I've spent the last few years surprised by life transitions. In the last ten years, we've had three kids and moved ten times. Seriously. I've started and stopped multiple businesses trying to figure out what it was I wanted to do, and have written a couple books, a curriculum, and I've deleted way more blog posts than I've ever published.
While we are in our long-term (I think) home and are done having kids, to not plan for a future transition isn't wise. Whether it's prepping for summer vacation or an upcoming change in my husband's schedule (nothing planned, but there are always adjustments), I need to create a schedule that is both flexible and fluid - one that prioritizes all the things I do as jobs while giving me time to build a business, while still allowing our family to be healthy in the midst of ministry and the other things that tend to come up. I used to think throwing myself into something and having that rhythm screwed with would be the hardest thing. Now I'm realizing it's garnering enough hope to put the effort into having any sort of schedule at all. Knowing what I know now, I've created a time-blocked schedule so I can focus on particular areas at specific times.
Here's what my days (Mon-Thurs) look like:
5-8:30 - teaching Chinese students/networking meeting
8:30-9:30 - Bible time, kids to school
9:30-11:30 - checking emails, writing ideas for content, researching ideas, reading books, home, errands, etc
11:30-12:15 - lunch, get my stuff setup for actual work
12:15-3:30 - work I can only do during the day (income producing and video content)
3:30-6 - get kids, wrap up work, cook dinner, kids' homework, go to the gym (basically wrapping everything up for the next thing)
6-8 - dinner/family time
8-11 - writing, reading, work set-up/prep for the next day, etc
Friday - Sabbath
Saturday/Sunday - varies depending on that weekend's volunteer schedule at church
Here's the thing: I need to recognize where I am, and recognize it won't be this way forever. With that in mind, this is a schedule that covers it all and leaves room for growth (adding babysitters, deciding on my kids' schooling for next year, adjusting what work I'm focusing on, etc). If you're a work-at-home mom, don't be afraid of the flexibility, but don't be so ruled by it that your schedule goes out the window!
(Read time: 5 Minutes)
What I WANTED to write today was a couple grocery hacks I learned. But to write about the things that help, I needed you to understand why they matter. Additionally, I get asked frequently about this category because it can rack up FAST. Today, I'm not going to go into what I do or don't purchase (does any care? 'cuz if you do, I can include that in a later post), but more help explain why I make the decisions I make when planning and shopping.
So here's what's up: Our family of five spends $250 per month on food - and we eat well. We eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables (fresh and frozen) and try to stick to whole grains (we don't purchase/make bread, and I love me some quinoa). I'm a big fan of flavor and I don't like to be bored with what I'm eating (yes, yes, yes... food is for fuel, but God gave us taste-buds for a reason!). This money also includes my two sons' bag lunches and snacks with the exception of milk/juice at their snack time.
With that, here are a couple of my favorite tricks that I've figured out:
1) Figure out WHY it matters. Seriously. Whatever your budget is, know why it is that way. Are you limited in income right now? Or are you working toward a specific financial goal? For me, it's that I value a couple other services over having a bigger grocery budget. An increase of $60/month on food is not going to make as great of a positive impact for our family as paying someone $60/month to mow our lawn. Additionally, the time freedom we purchase makes it so that we can focus on growing our income and hitting our *much bigger* financial goals.
2) Separate your grocery budget by where you shop. Example: We separate our grocery budget into "Aldi" (regular shopping, once per week) and "Costco" (bulk shopping, once per month) categories. Schedule out these trips so you aren't randomly stopping in and spending $15-$20 here or there. Trust me, if you forget something you NEED one week (coffee), you won't forget it next time.
3) Know what to buy at each store. "Bulk" does not automatically mean "less expensive". While I love Costco for coffee and egg whites, sandwich pitas and certain cheeses are cheaper at Aldi.
4) Use a list and keep a running total on a calculator. A list will help you prioritize what matters to your family. If there are certain foods that make you feel like you have good variety in your home, it'll help you long-term. For us, we do eggs and oatmeal for almost every breakfast. We just don't care. BUT mixing up our dinners matters to us a lot. As for the calculator, if you pay in cash, you'll know you aren't going over - and you won't have to ask for a can of mushrooms to be put back (dang $0.55 ha!). I use my cell phone for all of this. Handy handy!
5) When you can, figure out ways to switch items you purchase from Costco to Aldi. Here's what I mean: Costco is faaaantassstiiiic. Like we could be bff's. The quality that you can get for the price *can be* a good deal. That being said, my budget for Costco isn't huge ($90), so I'm not going to buy something there that I could get for the same price at Aldi. I'm going to buy the items in bulk that will stretch my dollar, and look for alternatives at Aldi rather than just assuming I've "figured it all out".
6) Mix it up. Remember to to mix it up. In the summer, I hit the farmer's market and try to buy something I don't normally cook with. Other times, I hit Trader Joes with part of my food budget and buy some items that we wouldn't normally get. And here's why: I've found that if I get stuck in a food rut, I get frustrated and suddenly want to go out to eat... which is way more expensive than simply changing it up a bit. Basically, know your trigger points, and make a plan to take care of them before you hit that point.
