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Dana Byers | Minimalist & Church Online Thought Leader

Can A Commercial Change Your Life?


(Please refresh your screen if you’re unable to see this video.)

No matter what you believe, I’m personally inviting you to watch some thought-provoking commercials with us at Church Online. This commercial series is available to watch 51 different times tonight through next Saturday morning, February 9. We’ll be exploring how simple commercials can change the way we see things and how we act. Feel free to hang out in the chat room with the community or double click the video for a full-screen experience.

Oops!

Hi, Friends! I don’t know how it happened, but comments have been automatically turned off on my posts two weeks after they go live. As a result, I’ve missed out on having back and forth conversations with so many of you in the past few months. Please accept my apology. The comments have all been opened up on my site again.

Let the chatting…recommence!

dlb

Are You Too Accessible?

Are You Too Accessible?

Are You Too Accessible?

Don’t be too accessible. The more you do, the more people will want your time. This is not a bad thing! But your best approach is to select what’s most important in your schedule and do these things. Be sure to guard personal time to rest and be with family, too. Not being accessible 24/7 means means you can available to those who need you and to those with whom you choose to spend time. Consider what you can gain by being less accessible in an effort to have periods of rest or focus!

The nature of my work is online, so people are often surprised to hear me say that I am just as committed to connecting to people locally. I’m part of a small group of married couples in my local church, we have regular gatherings with family members who live nearby, and I volunteer in my children’s school.

In order to maintain a focus on being fully present locally and being intentional about the times I’m engaged in social media, I recently tried an experiment with great results. Amazingly, while sorting out how best to use social media was helpful, the biggest benefit to maximizing the 24 hours I have each day came when I brainstormed a few ideas on how to be accessible … but not on all hours of the day.

 

  • When I’m contacted using Facebook message or Direct Message, I redirect as much as I can to my email inbox. Doing this means I keep track of conversations more easily, confirms I’ll not lose the conversation among spammy messages, and eliminates the need for checking social media inboxes often. (No one wants extra inboxes to check.)
  • Avoid checking work email during non-working hours. When I’m working, I’m fully present and all-in. When I’m not working, I unplug to the best of my abilities. (This is not easy. But it’s a powerful choice that can bring you great rest that provides better focus.)
  • Put your phone away in the evenings so you can make eye contact with friends or family. Use the Do Not Disturb feature that allows only your favorite contacts’ calls to get through, designating only those who might contact you with an emergency as your favorite contacts, naturally.
  • If you have a work email account and a personal email account, try not replying to emails in your personal inbox every day. Typically checking every other day with the most attention given on a weekend is enough for me. It’s taken a few months to feel comfortable doing this, but since I’ve taken a full time job and choose to be less accessible, I’ve found that nearly nothing requires immediate attention in my personal email inbox.
  • Take initiative. Sometimes taking a moment to check in on others who might contact you at a time you’ll not be available means you have a nice chat at a time that works for both of you. I like the idea of being spontaneous with this approach, but I’m not very good at it. I tried this recently and was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked. My less creative (though probably as effective) idea is to schedule regular calls with this friend so we can stay in touch but do so at a time that doesn’t detract from either of us being with our families.

Remember:

Being unavailable for a period of time doesn’t mean you don’t care about your team.

Limiting your accessability doesn’t mean you’re not transparent or hard-working.

Going off the radar in the evenings or on a few days off work each week in no way communicates a lack of commitment.

We want to be available to help others, but being too accessible means running the high risk of cutting into productive work time or restful personal time. What do you do to guard your time and schedule?

 

 

 

Solve Your Schedule Equation: Subtract, Don’t Add

Solving Your Schedule Equation: Subtract, Don't Add

Solving Your Schedule Equation: Subtract, Don’t Add

While I don’t think we ever achieve a complete balance in life, each of us can work towards solving the schedule equation.

Signs you’re too busy:

* Inability to take time to stop and focus on people talking to you
* Longing for time to rest at home but feeling you’re just there to sleep
* Low immunity
* Frustation at the receipt of invitations to more parties, meetings, events
* Saying, “I wish I could, but I just don’t have time to do that.”
* Depending on fast food to feed the family between school, practice, and games regularly.
* Breaking commitments just to catch up with other commitments you’ve made

I think it’s only fair to mention that I’ve experienced two of those signs this very week. If you catch yourself saying you’re in the middle of a busy season right now, I have a question for you: Exactly how long does a busy season last? A month…a semester…until your kids are grown and move out?

When you come to terms with the fact that your schedule equation is very unbalanced, it’s time to take action.

1) Say no! Don’t add to what you’re doing. Enough said.

2) Set boundaries.

