A few months ago, I felt stretched really thin. I didn't feel at peace and I was just buzzing through my to-do list, trying to remember to eat every meal, keep the house somewhat tidy, and somehow manage to be a good wife and decent Christian.
My phone was constantly distracting m, I was traveling a lot, working late nights on my computer, didn't have much of a routine, and had totally misplaced almost all of my healthy disciplines that I used to be so good at.
Summer rolled around, we finally moved into our house, my travel schedule lightened, and we got a puppy. My spirit felt dry and my heart felt heavy but I knew that if I really disciplined myself to live live healthier and holier, I was going to be happier and more full of life.
We have to work well and rest well in order to live well.
However, I think sometimes, we think that it's just healthy habits that make us feel happy but in all reality, holiness is a huge part of living in a deeper joy.
For the record, holiness does not mean uptight, religious, or figured out. It means walking in the way we were designed to, abiding in Christ (not in ourself) so that the fruit of the Spirit is produced: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self-control.
Notice, the fruit of the spirit does not say perfection nor does it say the “fruit of me.” These aren't things I can produce on my own, they are things that the Spirit produces in me when I, by the grace of God, walk in the discipline of abiding in Christ and make holier and healthier daily decisions.
So, if you're in the midst of a crazy season of life, try turning these 20 disciplines into habits. You'll have more breathing room, feel healthier, and will produce not just any fruit, but good fruit.
1. Develop a morning routine and set a bed time, turn your work off when the sun goes down.
This is something I'm personally trying to be better at. With modern technology and electricity, it's so easy to reach for our phones as we roll out of bed or work well into the night, after the sun goes down.
I end up working 12 hours a day if I'm not careful! If you rise early but don't jump on your work or social media immediately, you're going to feel more prepared and at peace when starting your day.
I've developed a routine for my mornings and resolve not to touch my phone/computer until I've been up for at least one hour.
In that first hour, I workout, eat breakfast, and spend at least 15-20 minutes in the Word.
We have to remember God's design. There is a reason the sun sets and rises–we were created to need rest yet we so often deprive ourselves of it just to get ahead or keep up.
Try getting in the discipline of not touching your work, emails, texts, etc. once the sun sets.
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” Psalm 127:2
2. Develop a hard work ethic
I'm going to give you a little insight into the business world because both of my parents are business owners who hire people often.
When I was growing up, they always shared with me their frustrations when it came to hiring young people, “It's getting harder and harder to hire young people because so many of them have a bunch of fancy degrees but no one wants to work hard anymore. Everyone thinks they're overqualified and want to make $80k coming out of school without working for it, likely because they're in debt up to their ears. I'd take someone with half the education and double the work ethic.”
Look, my parents aren't stingy or biased. They hang out in a circle of many other partners and business owners who have shared similar thoughts and frustrations with hiring millennials.
Of course, it can't be generalized to all millennials, but this is becoming the norm more and more.
Don't get me wrong, it's good to be educated and some job roles, like nurses and doctors, require it! No one is disagreeing that proper training and education is good but don't let the system sell you so much that you begin to feel entitled.
You're going to have to hustle in your career. Business owners would rather higher someone who works diligently and is reliable than someone with 15 degrees.
(Just for fun: these are my parents! Aren't they the cutest?)
3. Drink a lot of water
A simple way to care for your body is to drink a lot of water.
I know it can easy to forget but I've found that getting a water bottle that I love (aka a super cute one) helps me remember and want to refill it multiple times a day. Plus, reusing a water bottle is being a good steward of the earth and caring for the environment!
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” John 7:38
4. Make your bed every day and change your sheets every week
Making the bed simple discipline that my college roommate instilled in me and has stuck with me ever since. There's something about making your bed after waking up that starts your day off with order.
When you order your private world with little disciplines like this, you'll feel less cluttered and more ordered in all aspects of your day.
Plus, it's way nicer to climb into a clean and made bed when the evening rolls around than trying to untangle the sheets from the night before.
5. Wipe down all your counters before and after cooking
I used to just wipe down the counters after cooking a big meal but when I was living in Arizona, I noticed that my mother-in-law always wiped down the counters before and after cooking.
