During the first weeks and months of the year we often want/ or feel pressured to change something or a lot of things.
•Change eating habits
•Take on new projects
•Improve a relationship
•Change ourselves completely!
Some of these desires come from a great place and are truly good things for us. Sometimes they come from a place of lack or self condemnation, so they aren’t as good for us as they seem on the surface, and may produce bad fruit. It is important to pray about and evaluate these desires to determine what is right for us to take on.
Yet even the good changes, the ones God has placed on our hearts, can be difficult to take on or persevere in since we live and work with other people, and already live jam packed lives as mothers. Making desired changes can seem impossible because of all we already do, weakening our resolve and leaving us feeling frustrated with ourselves or our circumstances.
For me personally, one of these desired changes was exercise. While not my top priority, I do feel better when I get some exercise. It gives me energy and clears my mind. However I kept hitting roadblocks every time I tried to incorporate exercise into my daily schedule.
First, the getting up earlier advice that one reads everywhere, did NOT work for me. Like most moms, I often need to stay up late for various reasons. Yet my particular body requires at least seven or more hours of sleep to stay healthy. So, I have to prioritize sleep over exercise for my health and well being. Instead of getting up earlier I tried moving my workouts to later in the day. I found a workout I could do at home and began working out every weekday. Three things sidelined that, first there are weekdays I don’t get home until 11pm and I come home exhausted. Second, when I’m home with my family I don’t enjoy spending precious time away from them. Third, but most significant, is that my body kept having a weird reaction. I would get two or three weeks into my workout routine, and be feeling good, and then I would suddenly come down with some really bad illness. I suppose my body was releasing toxins, and because I have a complicated medical history these illnesses landed me flat on my back sick for weeks. Not enjoyable and not good for my family!
So for a long time I couldn’t figure out how to get the movement I wanted and needed without doing myself some kind of harm. I took it to prayer and while I didn’t get an immediate answer, I did begin to approach the problem from a different angle: What could I do that would fit into my schedule, make me feel like I wasn’t missing out on family time, and most importantly wouldn’t cause me to get sick?
Then one day as I was getting ready to start my live radio show More2Life, my engineer said “Thirty seconds” and my husband made a joke about how much we could get done in thirty seconds. He was right. Years of doing radio has taught me how very long thirty seconds really is. If your radio went silent, or your devices stopped streaming for thirty whole seconds you’d think something was radically wrong. And can’t thirty seconds seem like an eternity when you’re waiting for your coffee in the morning?
This gave me the idea to do the smallest thing I could do to begin meeting my goal - a thirty second plank every thirty minutes throughout the day using my phone as a reminder and timer. I know that may sound puny and ridiculous, yet it met my criteria and would give me a chance to work up slowly in an attempt to avoid my previous reactions. It was also better than doing nothing.
After two weeks without getting sick, I increased it to a minute plank every thirty minutes. Then I increased it to a minute and a half every thirty minutes, and when that was going well I started adding sets of v-ups or donkey kicks. It only takes me two and a half minutes, every thirty minutes on the two to four days I can fit it into my schedule. On the days I can’t, I fit it in as best I can with intention but extreme flexibility.
I also use the planking time to turn my mind and heart to God. I thank him for giving me the miracle of the health and the strength to do it ( something I didn’t always have), and ask him to help me serve him well and know and love Him better. I leave that time feeling energized, instead of spent from over doing, and able to take on the next section of time until my alarm reminder vibrates again. It’s helped me realize that not all change requires huge amounts of time or radical life shifts. Change can be made in tiny doable steps.
Let’s look at how to apply this idea to some changes we often want to make.
Getting organized: Organizing is usually most successful when a big project is completed all in one go. I did this myself after visiting family left after the holidays. Necessity is often the mother of organization for me. Since our family is in a state of growth, I needed to sort things out and make room for all the new sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and such that we need now. But the coming few months are chock full of commitments that won’t leave me a lot of time for more organizing.
So now I’m considering applying this "tiny bits of time" approach to the other organizing I’d like to do. For instance, taking the contents out of a drawer and then for one or two minutes an hour sorting things out, and then continuing once each hour until it’s finished.
Improving relationships: How about when the half hour or hour alarm vibrates, taking a moment to tell your child you love them, pay them a meaningful compliment, give them a hug, or even tell them a silly joke. If you're doing this over text for a child who’s in school, you could change it to a quick text every few hours to let them know you love them. You can even use a special silly emoji that only you two would understand so that your child won’t be embarrassed if their friends see it.
We often wait for a day where we can spend hours together to make a loving connection, and those days are often hard to come by. But connecting in small ways throughout every day will build a loving relationship, and when we do get those special longer stretches of time they will be all the sweeter because of the tiny connections we’ve made everyday.
Carving out these bite size times on a recurring schedule, and adjusting them when needed, has given me a real sense of the power of the intentional use of time. Even if I have a day that has me going constantly, I can usually get thirty seconds or a minute when my alarm vibrates to do something small toward my goal. That is time I probably wouldn’t get if I waited to have an hour or a day to get something accomplished.
These tiny intervals aren’t meant to become a terrany, suddenly controlling every 30 seconds of your day. If your in the middle of something else that you shouldn’t interrupt when the reminder goes off, just set another alarm for a half hour later, or whatever time might work. It’s a reminder to make a small space to do something that you have decided to do for yourself, so you can stop waiting for your turn to take care of yourself. This is away to give yourself little gifts of self-care that add up through out everyday, not something that makes you a slave to a timer. If you try it and it doesn’t bring you joy or a sense of satisfaction, then don’t do it. Pray for a unique idea that would work for your life and personality. I’m just sharing an inspiration that has worked for me.
So if you find yourself getting weary trying to keep up with the new things you want to do or changes you hoped to make this year, consider creatively breaking it down into tiny, repeated bites of time, be gentle with yourself and celebrate every small accomplishment. You may find those changes and resolutions actually happening this year!