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Every evening, I sit down and write out my goals for the next day. Learning how to start your day (and end it) is so important. With so many hats to wear and balls to juggle – wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, writer, blogger, speaker, boss, friend – it’s a necessity, the only way I can hope to keep track of what I need to do and where I need to be. Over the years, as the number of hats has multiplied, my system for list making has evolved considerably.
I’ve come a long way.
I started out by scribbling on whatever scrap of paper I could lay my hands on. This is a method I don’t recommend, particularly if that scrap of paper happens to be the back of a utility bill that you might accidentally toss in the wastebasket after you cross off the to-dos. (Not that I’ve actually done that. Just that I’ve heard about it. You know…from friends… )
Later, I began making lists on index cards, eventually adopting a system of color coding for different categories of activities – blue for family, red for business, green for church, yellow for housekeeping. That system definitely appealed to my creative side – anything involving color makes me smile, I am a sucker for fancy file folders – but it was a bit cumbersome.
Perfecting the System
Now I’m using what I consider to be the perfect system, an annual planner and pre-printed pad of Daily Focus sheets help me divide my day into things I must do, should do, and would like to do. This smart solution to time management has really made a difference, helping me set achievable daily priorities and find time I didn’t know I had. Without it, I’m not sure I would have taken on the challenge of writing this blog. (You can read more about the focus sheets and companion planner in my previous post, Your Roadmap for Your Best, Most Productive Year.)
The Question that Changed Everything
But for all of that, I think the best, most transformative thing about using this system is the question that is listed on the top of sheet — What’s the one thing you can do today that will make everything else easier?
ONE thing? Just one thing that will make everything else easier?
With the number and huge variety of tasks I need to tackle in a given day, I had a hard time imagining anything that could make even half of the stuff on my to-do list easier, let alone all of it. For days that stretched into weeks, that question stumped and even annoyed me. I felt like somebody had asked me a riddle with no answer. It really bugged me!
Breaking Up with my Phone
For many years, my day started with prayer. But somewhere along the line, something changed. Instead of reaching for my bible or prayer journal as soon as I woke up, I started reaching for my phone. And trust me, your phone is not how to start your day.
Now, I like my phone. I really do. It lets me keep up with friends, the news, and the latest funny animal videos. I like that it makes it easy to look up important information such as where to find a good fabric store, bookstore, or Thai restaurant near me, or win a bet with my husband on such pressing matters as what year the movie Groundhog Day was released. My phone can call people, take and post pictures, and help me figure out how to navigate my new town. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine how I ever managed without it. My phone is a hugely helpful tool. But it had also become huge distraction.
There was a movie I saw a few years back, where one of characters said that the one whose calls you take is the one you’re in a relationship with. Thinking back on that, I realized that I was in a relationship with my phone. It sounds weird saying it, but it was true.
That was a problem.
Embracing the Power of Prayer
Everyone has their own approach to spiritual matters. Yours may be different than mine but, as a teenager, I made the decision to open my heart and life to God. Entering a relationship with the Almighty altered the course of my life and molded my view of the world and myself in a million different ways, large and small, and all of them for the good.
For years, the relationship I enjoyed with God was primary in my life, surpassing even my relationships with friends and family, and impacted those relationships, as well as every challenge I faced, in my home life or my business, in positive (though not always easy) ways.
Hey, apologizing when you are wrong is hard. Giving up your right to be right is hard. Putting other people first is hard. And loving that person who rubs you the wrong way? Really hard.
But you know what’s harder: the fallout and misery that happens in life when I don’t do those things. Not to mention the anxiety and worry that can infect my life when I forget that, no matter how big a mess the world is in, God is bigger.
Just Pray: That’s How to Start Your Day
Returning my relationship with God to its rightful and primary place in my life and praying first has made a huge difference in how I approach the rest of my day.
Praying first helps me feel calmer and more grounded. It reveals solutions or answers to problems that have plagued me. Praying first helps me keep my priorities straight and stay focused on the people and things that matter, the areas in which I can actually have an impact for good. It makes a big difference in the rest of my day.
I won’t lie, reaching for my phone first thing in the morning is still a big temptation. There’s some good stuff on there. And I don’t want to be the only person on the planet who isn’t up on the latest adorable videos of chocolate labs licking the faces of baby elephants, do I?
But as compelling as that video (and pretty much everything else about my phone) might be, I’ve finally figured something out. The stuff on my phone isn’t going anywhere. It can wait for ten minutes, or fifteen, or thirty.
Nothing urgent is happening on my cellphone screen. Or yours. The phone can wait. Prayer shouldn’t.
Praying first is the one thing you can do to make everything that comes after easier.
And better. So much better.