I recently finished the audiobook The Miracle Equation by Hal Elrod. In the book, Hal encourages us to choose a big goal that is in line with our values. He also encourages us to choose a goal that will make us better people — the kind of people who are able to accomplish our other goals. I was walking my neighborhood as I listened to his book. I considered a number of goals, including writing more books and getting into better shape. But the truth is, I’ve already accomplished similar goals. And those goals don’t necessarily line up with my highest value, which is my faith in God.
As I thought about my faith, my life verse came to mind: Proverbs 3:5-6.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
I continued walking as I thought and I had an idea. What if my goal was to trust God in every area of my life? In fact, what if I focused on trusting God in a new area every month? I could write about my experience, I could podcast about it, and I could invite people to join me. It would be very similar to what I did with A Year of Living Productively and The Organized Homeschool Life.
I’ve shared what a rough year this has been for me already–not really because of my friends’, husband’s and my own health and other scares–but because I haven’t trusted God. I’ve worried, I’ve panicked, I’ve cried. I’ve lost valuable time; my health has suffered; my happiness has suffered; and even my relationships have suffered. If I had truly trusted God, what a difference it would have made!
I was on board and ready to do it. But I’ve learned that jumping in before having confirmation from the Lord is a bad idea. So I prayed about it as I walked and researched the idea as soon as I got home. The very first link that jumped out at me in my Google search was a video on Trusting God by Chuck Swindoll. Chuck referenced Proverbs 3:5-6 and outlined the blessings of trusting God as well as the curses of not doing so that I’ve experienced to the full this year.
Chuck explained what keeps us from trusting God. Self-sufficiency. We think we can do it ourselves, but the responsibility is overwhelming. Asking friends for help. How often do we call on others to talk through problems before praying? Feeling distant from God. We think our emotions are a measure of God’s power when nothing could be further from the truth. The bad habit of worrying. We tend to think we can’t control our thoughts and while initial thoughts may be reflexive, what we meditate on is completely under our control. Impatience. We think God ought to deliver on a drive-through timeline, when so often quick action could be disastrous. We doubt. We think maybe God can’t or He just won’t. We prefer human counsel. We listen to experts who don’t even share our faith in preference to trusting God. We manipulate and take charge of a situation without being Spirit-led and only later realize that we should have trusted God instead. We toss and turn, trying to come up with solutions and often cling to people and things God is trying to remove from our lives for our good.
All this Chuck said to affirm that trusting God is the greatest goal I could undertake in my life. Then he said something that felt like it was just for me. He said, “Wouldn’t it be a great project…to think through ways that you can begin to trust God?” He suggested inviting a friend or mate to undertake the project too. I began to weep happy tears because I knew then that The Trust Project is my big goal for the year. I knew that I was to invite you and anyone you know who wants to grow in faith to join us.
The Trust Project
After this confirmation, I spent time thinking through all the areas of our lives that we ought to trust God with. We will take on one area each month. If you’re thinking that you don’t have time to do this now, know that this project isn’t about what we do but what we believe. Of course, I have a plan for us to grow in our belief, but it will take very little time. Yet, I know that the time we do spend will pay off in ways that we can’t even imagine now.
We will be using an easy-to-remember acronym for each area we focus on: TRUST.
T is for Truth. We will meditate on a Scripture for each area, read a biblical account that will fortify our trust in God in that area, and we will truth journal all month.
R is for remembering. We will remember how faithful God has been to us in that area of our lives, despite our worry and lack of faith.
U is for understanding. God has already given us understanding and wisdom in these areas of our lives that we must trust and obey.
S is for supplication. We will pray for God to meet our needs in each area and we will ask for Him to help our unbelief.
T is for thanksgiving. We will thank Him for being the loving, trustworthy God He is and for how He has provided, but we will also thank Him for how He will provide in this area of our lives going forward.
If the Lord leads, we can spend additional time reading additional books, listening to music, and watching videos that will further strengthen our faith in each area.
