Becky Kiser on sacred holidays.

Stream and/or download the episode directly from iTunes here.

Becky Kiser is empowering people to celebrate holidays in meaningful ways. In a world often pushing us toward busyness and materialism over intentionality and gratitude, Becky helps people celebrate major events with thoughtful actions and a godly foundation. She released her newest book, Sacred Holidays, in October—and it’s a timely resource for your Christmas season as you seek to slow down and celebrate Christ’s birth with joy.

Subscribe: iTunesStitcher – Overcast

Becky Kiser’s background

Becky Kiser is intent that women would fall in love with God’s Word, then feel equipped and empowered to live it out. She believes that women can live out their own wild story, just like the ones we see of God’s chosen in His Word, as they love Jesus and love people. She is the founder and CEO of Sacred Holidays—a ministry dedicated to helping women find less chaos and more Jesus during holidays through Bible study, community, resources, and lots of fun! She is determined to help women keep all the whimsy of the holidays, but help make them sacred—holy and set apart.

Becky has a background in marketing and ministry, and is a certified Myers-Briggs life coach, bringing each of those experiences into her writing and speaking. Becky and her husband, Chris, live in Houston, TX with their three girls.

Resources

Links to things mentioned in the episode

Connect with Becky

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Top Ten || November

Here are ten things I’m loving that will help you move the needle.

1) “5 Ways To Stop Hating Your To-Do List” from Doist

The makers of Todoist have been featured on Top Tens multiple times—and for good reason. In this post, learn the common pitfalls ailing your unfinished to-do list. If you find yourself resenting the action items in front of you, there’s a good chance it’s because you’re not following one or more of these five principles of great action items.

2) “Celebration Must Be Stronger Than Cynicism” from Jon Tyson

Jon Tyson is at it again. This sermon is worth your time. In a culture flooded with anger and cynicism, how does the church cultivate a culture of celebration? This is the question Jon Tyson masterfully answers. It’s well worth your time and encourages you to keep up the holy partying.

3) My Herschel wallet

I just love this thing. It fits perfectly in my pocket and has just enough pockets for just the right amount of cards. Plus, you’re not spending all your money to hold your money. Herschel has made a wallet that’s affordable without compromising quality. It makes a great gift for you or another guy in your life.

4) “Psalm 42” from Tori Kelly

I can’t stop listening to this. Tori Kelly’s voice just draws you closer to God. She turns a beautiful Psalm into a beautiful song, and if you’re looking to be refreshed—look no further. Below, she performs the song live.

5) Amy Grant Christmas music

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and that means Amy Grant is back in heavy rotation. She made this list during Christmas last year, and I imagine she’s destined to make it again many years in a row. If you go through the Christmas season without “Tennessee Christmas,” did you even have a Christmas season at all?

6) The HOPE International gift catalog

Give the gift of hope this Christmas by supporting entrepreneurs around the world in your loved one’s honor. Browse items and learn the stories of hardworking clients in the countries where HOPE works. I’m proud of what our team has put together, but I’m even more excited about what this means for families in underserved communities.

7) The Johnson Family Light Show

I mean, this is just so over the top in so many ways. And I love it. Johnson family, I don’t know you—but I want to. I gladly surrender to your Christmas light greatness.

8) The Honey Chrome extension

Install Honey and never worry about making sure you’re getting the best deal again. Honey scans through all known discount codes for you at checkout and helps you make sure you’re not overspending. This time of the year, that’s a huge perk.

9) 1Password

1Password wins the award for greatest password manger ever. If your password is still 12345, you need to make a change in your life. 1Password not only (very) securely stores all of your passwords for all of the sites in your life, but it also automatically generates insanely long unique passwords so you can worry less about your identity getting stolen. Plus, their iPhone app makes it possible to autofill your alphabet-length passwords on your phone in a breeze.

10) Whole Foods Catering

Why stress about Christmas dinner when you can have Whole Foods stress about it for you? Our family delegated all the cooking to Amazon’s new child this Thanksgiving, and I’d strongly recommend you do the same if you’re not in the mood/don’t like to cook.

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Why you should break what you value into specific, actionable steps.

