"Pay yourself first" is a commonly touted financial proverb that can also apply to time management.
Financially, paying yourself first means that the first portion of your money (after your tithe) goes into savings. Financial advisers know that the person who watches their savings account increase will also be the person who is paying off debt and carefully watching their spending.
They also know that if we wait until the end of the month or paycheck period to see if we have any money left we can save, there likely won't be any.
But money management and time management have a lot in common: both get consumed to their limit. Parkinson's Law says that our work expands to fill our time. Deadlines are to work what a budget is to money.
Therefore, just as we should squirrel the first bit of our money away for saving (generally by direct deposit, so we aren't tempted to circumvent our plan), we should also squirrel away the first bit of our time.
This is why mastering our mornings is so vital! We must do the most important things first.
What are the most important things?
Everyone will have different items on their VIP (Very Important Plans) task list. Here are mine, just as an example:
A non-negotiable. I'm a sinner by nature; without the Word of God transforming me each day, I'm even worse. I need it more than I need anything else in my life, so this is my number one.
If I fail to plan, I plan to fail. To win my day, I must plan it out. I need to know my most important and most urgent tasks of the day. I need to know what I'm cooking and defrost meat. I also need to know what is coming up in my life so I can prepare for these events.
In order to accomplish everything else in my day, I need the energy and stress relief I get from exercise. If I don't do it early, it probably won't get done.
Writing is a creative task. I can do laundry, cook, and clean my house on autopilot, but I can't write on autopilot. Writing requires all my mental synapses to be firing. The very best time for me to write is immediately after exercising. I've learned this through massive amounts of trial and error, so this is what I do if I want to be productive.
I have a few tasks I start even before breakfast. Laundry is one of them. In an effort to automate my life (which is what I need to do in order to run a semi-clean home and provide clothes and food for my family without interrupting our regularly scheduled programming), I plan to start laundry early in my day and keep it going by checking in on it regularly. I also try to defrost meat, clean my bedroom, and oversee my children's chores (which are the tasks which most need to be done each day in order to keep my home functional).
6. Get ready for the day.
This means dressed to my shoes, shower, hair, makeup. If I am doing a massive housekeeping project that day, I might stay in my workout clothes for a few hours. Never my pjs. Never. Nobody is truly productive in their pjs. Frankly, I'm not even productive in my workout clothes, so even this is super rare.
How can you pay yourself first when it comes to your time?
Make a short list of your VIP tasks. Don't start with mine; you need to create your own. Also, don't make a long list. If you are new to paying yourself first, start with one item. Two at the most. You need to set yourself up for success!
Think through your morning schedule. What time will you need to get up in order to accomplish these tasks before moving into your normal daily life? Right now, set your alarm for tomorrow at that time. Make that time a non-negotiable. Even if you are tired when your alarm goes off, roll yourself out of bed. Don't use snooze. Your body will adjust; just plan to go to bed early tomorrow night.
Prepare for tomorrow as if your life depends on it. Because it does! Our lives are just a vapor, quickly vanishing away. If we want to redeem the time in this present evil day, we have to be proactive. Those who fail to be proactive end up fiddling their life away.
I find that having a rock-solid plan for the morning—a mental model of what my morning should look like—allows me to set myself up for success the night before. I fill the coffee pot at night, lay out my exercise clothes, mentally sort through my tasks and appointments for the day, plan out my meals, and do a swift walk-through of my house so I don't wake up to chaos. It only takes a few minutes to do these things, but it effectively leverages my time.
Start now! Use this free worksheet to make a plan to master your mornings.
About the Author
Hi, I'm Laura. I've been homeschooling for over ten years. I have six children and I'm married to my best friend.
Sign up to hear about sales or new books and I will also send you a free printable Homeschool Planner.