Eight Steps to Embracing Mornings

We've all heard the saying "the early bird gets the worm", but my guess is the early bird likely wasn't managing a career, planning a wedding, preparing for marriage, building community in a new city, and moving all at the same time. Which means it was likely a little bit easier for him to get up early and get that worm :)

Before I start, I want to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking there isn't enough time in the day, because it's simply not true. There is enough time in the day, but I have to be proactive in prioritizing and making sure my time and energy aligns with the things that matter most to me. My 2018 PowerSheets goals act as a compass for me, guiding me as I determine where and with whom to devote my time and energy.

If I learned anything in this season, it's this: When you feel like you don't have time in your day, you have to be proactive in making time. Whether you need a few extra hours in your week to work on a side hobby or want to prioritize time for taking care of your body, the easiest place to find time is in my mornings! I'm excited to share a few tips that have worked well for me below:


Photo by Marie L.

Ask yourself why. Take a few moments to ask yourself these questions: WHY do I want to wake up earlier? Will this goal get me closer to where I want to be when I'm 80? You'll feel much more motivated to stick to your goals when they are connected to a purpose. For me, waking up earlier gives me time to exercise and read, two of my goals for this year!

Set yourself up for success the night before. I once heard becoming a morning person starts in the evenings, and I couldn't agree more. Create an evening routine to prepare you for your morning ahead. Get your clothes out (exercise or work clothes). Set the timer on the coffeepot. Pack your lunch. Most importantly, honor your bedtime (and put the phone down!) Taking the time to create a routine for the evenings will help prepare you for a fresh start each morning.

Sleep with your shades open. I've found sleeping with my curtains pulled back makes it easier for me to wake up in the mornings. If you have a significant other who likes to be in pitch black, you can find lamps that mimic the sunrise to help your body wake up naturally!

Make a plan. In the same way that you created an evening routine, it's important to eliminate decision fatigue in the mornings as well. Creating a morning routine will help you know exactly how you want to spend your mornings. Whether you want to get your heart rate up by exercising or create more space for journaling or reflecting, a consistent routine will help keep you from climbing back into bed.

Make your bed (and stay out of it!) I've learned this the hard way: If you're reading in the mornings, move yourself to a different spot other than your bed. I'm positive I'm not the only that is guilty of climbing back into her bed in the mornings. Making my bed makes it a little less appealing for snoozing after you grab your warm cup of coffee and book.


Create room for the things you love. Mornings will be miserable if you fill them with the all dreaded tasks on your to-do lists.  Make room for something life-giving in your mornings so you have something to look forward to. It can be as simple as lighting a favorite candle or enjoying a warm cup of fresh-brewed coffee while you read through your current book. Maybe you want more time to have breakfast with your significant other before starting your days. Resist the urge to fill the extra space with tasks, and embrace activities that bring your joy, too.

Address the pain points. Ask yourself why mornings are so hard, and then fix it! If it's hard to get out of bed because it's cold in your home, invest in a space heater or warm slippers. If you don't enjoy showering in the morning, start showering in the evenings. Find your pain points, and eliminate them!

Take baby steps. We embrace growing slow, knowing that overnight results and quick fixes aren't the way to long-lasting success. Becoming a morning person isn't something I expect to happen overnight, and I've given myself lots of room for grace in my PowerSheets. Instead of adding "Wake Up at 6am" to my Daily Goals, I chose to add a weekly goal to exercise two mornings before work to my PowerSheets Tending List, I'm taking small steps and hope to work up to that consistent 6am wake-up time!

I'd love to hear from our early risers! What has helped you embrace the mornings? Leave your best tips, tricks, and resources in the comments below!

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Starting Steps: Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Bigger is better. It's a lie we find ourselves believing at times, whether we realize it or not. It silently permeates itself into our culture: a bigger home, more clothes, a heftier bank account, and over time, we start to see it play out in our own lives.

But when it comes to our goals, less is more and smaller is better!

You don’t have to know the whole plan when you set your PowerSheets goals for the year—you just need to write out your specific starting steps and, in general, what has to happen after that. A bonus? Breaking down goals feels good because you experience tangible hope and momentum as you get those goals moving!

For some added inspiration, our team is sharing one of our 2018 PowerSheets goals and our first three starting steps below! You'll see that these starting steps are simple, tangible, and can be easily added to our Monthly Tending List! We hope you find some inspiration to start making progress on your goals, and buck the statistic. We hope you're encouraged!