If you want to see what you claim to truly value come to fruition, you can’t leave your dreams as ambiguous ideas for long. You have to break them down into actionable steps you can immediately take. Lofty ideals are a great starting point, but if they remain lofty ideals forever—they will always be dreams and never become your reality.

It’s honorable to say my family comes before work. If I’m always checking my work email at the dinner table when everyone else is engaged in conversation, however, it’s just a perceived value. It’s not a reality. Work actually comes before family even though I keep telling myself it doesn’t.

I may believe fitness is good for me, but if it only ever exists in my brain and not in the actions I take, fitness isn’t actually something I value. Sleeping through an alarm every day instead of getting up to exercise says sleep is a greater priority. 

The first step in living a life aligned with our values is admitting what we believe to be true and what actually is true are often different. 

When we start to recognize that we think we value one thing when, in actuality, we value something else—what do we do?

When you realize you think meals as a family are a value but you haven’t had one in weeks, how should you feel?

First, here’s something unhelpful: shame. Shame drives us farther from progress rather than toward it. If you want to fuel a short-term turnaround, shame can provide some nice kerosene for your fire–but it won’t sustain long-term reformation. 

You say you care about staying away from your phone, but you’ve been scrolling through Instagram for three hours. You say you like healthy food, but you’re just going for it on a bag of Doritos. You say you care about generosity, but you’ve deleted the giving line from your budget to make room for something else.

When you wake up and feel the weight of the disconnect, you can easily allow yourself to be driven by how bad you feel about it. This is shame. It tells you you’ve messed up again and aren’t going to make it, but you might as well slap yourself on the wrist and replace the chips with carrots. You keep trying to do what you think you believe you should do, but a voice in the back of your head just keeps reminding you of your past mistake—about how you can try hard (again) but will probably fail.

If, however, you want to build a lifestyle that ultimately lines up with meaning rather than passivity, you have to be drive by something else: opportunity.

Shame constantly reminds you of the past. Opportunity gives you vision for the future. 

It means you’re able to paint a picture of what working out consistently will provide you rather than beating yourself up for punching your snooze button. It means you see things for what could be, not as a way to prove your past self wrong.

So when you’re driven by the right thing, opportunity, but just can’t seem to get moving on what you claim to care about—you might be facing a next-level problem. Opportunity hasn’t turned into grit. It hasn’t driven you to formulate an actual plan for execution. It’s simply remained in the future but hasn’t translated into what that means for today.

The best thing you can do to line up your life with the values you think you embody is to let opportunity drive you toward breaking the journey up the mountain into what step you need to take today. 

Right now, in this moment, what decision do I need to choose to make what I value become true?

I am a committed Christian. As a follower of Jesus, I claim to believe the Bible is the actual word of God and provides direction for my life. Today, this means I have an opportunity to read it, and I should take that opportunity. Reading even a few simple verses helps me live what I believe.

I believe giving generously is important, fun, and an essential ingredient for a meaningful life. Today, this means I should think critically about where my money is going and what it’s doing in the world. It’s an opportunity to see generosity come to pass.

Take a conviction you hold and break it down into the most actionable steps possible. 

I believe eating healthy is important. Choose accordingly at your next meal.

I believe friendships are worth building. Give your full attention to what your conversation partner is saying.

I believe investing in my kids is a valuable way to spend my time. Get on the floor with them. Tell them what they mean to you. Open up.

All of us are hypocrites to some degree. We all don’t do this perfectly. We all binge on Halloween candy and find ourselves drifting sometimes. What we believe is often contradicted by what we do, but we can mitigate some of this by breaking what we believe down into what we should do about it right now.

Receive God’s grace and remind yourself of the opportunity ahead. Break what you value into specific, actionable steps. It’s the only way our beliefs prove themselves true.

Photo by Maria Fernanda Gonzalez on Unsplash

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How to make Thanksgiving a season of thanksgiving.

Stream and/or download the episode directly from iTunes here.

It’s hard to believe it, but the holidays are upon us. Cultivating a heart and culture of gratitude won’t happen on accident. In this month’s episode, learn foundational principles for making this Thanksgiving a season of thanksgiving.

