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5 Questions to Decide What Deserves Your Time

In this Time Management UPGRADE, Julie Sanders helps us consider something we all have a lot of, but often misuse—our time.

"On a full plate, not everything is equal," Julie says. "The more options, the more important it is to decide what deserves our time. How can we plan for our priorities?"

The more I (Dawn) talk to women, the more I realize how full those plates are. My own is overflowing and needs some paring down, and I have to tell you – Julie's tips here really help!

Julie continues . . .

Your plate may overflow with feedings and laundry, deadlines and events, or presentations and correspondence. If we start each day hoping important things rise to the top, we risk drowning in a flash flood of urgency and emergency.

Whatever the parts of our busy life, we can’t afford not to plan to make our priorities first. Being in the place where we need to plan is a good place to be.

By learning to count time, measure resources and compare the weight of work, we learn wisdom. The Psalmist said, So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Counterfeit priorities will beg for attention with a simple knock at the door or chime of the phone.

Ask 5 questions to plan for the main things to take the main chunk of your time and attention. First things first.

1. What can only I do?

Some tasks require my attention. Only I can be my husband’s wife and mother my children. When God directs me to a hurting person, only I can respond in the moment.

But I am not meant to answer every problem or be the savior for every need. Can someone else meet the need?

2. What can someone else do?

When we delegate a duty to someone else, we wisely use our time. I don’t have to do every load of laundry, return every call, teach every lesson or pray for every need.

Since resources are limited, I’ve learned to let go and let others share the load.

3. What can wait?

Someone else’s poor planning does not constitute an emergency for my schedule.

It may feel good to be the “answer” to a trauma, but being swept away by the urgent requires saying “no” to other things of value. Some things can wait. When weighing a request or responsibility, ask, “Can it wait?” 

4. What can be a process?

Deadlines present opportunities to plan ahead. Choose a tool that works for you to schedule times to make progress, and resist letting longer term projects turn into last minute problems.

5. What matters most to God?

When deciding what deserves our time, consider what matters most to God. What does He consider a “priority” and what can take a back seat or fall away?

This means priorities are constantly changing, in light of how God guides our steps, including the people He brings into our lives.

Hold tightly to what God cares about, but hold loosely to the order of business on your planner.

After all, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

We don’t know how many days we have. We do know each will be 24 hours, with 365 in every year. We can’t hope or plan to do it all.

First plan your priorities and your priorities will happen first.

Is the way you spend your time a real reflection of your real priorities? How could you plan to put first things first?

NOTE: Julie created an Alphabet Priorities printable bookmark—a helpful tool for sorting through what matters most. It's available here and here.

Julie Sanders speaks and writes with seasoned wisdom. Since moving to the Northwest with her husband, Julie is numbering her days in a new season of life. As the director of early learning programs across nearly 16,000 square miles of urban and rural country, she has daily opportunities to put first things first and live out God’s priorities. Julie writes from her online home, “Come Have a Peace.”


Equipping Our Next Generation's Women of Influence

Doreen Hanna loves little girls—and it shows. One of her passions is developing Christ-like character in their hearts. In this Parenting/Legacy UPGRADE, she describes some everyday ways to create a woman of influence.

Doreen says, "Moms, dads & some grandparents today are seeking to discover resources that will develop and strengthen Christ-like character qualities within the heart of their little girls—knowing they will be our next generation’s mothers, professional women in leadership, and women in ministry leaders!"

I (Dawn) wonder how often parents and grandparents think about the impact they are making on the next generation as they train and encourage little girls. I know I thought about "leadership" and "character" with my sons, and that's every bit as important with girls.

Doreen continues . . .

Developing Christ-like character in the heart of our little girls sometimes seems like an unending parenting project. I found that to be true when I was raising my two girls.

Just about the time I thought that we had achieved success in the development of telling the truth, I quickly found we then needed to work on tattling. Why?

Focusing on one character quality often exposes the lack of another. 

I believe that is God’s grace, because He does promise He would never give us more than we (parents) can bear. I read a great quote recently that has Biblical truth:

“Change in behavior begins with a change in heart.” 

“Above all else," Proverbs 4:23 says, "guard your heart, for everything you do (your behavior) flows from it.”

