I wear many hats as a woman. There’s being a wife, a mother, a homeschooling parent, a discipler to women, a counselor, speaker, writer, and every now and then I have “jobs” or projects that I accept for added income. Recently, I’ve been asked by other moms, “How do you manage your time?”
I’m not writing this because I’m the best time-manager. But I have learned, through the years and with the help of my husband, to be more intentional about the activities that I commit to. My mom gave me great advice, too. She said, “Think of your activities as rocks – big ones and small ones. If you were to fill a jar with rocks, you would put in the big rocks first and then fit in the small rocks around the bigger ones. If you do the small ones first, then you won’t have space for the big ones.”
The reality is we are all in various seasons of our lives as women. Some of us are newly married, young mothers, raising older kids, or we are empty-nesters. Each stage comes with certain priorities and stresses. I am somewhere in between one end of the spectrum and the other. My fifth child is nearly 3 years old. She is no longer breastfeeding which means life is starting to feel easier and more “manageable.” Whew!
Whatever stage I find myself in, I have to identify the big rocks in my life (The things that only I can do, that I’m responsible for, that I can’t delegate to others):
- My walk with the Lord
- My husband
- My kids
- Discipleship / Ministry
- Relationships with family – parents, brothers, and sisters
- Helping out with Homeschool Global
What are my small rocks? (The order doesn’t matter for these)
- Jobs and projects that earn income
- Relationships with friends
When my big rocks don’t come first (and in the order I wrote them above), I experience anxiety and stress. There may be occasions when certain needs are urgent – a crying infant who has pooped in her diaper vs. bringing my husband his butong pakwan because he asked for it. This is where both of us have to be flexible and understanding of one another.
I praise God that Edric was supportive through all my pregnant and breastfeeding years. He knew these stages weren’t easy for me, so he adjusted his expectations, too. The other blessing I want to praise God for is that I got to be a stay-at-home mom by the time our third son came along. I had to wait eight years, but it happened nonetheless, which alleviated me of the burden to contribute monetarily to our family. Whatever season I have found myself in, I’ve tried, as soon as possible, to revert to the order of priorities I listed above for my big rocks.
What are your big rocks? Every woman’s are different, but my strong suggestion is that you’ve got God, your husband and kids as first, second, and third. Some weeks ago, Edric and I were counseling a couple that was in bad shape because the husband was caught in infidelity. Although the woman is not to blame for her husband’s sinfulness, they both acknowledged that the demands of her work kept her from prioritizing his needs. Up till this day it’s a struggle for her to quit her job in order to look for one that is less hectic for herself and less damaging to her relationship with her husband. She is perpetually stressed out and exhausted but believes that her job is a “bigger rock” than her marriage. My heart goes out to her.
I’m not saying that women have to quit their jobs. That’s not the point. The point is that we need to evaluate whether our jobs are worth sacrificing the priorities of spouse and children for. Is the corporate route the best option, for example? I’ve witnessed so many talented women direct their abilities and creativity towards income-generating businesses that allow them the flexibility and time to meet the needs of their husband and children. Therefore it’s not impossible to find something worthwhile to do that doesn’t take the place of our more important relationships.
After settling which rocks in our lives are the heavy-weights, we have to think through how we schedule our days and weeks around those rocks. It took me years to actually come up with a schedule that I could commit to. Thankfully, my husband, Edric, is a stickler for scheduling everything. So, his good influence on me finally rubbed off and I came up with a weekly routine that has been sensible and sustainable. I can’t share my exact schedule here for safety reasons, but I will give you an example of what my schedule generally looks like (the days may not match the actual):
This schedule is my template for the week. Since homeschooling is like my day job, I safeguard my weekday mornings to get this done (except for the day when they have classes). I used to have my kids in music and pe classes on two different days, plus they attended a morning coop during a separate day of the week. Hardly any quality homeschooling got done as a result. My new schedule gives them one day out of the home for their classes. While they are busy, I take advantage of this day by doing errands (like going to the grocery) and meeting with people.