Preparing your work space, even if you're only making a sandwich, takes two seconds but provides a sense of discipline and adds cleanliness to your daily tasks like cooking dinner. It keeps your space feeling fresh instead of smudged and cluttered.
6. Don't leave dishes in the sink overnight
This is another one of those simple disciplines that help declutter the environment around you, keep you in a routine, and develops a daily discipline that orders your private world.
Of course, you don't HAVE to do dishes every single night but if you can manage to, your mornings will start off with a clean slate instead of a mountain of a mess in front of you as you make your breakfast.
Dishes that sit in the sink can be a big distraction and removing that distraction before it piles up will keep your mind clear and your heart focused.
The environment around you can really reflect how you handle stress and how you behave. Bring simple order through small disciplines like this and your heart will feel less heavy and your mind will be less stressed.
7. Set a spending budget when you go shopping or out for a social activity
It's super easy to overspend if you go to the store or out with friends without a clear idea of what your budget for the day/night is (trust me, I'm guilty of this!)
If you're married, consult your spouse about how much you agree on spending on a dinner date or at the grocery store before you go. If you're not married, it's still important to take a hard look at your finances and decide upfront how much you plan to spend during a girl's shopping day or when you're out to dinner with friends.
When you make this decision beforehand (and have the discipline to stick to it), you're being a better steward of your resources and you're also setting healthy boundaries in which to operate because you're avoiding overspending and really know where you stand.
8. Get off your bum and do 30 minutes of cardio each day
I work from home and could sit at the computer all day long if I didn't get up and move.
Research has endlessly shown how bad sitting for long periods of time can be for your health. Get up and move that body God gave you for at least 30 minutes a day.
You don't need to be a body builder but get up and go for a walk, do some squats, jumping jacks, whatever. Just move!
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19
9. Manage your time well by sticking to a schedule
One of the best disciplines is time management. It's so easy to get distracted by social media, text messages, emails, etc. that pop up as we work.
While it's not bad to take a break every now and then from work/homework/etc., it's also important to really manage your time well. A simple way to do this is to build in those breaks–plan them instead of taking them at random.
Get in a routine by creating a simples structure for your day and stick to it as much as you can. It helps to limit yourself to one or two big to-do's for the day so that you can really focus on them.
For example, my general structure is as follows:
7-9 am — breakfast, workout, shower, quiet time
9-10 am — important emails, messages, touch base with assistant, etc.
10am – 4pm — One or two big to-do's such as Write Blog 2 Posts or Work on Book
4-6pm — errands and/or cook dinner
6-7pm — dinner (except Monday, Monday is when small group meets)
7:30-8 — clean up, post on social media
9-11 — work off, unwind
Create a simple and general structure like this for your free time to avoid wasting precious hours.
Make it fun by hanging up a color-coded calendar in a place that you'll see every day! Our days are limited and time is a gift — steward it well!
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17
10. Limit your screen time and give yourself breaks from social media
Try to limit how much time you stare at a screen and build in breaks from the screen. If most of your work relies on technology, then try to make most of your leisure/entertainment outside of technology.
Avoid TV and social media and call your mom, go outside, hug your neighbor, bake something yummy, read a book instead. Be creative and more present by entertaining yourself with what's in your real world — not in the virtual world.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them…she who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
11. Floss daily
Again, your body is a temple. Do little things that take care of something that would likely go unnoticed if you didn't do it (until it catches up with you!).
Holding yourself accountable in the little things will reflect in how you handle the big things.
Take care of your hygiene by flossing regularly, keeping your skin healthy, and making small choices that add up is a way to care for the gift of your body while also feeling better.
12. Have a Sooner and Later to-do list
I used to just write down all that I needed to do in one big list instead of dividing my tasks up according to importance.
As silly as it sounds, sometimes it ended up that the easier but less important tasks would get done first and the tasks that were most important got put on the back burner — and then I found myself scrambling to get them done.
Developing a simple practice like keeping a to-do list with “sooner” and “later” items helps you keep your priorities visual and clear so that you can be more disciplined with them and therefore, steward your time well.