So will you join me? If so, you can download your free Trust Project Printables by clicking the button below.
All the areas of focus, Scriptures, Bible readings and journaling responses are included. When you opt to receive them, you’ll be added to a special Trust Project list, where you will receive only Trust Project updates. So if you have a Christian friend or family member who wants to join us, who is not a homeschooling parent, they can without getting unrelated email.
Trusting God with Our Health and Safety
Now let’s talk about trusting God with our health and safety–our area of focus for this month. I’ll take you through the TRUST acronym with my own responses.
The T in Trust is for Truth. Our Scripture to meditate on this month is Proverbs 3:7-8. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” When it comes to health and safety, I have been wise in my own eyes. I have feared so many things that could make me sick or kill me. But trusting God has made me healthier!
Our reading is from 2 Kings 20.
In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,3 “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him:5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord.6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”
7 Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.
8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?”
9 Isaiah answered, “This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”
10 “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”
11 Then the prophet Isaiah called on the Lord, and the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.”
Our journaling prompt question is: How does this Bible reading lead me to trust God with my health and safety? First, it makes it clear that God is in charge of my health and the length of my life. Second, it makes it clear that God will communicate with me about my health. If I am anxious, I can ask Him for wisdom and reassurance.
Next, what thoughts lead me to distrust God? This question is designed for truth journaling all month, but I will go through some of my current anxious thoughts with you about health and safety. I’m thinking, “I have to have a colonoscopy and the preparation will be horrible.” My truth reponse: You’ve survived it before and millions of people do it. God will get you through it. My next thought is: “I’m going to get into an accident and die unless I am watching anxiously while my husband or teen drives.” My truth response: God is in control. My anxious watching cannot save me because I am not in control.
R is for remembering. Our prompt is: How has God proven Himself trustworthy in your past? I have been healed of a gastrointestinal disease and chronic allergies–both of which are miracles. I have been protected from accidents countless times. I am still alive and well in my 50s, despite all my worrying.
U is for understanding. Our prompt is: What wisdom has God given you to believe and obey? God has shown me that I feel best when I exercise, get enough minerals, and avoid drinking soda. I have to obey that last part.
S is for supplication. Our prompt is: What is your prayer in addition to more faith? I pray that I would feel relaxed about medical testing I have done and that tests would show I am in good health. I pray that I would be kept safe as I travel, no matter who is driving.
T is for thanksgiving. Our prompt is: What can you thank God for now and in the future? I thank God for the good health I enjoy and for access to excellent medical care. I thank God that my immediate family and I have never had a serious car accident. I thank God that my life is in His hands and that He will care for me all my days.
I would love to have your recommendations as well. Comment below so others can see them.
Throughout this month, keep meditating on Proverbs 3:7-8. Read other Bible accounts of God’s healing and protection. Keep truth journaling, remembering God’s faithfulness, believing and obeying the wisdom He’s already given you, and praying and thanking Him.
Thank you for joining me in trusting God with health and safety. God bless your week!
Pin the image below to encourage others to trust God.
GYPO is like a wardrobe menu planning service. You receive a shopping list of wardrobe pieces, not the clothing itself. There are lists of basics for stay-at-home moms and seasonal lists with trendier pieces added to the basics. With the shopping list, you are given a month’s worth of outfits that can be put together from the list. Here’s why I think you’ll love Get Your Pretty On as a homeschooling mom.
Get Your Pretty On (aka GYPO) can make you feel pretty.
Before GYPO, I saved my nice clothes for special occasions like I saved my “good dishes.” I figured it didn’t matter. I’m a homeschool mom after all. But then I tried GYPO when I saw a friend doing it on Instagram. One morning I awoke feeling very low in energy. I put on my outfit of the day and suddenly I felt great!
Recently, a male friend of ours was over and asked where I was going looking so nice. My husband said, “She looks like that every day,” and I couldn’t argue with him. Wearing outfits that are flattering makes me feel pretty, confident, and energized and I want every homeschool mom to feel this way.
GYPO saves you money.