Amber Housley, Marketing Director
Goal: Read 24 books this year that support my other PowerSheets goals
Why: Reading is a form of self-care for me. It distresses me, and it helps influence my creativity.

1. Print out wildcard page
2. Make an inventory of current books on my shelf and review current Amazon wish list. Add these to my wildcard pages.
3. Choose my next 2 books for the upcoming weeks

Casey Marchbanks, Designer

Goal: Find a church home in our new city!
Why: To find life-giving community for my family. To have a place to serve regularly. To grow my relationship with the Lord and with others!

Starting Steps:
1. Research & create a list of churches in our area that align with our beliefs
2. Visit a church from our list every Sunday
3. Go to a discovery class, or meet with a Pastor at the church that God leads us to!


Catherine Marks, Editor
Goal: Create a life-giving home in our new house
Why: Our little space is the domain God gave us to steward and shepherd well. It is the backdrop for our family’s life and a resource we can use to bless others.

Starting Steps:
1. Kon-mari (purge and tidy) every inch of our space so we have only the things we need and love (plus a place for everything and everything in its place)
2. Create a family goal and schedule wall where we can keep our mission statement and calendar, as well as track our goal progress
3. Order photos of our daughter to update our gallery wall to include her!

Emily Thomas, Creative Director
Goal: Refine our home
Why: Our home is the arena for learning, growth, ad unconditional love, and nothing matters more than love. If we can make it better, we should.

Starting Steps:
1. Walk our home and make a list of areas to be purged and decluttered. Use the PowerSheets Wildcard page.
2. Schedule each area of my calendar–no more than one per week
3. Pull together a new inspiration board for our first floor’s color scheme.

Jess Metcalf, Community and Content Manager
Goal: Phone down, eyes up
Why: Life is too short to be tied to your phone, and I want those around me to know how much I love and value them.

Starting Steps:
1. Set phone hours/boundaries
2. Order an alarm clock
3. Make a to-be-read list of books to read instead of mindlessly scrolling


Kaylee Hobbs, Customer Delight and Operations Manager

Goal: Find time and space to use my creative gifts
Why: This fuels my excitement for life, and I feel energized when I’m learning more about a creative hobby.

Starting Steps:
1. Set up a regular meeting time with a friend who encourages me to use these gifts!
2. Create an inspiration collection on Instagram.
3. Read a blog post related to furthering a creative skill–in this case, photography!

Kristin Winchester, MTH Conference Chief Encourager
Goal: Intentionally take care of myself.
Why: Filling my tank will make me a better wife, mama, daughter, sister, and friend. It will give me the ability to pour out and love all of my people well.

1. Block off one morning a month on the calendar and make sure someone can watch the babies so I can go do something on my 'fires me up list' (i.e. coffee with a friend, a manicure, etc.).
2. Schedule an at-home date night with KPW in February to review calendars and try to schedule a summer vacation.
3. Pick out 6 for-fun books to read this year.

Lara Casey, Founder
Goal: Pray the Word of God while reading through the Chronological reading plan again. Study Psalm 119. Use my prayer journal, say my prayers out loud, or record my prayers to my phone notes.
Why: To directly connect with God and to align my life, expectations, and value with the truth of the Word of God, not the ways of the world. To grow my faith, the faith of my family, and to build up the faith of others.

Starting Steps:
1. Sign up for the Chronological reading plan again
2. Print Psalm 119 and put on flashcards and in phone album
3. Set up 2018 prayer journal

I know what you're thinking! These are great examples, but where do I start? You're in luck! We created Goal Action Plan Guides full of ideas to help you cultivate some broader goals! Check them out for some starting steps for yourPowerSheets Tending List:

We'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment and share one of your goals and your first three starting steps below. I'll choose one lucky commenter to win a Goal-Setting Sticker Book on Monday! 🎉

Having trouble coming up with starting steps? That's okay! We can help each other on in the comments and offer suggestions!

Use the code LETSCULTIVATE for 25% off your entire shop order this week! Stock up on stickers, one of our companion goal guidesLara's books, or our best-selling Write the Word journals!


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Happy Cultivate What Matters Week!

We have so many new faces in the Cultivate family (hi, friends!), and many of you loved celebrating this week alongside us last year!

Your calendars likely have Valentine's Day marked already, but in our office, we're celebrating something bigger than candy and flowers. Last year, we created a brand new holiday to combat a scary statistic we saw, and we're excited to dig in again this week with you!

