What do you hope to accomplish at the end of each day? Recently, I read an article which made the parallel between planning our days like a chef plans a big meal. Before he can create a satisfying meal, he has to make sure he has all the essential ingredients. In the same way, what are the essential ingredients you need to create a satisfying life? In life, as in meal preparation, I often find that I am missing some of my own essential ingredients.
At least once a week, at 4:00pm, I glance over a recipe I just found online, decide it looks doable, and get started. Of course, by waiting until 4:00pm to find said recipe, I now have less than an hour to throw it together. I pull the frozen meat out of the freezer and defrost it in the microwave while I feverishly chop up the accompanying vegetables. I turn on the burner, brown the half-thawed meat, add the veggies, and refer back to the recipe for the additional spices and add-ins. Oh, I must have missed that. Do I have that? I rummage through the cupboard, then race to the basement pantry. No, I don’t. What’s a good substitute? Can I forgo it altogether? Well, I guess I’ll just have to.
I pull out my teaspoon to measure out the next spice on the list; a tiny sprinkle emerges. What?! I’m out of basil! Meanwhile, the veggies are burning, because I have been so distracted by my missing ingredients that I forgot to keep stirring them. I remove the pan from the heat, gather the rest of the ingredients, make adjustments as best as I can, then continue cooking. Oops, I forgot to start the rice in the rice cooker. Now, I’ll be 15 minutes late with dinner. I dig in my lower cupboard for the dish to bake my casserole in, only it’s not there. I look in the refrigerator. Oh yeah, there it is, with the leftovers from two nights ago in it. I transfer them to another container, wash out the dish, and add the casserole.
After all of this, I realize I forgot to preheat the oven, and I lose another 15 minutes, waiting. In the meantime, I do manage to clean up the mess I made all over the kitchen. Then, I scramble to assemble a salad while the dinner sits cooling on the table.
At 5:30pm, we finally sit down for dinner, famished. I inwardly pray that, despite all the missing ingredients and poor execution, everyone will be able to appreciate the food before them. Thankfully, there are few complaints. However, I am left frazzled and worn out from the stressful experience of making dinner, a daily encounter that should be painless and even joyful, if I would just take the time to plan ahead and make sure I had everything I needed to make it a success.
Isn’t life just like this? We spend our days waking up at the last minute and scrambling to catch up. That scrap of paper with today’s to-do list is nowhere to be found, so we end up wandering aimlessly through our day, unsure of what to do and reacting to the urgent matters rather than committing to the essentials. Even if we have an idea of what our day should look like, without a plan for execution, we cannot ensure its success. Our lack of productivity and random selection of activities leave us feeling exhausted and discouraged at the end of the day. There has to be something better than this, and there is.
The truth is, most of our days are pretty similar. Sure, there are the unexpected illnesses or scheduled appointments, but there is also an underlying rhythm to our days which allows us to establish routines and priorities, those essential ingredients.
Here are 10 of my essential ingredients, which I am working to plan into my days:
1. Get to the gym, preferably before 5:30am.
2. Have a time of prayer, Bible reading and planning time, preferably in the morning.
3. Guide the children through their schoolwork.
4. Write something, at least 500 words in length.
5. Plan and prepare healthy meals.
6. Establish pick up/clean up times throughout the day.
7. Read to my girls for at least 20 minutes.
8. Connect meaningfully with one person outside my family (either by phone, mail, email, or in person).
9. Listen to/laugh with/love on my children and husband.
10. Review my day and plan for the next (in the evening).
Over the next several posts, I will detail my strategy for incorporating these essential ingredients into my daily life. Hopefully, as you read along, you will find inspiration and motivation create a successful, satisfying life of your own. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on Workouts and Worship.
What are your essential ingredients, and how are you fitting them into your daily life?
(photo credit for featured image: www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com)