One of the things that I learnt (the hard way) last week was that my days had no margin. Margin is that left over space in any area of our life – our time, our energy, our money, our emotions, our space. When we have no margins – we are totally spent. Last week I found myself ‘intense’ by 8.30am – that is ½ hour into our studies! My focus was on getting it all done – that is, on the product (a completed to-do list) as opposed to the process (discipleship / training my children.)

We can fill our days with good stuff, good curriculum, good projects, good books but is it the best for this moment in time?

This week has been different for me; partly because I tweaked our routine and partly because I have got my actions back in line with my beliefs (discipleship vs education).

  • Plan margin. When we swap from one activity to another (whether it is play-dough to dollhouse or moving from math to science) there is always ‘down time’. It takes time to pack up, put things away and get ready for the next thing. We need to plan for this. It is a realistic thing that happens all the time – we need to expect it and work with it. (The alternative is that nothing gets put away and that doesn’t work!!) On a study routine this looks like a lesson goes for 20 minutes leaving 5 minutes pack up etc, and 5 minutes margin. That margin is always taken up – someone will have a question, toddler needs attention, the phone rings, a mess is made, toilet stops need to happen. If we don’t plan on these things happen then we will get further and further behind our plan and we will feel guilty. This guilt will make us drive the kids harder or give up all together. There has to be a happy mid-way. It is called planning margins.

  • Use large blocks of time – when I micro plan my day (in ½ hour blocks) I get in a tizz real quick. I prefer to work in 1-2 hours of time and have a list of what can be achieved in that time. My list may well be 4 things making it appear to be 4x 1/2hours but there is a difference going on in my heart. When I have ½ hour blocks I’m inclined to be driven by the clock. When I have a to-do list to achieve in 2 hours I flow from one activity to the other. Because I make my plans realistic as possible most times I plan 2 hours worth of work. Sometimes we go over, sometimes we finish earlier. This doesn’t mean I’m not aware of time (we need to use our time wisely) but I’m not driven by the ½ hour.

  • Be flexible – When stuff happens, either interruptions or when things don’t go as planned, we need to hold our plans lightly and be flexible. The first thing to being flexible is to know your priorities. When interruptions come, or plans need to change we can make room for the priorities and let go of the other stuff. If we don’t know our priorities, everything becomes important – or worse – urgent!! One reason we do our Devotions and Bible Study first up in our day is if stuff happens, we have already worked on the important things on our list and we have the freedom to be flexible.

Two days into this week and we have had to make changes each day. But I can reflect back on both Monday and Tuesday and say they were productive, successful days. How come? Because

  1. We maintained peace and harmony in relationships (top-top goal)
  2. We were able to achieve, on both days, the top priorities in both life skills and studies and accept that there were things left undone.

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