A Habit A Month: Work at Home Plan

A Habit a Month

Once upon a time… (err… well, actually until a year ago), I had a regular feature on the blog called, “A Habit A Month“, where I shared one habit I’d worked on that month. Umm… except that the habit I’m currently working on took about 10 months to master. Yes, you heard that right… 10 MONTHS! And it wasn’t such an impossible-to-master habit either.

Way back in May last year, I started working on my ‘Work at Home’ plan. I had been working from home for 2 months at that time and I really wanted to streamline my work schedule. Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned.

While I did know how to optimize my day, implementing it consistently on a regular basis was a totally different matter. Over the past 10 months, I’ve had some good days, and some bad days; days I’ve burned out, and days I’ve flailed; days when sickness took a toll on our family, and days I’ve been on the verge of insanity. But I’m happy to say, after months of working on it, I now have a reasonable work schedule that accommodates irregularities at home and pressing work deadlines.

I work an average of 4 – 5 hours a day.

    • 2 hours before lunch when my boys are away at school.
    • 2 hours after lunch while the sons rest or play.
    • About 15 – 30 minutes after dinner to wind things up (if required).

The challenge was to make sure my part-time work did not affect my primary role as wife, mother and homemaker. My schedule now seems to have a delicate balance, that just might continue to work even if something unexpected comes along. I’m quite happy with this schedule and it works for now. I will have to make some changes in June though, when the boys start Grade 1 and stay back longer in school.

And with that, I’m winding up the “A Habit A Month” feature on the blog. Let’s face it, I do not have the time or energy to work intentionally on one more thing within a month’s time. If I do manage to master a habit, I’ll be sure to blog about it!

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A Habit A Month: Take Vitamins

If you’ve been reading this blog longer than 6 months, you may be familiar with my A Habit A Month feature.  My last post was way back in November where I mentioned that I would be working on taking my vitamins regularly.  Well, it really took me 6 months to get into the habit of taking my vitamins regularly (hence the delayed update).

I was constantly forgetting to take my vitamins – that had me constantly feeling weak and lethargic.  I was determined to work out a plan to remind myself to take my vitamins regularly.  I was diligent in finding blogs and articles on how to make habits stick.  I tried a few tactics, hoping each month that I would get into the habit of taking my vitamins.  Here are three methods I tried that didn’t work.

1. Associating taking my vitamins with another activity

I read somewhere that you are more likely to succeed with a habit, when you associate it with a habit that you have already established.  I tried to associate taking my vitamins with my morning coffee and breakfast, but the habit didn’t stick. Mostly because I love the flavor of coffee and the vitamins were spoiling it :).

2. Taking my vitamins when I gave the kids theirs

In the winter months, the kids were taking vitamin supplements, so I tried to remind myself to take my medicines when I gave them theirs.  That didn’t work either.  Sometimes, I completely forgot to give them their vitamins and when I did, I forgot to take mine.

3. Including it in my to-do list

This was one that worked for a brief period of time.  I included “Take Vitamins” on my daily to-do list and it worked on days I did make a list.  On the days I didn’t, I didn’t take my vitamins either.

So moving on to what actually worked…  Surprisingly, when I discovered this method, it took me less than a month to establish the habit of taking my vitamins regularly.

Step 1: Confirm & stock up on vitamins

I called my uncle (a doctor) and verified my medication.  He changed it a bit and gave me the recommended dosage.  My husband then bought enough vitamins to last me a month.

Step 2: Plan my medication every week

My mother got me a pill dispenser similar to this and once a week, I fill it up with the vitamins I have to take each day that week.  I then place it in a prominent spot in the kitchen that I am sure to look at everyday.

Step 3: Determine not to miss a day

At the beginning I continued to miss a day or two, but the labels on the pill dispenser helped me keep track of the days I’d missed.  It was easier then to be more determined about not missing a day.

I seriously can’t believe it took me this long to make this a habit.  Well, better late than never, right?! 🙂  Now I can move on and work on some other habit that I need to establish!

Habit for June: Determine a ‘work at home’ plan.  Ever since I started working part time from home, I’ve been struggling to hold it all together – kids, home, work, blog…  With the kids starting school again next week, I definitely have to get my act together.  I will be spending June working on streamlining my days and allocating chunks of time for work without compromising on my primary ministry as a wife, mother & homemaker.  If all goes well, I’ll be blogging about it towards the end of the month.