  • Prioritize your family by identifying one night a week that is a family night – eat dinner together, play a board game.
  • Prioritize the cause that matter smost to you by serving there regularly instead of chipping in at a number of different organizations.
  • Put social media in its place.
  • Make a system of your must-do tasks (like housecleaning) so they take less time.
  • Limit family members’ sports, clubs, or activities to one day or evening a week.

3) Review. In my experience, doing our best to balance the family schedule equation means reviewing our schedule about every 2-3 months. We determine if something’s not working or evaluate the options we have in front of us if there’s margin in the schedule we intend to use. To give you an example, when we moved to Oklahoma in July 2012, we took a few months to get used to my husband’s travel schedule, my new job, and my kids’ new school. By November we were on the lookout for a small group to join in our local church and a sport for each of our kids. Now that we’ve found those activities that are important to us, we’re not wiling to add anything to our schedule at this time.

Which regular activity do you (or a family member) participate in that might need to be removed from your schedule to move out of this busy season into a more peaceful and intentional life?

 

6 Ways to Keep Social Media Simple

6 Ways to Keep Social Media Simple

6 Ways to Keep Social Media Simple

The way to keep social media simple is to be selective. (You can honestly stop reading here unless you’d like some specific ideas and examples on how do to this, friends.)

By the end of 2012 I was overwhelmed by social media. (Don’t get me wrong: I love social media.) I believe social media exists for three core reasons:

  1. to connect with people
  2. to share with others
  3. to learn from others

These are three of my favorite things to do, so social media is a natural fit for me! But I’d begun noticing that I felt I had to check social media messages in case I missed getting back to someone who had a question or wanted help. The feeling of obligation took some of the wind out of my social media sails, and I decided to take a month to assess what I could change to remain active without feeling overwhelmed.

Note: I didn’t stop engaging in social media during this month, but I did remove all social media apps from my smart phone. Any interaction I had on social media the past month has been on a laptop in between projects and meetings or at home in the evenings or on the weekend. This created an environment where I was able to notice how many time a day I’d go to my phone in between tasks to check in on the latest. This observation period revealed to me that in many cases I’d open an app out of boredom then suddenly lose time doing something I don’t want to invest too much time doing.

I asked myself these questions throughout the month:

  1. Why do I want to go to this social media site?
  2. Is this site more conducive to broadcasting or engaging in a network of people?
  3. What’s the benefit of this social media site to me?
  4. Now that I’ve identified I’m looking to pass the time using a social media app, how will I use this time instead?

After a month of targeted observation, here are the solutions I came up with:

1. Goodbye, Instagram. I won’t be putting this app back on my phone but will click on a friend’s link to see their Instagram photo if I’m so inclined. I love this app but believe I was getting caught in the net of checking it for updates without really building any type of community.

2. I use Buffer App to schedule the sharing of things I think are important during those times I’m unable to change focus from reading to getting on social media and responding to waiting @’s or DMs. (Most often I schedule buffered tweets and Facebook updates while going through my Read & Review folder. Details here.)

3. We put out a phone bowl at home. This has helped us make eye contact more at home. The true beauty of this new habit is that once I’ve put the phone down, I rarely return to it until I go to charge it at bedtime.

4. I used the free manageflitter service to unfollow some people on Twitter whom I had no idea why I was following. I don’t auto follow back so I was truly surprised by some of the people on the list! A cleaner twitter stream means I’m less likely to miss out on what my friends have to say when I log in to join the conversation.

5. I enjoy being involved in chats, and answering and asking questions online.  I respond to nearly everything…just not necessarily the very second you contact me. My goal is to check in on Twitter and Facebook at least twice a day to keep the conversation going. Even after this experiment, Hootsuite remains my favorite way to connect with friends online.

6. I’ve never liked talking on the phone much. My experiment revealed to me that this strong preference of mine means I’ve naturally created a habit of using DM’s, Facebook messages, email, and Twitter @’s to ask questions or get information. Seeing the app-free screen on my iPhone when I needed help this past month meant I learned to lean more into making a call…and more often than not this made for a quicker result and a more enjoyable interaction overall.

I’ve never allowed email or social media notifications on my phone, and now having these social media apps off my iPhone means I’m fully present locally but able to connect without distraction online when I do log in each day.

Tell me…How do you keep social media simple?

Spend (a lot) Less Time on Email

Spend (a lot) Less Time on Email

Spend (a lot) Less Time on Email

From my perspective, simplifying your email process will save you loads of time. This is time you can spend with family, having a brainstorming session with a co-worker, or replacing the anxiety a full inbox brings with the joy that comes from actually completing tasks.