Before GYPO, I bought all kinds of trendy pieces that didn’t go with anything I had. I still felt like I had “nothing to wear,” so I was likely to shop for more. Now I shop for just a few new seasonal items that mix and match with the basics I already own. Knowing exactly what to buy is like shopping from a grocery list; you buy less! You’ll discover a number of great pieces in your closet that will work with your wardrobe, and you’ll finally know how to wear them. If you love shopping the thrift stores, GYPO is the list that will narrow your search. GYPO has given me a new passion for thrifting. My favorite find was a new-with-tags $165 dress for $5.
GYPO also saves you time.
Homeschooling moms are busy. With GYPO I don’t have to figure out what to wear every day because I have a calendar of outfits. I was amazed by how easy it was to pack for overnight trips when my outfits had already been planned for me. It’s so much quicker to choose items to give away, too. You know they don’t look as good as your GYPO wardrobe pieces and they don’t go with anything!
GYPO builds friendships.
When you purchase a wardrobe capsule, you are given access to a private Facebook group. Women (many of them homeschooling moms) share pictures of their outfits of the day there. There are women of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and they’re all so nice. Members share about their personal lives and give style and shopping advice. I’m very picky about Facebook groups because I can’t stand drama. The GYPO group I was in was wonderful and I think I know why. The creator of GYPO, Alison Lumbatis, is a member of the group and is humble, genuine, and loves to encourage women. Be sure to listen to my interview with her.
GYPO is good self-care.
I have told my husband and kids numerous times that dressing in my GYPO outfits makes me happy. They know it does. And as I’ve said before, our husbands and kids want us to be happy more than anything. When we’re happy, we are better wives, mothers, and teachers. Taking care of our appearance often leads women to eat better, exercise, address depression, and work toward meaningful goals. We also model a healthy approach to parenting for our daughters when we make our personal needs a priority.
A bonus reason to dress in pretty clothes is you don’t have to panic that the UPS guy will see you in your pajamas at 3 p.m. You’ll be ready for anything!
Does your child get overwhelmed and upset in noisy, crowded places? Maybe your child is extremely picky about the texture of her food, the feeling of her clothing, or unfamiliar smells. At the other extreme, maybe your child is a “sensory seeker” who craves stimulation and can’t seem to sit still. As many as one in 20 children has sensory processing challenges, which can make traditional schooling challenging.
Children with sensory processing disorder (SPD) may exhibit a variety of symptoms that are easily confused with misbehavior or other conditions. Teachers may not recognize or know how to handle the behaviors including:
Meltdowns and tantrums when tired or overstimulated
Difficulty sitting still or focusing
Trouble transitioning from one activity to another
Poor handwriting and fine motor skills
Intense fears and aversions
Preoccupation with barely audible background noises or stimuli
If your child has SPD and struggles in a traditional school setting, you might have flirted with the idea of homeschooling. Here are some strategies (and an honest look) that may give you the confidence to make the leap.
#1 Develop Routines
Most children thrive on routines, but kids who struggle to focus or transition between activities need them even more. The trick is to set up realistic routines and be able to check your expectations when things go sideways. One strategy that helps many kids is to post the daily schedule on a wall and reinforce it with a task list that your child can carry around or place in their work area. Some parents have reported that a spiral notebook works well. This gives the student the option of crossing off tasks as they are completed and ripping out pages at the end of the day.
#2 Unconventional Methods? So What?
Students usually sit at desks during classes in traditional schools. That doesn’t mean you have to do it that way when homeschooling your child. Create a dedicated homeschooling space that fits your child’s needs. Instead of a desk and chair, maybe you need a beanbag, yoga ball, swing, or mini-trampoline. Instead of brightly-colored posters, maybe you need walls that are a soothing color and are relatively bare. If your writing class is conducted standing in front of a whiteboard or reading hour happens before bedtime, that’s fine. As long as real learning occurs, whatever works for your child and that doesn’t drive you insane is fair game.