12. Keep a loose change jar
Loose change can be a form of clutter in your house, dorm, etc. but it has more value as it adds up…so it's like clutter that you want to collect (except you don't want it to actually be clutter 😉
Find an old mason jar or plastic container that is designated to hold loose change and keep it in your closet or in another place that's out of site so that it doesn't stress you out yet helps you save little by little!
My parents taught me this practice and they told me that one time, they paid for a vacation with all the loose change they had collected over the year! It really does add up!
12. For every new article of clothing you get, donate an old article of clothing
Part of godliness with contentment is to avoid becoming materialistic or hoarding things. While it's not bad to get a new dress or pair of shoes now and then, remembered that a cluttered closet can quickly clutter your mind and mix up your priorities.
A friend of mine recently told me about something that she has started to do and I loved the idea so much that I've started to do it, as well!
Every time you buy or get a new article of clothing, donate an old article of clothing that you no longer wear. This is a simple and great way to be generous while also not stuffing your closet full of stuff you don't need!
Photo by Shanna Camilleri
14. Put your phone down or shut it off when you're with people
This can be so hard because it's so normal for young people to all go out to dinner together and for everyone to be on their phones.
I'm guilty of grabbing my phone when I'm with family and friends but it's something I'm really working on being better at.
Your phone is not a magnet that belongs in your hand all the time. If you're not sure what to talk about when you're with people, avoid reaching for your phone just to avoid awkwardness. Ask questions or come up with a funny game, instead!
There have been times Matt and I have been at dinner without our phones and felt like we didn't have much to talk about so when that happens, we've sometimes reverted to playing games like 20 questions or tried to guess what others in the restaurant are talking about…
That guy and girl? Are they on their first date or have they been married awhile?
Those two guys? Business meeting or brothers?
That family? What's their story? Where might they be from?
Sometimes people watching or doing something simple and creative is a great way to bond and engage the people you're with, instead of shutting down and living in your own world by staring at your phone.
You'll feel more full of life and learn some really awesome things from people or about people if you take time to pay attention and put your phone down!
Photo by rawpixel.com
15. Ask older people questions and seek wisdom/counsel often
You don't know everything. I know you have a Google machine in your pocket (aka your smartphone) but that can't always advise you on the important things.
Seek counsel from trusted mentors, ask your parents for help, or call a friend to get another opinion.
And hey, sometimes mom's chicken noodle soup recipe is 10x better than what you can find on Pinterest. Plus, people love feeling valued and needed. Seeking wisdom from others who have gone before you shows you value their advice and wisdom in life, which builds stronger bonds!
16. Get involved in groups (don't isolate yourself)
I know life is busy and you're probably hustling your butt of just to keep up. But remember how important rest and life giving connection is.
You are made to be in relationship and for relationship. Find a life group, Bible study, small group, or intramural club/team to get involved in. Building connection with like minded people will give you a break from the hustle, provide you with accountability and remind you that you're not alone, and encourage you to keep going
“Sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9
17. Cut back on sugar and replace cravings with natural sugars
This doesn't mean don't enjoy a good bowl of ice cream or savor that big chocolate chocolate chip cookie now and then. It simply means be aware of what you're putting in your body.
If you're like me, you have a sweet tooth and probably catch yourself ordering a small salad at dinner so you can fill up on dessert instead (or is that just me…?)
Anyway, I've been working on getting in the discipline of filling up on my meals and healthier alternatives so that I don't end up eating my weight in sugar every day.
In an effort to take care of my body, I try to be realistic by enjoying a treat now and then but on a regular basis, I try to replace cravings with water or small snacks with natural sugars, like apple slices with honey or a tablespoon of peanut butter.
Photo by Michał Grosicki
18. Set work hours/boundaries for your phone.
I touched on this a big already, but as a rule of thumb, the first hour you wake up and the last hour you're awake should be phone free.
This helps you start your day off with what matters most and focus on your priorities, like squeezing in quiet time and workout. Unplugging before bed also helps settle your mind and can lead to better sleep and deeper rest!
