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Six Must-Do’s for Your Evenings

Preparing well. That’s what the evening routine is all about.

I know, I know! That sounds like more work. And you’re thinking “I just got done with all of the laundry/work/chores/everything by the evening. I don’t want to do more.

Preparing well can serve you well that evening and it sets you up to be able to cultivate what really matters the following day. When you are cultivating what matters, you positively impact everything about your life and everyone in it.

Before we jump in, let me say this: everyone’s night routine looks different depending on your life, but the key is to find what works for you and cultivate those habits each day. Consistency creates habits that ultimately determine the flow of your everyday life, and an evening routine is a great place to start. I'm excited to share six must-dos for my evenings, and I hope it helps you start to think through your own personal evening routine.

Something to straighten up. For me, it’s the kitchen. If the kitchen is straightened up—dishes in the dishwasher, clutter-free counter, things put away—it's much easier for me to relax. Take a quick few minutes to pass through your space, and put away random things that need to be put away. After you're finished, set out only what you will need for the morning. For me, it's a packed lunch to take to work, water bottle for an AM workout, or a sticky note of things to remember for the following day!

Something to help you plan ahead. Each evening, I spend five minutes running through the next day's calendar to see if there are any schedule changes, high-level to-dos, or something out of the ordinary that my husband and I need to remember. These are things like getting gas on my way to work, running an errand before heading to the office, or picking up something specific at the store for dinner. I write these things down on a sticky note, and I put it somewhere I see first thing in the morning so I can get off to a productive start. I also take a few moments to look over my PowerSheets Tending List to mark off my daily goals.

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Photo by Brooke

Something productive. While I'm going through my schedule, I ask myself if there are any tasks that can easily be done that evening. Whether it's dropping mail in the mailbox, prepping the next day's dinner, signing a document, or folding the lingering laundry in the dryer, I find that finishing one productive task not only helps me feel accomplished, but it keeps it from building up on the weekends. My best advice? Don't try to tackle huge project. These should be small and achievable tasks that take no more than 15 minutes.

Something encouraging. This one is my personal favorite! I try to take a few minutes to do something that encourage myself or someone else. I might write a note for my husband's lunch or send a quick text to a friend or loved one just to say hello and that I miss them. Sometimes, I'll spend time in my Write the Word Journal, taking note of what I'm grateful for in the "On My Heart" section. Whatever it is, this activity should be uplifting and help you set a stress-free tone for the evening. 

Something restful. A great way to wind down before bed is to do something that helps your mind start to slow down. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should be something that works for you. Maybe it’s reading or journaling. Maybe dimming the lights and putting on a bedtime playlist of soft tunes while you brush your teeth and prepare for bed. Whatever it is, the idea here is that it’s calming, relaxing, and creating an environment conducive to getting a great night's sleep!

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Photo by Sarah

Something tech-free. We talk about this one often, but it's because we believe it's essential! Designating the last hour before bedtime screen-free helps you get better sleep. A few tricks: make the very first thing you do before all of the nighttime necessities—brushing your teething, washing your face—putting the phone away. In the closet. In the bedside drawer, or across the room. This not only frees you from distractions but is also a nice mental cap on the end of the day. Hint: If you use your phone as your alarm, try replacing it with an affordable alarm clock. You eliminate the distraction entirely, and you can charge your phone in a nearby room.

 I’d love to hear from you! Do you have an evening routine? What are the best aspects of your night routine? Leave a comment with your best tips and tricks!

Want to embrace mornings and make them productive, too? Check out eight tips for embracing mornings!

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20 ‘How To’s’ to Help You Cultivate What Matters

We made it to the halfway point of the year! These past six months have been full of so much little by little progress, but we firmly believe the very is yet to come!

Our Four Favorites Summer Sale is happening in the shop now through Monday, July 9th! Four of our favorite products are on sale for up to 25% off–The Goal Setting Sticker BookTending TapeMake it Happen Book and Encouragement Postcards!