#3 Take Breaks
Knowing your child as well as you do, you’re sure to notice when he is getting antsy or tired and is losing focus. The best solution is to break tasks down into small chunks and take breaks when you need to. Kids with SPD may tire easily and struggle if you give them more than a few math problems at a time, for example. If you want to encourage your child to push through for a little while longer, here are a couple of ways to work out a compromise:
Get a set of three or four dice. Let your child roll them and use the results to determine the amount of time given to piano practice, exercise, or English homework. If they roll four threes, the total time would be four times three, or 12 minutes of practice or study. Add more dice if needed for more involved assignments.
Invest in a visual timer, such as a colorful, oversized hourglass that your favorite student can turn over and watch to measure their progress. Choose one that lets you scale the time period. For example, a five-minute timer can be flipped over for additional time.
#4 Use Visual Cues
Visual cues help solidify routines your child can do on their own. Help your student make a list of morning tasks they can do before joining you for the school day. This can include brightly marked tasks such as:
Brushing their teeth
Combing their hair
Making the bed
Whatever else they need help remembering
One strategy is to laminate the cards and stick them on the wall with velcro. Your child can pull them off when each task is accomplished.
#5 Adapt to Quirky Behavior
Sometimes, if you can’t beat ‘em, you need to join ‘em. One mother was at her wits’ end over her five-year-old son’s penchant for chewing on everything from LEGOs to his shirts. She finally came up with a solution – gum. No amount of bribery, correction or pleading could curb his compulsive behavior because he needed the sensory input it provided. When she realized that, she offered him a more socially acceptable way to get it. It doesn’t always work, but gum often gives him the oral motor stimulation he needs and calms him down. If you can’t extinguish a quirky or repetitive behavior, see if you can redirect it in a more appropriate way.
#6 Gloves and Chalk and Other Weirdly Brilliant Ideas
Is your child a neatnik who doesn’t want anything to do with art due to trauma with paint or chalk? There’s a workaround for that. If your student doesn’t mind wearing gloves, slip them on before art class. Latex allergy or aversion? No problem, since cloth work gloves are a possible, if awkward, solution. Use craft supplies that aren’t moist or squishy, like pipe cleaners and washi tape. If you can figure out something that works and that your kid agrees to, it’s not weird; it’s wonderful.
#7 Appreciate a Beautiful Mind
Does your child with Sensory Processing Disorder take 20 minutes to set the table by painstakingly lining up every piece of silverware? Take time to appreciate his unique vision. Perfectionism might be inconvenient, but it’s not a bad thing. However, it is important to develop ways to help your kid deal with the frustration that comes when things don’t go so perfectly. Research suggests this can affect their self-esteem if not addressed appropriately.
#8 Go with the Flow
Sometimes, reading up on the scientific reasons behind a behavior helps parents stay patient when their kids run away suddenly, scream, or otherwise act out. It also helps to realize that you can’t teach or parent the problem away, and that it’s not your fault when your overstimulated student throws a tantrum. Meltdowns are a fact of life for many kids with SPD. Try to remember that your child isn’t giving you a hard time; your child is having a hard time. If you can remain calm and try to figure out the source of your child’s distress, it will pass more quickly. If you find yourself getting flustered in tense situations, consider taking a meditation or yoga class and practicing deep breathing and relaxation techniques. It can be frightening when children thrash, bang their heads against walls, or hyperventilate. It’s a good idea to get CPR and first aid training to be able to identify emergency situations and respond appropriately.
#9 You’re Going to Get Things Wrong – It’s OK
When you’re having a bad week and the temper tantrums are feeling more like the climate than a passing storm, take heart. You won’t be the first or last parent to mess up. The teachers at school don’t have all the answers either, so take a breath, take a break and let the moment pass. A yearlong academic study by Dr. Steven Duvall found that parents homeschooling kids with special needs generally do an excellent job.
Which of these strategies do you want to try first? Let me know in the comments.