Some variations in my schedule may happen when there are urgent needs that must be attended to, when I have projects to complete, or when we have social events. But generally, this is it. Interestingly, when I don’t follow my weekly routine and have too many activities outside of the home (especially ones that end late at night), I tend to get sick. So having a schedule that isn’t too hectic keeps my body from breaking down, too. It’s actually necessary for me to keep to predictable cycles. Maybe it’s my age!
Edric and I also share one calendar that is updated everyday. His very able assistant intelligently manages this calendar for us. She is amazing! Keeping one calendar on our phones and devices has improved our communication as husband and wife. I used to get frustrated when he would book engagements and tell me about them the day of! Now I know what to expect and how to prepare myself. Furthermore, I also don’t confirm speaking engagements or appointments that eat into things like family time, meals together, evenings, or Sundays unless I refer to our calendar and run them by Edric first.
If you are involved in ministry, you may want to read on about the other tips that have helped me with time management:
- MINISTER ACCORDING TO YOUR LIFESTAGE.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
We are called to evangelize and disciple others no matter what our lifestage as women. The question for moms, especially those with younger children, is how do I obey God’s purpose for me without compromising my priorities? How can I creatively integrate my lifestage with the call to minister to other women?
From the very beginning of our marriage, Edric and I had a discipleship group. We belonged to one and we started one, too. At one point the group we were handling got too big and people began to get married and have children. This is when their priorities started to change. As for me, I was often pregnant and/or breastfeeding, working part-time, and homeschooling.
At some point, I remember having a conversation with my mom where I said, “I don’t agree with the discipleship model of CCF (our church). It’s not right that young mothers are expected to disciple others when they are caught up with raising young children. Isn’t our primary ministry our kids?”
My mom, in her very gentle manner, listened and offered the best advice. She said, “Why don’t you disciple women in a way that incorporates your lifestage?” Brilliant, mom!
So I started a playgroup with the young mothers in my group. Since the moms could bring their children, they prioritized these playgroups. We would meet in the park and our kids would play while we had accountability and encouraged one another in the faith. This playgroup eventually evolved into a more formal cooperative of moms who now support each other’s homeschool journey. At present, we are on a break but will resume again in September. It has been a great way for me to reach out to the moms in our discipleship group and I’ve been so blessed by the moms who have stepped up to teach and handle classes for the kids.
Another challenge came when Edric and I moved into our new home. This geographic change affected the dynamic of our original discipleship group of men and women. Many of them found it difficult to trek all the way to our side of the metropolis. I felt very discouraged when this happened because our desire was to open up our home for ministry. But the traffic made it impossible to get people to our place in the evenings. Thankfully, I still got to see most of the women during our Homeschool Coop, but I did miss the old days, too, when we could gather as couples and cram together in our apartment.
Not wanting our new home to go to waste, Edric and I started another couples group for neighbors in our subdivision. We may have moved home locations but this didn’t mean that serving God by discipling others had to stop. Getting together with neighbors made it easy to stick to weekly meetings.
It has been almost two years since this group began. We rotate houses to give couples the opportunity to host and facilitate the sessions. The kids are welcome as well which means we don’t have to leave them behind every week.
- DO MINISTRY AS A TEAM
Another way to integrate lifestage and ministry is to mount events or speak at gatherings where Edric and I can serve as a team along with our kids. Edric and I share the burden of preparing singles for marriage, reaching out to young couples and families, and talking about homeschooling. Edric also feels called to educate people on financial literacy. So we help out with three big events in the year that are mounted by the Family Ministry of our church – Before and After I Do, Family and Finance, and Parenting — and other events that are related to these topics.
Whenever our kids can be included in our talks, we let them prepare their own testimonies so they can experience ministering along side us. This simplifies our lives by allowing us to be together while we serve and direct our efforts toward the same things.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO (IF YOU SAY NO FOR THE RIGHT REASONS)
Sometimes, saying “No” is necessary, even at the expense of disappointing others. I learned this from my father who has laser focus for what he does. As a result he has been very effective at time management and accomplishing much for the Lord. Although it’s hard to turn invitations down, Edric and I realized that there are many people out there whom God can raise up to do a better job that we can as speakers. Even though people may ask us to speak doesn’t always mean we are the most qualified or most prepared to do so. God’s work will never lack His resources, people being one of them. So turning down an invitation doesn’t mean that an organization will be disadvantaged just because we can’t say yes. On the contrary, God will supply the best person(s) for the task.
