Last week I told you that I’ve been counting the Omer with my children and we have gotten into a very good routine. Read: other years, no matter my enthusiasm at the get go, at some point the whole thing fell apart and either I was the only one saying it, or the kids were saying it, and I wasn’t; or nobody except my husband was saying it. It’s the truth people. I’m happy that that is going on track and it definitely gives us 3 minutes to, as they would say in Texas, “visit with each other.” I haven’t heard one kid complain yet and we’re already four weeks into this, so obviously they are enjoying the 3 minutes of togetherness, focusing on just that one little thing. Today, I want to share with you five small, areas where I’ve adopted habits and/or systems and seen a positive impact. They’re helping me make every day count by essentially making every day a lot more seamless. So here you go, Five New Habits or Systems that are helping me make every day count…
Sounds crazy, but when we’re all over the place, it’s hard to focus and actually enjoy and/or give our fullest to whatever activity(ies) we need and/or want to do that day. While these are four areas in which certain systems/habits are working for ME at the moment, I encourage you to find what works for YOU. Only you know yourself and the stage of life you’re in best.
1- Prayer: I wish I could be at a point where I told you something really big in this category or some overnight success. No. This has been like a years in the making “success.” I’m referring to the 3-5 minutes of saying my morning brachos (morning blessings) without just rambling the words! Yes. I’ve been saying these meticulously for years. That wasn’t really the issue. The issue was, how I was saying them. I’ve noticed that finally I’ve gotten to a point where I’m saying them both out of habit AND I’m actually connecting with the words. Do you understand the combo? I’ve come to learn that habit needs to become a pre-cursor to enjoyment, finding meaning, connecting etc. (I know many of you will cringe. Let’s discuss this another time…. but just think about this: Naaseh v’nishmah.)
If you’re not in the habit of saying morning brachot, I highly encourage it. If you’re not comfortable with Hebrew, just get a transliterated version and try it. I don’t know what I would do without those 3 minutes and I can’t believe I just said that! Why? Because it’s minimal. It’s the bare minimum and not something to be super proud off. BUT, yes, in a way I am, because while I do pray at other times like daily Shema, Shabbat, Tehillim daily, I still don’t feel like I’m mastering the experience in the way that I’m mastering those 3 minutes of morning brachot. I’m definitely a work in progress in the prayer department. But, I surely now know one thing, that while it might take years of work, connecting to the prayers and connecting to G-d through the prayer is achievable. It’s just a very long journey and takes a lot of habit building to be able to get there. You can’t get to a place of connection, if you’re not even doing it!
2- Sleep: For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to go back to healthier sleeping habits. I know this is going to seem extreme to most of you, but I needed to get extreme because my sleep deprivation was going on a downward spiral. No bueno. I have been turning off my bedside lamp at 9:00 pm. This shift does not happens over night either. I had tried it many times before and it had worked for a while and then I would drop it. In order to help the habit stick, this time around, I’ve tricked myself in several ways:
a- Accountability – I’ve made it public. Everyone in my house now knows that I don’t work at night any more. That is, if they catch me in the computer, they will hold me accountable for my words. (PLUS it has forced me to really be strict about managing my calendar and getting my work done during the time that it was allotted in my calendar.);
b- Bedtime Routine – I get ready for bed e-a-r-l-y, like I start REALLY early. Around 8 pm, at the same time the kids are brushing teeth, getting into pijamas, some are getting out of the shower… well I’m doing the same. Bedtime routine for everyone. Period;
c- Kitchen off limits – The kitchen lights are off at 7:30 pm AND I DO NOT GO BACK IN THERE. This is key. If the kids go in there, that’s their problem, but I don’t step a foot in there. Not one.
d- No Phones – The phone is away inside a drawer. Hands off. PLUS, I have it set on Do not Disturb Mode which means that the only incoming calls I can get after 8 pm are my husband’s. No What’s App beeping! Yes!!!
e- Read – That was an easy one for me because I always have a book to read, but just the fact that from 8:15 – 9:00 pm I’m reading (except for the 8:40 Counting Sefirah break) sends everyone at home (and my brain) the message that I’m done for the day.
f- Plan ahead – Know exactly what I’m doing the next day. I usually do it around 2 pm, when I’m finishing work for the day, but if I need to, I review my calendar again around 7 pm when I’m cleaning from dinner. And finally,
g- Lights Out – Turn off the light!
3- Automate my calendar: You wouldn’t believe that for someone so obsessed with systems, up until two months ago, I was still relying on my pretty paper calendar. With much resistance and with my dear husband’s encouragement (ie. he set it up for me because the resistance was REAL), I switched to electronic calendar, and while it took me a week to adjust, as I suspected would happen, now I’m a fervent fan. My life has changed, people! Duh! Everything goes in there. Everything. My husband and I see what’s going on for both of us and for all the children.
And once I got used to that magic, I upgraded to an online appointment service which syncs with my electronic calendar. I use Calendly, but there are many others. No more going back and forth via email to set up appointments and meetings. I just email the link to my calendar. The other person selects a time slot and voila. It’s all quick, seamless and does not require any mental effort. One less thing to think about. Bliss.
4- Morning: Now that I’ve moved my bedtime to MUCH earlier than before, I’m actually achieving my goal of getting up at 5:30 am every morning. In fact, I’m up at 5:20 without having even heard the alarm! That, my friends, is a great sign. Finally, I’m getting enough sleep! While I know, from having tried it many other times, that waking up an hour before my kids, is the best thing for me, I often went back into the pattern of waking up at the same time as they did. (Duh! Late bedtime was the culprit!) There is NOTHING like having an hour to MYSELF in the morning and welcoming my kids like a mentsch. (I get that this might not work for everyone, and it definitely will not work if you have a newborn and are up all night with a baby. I’m just sharing what works or me at the current stage of my life. The key is to find systems that work for YOU.)
5- Lunches: If your kids’ school provides lunches, you won’t relate to this, but for the rest of us, you know lunches are a nightmare (to put it mildly). I have no way around the fact that we have to make lunches. My proven system is: have a system! Ha! So what’s my system? My kids make lunches at a certain hour and I help and supervise as needed. That means I can’t be on my computer or my phone. (Another opportunity to actually parent without distractions!) 6 pm works for
us me. It’s early enough that we’re all around the kitchen area anyways and, most importantly, the kids are still full from dinner (which happens early here), so lunch making does not become snack time (for the most part). Listen, I’m not a fan of the snacking on a cookie while they are packing said cookies, but if that’s what it takes, just to get the lunches made, then let it be. Of course, I make sure the lunches are actually getting done.
What is the sign of a finished lunch? Everything is in there, no exceptions, and each lunch is inside the fridge. Only then are they really done, and the kids can leave the kitchen. Will they try to say, “I put my snacks. I’ll make the sandwich in the morning”? You bet. What do I say, “Nice try. Finish your lunch.” Between 6:30 and 6:45 we’re all rolling to the next thing… showers. And the best part of this is MORNING BLISS… (OK that sounds a bit idillic and truthfully, does that even exist!?) All jokes aside, and keeping the realistic expectation that your kids might still bicker, or cry over a lost homework or sock, or who knows what, chances are you can actually sit and have breakfast with your kids in the morning in a semi-state of calm. Lunches? What are lunches? Oh that stuff ready to be grabbed from the fridge on their way out? That one. Yes. Bliss.
Now, on to you? Any questions on my new habits? What practical systems or habits have YOU incorporated in your life that make it seamless and yes, help make every day count? Let’s hear it, I’m ready to adopt even more systems in my life!
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