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The Cultivate team will be in and out of the office this week as well—traveling, spending time with our families, and taking some time to invest in our own PowerSheets goals: rest and recharge (perhaps even going social media-free for portions of our time away!)

Meanwhile, here's a list of 20 how-to's to help you cultivate what matters in the second half of the year:

How to use Powersheets and how they might change your life
How to use your tending tape
How to make a tending list
How to use Tending Tape in your PowerSheets (and other places, too!)

How to celebrate progress
How to make little by little progress
How to be present
How to get unstuck 

How to get things done
How to have a low information diet
How to stay off of social media 
How to act on your financial goals 

How to cultivate friendships
How to make what matters happen
How to cultivate what matters in finance and wellness
How to take your leap of faith

How to cultivate your faith
How to cultivate faith with kids
How to leave a legacy 
How to know what to read all the summer

We hope that these words inspire, encourage, and re-energize you to get going on your goals!

We’d love to hear from you! Have we posted a blog post that helped you cultivate what matters in your life? What other content would you like to see? Share in the comments below!

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Leaving a Legacy? Introducing Write the Word for Kids!

We're still celebrating in the wake of our launch last week, and we are so grateful for your enthusiasm for our new (and, ahem, legacy!) products. The best compliment we could hear from you is that our products are helping you and your families cultivate what matters, right where you are.

We're thrilled to be introducing you to each of our new products and sharing a bit of the story behind them over the next few days. Last week we introduced you to our BRAND NEW Finance Goal Guide, and today I'm giddy to introduce what I know will be a cornerstone product in the Cultivate Shop: our Write the Word Journal for Kids.

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Not many people know, but prior to joining the Cultivate team, I had the privilege of serving on the kid's ministry staff at my church. As our Kid's Director, I had the chance to serve the families in our church by building a ministry program to introduce them to Scripture.. A constant refrain in our ministry meetings? The days with your children are numbered, and you have a unique (and limited) opportunity to begin to build a legacy that will last long after the days they pack their bags and move out of your home.

What do you want them to grow up knowing?

Whatever legacy might look like to you, we know cultivating faith in the hearts of children doesn't produce overnight results. Instead, it takes little-by-little tending and watering of seeds of the Word... and that's where Write the Word for Kids comes in!

 

 

 

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Write the Word for Kids was inspired by our popular Write the Word journals, prayerfully created to help women just like you dive directly into the word of God with no fluff. Many of you have said that the Write the Word journals are unlike any other Bible journal you have ever used—and now we've made a version specifically for kiddos!

This is a place where your child will get a specifically-selected verse to write out (the "write the Word" part!), along with space for them doodle (or color, or paint, or go sticker-crazy!) thoughts, prayers, or anything else God places on their heart.

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Write the Word for Kids is made up of thematic sections that take your child on a journey through the heart of faith, including God's love for us, His creativity (we were created to create!), and His grace in our lives. This journal was crafted with the big picture of God's story in mind, helping to point your little ones to places in the Bible that will help plant the seeds of faith deep in their young hearts, lasting well into their adult lives.

Ready to get started? Lara recorded a webinar with her top tips for cultivating faith in the hearts of children, and you can view it right here! The free replay is available, and be sure to tune into the comments section for lots of ideas and encouragement from our listeners, too!

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Our biggest takeaway? Cultivating faith in the lives of children is like planting a seed. Planting seeds doesn't yield overnight results. It’s putting our trust in something bigger than ourselves, and it requires optimism and faith. We can't wait to see how our newest volume of Write the Word transforms your family quiet time and the hearts of your kiddos! 

Shop Write the Word for Kids here!

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How To Be Present

At the most recent Making Things Happen Conference this spring, as I sat in the back listening to each of our attendees share over their two days at The Carolina Inn, I noticed something...

Over and over, a theme emerged: women want to be present in their lives. They want to be present for their spouses, present for their kids, perhaps present in their time with the Lord, or even simply present with the task at hand as they move throughout their day.