What’s the criteria for saying, No? Edric has a template with specific questions that his assistant asks the person or organization inviting him or us. Then this data is inputted into a spreadsheet which calculates a percentage rating. Anything below 65 or 70% is low priority. I know it sounds pretty nerdy but it helps to assess whether an invitation is aligned with his (our) goals and focus.
- SYNC YOUR PASSIONS AND YOUR PURPOSE
I shared earlier that all of us are called to evangelize and disciple others. However, life stages pose a challenge to this call because some of us are newly married, pregnant or breastfeeding, or raising young kids (and some of us are doing this without any household help). These seasons demand a lot from us.
After I gave birth to my fourth child, Edric encouraged me to start a blog. When Edric proposed the idea he also asked his dad to help me set up my site. Papa (my father in law) came up with the name, “Teach with Joy.” I thought the blog was a great idea! After all, I was feeling more homebound than ever and I wondered how I would be able to reach out to women to minister to them (outside of my discipleship group).
I decided to make this site a venue to connect with the hearts of women all over the world with the gospel of Christ. My desire was to give people a glimpse of what it is like to be a wife, mother, and family that follows Christ. My prayer was that women would respond positively and with openness to the honesty (my mistakes and failures) and to the joy they read about.
Ever since I was young, writing was a passion of mine. My old writings were dark and emotional. However, as I matured in my faith, I wanted to write about what God is doing in our family and share practical insights and tips that can help women be the best version of themselves. As I merged my passion to write with the purpose of ministry, God blessed the effort. I’m humbled to be able to receive countless private emails and messages from women all over the world who want to know more about Jesus, thank me, or connect with me and tell me about themselves. Each email and message is a delight to read and respond to.
The great thing about blogging is that I’m still accessible to my husband and kids. Furthermore, it has opened doors that I never would have anticipated – to endorse products that celebrate family and to be given the privilege of greater influence.
Recently, Lifestyle TV taped a series of interstitial shows to be aired in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. It’s a show called Joy of Living where I get to interview women about their life journeys. The project came as a surprise. I never expected to receive this opportunity!
When the producer pitched the idea to me I had two requests. One was that I get to tape at home for most or all of the shows. I didn’t know if they would say yes. But I was willing to let the project go if they refused because I didn’t want to compromise my time with the kids. Well, they approved this request! I was overjoyed! The second request was that I be given the voice to speak about my faith. They let me do so for as long as I didn’t come across as preachy. That was fine with me.
God has given each one of us women abilities and capacities that are unique to us. Some of you have talents that are out of this world amazing! You may wonder if these are going to waste as you prioritize your spouse and children. My encouragement to you is to trust in God’s timetable. Put Him first, your spouse and kids next, and then let Him reveal to you what other aspects of your life need to count as “big rocks.” That’s where good time management begins – by asking the Lord what really matters, seeking to know what His will is, and then obeying it. As you do so He will not waste the gifts or dreams He has given you. They come from Him after all. In His beautiful time and way He will welcome and encourage their emergence for His glory!
If you feel lost because good time management eludes you at present, don’t be discouraged. Don’t lose hope. You are probably a young mom whose got one hand attending to a toddler, another arm breastfeeding a newborn, and you’ve got to cook a meal for your family tonight, and maybe you have a job that you are juggling, too. I’ve been there…It gets easier…Trust me.
Isn’t it a relief to know that God doesn’t expect perfection from us? Instead, He wants us. A deep, intimate relationship with us where we experience His presence, grace, enabling and peace.
In the meantime, let’s do what we can to identify our big and small rocks, exert our best effort, and trust that God will multiply our capacities. He will supply us with the resources and abilities we need to accomplish what He wants us to at this stage in our lives. We need to believe that He wants us to succeed at being good time managers and He will surely help us!