Before I share my system with you, I want to share some insight I once heard that’s never escaped my memory. It’s been said that when we let things pile up in our homes, offices, or cars, the root issue is indecisiveness. Could the same be said of keeping a crammed email inbox? Just a little food for thought…

Repeat after me: I will look at the email messages that come in my inbox once. I will choose one of the following options for each message in my inbox then dance a happy jig when I discover how much more time I have available in my day!

  1. Delete it (my favorite solution.)
  2. Archive it (I put it in a “Reference” folder should I need to search for the information later.)
  3. Act on it. (9 out of 10 times you know what you need to say or do. Putting it off doesn’t necessarily make the message any easier to communicate.)

Here’s the tricky part. When acting on an email, you must consider how long it will take and if you need information before you can respond.

  • If you can reply in a minute or two, do so immediately so you’re not the one known for holding up the productivity pipeline.
  • If you need more information, call or email the person who can get answers for you then move the email into a “Next Actions” folder until you can reply.

As a general rule, I review my “Next Actions” folder each day before I leave the office. This allows me to make sure none of the day’s tasks fall through the cracks and to prepare my Big 3 list for the next morning (i.e. the 3 main things I need to do before diving into my email inbox to do this process and keep things tame).

Scenario: Did someone send you a blog post or newsletter you’d like to get to but can’t do so at the moment? Move it to a “Read & Review” folder. Schedule 30 minutes each week to go over the messages in that folder. If you don’t have a lot of content sent to you, this could be done bi-weekly or once a month. When you’ve read them, either delete them or put them in your “Reference” folder if you will truly need it later.

Scenario: Sometimes I get a request from a person to whom I reply but am waiting to hear back from before the task can be considered complete. If the request is in motion but I’m waiting on more information before it can be completed, I move the message into my “Waiting for Reply” email so it’s not clogging up the inbox. I’m not very consistent with it, but I try to clear out my “Waiting for Reply” folder every month or two just to make sure no requests are left unmet.

Scenario: You know some BIG thinkers. (Lucky you!) Use a folder called “Someday/Maybe”. I put all the big-picture, think-outside-the-box ideas that co-workers and friends send to me (if they can’t be immediately implemented) in this folder. If an idea fits into the vision of a project and is worth considering, it goes into this folder. I take a look at the ideas once a month for inspiration and solutions, deleting the ones I’m no longer interested in.

All of these suggestions were first learned when I read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

What tips do you use to keep your email inbox empty?

 

For more insight on simple email, read:

Managing Your Inbox: Physical or Online

Inbox to Zero

 

 

Gluten Free Kids: How to Get Started

Gluten Free Kids: How To Get Started

Gluten Free Kids: How To Get Started

Two years ago I had a surgery that took an unexpected turn. After my recovery, I was referred to a naturopath who – through observation, questions, and treatment – helped me recognize food sensitivities to gluten and corn. Since I became gluten free in April 2011, I’ve never looked back.

My Son

Shortly after he was born, we discovered our son had some health issues. Blake is very healthy overall, but the combination of asthma, rashes, and digestion issues combined with a life-threatening illness at age 11 months meant he’s spent a lot of time in an out of specialists’ offices and taking medication.

Momma don’t like that.

We’ve tried a lot to relieve his symptoms over the years, but my suspicion that Blake has a gluten sensitivity has only grown since I found great relief living a gluten free lifestyle. He’s hardly gained weight in the past two years and is growing slowly in height. Blake had an inconclusive blood test to test for Celiac disease last year so the jury’s still out, but a sensitivity is still rather likely in my mind. When I read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, I decided I’d not wait any longer to help Blake determine whether he has a sensitivity to gluten or not.

How can I help my kids stop eating gluten?

To be fair, Blake is familiar with living a gluten free lifestyle already because most of the dinners I provide at home are gluten free.  He’s watched me make careful meal orders at restaurants and turn down an offer of food that has gluten in it since April 2011.

No one likes being told what they can’t do. But I can’t think of anyone who despises being told what they can do. So I sat down with my son and explained I’d like to help him do an experiment to see if some of his annoying health issues don’t improve over the weeks to come. His  main concern was that he wouldn’t have any good foods to take to school for lunch each day.

  • I wrote out a list of foods (pictured) he likes that he can eat any time without consuming gluten. 
  • We created a special drawer in our fridge and an area on a pantry shelf from which Blake knows he can choose food to eat.
  • My husband emailed Blake’s teacher to let her know we’re removing gluten from Blake’s diet for awhile to monitor for any improvement in symptoms. 
  • Blake has snacks he can enjoy at school when the other children bring in treats.

After reviewing the list, he was surprisingly willing to go along without gluten and give it a try once and for all! So far, Blake’s doing a stellar job being gluten free.

If you’ve had to go gluten free or help your kids do so, what did you do to help make the adjustment?