19. Be a good steward of your resources by budgeting well and give generously
My husband has always been great about giving consistently. Even as a college student, he tithed 10% of his scholarship check (from playing football).
When I saw that for the first time, we hadn't been dating very long, I was like, “umm…aren't you not technically required to do that until you're a grownup and working a real job?”
Since then, I've really learned the beauty of that discipline and it's something we take very seriously in our household.
For example, my blog/business brings in income every month. Out of that monthly income, we've budgeted a portion of it that we take as my salary, a portion to pay team members, a portion to put away into savings for future projects, a portion to put away for taxes, and a portion to use for expenses.
Technically, we could tithe 10% of the portion we take home because that's the part of our household income. The business income is more than what we actually take home/use.
However, we both felt strongly about giving out of our first fruits, out of all that God provides to make this ministry possible, not just out of the small part of it that we use for ourselves.
Being dedicated to this and making a habit of it has helped us budget and spend more wisely. It keeps our priorities in line and helps us make better decisions.
Regardless of what kind of job you're working or how much money you're making, it's crucial to get in the habit of keeping your finances organized and being disciplined in sticking to a budget (I suggest using an app like Mint to track your spending and saving).
Planned giving and giving off the top of what you make (if you're employed and not a business owner, that could mean tithing off your gross/pre-tax income instead of your net income) is a discipline that not only honors God but helps you keep sound finances in a world full of apple pay and online shopping. 😉
Spontaneous giving isn't bad but choosing to give and pre-planning and building it into your monthly budget helps you avoid making silly or selfish purchases because you're putting your first fruits.
Be a good steward of your money, don't spend money you don't have and run up your credit card bill, be aware of what your credit score is, remember that you don't need the latest upgrade of everything, and that your first priority should be generosity.
You can be generous even before you think you should or before you're “supposed to,” because we're all called to give. I once heard a pastor say that we are called to be a pipeline, not a bucket.We are called to be a pipeline, not a bucket. Click To Tweet
So, that means that even when you think you don't have enough, you have to understand that you are going to be fuller and richer by giving than you will be by clinging tightly to your money.
God can do much more with 90% of what you have than you can do with 100%. Trust Him with it.God can do much more with 90% of what you have than you can do with 100%. Click To Tweet
“You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God.” Exodus 34:26
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
20. Don't be a checkbox Christian
It's so easy to fall into checkbox Christianity, which essentially means going through the motions and doing the Christian stuff but not really living a faith that's alive.
While works based faith is unbiblical and while we cannot ‘earn' salvation through our deeds but only by grace alone (Romans 11:6, Ephesians 2:8), the Bible does say that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26).
In other words, if you just go through the motions and don't actively live what you say you believe, if you fill yourself up with knowledge and learn all the things you are called to do but don't actually do them, you won't lose your salvation but your faith is going to feel pretty stale and lifeless and your spirit will feel pretty dry and shriveled up.
Truly following Jesus is not just about sitting in the pews and filling yourself up with head knowledge. It's important to learn, to be disciplined with getting the Word as much as possible, but it's not good to be legalistic or let your faith end their.
In other words, don't just limit your faith to super structured quiet time. Although discipline is important, it's equally as important to make it a habit to get out in your community and bring your faith to life.
Say no to unnecessary obligations to free up time to go live your faith.
Simple ways to do this? Prayer walk, talk to the woman on the corner, invite a friend who needs a listening ear to coffee, etc.
Go reach the lost, love those around you, reach your corner of the universe with service and love…and watch your faith come to life.
If you implement these 20 simple disciplines and turn them into habits, I promise you're going to have more breathing room and your days are going to be healthier, holier, and happier.
Because this isn't about being perfect, getting it right all the time, or appearing to have it all together, it's about admitting you don't know all the answers and living in that freedom.
It's about decluttering our life (and therefore, our heart) and removing what doesn't matter to make more space for what does matter so that we can abide in Christ, fix our eyes on the prize, and become the person we're meant to be.
That's how we become more full of more life and bear the fruits of patience, peace, love, joy, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness.
That's how our lives become filled with less junk and filled with more of Jesus.