Jackie Nunes is a blogger at WonderMoms.org. She is a former pediatric nurse and now a full-time homeschool educator. She and her husband have three children. Their middle child suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was 4. Now 11 years old, she is hearing impaired and uses a wheelchair. Jackie and two other moms created Wonder Moms as a project to share real talk, helpful information, and practical advice with parents of kids who have intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, language and speech delays, deafness, chronic illness, and traumatic brain injury.
Before we dive in, I want to say this. I believe that God is the source of our strength and success. I know He deserves all the credit for the changes in my life. My degree in psychology, my natural abilities, and the dozens of books I’ve read have all failed to change me in terms of getting organized, helping me lose weight, homeschooling my kids, improving my patience, or writing books. In fact, most of the time those qualifications have gotten in the way of my success. It’s only been when I have confessed to God that I can’t and don’t know how and need Him to take over that anything lasting and worthwhile has occurred.
What I want to share with you today is wisdom that I believe the Lord gave me as I sought Him over and over again for help getting past my procrastination, disorganization, and addictions to get more done. But always take anything I suggest to you to the Lord yourself and ask Him to give you discernment for whether it is right for you in this season of your life. With that important disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about how we can overcome three important obstacles to following through this year.
How to get more done despite our minds equating planning with completion
Last time, I explained that when we plan a goal that has some anxiety attached to it like saving money or losing weight, we feel better after planning. We feel we’ve done something and that makes all the difference to us mentally. Even goals that don’t have anxiety attached like writing a book or running a 5K fade into the background after we’ve spend time planning them and dreaming about them.
Planning is an important part of following through with homeschooling and other goals, so how can we follow through even though our mind is kicking back and relaxing? The first way is to use a 12 Week Year. One reason our anxiety is decreased after planning is because the end goal is far off. We tend to think of our homeschools as a full year, for example. And many people have goals for the year. We become like the hare, thinking we have plenty of time to win the race. Our anxiety is gone as soon as we’ve begun the race. It doesn’t kick in again until we’re nearing the finish line or the end of the year. Then, of course, it’s too late to accomplish anything meaningful.
The solution is to plan our homeschools and our goals for a quarter, not a year. Twelve weeks go by much more quickly. We can feel an appropriate amount of pressure to keep working toward the goal. We can plan exactly what has to be completed each week to reach the goal, where a year-long plan has to accommodate too many unknowns. Larger goals can be broken down into 12-week progress points. I’ve written about how planning my homeschooling by the quarter made a world of difference in keeping my kids and me motivated.
The second way we can overcome the planning-equals-completion problem is with remembering our why. Last time I gave an example of a woman wanting to lose weight because she was worried about her family history of diabetes. We humans tend to avoid thinking about these anxiety-provoking truths, so we have to work against that. We have to regularly consider why we’re planning, whether that’s our homeschool studies or a personal goal. We have to really think about it and consider it. Let me give you a personal example.
Last January, I realized with a start that at my current writing pace, I would not have the third volume of Grammar Galaxy ready for the Great Homeschool Convention in April. I imagined myself talking with attendees and trying to explain why I didn’t have another volume done, despite a year going by. I hated the thought of it! I worked furiously to be finished in time and every time I grew tired, I called up that image. I also reflected on my why, which was written on my weekly page of The Organized Homeschool Life Planner.
Remember your why by imagining in detail both how you will feel if you do accomplish your plans and if you don’t. Then reflect on your why at least every week.
The third way we can overcome the planning-equals-completion problem is by developing systems instead of goals. You may have a goal of finishing the first semester of your history curriculum before Christmas break. You are consistently reading and studying for 30 minutes every school day at home. But then the kids or you get sick. It doesn’t happen.
You can easily be disappointed that you don’t meet your goal. I could have had something keep me from publishing the third volume of Grammar Galaxy in time too, right? Not meeting our goals could lead us to want to throw up our hands in defeat. But both the history studier and I have something even more powerful than a goal. We have systems. If we continue the habits that lead to the goal, we will succeed–even if it’s not on the exact timetable we planned. There’s a good chance that if you continue studying history consistently that you will finish the book by the end of the year. Even if you don’t, you will have learned so much. If I kept writing Grammar Galaxy consistently despite the setback, I would have had the volume done for the next conference.