Here are a few suggestions to help encourage Christ-likeness in your little princess. She will one day grace society as a lovely Daughter of the King—a woman of influence, both in word and deed.

1. Model what you are seeking to develop in your daughter’s heart.

If you plan to focus on growing gentleness, look for opportunities where you can demonstrate it. 

Perhaps you are walking by neighbors' yard and their flowers are in full bloom. Take a moment to stop and admire them, gently touching one of them. Then encourage your daughter to do the same, affirming that flowers need to be touched gently. 

Or, maybe you have the opportunity visit a friend and see her new puppies. As you hold one of the pups stroking it gently, allow her to feel its soft fur and hear its precious little whimper. Then allow her to hold it gently. Affirm her sweet act of gentleness.

2. Talk about ways you could show kindness to others, together. 

With the Thanksgiving season approaching, how about taking a walk around the neighborhood and choosing homes where you would like to place a handwritten note at their door along with homemade cookies or a gift card.

The card might say, “During this Thanksgiving season, we’d like to say how grateful we are that you are our neighbors. Love from..." (add your daughter’s name and your family name).

And speaking of love...

3. Think of ways you can teach your daughter to demonstrate love to others.

A warm hug certainly affirms our love for others. It is good for our children to see their mom and dad expressing their love to each other by way of a wink of the eye, an extra squeeze, or a great kiss. 

That was a delight for me as a little girl. My dad never left our home without kissing my mom good-bye, or returning home and immediately giving her an “I’m home” kiss. I felt so secure, I didn’t even need a kiss from him. His kiss for her was enough, most often!  

Serving is another simple yet profound way to show love. Instead or you doing one of your routine acts of love for your husband, encourage your daughter to bring dad his favorite drink, as he sits down in his favorite chair after a long day at work.

Or if grandparents are living at home with you, help your daughter look for an opportunity to serve the elderly with sincerity. She might observe them quietly, and if they have forgotten something, your daughter  could quickly meet their need. Perhaps she could get their glasses left in another room, or a pair of slippers that would require several steps to the closet for them, while she could run and get them in an instant! 

Acts of love fill both the giver and the receiving with a moment of joy!

These are only three character qualities you could teach and model for your daughter to equip her to be a woman of influence.

Are you praying for ways to guide your little girl’s behavior? Are you trusting God to change her heart, to ultimately grow her into a lovely woman of influencea Daughter of the King?

Doreen Hanna is the Founder and President of Modern Day Princess Headquarters. Speaking and writing, she has empowered women and equipped their daughters for more than 35 years. Doreen enjoys her two daughters, four grandchildren and 88-year-old mother, presently living with her.  Traveling and visiting with friends over a cup of coffee are Doreen's favorite past-times. For more information about Modern Day Princess, visit here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Giuliamar for Pixabay.


Prioritizing People: How to Upgrade Your Decisions

Author and international speaker Pam Farrel always seeks to breathe life into relationships, and in this Relationship UPGRADE, she focuses on the sometimes tough subject of "who should get my time"?

"Good decisions," Pam says, "will protect and provide for those who might not be able to, or yet know how to, protect themselves"

I (Dawn) know women struggle with prioritizing the people in their lives. However, none of us has unlimited time, energy or focus. As my friend Pam says, "The reality is, we must learn to see people and how we spend our time with and for people from a more heavenly point of view."

Pam continues . . .

Often women feel frozen when trying to decide on just how to prioritize people. However, even Jesus had to make choices on how He would spend His time and with whom.

Here are two of the questions I ask when trying to decide people-time priorities:

1. Who has earned more right to my time?

Some people truly deserve to be prioritized. For example, I will always answer my cell and quickly return a call to my mother, or rearrange my schedule if she is in need of my help. I do this because she gave birth to me, then gave of herself to raise me into the leader I am today. (Believe me, with my strong will, she had her work cut out for her!)

When I said, “I do” to my husband, God asked me to become a quality “helpmeet” to him.

Also all of my sons, their wives, and my grandkids deserve my time, because God gave them to our family as a gift.

