As the mother of eight children, one of the best ways I organize myself, is by organizing my time. Quoting from Lord Chesterfield, "Take care of the minutes, the hours will take care of themselves," let me share with you what began as an experiment of desperation, but became a lifelong habit of joy.

When we had four little children, one barely reading, the rest great listeners, my days were filled with children, meals, chores, and diapers. There seemed to be no time to just regroup, do something fun, or enjoy some precious alone-time. I'm not an advocate of "My Time!" or that as moms we have a right to time off. I believe we are to serve our families, but that we need to discuss situations with our own husbands and come up with creative ways for each parent to have some time to themselves. As our example, several times the Bible mentions Jesus going off alone to reenergize. We need it, too, when done in an honoring and gentle way.

Since my husband and I were committed to my staying home with the children, I didn't want to hire a babysitter to watch them while I sewed, read a book, or worked on a project. So I prayed. I ran across an article about early, early risers—people who arise before 6 A.M. and even before 5 A.M. People who actually choose to get out of bed early! I was intrigued, became creative, set the alarm for a predawn time, and went to bed early to account for it.

I remember waking up that day with the sheer thrill of excitement. I read my Bible and prayed, then began a sewing project. I had just enough time to cut out two Sunday dresses before it was time to wake up the family. I was hooked! A smiled played on my lips as I carried a sense of joy with me throughout the day. For something so simple, it affected our lives so dramatically. And the best part was that I hadn't taken time away from the children to accomplish it.

Research shows that each hour of sleep before midnight equals two hours of sleep after midnight. So, the earlier one goes to sleep, the less sleep she will need. I now go to bed, most nights, with the littlies—our youngest children—around 8:30 P.M. Without an alarm, I awaken between 1 something and 3 A.M., which works well with my natural early bird circadian rhythm.

During dinner with friends, I mentioned the early-birding to a group of young adults, and they latched on to the idea. One began getting up early to work on her watercolor paintings. Another used the productive time to study for law school, with great improvement to his grades. Our older children get up at 5 A.M., read their Bibles and pray, do chores, then hit the gym before 6 A.M. to work out for track team.

Managing Projects
After fifteen years of arising early, I have learned a few things to make the time even more productive. I absolutely do not use that time to clean or do housework. However, I do use it to make meal plans, create lists, prepare school, write, or work on creative projects.

One of the first tips I learned for project management is to simplify and focus on one project to begin, then count the cost, asking yourself if this project is really worth your time. Can you buy it instead? Does the difference between store-bought and homemade matter to you and your family? For example, I used to sew almost everything for our children, including underclothing and the baby's shoes. When I realized that packets of underthings cost less than $5 for three pair, I had to rethink my time investment. Sometimes, while it might not be especially prudent to make a dress for one of my little daughters, rather than buy it, the emotional payoff does wonders for their hearts. I've heard my girls tell their friends, not boastfully, but with gratitude overflowing their hearts, "My mother made this dress for me, rather than just buying it." To them it signifies their importance in my eyes.

Another tip is to think ahead—plan ahead—buy ahead. Think through things before you get there, and spend lost time thinking through the next project. Lost time is any time not spent doing something else. Waiting in line at a store, sitting in a doctor's office, changing a baby's diaper, nursing a little one, or washing dishes. Even if my body is still, my brain is active, thinking, planning, making lists.