Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to stay motivated and keep moving forward...

My DH and I have a fair bit on our plates like most other people.  We live out here in heaven with animals to care for and 10 acres & a 150 year old home to look after but there are also the realities of working from home (that's the business that makes the money so we can live on the farm), family - including more than a few semi-grown-up young adults - friends, church activities, prepping and more.  Life at warp speed is complicated without some way of keeping on top of things.

I was finding that we were having a hard time focussing on what needed to be done next, what needed to be purchased next and what we could do ourselves and where we needed to hire some help.   Somehow moving out to the country also added the pressure of the seasons to our lives in a way we had not experienced before...consequently we also needed to find time for some rest in our crazy schedule.   It was certainly no fun to be doing everything at the last minute under pressure when it HAD to be done or missing opportunities because we didn't plan ahead.

I am blessed to be married to my best friend and abundantly blessed that we are both headed in the same mental direction the majority of the time - if you knew my DH some would say the direction of the crazy-train.  Even so the following has helped our marriage to become even stronger and reduced the frustration of unmet expectations of the Honey-Do list. 

I'm the nerd of the family.  I love lists and I am pretty organized so since it was bothering ME that we were not getting as much done as I thought we could I developed a series of LISTS.

The first is anything and everything to do with our business which we run from our home. 

The second is our finances and purchases. 

The third what needed to be done around the farm and in what order. 

The fourth our living healthy goals - family relationships, eating well, exercise and rest. 

The fifth the part time/fulltime job we have working with teenagers and young adults. 

These 5 major areas encompass almost everything we do even though life rarely fits neatly into catagories. 

Along with these lists I learned two lessons a few years ago that have become the boundary lines that frame the HOW-TO part of what we call the Priority Meetings. 

The first lesson I call the Lesson of the Green Fence.  When we lived in town we had a short section of fencing that ran between our house and the neighbours at the end of the driveway.  It needed staining.  It had needed staining for several years.  I got around to buying the green stain one summer but winter was here before we got the job done.  I was too busy discussing how I would do it and which brush I needed.  I was concerned about the weather being right and the time it would take to dry.  I talked about that fence a lot.  For a long time.  For at least a year and a half.  One bright sunny day I FINALLY talked my daughter into helping me stain the fence.  In 20 minutes we were done - that's all it took.  I had pondered and worried and talked about the fence 10x longer than it actually took to do the job.  Lesson 1: Seriously - Just Paint the Fence!  Whatever job you have on your list won't get done by staring at it and mulling it over and over.  Good planning is essential of course but there's a point where it becomes analysis paralysis which can prevent you from moving forward at all.

The second lesson I call the Lesson of the Red Couch.  We were redecorating the family room in our old home.  It was a very tiny room so there wasn't room for much in there but we replaced the flooring and were ready to put the old and sad looking TV stand back into the room and purchase a new couch.  Everything was going according to plan when when I found THE TV cabinet.  It was the perfect color and size and style and it was ON-SALE.  The problem was it was going to eat up the entire budget for the room AKA the new couch.  I made the VERY WISE and MATURE decision to buy the cabinet anyway.  Our puppy had destroyed the couch so we had already taken it to the dump anticipating it's replacement but we would just sit on the floor… it would be fine...  Well that lasted about two weeks.  It was a really dumb idea and very uncomfortable!  I had previously picked out the couch I wanted.  It was the most beautiful couch I had ever anticipated buying.  I had sat on it numerous times. It was RED. (If you know me at all you would know that was the deciding factor!)  It was also a pullout bed so it made good-practical-sense as well.  It was also expensive...and there was no way to squeeze that much money out of the grocery budget any time soon.  So we went to the furniture store (the one that has the huge headlines and colorful flyer) and bought the front-page-on-sale-special-pricing brown couch.  It was cheap.  It IS uncomfortable - almost as bad as the floor.  I HATE it.  Being a practical girl I can't buy another couch - I have a perfectly good uncomfortable couch.  I'm stuck with it until I can foist it off on one of my kids when they leave home - that would assuage my practical-but-guilty conscience and allow me to buy another one but not until then.  I still walk by that red couch on occasion.  I shoulda waited.  Lesson 2:  Wait for the red couch!  Quality is worth the extra money.  Waiting is an exercise of self-control and worth it every time!

We then chose Monday nights to conduct our PRIORITY MEETINGS. Each week we cover these 5 topics as best we can and make a detailed plan of what were doing that week and how to keep all the "balls in the air". We use the previous list and update and print it so we both can have a copy on our desks for reference. We were both surprised at how much of a difference this made in our productivity. It reduced stress too and that has been good motivation to continue meeting and discussing. The fact that we make these date nights on occasion and head for a local coffee shop is a great help as well. A bit of advice: if you choose to try-this-at-home -start small.  Somehow on Monday nights you feel like you will be able to accomplish much more than is realistic and by Friday that becomes apparent when you need to reside the garage, hoe (by hand) the back 40, stack a years supply of hay in the barn and provide dinner for 53 guests all on Saturday night. 

My list doesn't seem to get any shorter but we're getting a lot of it done.  Looking back over the year and a half we've been here we've actually accomplished a lot but most of it is quickly forgotten until Mr. Farmer the Previous Owner shows up to exclaim (or perhaps shed a few tears) over all the changes and progress we've made. 

Communicating about our goals means I know where we're at with our finances, what I need to save for and buy, what's going on this week with the business or the kids and what needs to get done.   I have a list - so now it's time to get off my uncomfortable brown couch and go out and paint another fence!


  1. Oh Anita! I LOVE your red couch story and can relate only too well!!! Get a new puppy to destroy your couch and then you will HAVE to go and buy that red one!!!

  2. A PUPPY!!!! I never thought of that :) ha! I guess I better get the puppy before I get the red couch but I think after our experience with the last puppy that's going to be a hard sell with DH!


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