Did you know February is statistically the month that gym membership attendance goes down, and fast food consumption goes up? Makes you think, doesn’t it? The forward momentum of January can leave us burned out and feeling guilty for not starting the new year as well as we had hoped. It's why we chant "There's nothing magical about January 1st" over and over again.

Here's what happens: people set goals and New Year's resolutions on January. Come February 15th (this week!),80% of those goals are forgotten completely. They've decided it's just not worth the time and energy.

If I had to guess, there's a chance you might be feeling that, too. Maybe you haven't opened your PowerSheets in weeks, or maybe you've made some progress but need a little extra motivation right about now!

Either way, this week, you have a choice.


We get to make a choice, and we are choosing to flip this statistic on its head together. We are Cultivating What Matters!

No matter how imperfect our progress has been so far, we are not caving. We are saying yes to being a community of cultivators together.

What exactly is a Cultivator?

According to Merriam-Webster, a cultivator is one that cultivates, loosening the soil while crops are growing.

That means you are making a mess while the things in your life are growing. You aren't doing it perfectly, but you're making one seemingly small intentional decision after another.

A cultivator uncovers her own unique goal and path. Instead of looking to other people’s goals or social media feeds to define her own, she puts in the hard work of uncovering a path that fires her up.

A cultivator embraces little by little progress. She doesn’t believe in quick fixes or overnight results, but she knows it’s okay to grow slow.

A cultivator gets her hands dirty and takes action. Waiting for perfection might sound like a good idea, but she knows it’s worth it to dig in right now instead of waiting for the perfect timing or circumstances.

A cultivator examines where she is in order to leap to what’s next. Instead of ignoring what isn’t working, she takes the time to evaluate everything–both the good and the bad–to uncover the path forward.

A cultivator creates a long-term vision and gets after it. She refuses to keep going through the motions, doing the same things she’s always done. Instead, she steps forward into a new path.

A cultivator sets out on a purposeful path by uncovering cultivated goals. She’s tired of wandering aimlessly, with no goal, and she embraces her path with excitement and enthusiasm.

A cultivator finds joy in the journey instead of placing all her value in the finish line. She knows there is much to be learned in the in-between.

A cultivator doesn’t just embrace imperfect progress; she celebrates it. She’s tired of abandoning ship at the first bump in the road, and she knows that the best things in life grow slowly.

A cultivator believes in community. She shares her goals, encouraging others along the way, instead of trying to do it all alone.


Whether you realize it or not, we just described you. Every decision we make has an arrow attached to it, pointing us in one direction or another. Your decision arrows have the power to fly through all the distractions and fear and hit the target, or they can float around and miss it completely. So how can you shoot one of your decision arrows in the right direction? It's easier than it seems, because it's not a giant leap. It's in the small decisions you make each and every day.

Putting the phone down in favor of climbing down to the floor to build legos with your son? You’re a cultivator.

Choosing to embrace conflict at work instead of brushing it under the rug? You’re a cultivator.

Saying no to an event with an acquaintance in lieu of a night at home with your husband? You're a cultivator.

Climbing out of bed instead of hitting the snooze button so you can lace up those running shoes? You're a cultivator.

Make a choice this week to aim your arrows in the right direction and to embrace little by little progress. Need some tips on how to get started? Check out these starting steps:

While Cultivate What Matters Week is only a week long, it's a week that serves as a marker in your year. Join us as we kick those preconceived notions about goals and resolutions to the side and say yes to embracing the little by little progress of cultivating what matters.

What do you say? Are you with us? If so, leave us a comment and let us know! We'll choose a lucky winner tomorrow to receive a $25 gift card to the Cultivate Shop!

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February 2018 Goals Round-Up

Is it just me or did January feel like the longest month ever? This post captured my thoughts perfectly and made me giggle, too!

I knew I was ready for February to roll around, but after our working through my February PowerSheets Prep, I found myself even more excited about all that is to come!

We intentionally created the PowerSheets Goal Planner in a way that makes it applicable for women in all seasons of life. Whether you a college graduate looking for your first job, a working professional, or a stay-at-home momma of three, intentional change will happen when you use PowerSheets. Our monthly goals round-ups give us a chance to share more about how others use their PowerSheets to make their goals happen.

We hope these round-ups give you some inspiration for making progress on your own unique goals this year! Remember to keep sharing your goals with us. We love knowing what you're working towards, and it helps us plan content that will be most beneficial to you!