Using a 12 Week Year, remembering your why, and developing systems instead of goals can overcome our mind’s resistance to planning.
How to get more done despite our subconscious being on to us
The second obstacle to following through I discussed last time is our subconscious being on to us. It knows when we aren’t being realistic, that our goal isn’t important, or that we don’t have a good reason for pursuing our plans. It runs the show and we don’t follow through.
The first way we can overcome this obstacle is by consistently using a paper planner. Rather than having a one-and-you’re done approach, we can create a planning habit. I have found that planning by month, week, and day, I can easily see when I’m overloaded. Seeing plans on paper allows me to see that my expectations of myself and my kids aren’t realistic.
I prefer using a planner for myself that includes a schedule or routine for each day. In my Organized Homeschool Life Planner, I take my list of tasks and add them into a loose schedule for the day. It becomes obvious when I won’t be able to fit everything in.
Then I can use the third strategy for overcoming my subconscious and following through. That’s reduce commitments. When you’re asking a child or a work animal to do too much, they have a clear way of letting you know. They won’t budge. Our subconscious behaves the same way. When your weekly or daily plan freaks your mind out, you need to cut commitments. There are ways you consistently spend your time that should be eliminated, but there are also little things that just don’t have to be done. One way I identify these is by asking myself if I would stay up tonight as long as it took to get it done. If not, it can be removed from my plan for the day. My subconscious will start cooperating with me to get more done.
By using a paper planner, a schedule, and by cutting commitments, you can work with your subconscious to follow through on your plans and goals.
How to get more done by learning how we work best
The third obstacle that keeps us from following through is not knowing how we work best. We follow other people’s approaches and when they don’t work, we berate ourselves for being lazy. We may even tell ourselves we’re not cut out for homeschooling or the other goals we have.
This is what happened to me. I thought I wasn’t organized enough to homeschool or diligent enough to write books. I had plenty of evidence to back me up! But I tried using routines and wow! What a difference! Before I tried routines, I learned that time with God each day and exercise also helped me get more done. After trying routines, I tried other methods I’d read about like Getting Things Done. Some worked, some didn’t.
In 2013, I had the crazy idea to try a different productivity approach every week for a year and to share my results here on this blog. I was surprised by the response to it. I had people from all walks of life responding to my experiments. If you’re a long-time follower, you may recall the blog series. My intention was to write a book about the process at the end of the year. I started it but put it off and then gave up on the goal. Now I’m so glad I did.
Five years later, I’ve learned so much more about my own obstacles to getting more done and how to overcome them. In that time I’ve blogged, produced a podcast, written The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner, and three volumes of Grammar Galaxy. I also started a business and began conference speaking, while still homeschooling, making family and friends a priority, and enjoying several hobbies. What’s more is I’m happier and more at peace than I’ve ever been.
One big reason I’ve accomplished these things is I learned how I work best. I created a productivity formula unique to me in this season of life. I also know how to find what works for me as life changes. Instead of telling you how to get more done, I want to share with you how you can determine that for yourself.
Today I’m launching my book, A Year of Living Productively. In it I share over 80 productivity strategies. I give you the rationale for using them, the instructions for using them, my experience using them, and similar strategies to try. In the book, I help you decide which strategies to try first. Included with the book is a tracking form so you can reflect on your results. Like me, you may find that something that didn’t work before works brilliantly now and vice versa.
Purchasers will have access to a bonus that includes further reading for each strategy, another review of that approach when available, a list of the best tools, and a digital tracker option.
A Year of Living Productively is a great tool to use to become more productive as a homeschooling parent and as an aid in guiding your high schoolers and college students in getting more done. It’s perfect for assisting bloggers, authors, and entrepreneurs in achieving more than they dreamed they could. Save time reading the dozens of books I’ve read by giving only the methods that fit your life a try.