This sounds like such a twenty-first century problem, doesn't it? And there's shame there, like why can't we just do this thing that sounds so simple?? While I'm sure this has always been a challenge to some degree, the fact is that it is uniquely a "right now" problem: there are more distractions, and more powerful distractions, tempting us than ever before in history. (Can you tell I'm reading The Tech-Wise Family and LOVING IT? :))

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Photo by Rachel Coffey

But back to the MTH Conference: this deeply-seated desire to be present was so universal and so keenly felt, but by the same measure, attendees seemed at a loss for how they could create change in this area in their lives. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I wanted to share a few things that have worked for me and for other Cultivate team members. The catch? Very few of these will be surprises to you. We all know these things. The true challenge is doing them. I'm here to encourage you on that, too, as you'll see below! :) Let's go!

One final note: when we talk about being present, I don't think most of us are talking about achieving a blissed-out state of zen. What we want is to live deeply in important moments, giving the people we care about the gift of our attention, and maximizing (in the most heart-centered sense) each moment we have. We want to live and remember each day as distinct and praiseworthy instead of just one more in an undifferentiated slog. Okay, now let's go :)

1. Define what's truly important to you and remind yourself of it often. We will never stop talking about the importance of a "why" at Cultivate - it is central to everything we do, and to the message of the PowerSheets! Without a strong and personally meaningful why, we'll never stick with something that's challenging or requires something of us. So why does being present matter to you? Define it, write it down, and perhaps picture it visually (I have a simple inspiration board on my fridge that reminds me of the kind of life I want to live -- one that is very present).

As an example, part of my why was articulated beautifully in this opinion piece from the New York Times. The author writes that the quantity of "quality" (present) time is almost as important as the quality, that we delude ourselves when we think we can "plan instances of extraordinary candor, plot episodes of exquisite tenderness, and engineer intimacy in an appointed hour." The truth is that we never know when those moments will show up, so I want to be present and ready for them as often as I possibly can be. "People tend not to operate on cue... We reach out for help at odd points; we bloom at unpredictable ones. The surest way to see the brightest colors, or the darkest ones, is to be watching and waiting and ready for them."

2. Set a hard boundary. This is perhaps contradictory to my first point, but if being present is something you struggle with, start by setting a discrete time period when you commit to being fully present. It might be in the hour after your kiddos arrive home from school, the thirty minutes when you sit down to dinner or breakfast, or the ten minutes with your spouse before you go to bed. Making a commitment is the first step in keeping it.

3. Don't just hope things will work out - make a plan. Identify your biggest barrier to being present and make a plan to defeat it. For most of us, I would venture to say it's our phones. I have found that the very simple practice of putting my phone in the same place on the kitchen counter when I get home from work stops me from having to make a decision every day about whether I'll have my phone in my pocket, in the bedroom, etc. When I place that phone down, it's a physical reminder that I'm switching over into uninterrupted time with my daughter.

4. Find a way to quiet your mind. By definition, if we're not "in the present," our minds are in the past or future, right? Once my phone is put away, I focus on soaking in as much of the moment as I possibly can -- the sights, the sounds, the smells -- instead of focusing on what happened earlier that day or what's to come. It can also be helpful to focus on your breath, especially if you feel a pull to grab that phone!

5. Learn how to be together. Sure, perhaps the best way to be present with someone is to sit by their side and simply listen to them. But, I think we can also be present with each other in ways where our whole world doesn't need to come to a screeching halt. Some of my favorite moments each day are in the mornings when I'm getting ready for work and my two-year-old is sitting next to me in her high chair eating breakfast. Washing my face, doing my hair, and putting on makeup don't require much brain power, but since my hands are busy, it's easy to focus on her and whatever she'd like to talk to me about. If she's playing independently in the afternoon, I also like to sit on the sofa nearby and read my own book - giving her the gift of my available, present self, even though we aren't interacting constantly.

6. Make a system for capturing info. Aside from my phone, one of my biggest barriers to being present is all of the stuff constantly swirling in my head. You, too? To dos, worries, reminders, appointments to make, ideas to remember, birthday messages to send... the list goes on. Simply keeping a scratch pad out in our kitchen so I can jot those things down instead of juggling them in my mind goes a long way toward freeing me up mentally to remain "in the moment."

