My husband and I bought a business two weeks after we got married. We bought a women’s designer consignment boutique. A few years later, we bought another one. We were in the business of designer clothing for ten years. After our ten-year anniversary, we decided we wanted to apply ourselves to serving our church. We wanted to store up our treasure in heaven and not here on earth. The Lord graciously made that possible. Now my husband spends his free time studying to preach on Wednesday nights. I spend my time tending my home, visiting, helping, cooking, and serving my church any way I can. I’m blessed with the opportunity to say yes instead of no. To the world, our lives look much smaller and less significant. To us, they’re fuller, richer, and have eternal value.
This is not to say we didn’t learn some valuable lessons from owning our business, we did. In fact, as always, God used that time to teach me some very helpful things, which I now apply to managing my home. For a few weeks, every other Monday, I’m going to share some of the lessons I learned.
The 1st Lesson: “First things first, and second things not at all.”
Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management, coined this phrase. (Don’t imagine your bad manager, or lots of useless paper work. Imagine a well-oiled, efficient management machine.)
We went to him, through books and articles, as our business grew. We had to become good managers. Not just of our growing number of employees, but also of ourselves. A manager has to prioritize their time, money, and projects. Managers have to manage everything. These same lessons apply to housewives and homemakers.
You manage everything. Out comes the To-Do List. Everything. Feeling overwhelmed yet? Your brain fragments into a million multi-tasking problems. But, it’s ineffective to multi-tasking projects. It’s impossible to get a task done while also trying to get another task done.
“First things first, second things not at all.”
Calling your sister while you’re doing the dishes, or listening to an audio book while you clean and fold laundry is proper multi-tasking. Those tasks require little use of the brain. You’ve done them a thousand times. Cooking dinner while cleaning out the fridge, planning the next day, and texting your mom isn’t proper multi-tasking. Your stress level spikes, something goes wrong, or is left undone.
This is where the First Things management principle comes in handy. What is the priority of the moment? Focus on that. Don’t worry (Yes WORRY) about the other things. For you list makers, like me, this is very important. This form of management frees us from constantly worrying about The List.
A real life example: I woke up yesterday morning, Sunday, with the list for Monday rolling through my head. I have a flat tire that needs to be fixed, a window install that needs to be scheduled, all the normal cooking, cleaning, errands, working out, plus a nephew’s birthday, two nieces’ birthday, taxes to get ready, friends to visit, house sitting to plan for, and articles to write. It is very hard to prepare for worship when your head is preparing to battle with the upcoming week.
“First things first, second things not at all.”
My First priority on Sunday morning, is preparing my heart for worship. It is to rest from the world’s demands and focus on the Lord and his people. This is my First Thing. I need to ignore the Second Things (the List in my head). Knowing that it is good management to pack away Second Things, I command myself to stop worrying about the List. It’s not important. Going to church with a focused mind and heart is important. First Things first.
With Sunday finished and Monday morning rolling around, I reprioritize. My First Things are to get this article written and my husband off to work in as happy a state as I can. This frees me from worrying about the dishes in the sink, the dirty bathroom, and the phone calls I have to make. With those First Things done, I re-evaluate my list and find the next First Things. I consistently command myself not worry about the other things.
In another words, compartmentalize your life, in a good way. Take all the things you have to do and put them in a box. Label that box Second Things. Only get something out of the Second Things box if the First Things are done.
This form of management requires some planning. Planning in the above Sunday example proves easy: stop worrying about Monday. There. Done. But, when Monday rolls around, the planning takes on a more strategic design. I must sit down and find out what are First Things and what are Second Things. This provides me a moment to see if any of the First Things connect to the Second Things. For example, maybe I’m planning a crock-pot meal for dinner. Preparing that meal is my First Thing. Agonizing over the order of my errand running is not a First Thing. It is a Second Thing. It doesn’t become a First Thing until it’s time to plan my errands. I stop thinking about it and focus on dinner preparation. My worry level drops. I know that each important task has a place and time, which isn’t now.
This concept proves itself repeatedly as I manage my household, help with conference meals, spend time with my church family, and write. It helps me apply the Biblical principle of not worrying. Practice it until you get a hold of it. If you’re a compulsive list maker, it helps you stop nagging yourself. If organization isn’t your strong point, it gives you a place to start – the First Things.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:25 – 34
“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:27