A Habit A Month” challenge is about working on just one habit a month – one small step at a time.  Focus on just one area in your life that needs an overhaul and make it the habit you want to develop in the coming month.  It could be as simple as waking up early or spending time with God everyday.  This is an opportunity for you to actually take a step forward and work on that one good habit you’ve always wanted to develop.  Or kick that one bad habit that has always been nagging your conscience.  Are you up for it?  Who’s with me?

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A Habit A Month: Reading with the Kids

It’s about time I posted an update on the habit I’ve been trying to master for the past few months. I could blame four trips in four consecutive months, extended sickness or just life in general :). But in all honesty, I began intentionally reading to the kids only this month.

Sure, I read about 10 books a month to keep up with my monthly goals, but it hadn’t become a part of our evening routine until November. Well, now that I’ve finally got a hold on consistently reading to the kids, I’ve gained enough gumption to blog about it.

I had to first give up some of my ideals in order to facilitate a better reading experience for the kids. I realized that it’s ok if the kids are fidgety when I’m reading. I didn’t want it to be a rigid time; I wanted them to enjoy reading with me. Another thing I settled for was just reading 3 or 4 times a week, rather than everyday. Fridays and the weekends are usually hectic for us, and I didn’t want reading to become just another must-do amid the chaos.

All that being said, here are a few ways I’ve incorporated reading into our daily schedule.

  • Reading the Bible: This is something my husband and I do every night with the kids. It has become an integral part of their bedtime routine. Sometimes we paraphrase the story and show them the pictures alone. Other days we read their Bible word for word with them.
  • Kindle books: I’ve amassed about 1000 free children’s books and I use the Kindle app for PC to read the books on our laptop. This is also my most preferred method of reading, as it’s easier for all three boys to view the book at the same time. We started with picture books and we’re now moving on to simple stories.
  • Real books: Once in a while we actually sit down with a story book and read. The sons’ favorite book is one about a tractor that was gifted by a friend a couple of years back.

A happy moment for me was when we read “Bear Learns to Share“. The boys were engrossed in the book and actually understood the moral of the story. I’m hoping that reading to them now, and encouraging them to read as they grow older will foster a love for reading in them.

To Do: Continue reading to the kids – at least 12 books a month.

To Ponder“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald

Habit for December: Take my vitamins regularly. I constantly forget and regret it when I find myself feeling weak or lacking energy. So, in the coming month, I’ll be working out a plan to remind me to take my vitamins regularly. And if all goes well, I’ll be blogging about it towards the end of the month.

A Habit A Month” challenge is about working on just one habit a month – one small step at a time. Focus on just one area in your life that needs an overhaul and make it the habit you want to develop in the coming month. It could be as simple as waking up early or spending time with God everyday. This is an opportunity for you to actually take a step forward and work on that one good habit you’ve always wanted to develop. Or kick that one bad habit that has always been nagging your conscience. Are you up for it? Who’s with me?

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A Habit A Month: Evening Routine

Towards the end of July, I resolved to work on an evening routine for me and the kids. I’m pleased to say that, apart from the 5 days when we were out of town, the kids and I have been following our evening routine four days a week.

Ideally, we should be following our evening routine on all weekdays, but we attend a prayer group meeting on Fridays. So, four days a week it is!

Here’s a rough outline of our late afternoons after the kids get back from school:

  • Kids wash up.
  • Lunch time.
  • Do the dishes and quick kitchen clear up.
  • Kids lie down for an hour. {They don’t have to sleep, but they have to remain quiet}.
  • During their quiet time, I edit/publish my blog posts, read a little, and reply to emails/comments.

And here’s what we do after the kids are up from their quiet time:

  • Kids are free to play for at least an hour.
  • They have a glass of chocolate milk.
  • Learn/review Bible verses.
  • Homework and study time {We try to review whatever they are taught in class, on a daily basis}.
  • By then my husband is home, so the kids hang out with him a while until it’s time for dinner.

This has been working pretty well for us, and the kids know what’s expected of them. Except for their quiet time (3:00 – 4:00 PM) and dinner time (7:30 – 8:00 PM), everything else is flexible. This gives the kids room to pursue anything else they may be interested in – drawing, coloring, playing with their cars, building with Lego and even going out to play if it’s not too cold.

The only thing this routine lacks is time to read with the kids. I wanted to incorporate it this month, but I just couldn’t make it work. So, I’ll be working on making reading to the kids a daily habit during the month of September. I’ll post my progress a month from now.

To Do: Stick to our evening routine and set apart time for reading.

To Read: How to Develop A Routine that Works – And Stick With It! {A four-part series from Money Saving Mom}.