7. Acknowledge the tension. Like I mentioned at the beginning, just the fact that we struggle with being present can be a source of guilt or shame. Shouldn't being with our kids be the easiest thing in the world? Shouldn't sitting with our spouses bring us the most joy? They very well might - but that doesn't mean the pull of long-held habits is easy to break. You are learning a new way of being, so simply acknowledge the little by little steps you're taking as well as the set-backs, and keep moving forward!

8. Listen to older people instead of resenting them. We've all heard about the frazzled mom at the grocery store who wants to strangle the grandma who says "you're going to miss these days!" as she tries to wrangle her three screaming kids out the door. Well, my own grandma's best parenting advice when I asked her was "I just tried to enjoy them." What a simple, poignant, true thought. To me, that is what being present is about: simply enjoying the people and time I have been given. Keeping that as my focus instead of resenting it, even in the difficult moments of parenting or life, has been a game-changer for me.

Friends, I'd love to hear: is being present something you struggle with? What tactics have helped you be more present in your life?

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Goal Action Ideas for Parenting Goals

We're back today with the next edition of our Goal Guide series! Many of us are striving toward the same things: deeper relationships, a growing faith, and a healthy lifestyle, to name a few. We created this series to spotlight one of those topics at a time and create a bank of ideas for your Tending List! Now, when you want to make progress on your fitness, faith, or nutrition goals, for instance, you can use these posts for inspiration!

This week's topic is parenting! I'm very new to this (10 weeks to be exact), but being the best mama I can be shot right to the top of my PowerSheets priorities the moment I found out I was expecting. As moms, we want to be more present, patient, and nurturing with our children. One thing that helps me make imperfect progress? Coming up with meaningful and practical ways I can love on my baby well. Thankfully I got some help from the Moms Cultivating What Matters with PowerSheets Facebook group. Veteran mamas, please share your ideas in the comments below as well!

Monthly Goals 

  • Read one new-to-you parenting book (We love the idea of inviting your husband to join you for this goal!)
  • Tackle an age-appropriate milestone goal such as sleep training, solid foods, weaning, or potty training
  • Do a seasonal craft, outing, or activity
  • Create a family mission statement
  • Get up-to-date in each child's baby book or scrapbook
  • Plan a family trip
  • Get involved in children's school activities
  • Join a moms' group or play group
  • Learn 2-3 new age-appropriate games
  • Create a chore chart or family values chart to track progress
  • Work through the Parents Goal Companion Guide
  • Pick a topic to learn about and check out several books on that topic from the library
  • Take an infant or child CPR class
  • Frame and hang photos of and artwork by your children

Weekly Goals

  • Have 3-5 sit-down family dinners together
  • Attend church and discuss what you learned
  • Write a letter, email, or diary entry to children to read when they're older
  • Take child to 1-2 activities such as play group, story time, or music class
  • Plan a special one-on-one date for each child
  • Call a mom friend to seek advice
  • Host a play date for each of your children to invite friends over
  • Memorize a weekly Bible verse together
  • Teach your child to cook a new dish with you
  • FaceTime a faraway family member
  • Make artwork together (Don't stress about making a mess!)

Daily Goals

  • Spend an hour of uninterrupted technology-free time with each child
  • Pray for and with each child
  • Read 2-3 books before bedtime
  • Keep your phone in another room during play time or conversations
  • Pack homemade lunch for each child (Adding an encouraging note while you're at it!)
  • Laugh together!
  • Talk about ways your children modeled your family values
  • Show gratitude for good behavior
  • Ask each child to list five things they are grateful for from the day
  • Get outside and active together: ride bikes or take an afternoon walk and talk about what you see
  • Practice patience: respond with grace and say yes whenever possible
  • Tell your children how much you love them!

These are just a few suggestions for items to add to your Tending List each month to make progress on your parenting goals for the year!

We'd love to hear from you: what else would you add to this list?

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