With all that, here's what I'm super happy about today: pressure cookers and whole chickens. I bought myself a pressure cooker a couple months back and loooooove it. A pain point for me with cooking is the time; many evenings are full and I would forget to throw something in the crock-pot in the middle of getting my kids out the door for school. Enter my new kitchen toy. I considered buying an Instant Pot but wasn't sure how much I'd use it, so I bought a different brand for $40. Totally worth it. (tbh - I'd suggest buying an IP if you're going to get one. So many recipes are written for it and you won't have to pray that you adjusted the recipe times correctly for your model). Anyway, it's great. I also figured out THIS WEEK (seriously, still learning) it is much more economical to buy a whole chicken than specific pieces. Yes, there are bones and whatnot, but once cooked, it's still cheaper per pound, I can cook it in my pressure cooker in 25 minutes, AND I can make a great bone broth (that makes a really great base for soup and saves me not having to buy broth). If you're keeping a food budget low, saving money on meat is an area that gives a lot of space for other ingredients to work with.
Long story short, I'm pretty happy with all this right now. How about you? What are your favorite tips and tricks? Any budget areas that you keep low so that you have a little more to work with in others? Let me know!
(Read time: 3 Minutes)
My two sons are very different in their approach to failure. My oldest will not give up. He was the kid who tried stairs over and over and OVER again until he finally mastered getting to the top without falling. To him, failure was a sign that something absolutely MUST be accomplished. As he's gotten older, this is still the case... BUT he only wants his "practice" to be done in private so that people only see his 100% success.
My younger son is much different. He didn't TRY stairs for ages. He never attempted the first one; instead he played contently on the ground. Then one day, he wanted to go up to his bedroom and climbed the whole flight without pausing. At the time, he would rather wait until he KNEW he could do it without failing AT ALL, than try when there was a possibility it might not work. As he's gotten older, this is still the case... BUT he's now in situations where there's a growth process that isn't solely reliant on him "being ready" (i.e. school).
These are two VERY different ends of the spectrum, but I'd argue most people fall at one of these two extremes at various points (myself included). So here is the advice I give to my kiddos, that I often later repeat quietly to myself.
To the one who doesn't give up while also not wanting to be seen "in the process": You have great perseverance; don't be afraid to lean into that. However, know that as you grow, you won't always be able to try and fail in private. At some point, you're going to need to be willing to put yourself out there, and you won't be able to guarantee that it will be perfect. Secondly, when you expect perfection of yourself, you'll pass this expectation onto everyone around you. Give yourself space to succeed and space to try new things, space to be seen and space to lead people in a very real and powerful way.
To the one who only wants to do things he knows will work the first time: You are a phenomenal analyzer. However, your life is so much bigger than who you are right now, and to grow into that person, you need to be willing to... grow. That means trying things to figure them out, rather than focusing on analyzing things from a distance. So... just do your best. I've seen it. Your best is greater than you think is, and your best is going to take you powerful places. Try it, see what happens, adjust, and enjoy the process of learning.
(Read time: 2 Minutes)
Have you ever thought about the difference between feedback and constructive criticism? Neither one is necessarily easy to receive, but constructive criticism tends to take more intentional effort - either on behalf of the one requesting it or the one giving it (or both!).
For example, feedback can be received at any point. It's asking how they felt about the experience, which puts it in the category of being a reflection on something that has already happened. For something to be truly valuable constructive criticism, it's asking the question in the moment "How could this be improved upon?" and that question is being asked by the RIGHT person.
But it's getting the RIGHT person to ask that question on your behalf that can be tricky. A couple months ago I asked a businessperson that I trusted "What do you see in me as my strengths and weaknesses?" Tonight my financial planner attended my financial class about preparing for the future through investments, and has some ideas for me on how to improve my material. One of my favorite speakers is attending a small class I am teaching in a couple months to specifically give me ideas on how I can improve my speaking and my ability to connect with the people learning from me.
BUT getting this information took me taking the two steps of...
1) Telling them what I valued about them (why I want their opinion)
2) Asking them for their opinion (what type of information I am looking for)
And once this has happened it takes this...
1) Listening without getting defensive
2) Saying "Thank You"
3) And, if you EVER want them to invest their time in the future, PUT THE THINGS THEY SUGGEST INTO ACTION (If you aren't willing to put it into action, it's either an indicator that you don't value their opinion or you don't value their time. Just keep that in mind)
So with that, what true constructive criticism do you need to request? And when are you going to go for that particular ask?
"So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong."
I loved hearing this verse from the book of Hebrews in a class tonight.
Bullet points. If you're tired...
1) Take a new grip (adjust!)
2) Strengthen (building muscles takes time, be patient)
3) Mark out a STRAIGHT path (make a plan; keep it simple)
4) Strength will continue to grow AS you are growING
(Read time: 1 Minute)
One thing we underestimate is the abilities that didn't take us effort.
The musician who learned to play a little too quickly.
The budgeter who just "gets" math.
