This is episode 77, and today we’re talking about putting everything on auto pilot. We talk a lot about decision fatigue on the podcast and in our Facebook group. So we know that eliminating the number of decisions we make is helpful in making life go smoother for our families. But there are seasons when you need to take that up a notch—when you need as many decisions and routines as possible to be on auto pilot. Maybe it’s a busy season at work. Maybe someone in the family is having an extended hospital stay. Maybe it’s an especially busy holiday season with the kids out of school. There are lots of reasons when just doing the next thing is all you have the energy to do. So let’s talk about how to set ourselves up for that kind of season so we can still care for our families and abide in Christ.
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Hi friends! This is self care and soul care for the caregiver, and I’m one of your hosts, Sandra Peoples. This is episode 77, and today we’re talking about putting everything on auto pilot. We talk a lot about decision fatigue on the podcast and in our Facebook group. So we know that eliminating the number of decisions we make is helpful in making life go smoother for our families. But there are seasons when you need to take that up a notch—when you need as many decisions and routines as possible to be on auto pilot. Maybe it’s a busy season at work. Maybe someone in the family is having an extended hospital stay. Maybe it’s an especially busy holiday season with the kids out of school. There are lots of reasons when just doing the next thing is all you have the energy to do. So let’s talk about how to set ourselves up for that kind of season so we can still care for our families and abide in Christ.
Before we jump in, I want you to be the first to hear some exciting news! The One Word Conference is happening again starting Dec. 27th! Last year I invited 20 friends to share the one word they wanted to focus on in 2021. This year many of them are back again, along with some new friends, to share what God has laid on their hearts for 2022! You’ll be hearing more about how to get unlimited, lifetime access to the online conference soon.
Now back to our topic. Let me first share the inspiration for it. I am applying to go back to school to get a PhD. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share that with very many people because I may not get in. But I’ll tell you since it’s the reason so much needs to go on auto pilot around here. Between now and the end of Feb, in addition to celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Lee’s birthday, and both of my parents turning 70, I’ll also be planning the One Word conference I mentioned, planning the All Access conference in Feb, which is a conference for disability ministry leaders that will be at my church, cohosting this podcast, doing my job for my state convention, taking a quick trip to Colorado Springs and at least one trip up to Dallas, teaching my disability ministry cohort, hosting my in-laws for a long weekend, serving my church as the disability ministry leader and the women’s ministry leader, and doing all my wife and mom duties. AND I’ll need to take the GRE, write a 15-20 page paper, and read from a list of books to prepare for the PhD entrance exam and interview. It’s a lot. A lot of really good things, but still a lot. So I need things at home to run as smoothly as possible so I can give my attention to things that are going to require a lot of brain power. Especially considering James will be out of school the week of Thanksgiving and two weeks for Christmas. So here’s my plan to do what I can:
1. First, get back in a good meal planning routine and make the meals simple. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned my husband’s new diet restrictions. Due to really bad reflux, he can’t eat fried foods, beef, pork, too much sugar, tomatoes, onions, or drink caffeine. As you can imagine, that has changed our meals around here. And I haven’t done a good job planning ahead since cooking feels hard. Well, cooking without a plan is even harder. So I need to get back in the routine, especially with the holidays and the days James will be out of school.
2. Create and stick to a cleaning routine. We have a natural rhythm for this, but I’d feel better if it were more solid, so I didn’t have to look at the toilet each day and decide if it’s dirty enough to clean. I’m just going to decide it’s dirty enough every Friday and get it done. Laundry will still happen on Fridays. Sheets and towels will still get washed on Tuesdays. Plants will get watered on Thursdays. And even more tasks will be assigned days so they get done.
3. Make decisions about the holidays now. When am I going to put the tree up and decorate? When am I going to go to Trader Joe’s for my favorite cookies? What day am I going to give gifts to James’s teachers and bus drivers? What’s my deadline for ordering all the gifts? I’m going to sit down and decide it all. Then I don’t have to think about it again, I just have to make it all happen.
4. Create “in case of emergency” info sheets for Lee or my parents. This week I got a call from James’s teacher that he needed to be picked up. She called when I was on my way to take David to his co op. So I had to drop David off at the church so Lee could take him and I could go get James. But I also had to text Lee the address for David’s co op. He’s been there before, but it’s in another town and hard to remember. If James had been sick, my parents would have picked David up and brought him home for me. But I would have needed to remind them of the time and place too. So I’m going to type out all that info, and info about James’s school and routine as well in case someone else has to step in and do what I normally do. It will help us all feel better.
5. Stick to that ideal week routine when I can. I talked about this in episode 7 and referred to it again in lots of episodes. An ideal week is a grid you fill out with slots for everything you need to get done. Then, as much as possible, you stick to it. For example, on Tuesday mornings, I record this podcast. It’s on my schedule for 9:30 when I record with Lauren, and when it’s a solo episode like this one, I still do it at the same time. That way, I can send the file to my virtual assistant Christy and she has time to work her magic before it releases on Thursday morning. I also stop my work day at 3:00 so I have time to read for my PhD studies. I normally like to read at night, but this isn’t the kind of material that sticks when I’m tired. So I shut down everything at 3:00 and read until it’s time to get ready for James to get home from school and shift into evening mode. Doing things when it’s the best time to do them is helpful when everything feels like a lot.
That’s my plan! Get back to routines that work well and take them up a notch. Make decisions once and then stop deciding. Essentially, put even more things on auto pilot. It feels good to talk through it with you, and I’m excited to make it all happen! And hopefully the routines I put in place while I’m applying for the PhD program will help things go smoothly if I get into the program and still need to keep things on auto pilot.
Thanks for listening today, friends! I’m going to close us in prayer like we do to end each episode: God, thank you for so many good gifts—for a family to care for, a home to maintain, and opportunities to bless others. Sometimes it feels like we can’t do everything we need to do. We eliminate as much as we can, and yet there’s still so much to juggle. We ask today for wisdom as we make decisions that will help life go smoother for us and our families. We want to be good stewards of all you have blessed us with. And being good time and home managers is one way we can be good stewards. Help us to abide in you this busy holiday season! In Jesus’ name, amen.
Y’all ready to tackle what’s ahead in the coming months with me? We can encourage each other even more in our Abiding Caregivers FB group. Make sure you’ve joined so we can learn from each other! We’ll meet you back here next week with an episode from Lauren and me! Until then, know that we are praying for you!