Minimalist Blogs I Suggest

Minimalist Blogs I Suggest

Minimalist Blogs I Suggest

I’ve been blogging nearly seven years. The biggest reward of blogging is sharing content I believe will help others. That’s why I’m especially excited about today’s post to introduce you to a few stellar minimalist blogs!

Nearly everything you could read on my blog comes from my life’s experiences. After we moved overseas in 2007, I began using Google to search for people with online platforms who could understand the life change I was experiencing. Over the past 6 years I’ve come to enjoy the minimalist blogs of a number of people.

I encourage you to thoughtfully explore the words of any of these writers. They are among my favorites.

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/ (my friend Joshua Becker)
http://bemorewithless.com/ (Courtney Carver)
http://rowdykittens.com/ (Tammy Strobel)

You’ll find that we have a variety of different spiritual beliefs, we live out our simple lives in unique ways, and our personalities are diverse. But the common bond of simplifying our lives by intentionally making room for what matters most to us is strong. These people regularly challenge, inspire, and encourage me.

Because I know many of you are in the early stages of putting your finger on the simplicity you’re seeking in life, I hope you’ll dive into these peoples’ blogs just as you have mine. Read their best-selling books. And may you wind up even more committed to living with less.

Sincerely,
Dana

Dana ByersDana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold nearly all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally. She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Submit Your Minimalist Lifestyle Questions Here!

Submit Your Minimalist Lifestyle Questions Here! I will write a blog post in response.

Minimalist Kids: Clothes & Laundry

Minimalist Kids: Clothes & Laundry

Minimalist Kids: Clothes & Laundry

I’ve said before that the minimalist life isn’t for everyone. It’s true that I don’t force my kids to live on as little as I think they comfortably could. But every once in a while, an amazing opportunity comes along to explain how the minimalist approach could be of help and it’s a big win with my kids.

Last year one of the best things I did was teach my kids to do their own laundry.  It’s taken a job off my plate, and they do it well. But a few times recently we’ve had the emergency, “Moooooooommmmm! I don’t have any clean underwear!” cries. I’ve been told by one of my kids that there’s no clean PJ’s available at bedtime, too. My response? Let them wear dirty clothes. I’m not proud of it, but I wanted them to experience the consequence of waiting too long to do laundry so they’d remember to do it without me reminding (ie nagging) them to do it later.

The problem? My solution didn’t work.

My children typically remembered to get their laundry done apart from those few incidents, but I discovered they had gone from doing it once a week to skipping the weekly wash then doing laundry twice or three times the following week – something that’s neither necessary or a good use of time. More than once they scrambled to do laundry on evenings when there’s not enough time to do it and the wash was left in the dryer at the kids’ bedtime. This change in behavior was something that’s had me stumped for a few weeks, until last weekend.

My daughter shared last weekend that she’s frustrated having two to three loads of laundry to fold and put away each week now; it takes a lot of time and too much work. I asked her when the last time she had folded clothes was, and it’d been just 3 days earlier. Then it hit me! Like most kids in America, my kids have TOO many clothes! They were wearing more clothing items because they are available, but the options present a frustration in that they take time, effort, and money (electricity and laundry soap) to maintain. In other words, because they have so many clothes, they’ve not needed to wash them often. But when they came up short a pair of jeans or underwear, the task of washing all the dirty laundry they’d accumulated was too much to bear. I wanted to help them get back to when doing their own laundry wasn’t an overwhelming chore.

So this Minimalist Mom wrote out a little list of clothing items the kids need on a weekly basis.  Then I asked them if they’re interested in doing laundry only once a week again and having much less to put away. Of course they agreed!

Here’s the list my kids used as a guide while choosing the clothing items to keep in their dresser drawers and closet:

Underwear and Socks: keep the same amount (about 8 pairs, each)
Shirts: 8
Jeans: 4
Chapel appropriate outfit: 1 (My kids attend chapel once a week at school.)
Pajamas: 4 pairs
Sports Uniform: 1

They folded anything that was left (that will fit them in the Spring) and put it in a piece of luggage we store in our garage. I explained to them we aren’t getting rid of their clothes, but we’re seeing if we can make the laundry process simpler for them. We’ll give it at least a month to see how it’s working out. The kids had no qualms with this plan since they got to choose their favorite items to wear week in and week out, and we believe having fewer clothing items will make it easier for them to keep tabs on what’s clean and when laundry needs to be done.

The Biggest Win

According to Mackenzie (7), the biggest win will be having few clothing items to fold when they do laundry on Saturdays. I agree with her, but I’d also add that their tidier dresser drawers, the time saved in the mornings with fewer options to choose from for the day’s clothing, and watching my kids give the minimalist mindset for clothing a try are pretty cool side effects, too.

 

 

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