go on additional runs with me.

summer 2016 b

So what did we do this summer? Not much really. Only a couple trips up to the cabin but they were relaxing and fun. We discovered Isabelle comes alive at 10pm and if we can stay awake for it we learn all about her day, her life, her friends, her thoughts. We successfully balanced work, family, friends, and marriage. Something that I don’t know I would have said of previous summers since returning to work. It has looked a little less organized than I would have liked but we are getting there. And it didn’t have as many adventures as I dreamed of but our day to day life is full of excitement and fun and joy. What more do we need?

summer 2016 c

I can pretty much guarantee you next May I will create another summer bucket list and dream of a summer that looks more like my responsibility free childhood summers than a working mom summer. And we probably won’t get everything done on that list either. But we will still have fun, be happy and enjoy another glorious Minnesota summer. Just like we are doing this summer.

Three more weeks until school starts. My current list involves school shopping, the state fair, a trip to the cabin and a plenty of space for whatever comes our way between now and then.

summer 2016 a

Finding My Way

Finding my way

From the archives. Facebook reminded me that I wrote this post on this day in 2012. I had been working full time for 9 months and was starting to think I was going to survive. Of course as soon as I got out of survival mode I realized how wrong the job was for me and taking me on an adventure to find my perfect fit.

So today is a little memory of the journey I took in finding my way. Originally published on my mommy blog.

During a recent lunch break I did something I haven’t done in a while.  I read a magazine and enjoyed it.  

I love magazines.  I love the visual of the pictures.  I love the short informative articles.  I love all the how to articles and the list articles and the essays.  Even the blatant advertisement articles.  Love magazines.  Last January I subscribed to 3 magazines thinking I would enjoy reading each issue sitting in my living room while my daughter was at school or I was laying at the pool this summer.  Then it happened, work.  Magazines came and I didn’t even have the energy to peak under the cover. I tossed issues of magazines having only glanced through them. (yes I toss old issues of magazines)  And when I would sit down to relax with my magazines I wasn’t finding it enjoyable at all.  I subscribe to homemaker/mom magazines and I was feeling very distanced from that life.  Reading the magazines only widened that gap, reminded me of what I had lost.  It is really a low point when work steals the joy from one of your favorite activities.

But then it happened, I read a magazine and didn’t spend the whole time thinking about how I didn’t have time to be a homemaker anymore.  I dreamed of making the meals I was reading about, trying new recipes and caring for my family.  And my dream was within the structure of this life I now live rather than only being able to visualize caring for my home and family full time.  I thought about grocery shopping in the evenings, planning menus, cooking ahead.  My husband has taken on most of the dinner prep lately and I greatly enjoy coming home to dinner cooking but I know he would love it if I would just tell him what to make each night and have the food waiting in the fridge.

I also have started thinking about decorating again.  An old lamp in the living room went out recently.  Somehow the need for a new lamp turned into spending an entire weekend rearranging the furniture and creating a re-decoration plan that should keep me and any extra money that comes my way entertained well into the spring.  I find myself ripping out living room pictures and contemplating paint colors as if I am still a part of this home and I care about my surroundings.

It is like I am still my regular self.  I didn’t get lost.  I may have changed course a little.  My identity may have been shaken a bit this past year but I am still standing firm, new location, same Melanie.  My passions are still there and were just waiting to welcome me back with open arms.

My bathroom is still holding its arms out waiting.  One of these days maybe I will get excited about cleaning it again too.  It could happen.


Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE to plan and make goals. So of course I love a new year, fresh start, what will I accomplish in the next 12 months?!

I used to make goals that were all personal and family oriented but a new category has been added over the years for my business/working goals. So in December I was busy looking at my business plan thinking about what I wanted to do this year and how to do it. A big piece of my financial goals involved another person I started working with last year. I had reviewed my goals with him and we were both excited to take on 2015. I rang in the new year ready to go after those goals.

The next day I meet with the guy who tells me of a major change he is making in his business and long story short I decided I didn’t want to make that change and on day 3 of the new year a third of my business goals are irrelevant.

Change. Most of the time it happens incrementally, we barely notice it. I didn’t see my son grow from a baby into a man overnight but slowly over the last 20 years, one day at a time. However, some change is large and quite clear and you need to be prepared to adjust.

One of the things I have noticed over the years when changes come on, especially big changes that are not in your control, often they start out big, bad and scary but turn out to be good.

There is only one thing that never changes, God. But he is constantly at work. He works around us, through us, with us, for us, in us. God does not change but in my life he is change. Knowing him, following him, it means change. Good and bad, fun and painful. But no matter what happens next I keep following him.  I wrote a couple weeks ago about keeping on moving forward every day. And that is what I do in life and in my faith.

I am not the only one in my family I have seen make some big life/plan changes this month, but I see God working in all of them. And it is exciting! It is also scary. Changes come, we keep moving.

So, I made a few adjustments to my goals and decided on my own I still could accomplish a lot this year. It creates a little bit of an unknown for my business but so far I have loved the changes I have made and am more excited at the end of January for what this year holds than I was at the beginning.