To Ponder

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8)

A Habit A Month” challenge is about working on just one habit a month – one small step at a time. Focus on just one area in your life that needs an overhaul and make it the habit you want to develop this month. It could be as simple as waking up early or spending time with God everyday. This would be an opportunity for you to actually take a step forward and work on that one good habit you have always wanted to develop. Or kick that one bad habit that has always been nagging your conscience. Are you up for it? Who’s with me?

A Habit A Month: July

I kind of dropped the ball on developing a habit this month. Well, I did have a few ideas at the beginning of July – I wanted to start reading to the kids everyday or work on our evening routine. But I didn’t get to blog about it, and without accountability, neither of the habits took hold.

So, before I toss the month away as a complete failure, I thought I’d recollect all the habits I’ve been working on from January this year; and share my progress 7 months down the lane.

January: Positive speech

I’d like to think I’ve mastered the art of being positive, but the truth is that sometimes negativity does rear it’s ugly head. However, counting my blessings helps me put a positive spin on things that could otherwise pull me down.

February: Self Control

This was basically to challenge my control over the words that came out of my mouth, the time I spent online and the food I ate. My words – not too bad, but I could definitely exercise more control over my words; especially when I’m emotional. I’ve finally have a hold on the time I spend online, so that’s good. And food, well I do have some weak moments; but I’m working on it.

March: Health

I’m surprisingly happy with my progress in this department. I drink lots of water, exercise 3-5 times a week and I’ve limited my sugar intake considerably.

April: Being gentle with the kids

I’m not too satisfied with my efforts at being gentle with the kids. I do tend to get annoyed and yell at times. This is something I still need to work on. Maybe going over my notes of  “The 5 Love Languages of Children” and consciously implementing them might help. Oh and prayer; lots of prayer – that definitely helps!

May: Memorizing scripture

Still going strong. I pick out a few verses at the beginning of the month, and memorize them by the end of the month. It has been such a blessing to learn God’s Word by heart.

June: Morning routine

The kids and I are implementing our morning routine pretty well – in fact, we’d be lost without it. Some days, it’s not exactly how I scheduled it; but the basic framework still works for us.

I’ve decided to go ahead and start with August’s habit a bit early. In August, I will be working on an evening routine for me and the kids. I hope to post my progress by the end of the month.

To Read: Welcome to “Life” {An extremely motivating post on starting over after giving up, even if it’s for the hundredth time. If you’re sick of starting over (over and over again), this post is a must read!}

A Habit A Month: June Update

As June draws to a close, it’s time to take stock of the habit I’ve been working on this month – getting my morning routine right. I must admit, I didn’t make much progress until the kids started school. It was a bit difficult to get them back into a routine with strict bedtimes after the laziness of summer. But the kids are familiar with their routine now, and so am I :).

Here’s a rough outline of our mornings…

My routine before the kids wake up

    • Wake up at 6.
    • Coffee!
    • Morning run and quiet time.
    • Get a drink ready for my husband.
    • Pack snacks and water for the kids.
    • Set out their uniforms.
    • Get their morning drinks ready.

The kids’ routine, as they get ready for school

    • Kids wake up at around 7:30.
    • Brush teeth.
    • Drink their milk.
    • Get dressed.
    • Most days, they help me dry out the laundry :).
    • Pray and leave for the bus.

My routine after the kids leave for school

    • Bible study & prayer.
    • Plan for the day.
    • Weekly to-do.
        • Monday – Wednesday – Friday: Blogging
        • Tuesday: Grocery shopping
        • Thursday: Ironing
    • Cooking – Cleaning – Decluttering {I try to do only one of these per day, to avoid a burnout}
    • Check Facebook and email.
    • Get lunch ready.
    • Fold and put by laundry.
    • Pick up kids.

I have to admit though, that this routine is strictly for weekdays only :)!! Nevertheless, I’m happy with the way this month has turned out. So far, this schedule has been working well; but it’s flexible enough to change should the need arise.

The biggest challenge for me was waking up early. But after a month of practice, my body has adjusted to it and it’s much easier for me to wake up early. In fact, for the past few days, I have been waking up even before my alarm rings! It’s truly a wonder how much I’m able to get done if I wake up early and plan my day right.

To Do: Push my wake up time, 5 minutes earlier each day until I’m able to wake up between 5:30 and 5:45.

To Read: Maximize Your Mornings FREE ebook {If you need motivation to wake up early, you have to read this book}

To Ponder“God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her right early [at the dawn of the morning].” (Psalm 46:5 AMP)

A Habit A Month: June

As our family gears up for another academic year, we’re desperately trying to put the craziness of summer behind us. But that’s easier said, than done! The kids start school in a week’s time, and we’re having a tough time getting them back into a routine.

