1. I Make Myself Unavailable
I only check e-mail twice a day, and I do not read any jokes, political forwards, warnings about potential calamity or encouraging e-mails that must be forwarded to 10 people lest I succumb to calamity.
I do not answer my telephone without checking caller ID. I generally only answer the phone when it's my husband. Otherwise, I let the call go to voice mail. I respond to most messages that aren't from family members or very close friends via e-mail.
I lost my cell phone six months ago, and I never purchased a new one. In the six months I've been without a phone (even while out during labor with my 4th child), I've only needed to make a phone call twice. Both times, I've simply asked store clerks if I could use their phones, and they were happy to let me do so.
I do not go to meetings. Period.
As a result of these changes, I now have time to answer e-mail from visitors to my website. I can sit on the couch and read to my children without interruption. I can listen to music and pay attention while I drive instead of fumbling with a cell phone. I can invite friends over for dinner instead of sitting in meetings arguing about every little detail of the next church ladies' luncheon.
2. I'm on a Low-Information Diet
I no longer watch the news or listen to talk radio, and I've unsubscribed to most blogs, newsletters, e-mail lists and RSS feeds I used to follow. Despite the low-information diet, I've still managed to learn everything I need to know about current events, although with much less stress and heartache.
For example, I heard more than enough about the recent earthquake in Haiti without watching any news coverage, and I didn't have to process any of the disturbing images I've had to process during other tragedies.
The low-information diet has not only provided me with more time, but also with more peace.
3. I Delegate
A few years ago, my husband told me that if I was having trouble accomplishing all that I needed to accomplish, I should pay someone to help me. I was highly insulted!
Now, before I take on a task, I ask myself, "Am I the best person to do this? Is this the best use of my time?"
Do I really need to spend time searching for and printing my own handwriting pages, or can I just purchase a workbook? Do I really need to create my own menus and grocery lists or can I just print the ones from this blog?
Another question I ask myself is, "Is this activity worth the time and energy it requires?"
As a result of having asked myself this question, I gave myself permission to stop clipping coupons and washing my husband's dress shirts at home. (Or, more honestly, to stop feeling guilty about not clipping coupons and washing my husband's dress shirts.)
At this point in our lives, the extra savings just aren't worth the effort. My husband would rather spend an extra $100-200 and have a relaxed, happy wife.
4. I Give Myself Time Limits
The amount of time it takes to complete a task will expand to fill whatever time period we allot for it, so I set time limits on specific tasks to keep them from taking over our days.
For example, I could get on my computer to check e-mail, and easily spend half a day crafting responses, checking stats on my website, reading blogs, chatting on forums, etc.
However, if I allow myself only one hour per day of free time on the computer, I am much more efficient about managing e-mail, and I don't have time to get into the time-wasting, energy-draining debates that can come from excess blog and forum involvement.
Flylady is also a big fan of setting time limits. A main tenet of her program is using a timer to clean in 5 to 15 minute increments so you don't get overwhelmed or carried away, and end up cleaning all day.
5. I Don't Work for Work's Sake
I don't create work for myself just for the sake of keeping myself busy, and I don't give my children assignments just for the sake of giving them schoolwork.
When I hear someone say they clean for 6 hours per day, I think, "What on earth are you cleaning?"
When I hear someone say they teach kindergarten for 6 hours per day, I think, "What on earth are you teaching?"
When I hear someone say they fill 12 workboxes for each of their 4 kids every night, I can't help but think they are doing school for school's sake (aka busy work). I'm glad the workbox system has been helpful for so many. However, it saddens me to see moms beating themselves up about not having filled their boxes every night. And if they need to actively search for ideas on how to fill up the workboxes, perhaps 12 boxes are unnecessary.
Anyway, now that I am no longer doing things I don't value, I have more time to do the things I think are important in life. I get to sit down and eat with my children instead of standing over the counter stuffing food into my mouth. I get to color with my daughter. I get to take naps with my preschooler. I get to spend time making faces at my baby until he smiles, and I get to look at him. Really look at him. And even then, he still grows too quickly.
I don't want you to think I execute all of this perfectly, because I do not. But the changes I've made are serving us well, and I wanted to share them with you.
I loosely follow Tim Ferris' 4-Hour Workweek blog, and on it I found this video from homeschooler Chuck Holton in which he mentions using 4HWW principles in his home school:
I e-mailed Chuck for more information, and he gave me permission to share the following:
"We try to include lessons from the 4hww in our holistic approach to homeschooling. I'm trying to raise creators and owners, not worker bees. Plus, the concept of maintaining 'margin' is very important - we teach our kids that work will expand to fill whatever timespace it is given - therefore it's important to compress timeframes by setting deadlines, even in their daily schooling. As such, they usually try to finish with school by lunch time, which gives them lots of time to pursue other activities and just be kids..."
"We use a computerized curriculum called 'Switched on Schoolhouse.' Quite possibly the worst written code on the planet, but it works once you invest about 100 hours on the phone with tech support. I wish there were another computerized curriculum that would work for us, but so far we haven't found one.
We went to the computerized model after my wife realized she was spending 4+ hours per day correcting papers. Now it's much less of her time - automate, delegate, eliminate!"
Follow this link to learn more about The 4-Hour Workweek.