Subscribe: iTunesStitcher – Overcast

Resources

Links to things mentioned in the episode

  • 1:22 – Well, technically it was November 4

  • 5:14 – “Why Gratitude Is Good” by Robert Emmons

  • 8:50 – One helpful tool toward this end is StayFocusd

  • 13:38 – Check out this quote from Eckhart Tolle: “See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”

Connect

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Top Ten || October

1) Rivers & Robots’ newest album, Discovery

I have been a fan of Jonathan Ogden, Rivers & Robots’ lead singer, for a long time. His solo projects have blown me away. This is the first time I’ve listened to his band, and it doesn’t disappoint. Worship music can often sound the same with many groups creating stadium rock with similar melodies. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but I love that Rivers & Robots is doing something different. Lyrically, the entire album is rich with metaphor and authenticity. Musically, it’s light and meaningful. I urge you—spend significant time with this album. If you don’t like it at first, let it grow on you. You’ll eventually love it. Below is one of my favorite songs, “Satisfy.”

2) Homemade pumpkin scones

I can’t say they came out exactly like the picture, but I’m proud of the fact that I made these myself. It’s that time of the year for everything pumpkin, and these scones aren’t easy to make—but are totally worth. They may be bad for the body (not exactly earning you any fitness points), but they’re good for the soul. Just remember: baking powder and baking soda aren’t the same thing.

3) The HoursTracker app

If you do any hourly work for your full-time gig or side hustle, HoursTracker provides an amazing way to keep it all organized. You can clock in and out on the app, add comments to describe how you spent the time, and easily export reports into Excel files. It’s obvious the makers of HoursTracker thought through the problems users would be looking to solve, and they’ve done a great job solving them with an intuitive and helpful user experience.

4) This story of Justin Gallegos signing with Nike

Justin Gallegos is a collegiate runner in Oregon who has Cerebral Palsy. Recently, Nike signed him as a professional athlete sponsored by the company. The video below documents some of this story, and it promises to bring out the tears. As this article reports, Justin has been an athlete all his life and has helped Nike develop a shoe for runners with disabilities. He’s looking to break a two-hour half marathon. The world needs more athletes like Justin and stories like this.

5) The Dohm Classic sound machine

My wife and I refer to the wing of our house where our kids sleep as the white noise capital of the world. Our kids have Dohm sound machines, and we keep one in our hallway, too. The Classic is fan-based and creates a low hum that helps mask the noise in the house and provides a soothing soundscape for our kids to help them (and, occasionally, us) fall asleep. These things are incredible.

6) “Why Experiences (not Things) Get Better with Time, According to Science” by Jay Harrington via Becoming Minimalist

This article presents a great, quick reminder that experiences pay greater dividends than things over the long run.

7) Peter Nyankiko’s story

Peter Nyankiko is a client of HOPE International’s microfinance institution in Rwanda, Urwego Bank. This month, we had our annual fundraising breakfast in Houston and shared Peter’s remarkable story. After measles left him blind as a child, Peter felt he had little options for his future. He and his wife (who is also blind) had a challenging time getting capital to start a business. They eventually found Urwego and received a loan to start a real estate business. Now, they have 25 rental properties and started a cycling cooperative with 150 employees to transport goods. What heroes.

8) This tea tree shampoo

If you’re looking to turn your daily shower experience into a relaxing spa experience, look no further. When the minty goodness of tea tree oil mixes with the steam of hot water—you can forget the stress of your day. I’m loving this stuff.

9) Serial: Season Three

In the third season of this wildly popular podcast, the makers of Serial explore the criminal justice system in the United States through the lens of a single courthouse in Cleveland. In each episode, you’ll find yourself tracking with stories showing some of the challenges interwoven into a foundational function required for the flourishing of society. You’ll feel confused, frustrated, optimistic, and enlightened along the journey. Beware, however. Some of the language and depictions of real events aren’t suitable for children.

10) “What to Know When Starting a Roth” from YNAB

Personal finance can sometimes feel more confusing than it actually is. YNAB breaks down exactly what a Roth IRA is in this post and spells out some of the most important things you need to know about saving for retirement using this type of investment account. If you’re just getting started with saving for retirement or know you need to, take some time to read this article and make a plan to get going today.

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Today’s To-Do: Give something you love to someone you love.

Giving money is good, and the act of financially contributing to people and organizations in need improves the world and makes your generosity muscles stronger. 