So, this month, it’s all about working out an effective morning schedule and sticking to it. I’m working on a schedule that will include:

  • My morning routine (before the kids wake up).
  • The kids’ routine, as they get ready for school.
  • My routine after the kids leave for school.

Ideally, before the kids wake up, I should be able to finish my quiet time, exercise, daily planning, and get the kids’ food and school stuff ready.

After the kids wake up, it’s pretty straight forward – get them ready, get them fed and get them to the bus on time. Umm… not exactly! It’s usually a pretty trying time, waking the kids up and doing everything three times over. I’m praying for strength and loads of patience to get me through this :).

After the kids leave, I intend to do my Bible study, daily chores, a weekly chore, clear up some clutter, blog and get lunch ready, before heading out to pick the kids up.

I’m hoping a routine will train the kids to do things by themselves, without me reminding them every 2 seconds. And I’ve got to get cracking this very week, a full-fledged attempt to get them prepared, before school starts next week. The rest of the month will be spent working out the kinks in our schedule and making it work for us.

This challenge is about working on just one habit a month – one small step at a time. Focus on just one area in your life that needs an overhaul and make it the habit you want to develop this month. It could be as simple as waking up early or spending time with God everyday. This would be an opportunity for you to actually take a step forward and work on that one good habit you have always wanted to develop. Or kick that one bad habit that has always been nagging your conscience. Are you up for it? Who’s with me?

A Habit A Month: May

Okay… So I never got around to posting this at the beginning of this month, but I have been working on a habit all through the month of May. In spite of the craziness of summer vacation, trips, events and sickness; this habit kind of stuck throughout the month.

This month, I worked on memorizing scripture. Memorizing Romans 12:10-13 was the last item on my monthly goals list. Well, it’s made such a difference in my personal life, that I’m making it a habit to memorize a few verses every month.

It all started one Sunday, when my pastor rattled off several verses in John Chapter 1 from his memory. I was amazed! I tried to recollect when last I had memorized a verse from the Bible. Ashamed to say, it’s been more than a decade!

I figured, since I was already teaching the kids to memorize scripture, I should do so as well. I proceeded to read the Bible, and I came across the verses in Romans 12. I felt God’s nudging that this was important advice He wanted me to follow for life. I wrote the verses down in my planner to be memorized by the end of this month.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:10-13)

A few days later, as I was reading A Confident Heart, I came across this verse…

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

I immediately knew God wanted me to memorize this verse. It would serve as a constant reminder every time doubt or insecurity threatened to ruin my peace. I wrote down the verse on a white board and placed it on my desk.

A little later, I was having a particularly difficult time with the kids. As I perched precariously, on the verge of an emotional breakdown; this very verse caught my eye. God reminded me that He knew my sons – He had set them apart, even before they were born. My sons have a high calling ahead of them, and it was my responsibility to raise them up right.

Memorizing scripture has made a huge impact in my life this month. Here are five methods I used to memorize verses from the Bible:

  1. Writing the verses down on the first page of my planner, to be read regularly.
  2. Typing them out on a document on my desktop, for easy access.
  3. Writing down one verse at a time on a white board, and placing it in a prominent place on my desk.
  4. Running through the verses in my mind everyday.
  5. Reciting them out aloud.

I am so excited to making this habit last by including it in my list of goals each month. Have you ever thought of intentionally memorizing scripture? I encourage you to take the plunge and do it – you won’t be disappointed!

To Do: Include Bible verses in my monthly goals and memorize them every month.

To Read: Five Tips for Memorizing Scripture

To Ponder

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronomy 11:18)

A Habit A Month: April Update

In the beginning of April, I posted that I was going to make it a habit to treat my kids gently. I knew, that with them at home all day during the summer vacation, there’d be a whole lot of CRAZY going on. I wanted to spend this month being patient with them and not losing my mind when they drive me up the wall.

The downside of being patient with the kids and not getting angry with them, is that they tend to take things I say very lightly. I soon learnt that I would have to be firm and consistent in disciplining them, if I wanted them to obey. I also learnt that I could raise my voice to get their attention, without getting angry.

The more time I spent with them, the more secure they felt, and they were all the more eager to please me and listen to things I said. I also learnt to show my love to them, irrespective of their behavior. This meant that every time they were disciplined, I would explain to them why they were being punished. And after the punishment, I would take a few moments to cherish the child, and show him that I love him.

