I love the beginning of a new year. I like it so much that I’ve even designated a secondary “new year” in June so that I can begin afresh at least twice a year! Here’s how you can make your personal New Year a time of renewal and refreshment.
Look Back, Look Forward
As you think through the following questions, you may want to journal your answers. If you’re a perfectionist, please don’t get stalled in finding the perfect journaling notebook and the right color pen before you can get started (and don’t ask how I know that this can be a hang-up!). You may even want to blog about some of the answers (if you do, please leave a comment and link in the comment section, so that other readers can find you). Don’t feel that you have to write a lot, but try to answer all the questions.
- What were the biggest blessings of the past year?
- What were the most difficult challenges?
- When you look back at the previous year (or six months), how do you feel about it?
- How do you think your family feels about it? If you’re not sure, you may need to ask.
- Were you able to stay focused on the priorities you set at the beginning of the year? If so, how did you do it? If not, what changed or went wrong?
- What outside activities is your family doing, and do any of them need to be pruned so that you can refocus on priorities?
- Are you including time alone each week to refresh your mind and spirit and renew your focus?
- Are you conscious each day of trying to create a home atmosphere that encourages love and learning? If not, how can you keep this in mind?
- What small things can you incorporate in your daily routine to express love to your husband and to each of your children?
- Are you carrying a burden of anger or an unforgiving spirit? Releasing it will free you to focus and grow (the only attitude you can change is your own).
- What are your top three priorities for the coming year (six months)? How do these fit with your season of life and your long-term goals?
- What other priorities do you need to consider?
When you have finished thinking through the questions, you’ll have a snapshot of where you’ve been and where you’d like to go. The key to moving in the right direction is to not overwhelm yourself with a thousand new things to do, but to begin with only three priorities for each day, week and year. Yearly priorities are not a to-do list. Your yearly priorities won’t instruct you to fold the laundry, do 75 sit-ups, or teach Lesson 31 in math. Instead, they focus your mind on outcomes that are your heart’s desire. The weekly and yearly priorities are where you decide on activities that keep you on the path toward that heart’s desire.
Your yearly priorities may be something as general as “show love to husband, show love to children, create a nourishing home environment.”
Weekly priorities will be more specific: “Help Jimmy with job-hunting; teach Adri and Anna how to load dishwasher; finish reading Charlotte Mason’s A Philosophy of Education.”
Daily priorities become even more targeted: “Print 6 copies of J’s edited résumé; work with Adri on loading bottom rack of dishwasher; read CM during quiet time.” Your daily to-do list will probably contain more items than this, but if you know your priorities, you can do them first. That way, if someone gets sick, the basement floods, or Great-aunt Emma drops in for the afternoon, you’ll be at peace, knowing that at least the most important things have been accomplished.
Things like meals, laundry and school are important, but because they are daily and ongoing, they should be part of your normal daily routine, rather than your priority list. You can rethink your routines at the beginning of each year, but once set, they’ll help you to easily and automatically do the next thing.
Charlotte Mason said that “a habit is ten natures,” and she was right. A good routine that becomes a series of well-conceived habits can save the time and effort that would otherwise be expended on trying to figure out what do next. A good routine isn’t a strait-jacket, but rather a flexible system that can help to create a peaceful, orderly atmosphere.
The key to being calm is to remember that if part of the routine is missed one day, it can be picked up the next day. If it’s missed too often, perhaps it or something else needs to be discarded. Our days shouldn’t routinely be overfilled, as that doesn’t leave time for special events, emergencies or just having fun with your family. Overfilled days lead to stress and exhaustion which usually creates a tense, uncomfortable atmosphere, which isn’t healthy for joy and growth.
Remember “The Better Part”
In everything you do, remember that people are more important than things. Kissing your toddler’s boo-boo or looking at the snake your son just spotted is much more important than getting the last speck of dust off the china cabinet before company arrives. Many things go into loving our husbands and children, and many–perhaps most–of them relate to atmosphere and attitude, rather than activities. As moms, we can choose to be like Mary each day and choose to focus on love – “the better part” – for that is what will endure (Luke 10:42).