Photo by Ryann

Have things on your list that inevitably get pushed to the side each month? Take Chelsey's advice and add it to your Tending List to make it a priority.

Charlee added her focus areas to the top of her Tending List as a daily reminder. What a great way to keep things in perspective!

My favorite part of Anna's Tending List? You can see how well-loved it is! She uses the perforation each month to keep it in front of her, and then she tapes it back in at the end of the month. A brilliant way to keep everything together!

Kory learned from her January goals, and she adjusted her February goals accordingly. But she isn't making everything easier; she's still challenging herself to make progress in certain areas, and I love that!

Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 8.03.29 AM

Photo by Lizzie

Hearing Nicole's progress about paying down her debt has me so excited about the year ahead for her! She's a great example of how to build on momentum!

Kady's encouragement about goals in the beginning of her post has me nodding my head over and over again. Take a peek at her encouraging words for February; I might have to file those away for a future Tending List of my own!

If you have a few empty progress bars, be sure to read Rach's perspective on progress, not perfection for her emergency fund goal.

If you've posted your goals somewhere, we'd love to see them! Feel free to drop them in the comments, too-no fancy blog required! We can't wait to take a peek and cheer you on!

Don't have PowerSheets yet, and feeling behind? Have no fear! We'll be restocking our Six-Month PowerSheets Goal Planner this Spring. Sign up for our newsletter list to know when they're back in stock! 

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Goal Action Ideas for Finance Goals

Today we're continuing our Goal Action Ideas series with a Finance edition, supplying you with a bank of ideas for your Tending Lists on that topic. Like all overwhelming things, cultivating a stronger, more streamlined financial life is done through embracing little by little progress, and digging in even when things seem messy. I'd love to hear YOUR ideas, so please drop them in the comments! (In fact, many of the ideas in this post came from awesome PowerSheets users in our Facebook group!)

Though I've loved all of the topics we've covered in this series, I most definitely have a soft spot for today's. First, because I am extremely passionate about the freedom that comes from having your financial house in order, and therefore so happy to be your enthusiastic tour guide in this world. Second, because finances can just be an icky subject–one that feels too complicated, too stuck, too hopeless to make any progress on.

There is SO much hope here, though, friends! As with everything, little by little progress is the name of the game–sometimes with a few big leaps along the way. I've compiled our best action ideas for finance goals below, and I hope it encourages you to dig in where you are!

Monthly Goals:

  • Do a comprehensive review of your finances and set a goal to work toward
  • Sign up for Financial Peace University or a similar personal finance course (PS users suggested Wallet Win!)
  • Read a personal finance book (try Total Money Makeover, The Financial Diet, Love Your Life Not Theirs, or The Millionaire Next Door - or tell us your favorite in the comments!)
  • Make a budget (see our tips here)
  • Choose a way to track your budget (more ideas here - consider an app like YNAB, Mint, Good Budget, or Every Dollar Counts)
  • Set up an initial review meeting with a financial planner (either in person or an online option like Learnvest)
  • Set up a retirement account (either a 401k if offered through your work or an IRA)
  • Total all of your debt, especially if you have multiple sources (this will give you a goal to work toward!)
  • Choose a financial mantra to keep you motivated and post it somewhere you'll see it every day (we suggest your refrigerator)
  • Similarly, choose a picture that represents your biggest financial goal and post it somewhere you'll see it every day
  • Increase your retirement contribution
  • Comb through your expenses from the last month and look for areas where you can cut back
  • Create a visual countdown of your debt and post it prominently where the whole family can see it (more paying down debt tips here)
  • Open a charitable giving account (donor-advised fund) to streamline and maximize your generosity
  • Open an account designated as an emergency fund and seed it with an initial deposit
  • Make a plan to fully fund an emergency fund (most experts recommend three to six months of expenses)
  • Purge your social media accounts: unfollow accounts that contribute to feelings of lack or make you want to spend money!
  • Take our friend Nancy's Contentment Challenge

Weekly Goals:

  • Listen to an episode of a personal finance podcast (Cultivate readers suggested Entreeleadership and Matrimoney!)
  • Sit down with your significant other (or yourself!) and review the week's budget and spending
  • Purge a room of your house (this helps identify waste, cultivate contentment, and curb spending)
  • Update your budget
  • Pay bills
  • Unsubscribe from sales emails
  • Sell something (and put the money toward debt or a savings goal)

Daily Goals:

  • No spending
  • Express gratitude

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

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

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