My siblings, grandparents, in-laws, those in my extended family may also rotate in my schedule if they have a pressing need or issue that my skills set can help with.

In addition, if I make a commitment to a client (or boss), a disciple or a mentee, I do everything in my power to keep promises made.  

Most of us understand this concept in principle—but what happens when several of these people —or others—all seem to need us all at the same time? 

At that moment, I ask:  

2. Who is "the least of these"?

Jesus used this principle in a parable:

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'" (Matthew 25:40 NIV).

In your situation, ask, “Who needs protected or provided for most?”  

“The least of these” are the very smallest or least of status. Jesus said how we treat those who we cannot gain from—and may not be able to protect or provide for themselves—is a reflection of how we are treating Jesus.

In a family setting “least of these” might be:


If you are a parent, every decision you make, know that your children are your “least of these”. So ask:

  • “How will this impact the kids?”
  •  “What choice do I need to make to give the best long range outcome for the kids?”
  •  “Who do I want my child to be as an adult? What choice here will get them there?”


The least of these does not always mean a child focus. For example, we went from directing and caring for our sons, and then a few years later, it was obvious Bill’s aging parents needed to become a high priority. Because their health continued to decline, we put our home up for sale to move nearer to aid them. 


God might move one of the relationships listed under the first question above to the front burner of your life if something catastrophic hits: a death, an illness, a financial collapse, etc.

These are more often a temporary shift of time, energy and focus given until the storm has passed.


When you fly on a plane, the flight attendant always says, “In case of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then on the person you are traveling with”.

To care for “the least of these” means we also have to care for ourselves, so we can care for others!

Today, who is your “least of these”?  

Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books, an international speaker, and relationship expert who seeks to breathe life into people’s most vital relationships through the ministry she runs with her husband, Love-Wise. Today’s blog is adapted from her newest book, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success At Keeping It All Together.


10 Ways to Foster Gracious Speech

Kathy Howard, who sometimes calls herself a "confused southerner," is not at all confused about the truth of scripture. In this Communication UPGRADE, she encourages us to use our words wisely, with gracious speech.

“Our words have the power to build up or tear down," Kathy says, "but gracious speech has been an area of struggle for me.”

I (Dawn) have never had a serious problem with using words to tear other down, but it took me a while to learn how to effectively use words to encourage others. I'm glad Kathy addresses both issues!

Kathy continues . . .

Years ago, when our young family lived in Wyoming, my parents regularly came all the way from Louisiana to visit us. Just before one such visit, we purchased a dining table and chairs for a long-empty breakfast area. I couldn’t wait to show off the new furniture.

The first time we gathered around the table, Mom pulled out her chair and sat. As she scooted forward, a leg of the chair caught in the groove between two tiles. The leg snapped off, the chair tilted, and my mother hit the floor. HARD!

My immediate reaction was not words of grace.

“You broke my chair!” is what came out of my mouth.

Not, “Are you alright?!” or “Let me help you!”

My mother looked so hurt. Not physically; the tumble wasn’t bad. But I terribly hurt her feelings.

My quick words revealed what was in my heart – I cared far too much about material things. My first thought had been for the chair, not my mother. And my thoughtless words wounded her.

The apostle Paul knew our words have the power to build up or tear down. In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he tells them – and us – exactly what effect our speech should and should not have on others.

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29, KJV).

First, our speech should not “corrupt.”

Far more than curse words, corrupt speech is graceless speech.

It tears down, deflates. Whenever we speak corrupt words to our spouse, our child, our coworker, or friend, they deflate like a beach ball full of holes.

Any words not wholesome or beneficial tear them down emotionally and spiritually. Little by little the air goes out. Sadly, I’ve seen my own words have that effect on other people.

Second, our speech should “benefit” or “minister grace” to others.

Like air blown into a deflated beach ball, good and edifying words will encourage and build up an individual, helping them to reach their full potential in Christ.

Even when we long for our words to give grace to others, sometimes things break down between our desire and the words that flow out of our mouths.

Sadly, our words will betray us, revealing the junk we have hidden in our hearts. Things like insecurity, hurt, unresolved anger, selfishness and pride produce words that wound, tear down and corrupt.