Sometimes, however, you give financially and still don’t realize the rate at which you’re also consuming and putting hope in material goods. Writing checks to charities doesn’t guarantee your heart is in the right place with your possessions.

Don’t get me wrong. Buying things can be great when you have the money to do it and aren’t counting on things for your ultimate contentment. I love one-click shopping on Amazon as much as the next person. But the things we own should never own us, and the battle to keep our possessions in their rightful place requires consistent prayer, reflection, and practice. 

One of many small practices you can implement right now is to regularly give something meaningful away to another person or organization.

Today, I invite you to do just that. 

Find a book you love, a piece of clothing–anything in your home that you value–and make someone else’s life better with it. 

Donating things we don’t like or have no use for anymore is good for us and allows us to simplify our homes. But giving away something we enjoy is even better because it’s a tangible act of sacrificial love. It feels less like cleaning out and more like deeply caring for another person.

Find something you love and give it to someone you love.

Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash

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How to use Todoist to decrease anxiety and focus on what matters.

I’ve written extensively about why and how to use paper, pen, and technology to implement David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology in your life.

Doing this isn’t just about get more done. It’s mainly about decluttering your mind, gaining greater clarity around what it is you need to be doing right now, and obtaining a clear sense of where you’re going. By emptying your mind and getting everything into a system you trust, you free up mental space for deeper prayer, creativity, thought, and contemplation. You also find yourself with more time and energy.

Often, the ambiguity around our work creates the deepest level of anxiety.

“I sure hope I’m not forgetting something.” 

and

“What should I even be doing right now?”

are both thoughts preventing us from moving the ball forward on the projects and things we care about most.

A tool I use as a part of implementing GTD in my daily life is Todoist. Todoist is simply an action and reference list system with a mission to help users become more productive and free. The platform allows you to organize tasks and information under different projects, labels, and filters with the option to view this information in time-related ways, too.

Todoist helps clear your head and organize your life.

“I sure hope I’m not forgetting something” becomes “I know I’m remembering everything.” 

“What should I even be doing right now?” becomes “I know what I need to be doing today.”

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using Todoist to help get the most value.

Record more than you think you should

When you realize you need to do or remember something, put it in your inbox.

As you’re getting started, put absolutely everything in here.

It may seem cumbersome, but learning to create an external brain requires flexing new muscles and developing new habits. Even if you know you’ll remember to bring the book back to the library on Friday, you should still record the task. If you leave a meeting and understand you’re responsible for emailing the attendees a recap of who is responsible for what action steps, put it in your system. If you think you should call your friend to catch up, record it in your inbox.

On a daily or weekly basis, process through your inbox and assign everything in your inbox a project/focus area.

Todoist allows you to get things into your system in easy ways. 

You can use their smartphone app, Alexa, their desktop app, or web extensions to record action steps or key pieces of information. You can add things directly for Gmail or Outlook. You can ask Siri to add something for you.

As you’re getting used to using Todoist, the key is to record everything. You’ll be amazed how refreshing it feels to open the application and see all you needed to remember for a day. You’ll also feel relieved when you realize you would’ve forgotten about some of your tasks if it weren’t for the system.

Recording everything makes you more dependable, too, because you can better complete things you committed to by the agreed upon deadline.

As you’re recording things, you can take advantage of Todoist’s smart dates. The tool makes it possible to simply type, “Call Brian back tomorrow,” and a due date appears for the next day. This applies to recurring dates as well.

If it has more than one step required to complete, make it a project

A large part of the Getting Things Done methodology is making sure your action steps are different than your projects.

“Clean out the garage” isn’t an action step. It’s a group of actions steps. Therefore, it should be a project. Make a heading called “Current Projects” and then make all of the sub-projects items that take more than one step to complete.

Within each of these projects, define the specific things that need to happen next for the project to be closer to completion. For instance, under the “Clean out the garage” project, you might have the step to “go through the tools in my toolbox and put the ones I don’t use anymore in a bag to be donated.”

The key is to get as granular as you need to with your action steps under projects that encompass the entirety of what you’re trying to do.

Todoist makes organizing projects easy by giving you the ability to create a hierarchy. You can put projects under “Current Projects,” but you can also create a hierarchy of “Personal” and “Work” projects, too.

Getting projects and specific action steps articulated clearly helps chip away at the ambiguity surrounding your life and makes us more able to approach our lives with a healthier mind.

