Crystal Paine (Money Saving Mom) was the keynote speaker the first night of Relevant. I used to read Crystal’s blog religiously two or three years ago when I was heavy into coupon shopping, but I haven’t been a regular reader for quite some time. I knew who Crystal was and was looking forward to hearing her speak, but it wasn’t a groupie-type thing. She wasn’t top on my list of bloggers I wanted to meet or anything.
It was her keynote address that changed my heart…or, at the very least, started the change.
I could have left after her address and felt that the entire conference was worth everything it had taken to get me there and I told her so. Crystal, who is a sweet, soft-spoken, tiny little thing, spoke truth into my life that I desperately needed to hear and I am so thankful that I was at Relevant to hear her speak.
Following are the top ten things that I took from Crystal’s speech:
1. I was letting the Internet take up too much of my time. Okay, I really didn’t need Crystal Paine to tell me that; it was a truth I had been ignoring too long, but when she started reading questions about blogging balance that were supposed to be mostly funny, some of them hit a little too close to home.
2. I can effectively manage my online time. Balancing my online time seemed like an elusive dream, but between Crystal’s tips and Amy Lynn Andrew’s time management guide, I learned that I can manage my online time better. I just have to have a plan and work my plan.
3. My blog can be my “well.” Crystal said she had once heard a speaker who talked about the fact that Christian organizations will often go into a country and build a well. This gives them a chance to share Christ when people come to get water.
My blog can (and, as far as I’m concerned, should) be my well. Although the focus is encouraging, equipping and inspiring homeschooling families, I should use every opportunity to point people to Christ.
4. My blog is not one of my “first things.” Crystal was very blunt when she said, “If you don’t have time for God, you don’t have time to blog….if you can find time to blog, but you’re too busy or too tired for intimacy with your husband, your priorities are out of whack.”
I love to blog. I love to chat with friends via email, Facebook, and Twitter, but those are not my first things. My first things are my God, my husband, and my kids.
5. I don’t have to feel obligated to answer all of my email. This goes back to those first things. If answering email is keeping me from time with God or my family, I need to become more liberal with the delete button. Some practical tips Crystal gave were:
- Eliminate unnecessary email. Change your Twitter and Facebook notifications to the bare minimums. Unsubscribe from email loops that you don’t really read or use.
- Set up a FAQ page so that people can easily find answers to common questions without emailing you.
- Don’t feel obligated to answer every email message. As Crystal pointed out, not even Jesus healed everyone.
- Keep your inbox cleaned out. Deal with email immediately by answering, deleting or filing to address later.
- If an email requires a detailed response, consider answering it via blog post – chances are someone else might have the same question.
6. Have a weekly planning/writing retreat. Take a few hours on a Saturday morning to work on blog posts. You can usually several skeleton posts done, at least, then, you can take two or three hours during the week to flesh out the posts, rather than spending a couple of hours a day. This has been really helpful for me in making more time for my family during the week.
7. Say “no” often. Before committing to something, count the cost. How will it affect your daily quiet time? Time with family? Time for household chores? Time for rest? If it is going to negatively impact any of these areas, don’t be afraid to say no.
8. There’s no such thing as perfect balance. Crystal and several of the other speakers pointed out that balance is going to look different for every person and at different seasons in life – or even on different days of the week. Your balance will not always be perfect, so don’t sweat the days when things get a little out of whack, just don’t let that become a permanent state.
9. Set limits for online time. Crystal said that there was a time when she set up parental controls for her computer time – and her husband had the password. I haven’t gone that far yet, but I’ve found that setting limits and letting your family in on it is great for accountability.
I explained to my kids that I was going to be spending much less time online and much more time with them, but that I needed them to respect the time that I was online because that was my work time. I was amazed at how easily they have done that. They’ll come up to me now when I’m online and ask if it’s my work time before they start talking to me. If it’s not, I’m willing to put what I’m doing aside or turn the computer off. If it is, though, they’re usually willing to wait, knowing that they’ll get my undivided attention soon.
10. Take a regular computer sabbatical. This may be a week or so, or it may just be one day a week. I try, these days, to stay off the computer completely on Sundays. There have been some Sundays when I’ve had to turn the computer on to check something, but that’s really what it’s been – just a quick check and I turn it right back off. It’s really made for some relaxing peaceful family time.
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.