Would you like your words to consistently encourage, build up, and give grace to others? Here are ten things we can do to foster this “gracious” overflow:

  1. Regularly reflect on the unbounded grace God has lavished on us.
  2. Remember God will hold us accountable for every word we speak (Matthew 12:36).
  3. Constantly check our hearts for sinful attitudes and motivations. (See Matthew12:34-36.)
  4. Ask God to heal old hurts, soothe anger, and humble pride.
  5. Refuse to use "corrupt" speech – any words that wound, discourage, or tear down.
  6. Commit to using "good" words - kind and gracious words that build up and encourage.
  7. Find something positive with which to begin and end every conversation.
  8. Don't waste time talking about things that can't be changed.
  9. Focus on the other person. Ask questions about them and their feelings.
  10. Exercise self-control. Sometimes the most gracious thing to say is nothing.

With God’s grace flowing through us, our words can be tools of grace God uses to build up, encourage, and edify.

When was the last time your noticed the power of your words to either wound of give grace? What was the result?

Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life no matter the circumstances. This post is adapted from her new Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy and her speaking and writing, or find free resources at her website

Heart graphic is adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.


5 Excuses That Sabotage Personal Growth

Gail Goolsby is a professional who implements practical counsel rooted in scripture. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she offers 5 excuses that sabotage our growth and success.

“You have a calling from God—a destiny,” Gail says. "So why aren’t you moving forward? What is holding you back?”

Sometimes I (Dawn) think the person who most needs posts by my guest bloggers is ME! I recognized myself in Gail's analysis and am taking her counsel seriously.

Gail continues . . .

The roadblock to personal growth and success in life for many people is: EXCUSES.

As a career educator, counselor and life coach, I have heard multiple reasons people give to explain away their failures and lack of achievement.

Here are 5 excuses that sabotage personal growth:

Excuse #1: I don’t have time.  

People believe this answer gives permission to say no or be released from an activity they want to avoid. They may follow up the statement with details of their schedule-packed day or week or year.

“Okay,” I say. “I have 24 hours every day—the same as you do, as we all do. How should we determine the use of the time? It will pass for us all. What do you have to show for your time spent?”

No time is a common complaint in today’s fast paced world, but a real problem when used to explain lack of progress toward selected goals.

Use time for what it can do for you—not an excuse for not doing.

Excuse #2: I am too busy.

This popular justification is a twin to #1 but deserves its own mention, as it frequently hijacks rational discourse about setting priorities.

I refuse to use the word "busy" in my conversations. I think the term makes people insecure, comparing their significance to those who claim such demanding lives. What does busy really mean anyway?

I try to help clients unpack their "busy" and see what activity is worthy to keep, but reorganize. Other endeavors may need to be booted out to make room for balanced living and growth.

For both these excuses, hear God’s answer: "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12, ESV).

Excuse #3: I tried before and I failed.

Fine. That was then and this is now.

“Define failure,” I say. “Tell me what happened.” I listen carefully to help the client discover the lessons, the take-aways that can help inspire him/her to try again.

Perhaps the goal needs tweaking or releasing altogether. Together we can often find the gain from the pain of failure.

Romans 5: 3-4 (ESV) says: "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."

Excuse #4: I am too undisciplined.

Here is some honesty, but still a cop-out.

All of us need training and new behaviors at various points in life.

When something is important enough, valuable enough, desirable enough, we find the strength and endurance to obtain the prize.

How do handicapped and semi-paralyzed individuals run races and create amazing artwork? They learn new things—hard things—by pressing through the I-want-to-quit stage. You can too.

Work hard. Be proud of your accomplishment.

Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) says:  "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

Excuse #5: I am afraid. I need help.

Now we are getting somewhere.  

Sharing your hopes and goals with a trusted friend, counselor or coach can be the first step toward moving ahead and busting out of the failure box.

God gave us one another. His power multiplies as we combine our giftedness and ask for His guidance.

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4, ESV).

Together we can push back the darkness and enjoy the radiant lives we have been given.

Which excuses are sabotaging your personal growth today? What action will you take to press toward the hope of your calling?

Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd, is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. She and her pastor husband of 38 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well. Learn more about Gail and the services she offers at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.