From Todoist: How to best use projects

Go premium – labels change the game

You can get value from the free version of Todoist, but going premium is absolutely worth it.

Premium gives you access to features like labels that make your system more functional for day-to-day use. Without labels, you’re constricted to putting a due date on a task, but it’s challenging to see that task before the day it’s actually due. Many of your tasks don’t have a specific due date but need to be done as soon as possible. Labels allow you to meet both needs–seeing the task and the due date before the task is due.

Here’s how I use labels according to GTD:

Each label represents a context for doing an action (Computer, Phone, etc.)

When a task is sorted from my inbox:

  • It’s given a label if it needs to happen as soon as possible and a date if it has a due date

  • It isn’t given a label if it needs to happen on a specific date, but not before

Each day, I focus first on the things showing up in my “Today” view. These tasks represent things that either need to happen today or are due today. Everything else is based in labels, actions I can work on now but don’t necessarily need to be completed now.

One of the best labels you can add to your system is the GTD approach to tracking the things you’ve delegated out to others with the label “Waiting.”

For any task located in any project that someone else is responsible for, you can add the “Waiting” label and see all of the delegated tasks for all of the projects in your life within a single view.

You can regularly review this list and follow up on things as needed. This label alone is worth an upgrade to premium as it allows you to know who is responsible for what and how you need to keep things moving.

Giving your tasks labels allows you to batch them in powerful ways. Sporadically switching between different types of tasks takes far more time than batching similar action steps.

For example: sitting down to write all of the thank you notes in your “Notes” label at the same time a couple times per week is far more effective than writing one or two every once in a while.

From Todoist: How to best use labels

Filters are your friend

Todoist filters make it possible to go even deeper than labels, check your work, and keep a holistic view on your life. For instance, filters allow you to make sure every task in a shared project has actually been assigned to someone. They allow you to see any of the next actions that are due this week or month. You can see the things you’re waiting for that you need within 30 days.

You can practically customize these filters to do whatever you want them to do.

Because GTD is all about putting next actions on lists rather than arbitrarily assigning them dates to show up on your calendar at some point in the future, you want to be able see the next steps on your projects in strategic ways.

Filters offer one of the best ways to do this.

One of my favorite filters is “High priority next actions.”

This filter shows me any of the next actions I’ve deemed as highly important. When I go to map a day, I can see these tasks at a glance. Some of them may not be due for a couple weeks, but they are highly important and deserve first dibs on scheduling time, attention, and energy for completion.

From Todoist: Filters

Use templates

Todoist allows premium users to create templates out of projects and lists that can be imported into new projects. This feature has many implications, most notably the way it saves you an incredible amount of time.

Each week, I have an .csv file saved on Google Drive that I import into my “Weekly Life Leadership Tasks” project. These tasks need to be done by the end of the week, but they don’t need to be specifically done on Sunday. With this in mind, each of the lines within the spreadsheet includes a task with its specific label(s). All of the tasks I want/need to do on a weekly basis then get automatically assigned their specific contexts. If I don’t get to a task during the week, I’m reminded on Sunday as a final check that the task still needs to be accomplished.

Templates can be used to drag in packing lists for trips, work assignments you do frequently, grocery store items, etc. Less time retyping tasks and less anxiety around having to remember each of the steps or items in a list or project frees up your mind for more meaningful things.

From Todoist: A whole new way to create and share Todoist Templates

Let lists take the weight off your shoulders

Atul Gawande wrote a powerful book called The Checklist Manifesto. In it, he argues one of the most effective tools saving lives in hospitals, keeping skyscrapers from falling, and ensuring pilots do the right things to fly planes is a simple list.

Keeping things out of your head and in a system you trust is a foundational principle of Getting Things Done–and it’s a freeing way to experience the world. Lists keep you from forgetting the obligations you bring with you everywhere you go. Often, our worry is a symptom of the thousands of undefined tasks bouncing around in our brains. Defining the ambiguity in a tool like Todoist provides more clarity and certainty.

Many great to-do list managers exist, but after trying several methods, I’ve landed on Todoist. Remember, this isn’t about getting anything done. It’s about getting the right things done for the right reasons.

Quality over quantity.

Keep making meaningful progress on things that matter.

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