The leader who can have a hard conversation feel light while still making the necessary impact.
The salesperson who loves cold calls.
The speaker who didn't seem to have to study to become good at what they are doing.
You have those things, too. The problem is that you probably don't see the things you don't struggle with as things worth noting.
You being yourself is powerful. You leaning into your strengths is mighty. You doing what you were made to do is art in real life. It might be uncomfortable, but art is created to make a statement and start a conversation. So lean into the art of being YOU.
(Read time: 1 Minute)
I've been aiming to write most days, but am changing that to putting out content (writing, speaking, etc) every day. I used to want write and speak on things I had figured out, but what I'm learning is that
1) posting about things you aren't 100% settled on creates order in your mind, and...
2) it's easier for people to relate to the authenticity of the moment.
So with that, today I was trying to give myself a good writing prompt to get me started, and here's what I came up with: "Honestly... where am I today?" And right now I am realizing that I don't need a prompt to write as much as I need a willingness to be authentic in the moments I'd rather shy away.
What prompt do you need for your next goals? And if you're in the content creation portion where the prompt is already defined, take a read at yesterday's post.
(Read time: 2 Minutes)
"Progress driven busyness borderline controlled chaos." I'd love to say I came up with that, but that was a friend's response to an update-text I sent over. I'm am in the middle of a massive content creation push.
Between this site (writing, yes, but also prepping for audio and video to launch), finalizing my financial course, preaching at various locations and teaching a new class in January (not financial), I am in every stage of content creation all at once.
And here's what I'm learning: Each portion of the process requires a different focus. And while you want to work on what you want to work (creative work happens best when you're in that creative space), there are ways of creating the environment so that you can work in a way that respects the timeline you're trying to adhere to.
Figure out what atmosphere you need to work.
- If you're in the beginning stages of choosing your topic, do you need to sit still or be moving?
- In the first third, do you need to set up rigid times or have more fluidity (the first third sucks either way - that's another post - so figure out how to make it the most effective for you).
- If you're starting to fill in the gaps and actually put together the pieces of your content, do you need to work on a computer or print out your pages and see everything laid out in front of you?
- In editing and revisions, are you needing multiple short sessions or full days?
If you can figure out what you need to do to work your best (physical setting, time of day/night, types of snacks available), the process will still take effort, but you'll be able to spend more time working through the material rather than fighting to put yourself in a mindset to work. And if you're in that phase, enjoy the process!
(Read time: 2 Minutes)
"What is the most effective use of my time?"
That is my question. I've been going over it again and again - not always getting the answer right but slowly and surely getting the answer less-wrong. I'm trying to find the right activities, processes, plans... when this phrase pops into my head from my favorite book: "Do not wear yourself out to get rich."
Someone might say that verse is saying don't try to get rich, but I focus on the first part: "Do not wear yourself out..." We each have personal rhythms we need to acknowledge and respect. Are we ruled by them? No. But we need to respect them enough to take them into consideration and trust the feedback that our bodies are sending our brains.
For example, when is your best time to work? This is equally as important as knowing what the best activity is for you to spend your time doing. Your best time doing your best activity - that leads to progress without wearing yourself out.
An opposite example happened this week. Ted and I take Fridays off (and work the other six days). I generally wake up really early on Saturdays to teach Chinese students (short-term side hustle). This past Friday I realized that by 8 pm I was starting to watch the clock, worried about how much sleep I'd get before I'd have to wake up at 4:35 am. This affected my rest and my evening. As I looked ahead, I realized teaching Saturday mornings also affected my productivity over the weekends. So Friday night I made the call and closed my schedule for Saturday mornings going forward. Will this affect my pay? With this job, yes. Overall? I will make much more because of this decision.
There isn't a "get rich quick" option. But there is a "get rich healthy" one.
At new levels in life - and business - I have found that life has a natural expansion and contraction rhythm. (Expansion being growth and broadening; Contraction being focused and tightening.)
I've been very conscious about this with my personal friendships. I'll have seasons where the number of people I'm allowing to speak into my life is very large (this usually happens as I'm walking into growth and am looking for outside ways of thinking and seeing the world). Then I have times when the number of people who I'm allowing to speak into my life dramatically decreases (I've started the process of growth and know the people I want to be consistently listening to as I take strategic steps). This isn't to say I "mentally delete" all the other relationships, but that I'm strategic in who I ask strategic questions of.
I've found this with business as well. As I begin to step into new levels, the horizon will expand with possibility. BUT just because the possibilities have increased DOES NOT mean that every possibility should be followed, utilized, or explored. Rather, we must see what has opened (rather than burying our heads in the sand), and get opinions that help us begin focusing on the things that are going to make the greatest impact to our lives.
Expansion is fun and exciting - it's seeing the "yes".
Contraction is decisions and being intentional - it's CHOOSING the "no".
Where are you in the rhythm? Who do you need to be listening to and surrounding yourself with? Most importantly, what decision do you need to make and act on in order to move forward today?
I want you to know you're capable of great generosity. This might come from working in the business sector or giving of your time, but your design is unique and I pray you embrace being you. - Lisa