Book Reviews

Where I keep my book reviews, arranged alphabetically by author.

“Every day presents us with countless options for how to spend our time. However, only some are truly great deals. Only a few things are really important. […] It’s frequently these good things that distract us from the best things.”

Mahaney, Carolyn. Shopping for Time: How to do it all and NOT be overwhelmed

published in 2007
Productivity.
read in 2012

God isn’t calling you to “do it all” in the world’s sense or even in our own personal mile-long to-do-list sense. The book constitutes a redefinition of “doing it all.”

After laying the groundwork, they outline five tips.

1. Rise early.

How can this be a grace-filled book if they come right out of the gates with something called “the 5am club”?

Well, by granting exceptions to pregnant and nursing mothers, by admitting this is a tip and not a rule or law, and by being humorous and humble rather than self-promoting and self-righteous.

2. Sit still.

This chapter encourages mothers to have a daily devotional time, including not only reading the Bible, but also praying and perhaps singing or journaling.

3. Sit and plan.

Now we come to the nitty gritty. This is where the self-examination comes in and we are encouraged to be intentional and deliberate and realistic in our activities and obligations.

4. Consider people.

People are the priority over and the purpose of housework and activities. This chapter leads us through an examination of who God has placed in our lives, who we are to serve and with whom we are to cultivate relationships.

5. Plan to depend.

Here these ladies remind us that our plans are not infallible or immutable, that our plans will make it clear to us that we are inadequate even for the necessities of life — and that that is a good place to be.

This is a quick and encouraging little book that addresses the fundamentals of “redeeming the days,” while remaining light-hearted, humble, and gracious.

Maxwell, Teri. Managers of Their Homes

published in 2000
Productivity.
read in 2012.

This 175-page spiral-bound book by Steven and Teri Maxwell has been around for over ten years now. I’ve seen ladies (online only) mention their “MOTH schedule,” looked at a few online, and shrugged. I saw that the format was that you schedule out in columns what each member of the family is doing — including babies — and thought, “Ah, well, I could do that on my own if I wanted to make up a schedule.” And, when I have made routine/schedule charts, I have formatted them the way I saw others’ MOTH schedules formatted. So, why should I buy the book?

I don’t remember why, but I was reminded of this book just as I was preparing to start my diligence in housework series, and took the time to really read what was on their website. According to what I read there, this book was not only how to schedule, but also how to work a schedule. I could see that this was no rigid, militaristic strict scheduling, but a plan of action that was a tool in the hand of a manager, and the book was about how to effectively wield the tool. So I bought it.

Managers of Their Homes lived up to that claim. The last half of the book is how to figure out what should be in your schedule and your children’s schedules and how to piece it together. It comes with a handy and clever kit with movable pieces, so you can quickly and easily visualize and adjust the day’s activities. But creating lists and schedules and clever charts is my personal pet interest, so that didn’t get me terribly excited. What I loved was the first half of the book, which laid out an approach to a real schedule with time slots and all, that was “real life.”

The two key concepts for me were to schedule enough margin into the day to handle interruptions, because every day has interruptions. Plan on being interrupted, plan enough room so that doesn’t stress you out, and expect to be interrupted. The interruptions are part of our job that God sends (discipline, diapers, phone call from a needy friend, etc.); the schedule is there so that things stay mostly managed and we are more free, not less, to take care of unexpected needs. Second, if it’s a big interruption or a non-typical day or something goes terribly wrong, just pick the schedule back up when its over. Deal with what’s in front of you, and get back to regular life, picking it right back up. So the morning went hay-wire? Well, you’ll have another one tomorrow, just pick the schedule back up at whatever time you’re in and keep moving.

Because it’s written down, you don’t have to sit and think and wonder what to do next. The benefit of the schedule is two-fold: 1) You don’t have to wonder what to do next; you know what you should be doing, so it cuts down on decisions and thinking. 2) Your kids don’t have to wonder what to do next, or ask you what to do next, or go off and make mischief because they are left to themselves; they also are able to just “do the next thing” — once they’re elementary-aged, anyway.

She has chapters on scheduling school, children, babies, chores, food, and summer. Her flexibility and humility is most evidenced in the baby chapter. She scheduled her babies, and she helps you see how she did in the chapter, but she says from the outset that if you are opposed to scheduling babies, just leave them out of the schedule and keep enough margin in your schedule to accommodate their needs. The chapter on summer has ideas for changing the schedule, keeping the schedule, and just abandoning the schedule for a season. This really is a tool and not a shackle, to be used as it fits your personality and family.