I’ve been reading the book “The 5 Love Languages of Children” and I’ve tried to incorporate some of the principles I’ve learnt. A love language is basically a means to show someone you love them. Most children under the age of 5 need to be shown all the love languages. For those who aren’t aware, here’s a list of the 5 Love Languages and how I incorporated them into our daily routine with the kids.

1. Physical Touch

When I give the kids a hug or a kiss, rub their backs, smoothen their hair, or let them sit on my lap for a while; it assures them of my love and they feel secure.

2. Words of Affirmation

The sons are thrilled when I thank them for a job well done or when I appreciate their efforts – especially when they play together or help a brother out.

3. Quality Time

This was a bit of a struggle because it’s almost impossible for me to spend one-on-one time with each of my triplets. But if I can, I try to sit and talk to the son who wakes up first. They love it when I sit on the mat with them, and we play legos together :).

4. Gifts

We don’t like to pamper the kids with toys, but we did buy them board games that we can play together as a family. At times, when we find them on their best behavior, my husband also surprises the kids with chocolates or chips. A few times a year we do buy them some toys – cars, puzzles or something a bit more realistic like a plastic tool set.

5. Acts of Service

I’m not sure the kids actually appreciate all the time I spend cooking, washing and cleaning. But they do appreciate the time I spend teaching them. Most mornings, we spend a good 30-40 minutes learning verses, phonics, alphabets, numbers and writing. We also read a book or two together – I think that falls under Quality Time; but either way, the kids love it… and I do too.

The idea behind the love languages, is that the kids’ love tank is filled when we show them our love – and they heed to correction and are less rebellious. Check out “The 5 Love Languages” website for more information.

Altogether, I think God was teaching me quite a few character traits – patience, being slow to anger, being quick to forgive & how to show grace even when the recipient didn’t deserve it. I’m still a work in progress, but at least I’m all set for the second half of our summer vacation :).

To Do: Work towards spending one-on-one time with each son.

To Read: The Gentleness Challenge

To Ponder

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

A Habit A Month: April

Our kids are on their summer vacation. No school for another 2 months; no dragging the kids out of their beds at 7:30AM and no rushing out of the house in a hurry with one or more disgruntled kids in tow! Happy days are here again…. Umm… Well, not quite!

I haven’t exactly been the happiest person on earth, since the holidays started. Our schedules have changed, our routines are messed up and nothing has been going as I originally planned. With the kids at home all day, chaos and confusion reigns; not all the time, but just enough to drive me crazy. It has taken me a few days to even find my bearings, and I am constantly on the verge of insanity.

I am not very happy with my behavior and I realize that my kids deserve better. They need a mother who is fun to hang out with, kind, compassionate and gentle with them. A mother who is not constantly yelling at them – reminding them (not so gently, I must add) that it’s not nice to whine and throw tantrums. When I found myself losing my calm every half hour or so, I realized I had to do something about it.

And so, this month I am going to make it a habit to treat my kids gently. I might end up being overpowered by my 3 rambunctious boys, but I want them to like spending time with me at home. I have also been reading The 5 Love Languages of Children and I’m learning so much from this book. In April, I hope to implement some of the principles I’ve learnt; and treat my kids with the kindness and gentleness that they deserve. Hopefully, by the end of this month, I would have made it a habit; and May will go by much smoother.

I will be also be learning from the Gentleness Challenge that Courtney from Women Living Well posted on her blog in January. I have to work to keep the balance between treating the kids gently, and disciplining them with love when they disobey.

Would you believe, that twice last week God used the same portion of scripture to convict me on how I treat my children. The first time, it was during my Good Morning Girls Ephesians Bible study and the second time, it was through our pastor in church on Sunday. Don’t you just love it when God brings the same thing to your attention through various means?

“Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord… give up threatening and using violent and abusive words, knowing that He Who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no respect of persons (no partiality) with Him.” (Ephesians 6:4,9)

I am ashamed to admit, I have threatened my sons on more than on occasion. I agree however, that disobedience should have consequences. This month, I will strive to correct my children when they do wrong; but still show them that my love for them is unconditional, irrespective of their disobedience or bad conduct. It may not be easy, but I believe God will teach me how to be a better parent.

On a related note, Anna from Feminine Adventures is also working on just one habit a month. Head on over to her blog and check out what she’ll be working on this month.

If you like this idea, why don’t you take this up as a challenge? Focus on just one area in your life that needs an overhaul and make it the habit you want to develop this month. It could be as simple as waking up early or spending time with God everyday. This would be an opportunity for you to actually take a step forward and work on that one good habit you have always wanted to develop. Or kick that one bad habit that has always been nagging your conscience. Are you up for it? Who’s with me?