If you’d like the Kindle or print version, A Year of Living Productively is also available on Amazon. If you know a productivity junkie, someone who struggles with procrastion like I did, or anyone who wants to follow through and achieve their goal, A Year of Living Productively makes a great gift. Note that A Year of Living Productively is not a faith-based book but The Organized Homeschool Life is.
My prayer is that you can overcome the obstacles that keep you from following through with your plans and goals so that next year will be your most productive year ever.
Are you great at making plans for the school year but you never seem to do what you’ve planned? Or are you great at setting goals for the new year that you struggle to achieve? If that’s you, I’m going to put my psychologist hat on and explain why your follow-through fails.
One of my friends mentioned that she is a great planner. She has a great time taking her goals and planning them out in her planner in detail. She is so excited about her plans. She tells her family and friends about them. She believes she will succeed. And then the plans she has spent time crafting, the plans she was positively giddy about, never get beyond her planner. Why is that, she asked me? Why do her plans so often remain in the planner where she put them and never become reality?
If you can relate to my friend, know that I can too. I’ve left so many plans and goals in the planner cemetery. I wanted to know why I did that and how I could carry out my plans and achieve my goals. So I started doing some research. Then I did some experimenting. I learned there are three reasons we fail to follow through with our plans and goals.
Planning reduces anxiety
The first reason we fail to follow through was a surprise to me. Let’s say the new school year is upon you and you’re stressed. You don’t have anything ready. So you collect your books and grab your lesson planner and you start planning. Before long, you have several weeks planned. Ahh! Doesn’t that feel better?
Or let’s say that you haven’t been working out much this fall. As a result, your weight has increased. That makes you nervous because you have diabetes in your family. And you’re not that old. You know that if you don’t deal with eating and exercise now, you could have a serious problem later. So you talk with your husband about it and you agree that you’ll give one another the gift of a gym membership for Christmas. Yes! You ask for a new pair of running shoes too. Now you don’t need to worry about your health, right?
The problem is that sometimes when we make plans, set goals, or even take a small step toward achieving them, the anxiety that drove us to plan in the first place is greatly decreased. Research shows that in our minds, planning our goal is like actually achieving it. It’s handled, so we don’t need to think about it again.
When another homeschool commitment comes up that really needs to be arranged in your schedule, you don’t worry about it because you’ve already done some planning. But then things get real and your plan isn’t working. You stop using your lesson plans. Or it’s the holidays and you know you should work out and eat healthfully but you tell yourself that your gym membership in January will take care of it all.
Should we avoid planning to keep our anxiety high then? No, but there is a way we can stay motivated once we’ve planned. I’ll share that in next week’s post. In the meantime, I recommend reading How to Keep the Happy Planning Going.
Our subconscious is on to us
The second reason we fail to follow through with our plans is our subconscious knows the real reason we’ve made our plans and it’s not a good enough reason to do the work required.
So you planned lessons using two different science curriculum because you couldn’t decide which one to use AND you know that some of the best homeschoolers say that one curriculum isn’t enough. You really admire these homeschoolers whose kids got full-ride scholarships. You also scheduled one read aloud a week regardless of how long they are, simply because you want to read a lot of great books this year–like the ones you meant to read last year.
But your subconscious is thinking, “Really? Like that’s going to happen.” We can ignore our subconscious for a while, but as soon as we get through a week or two of school and get nowhere near everything done, our subconscious behaves like a homeschool hater. “You may as will give this up,” she mocks. And so we do, even though we don’t acknowledge that we aren’t being realistic in trying to be awesome homeschoolers. By the time we acknowledge that we aren’t following through with our plans, we’re more likely to tell ourselves that we’re losers than see that no homeschooler could do everything we planned.
When it comes to fitness, if one of the real reasons you wanted to set a fitness goal is because you know you’re going to see your super fit relative over the holidays, you aren’t likely to follow through. You’ll see her and say, “Yeah, so we got ourselves a gym membership for Christmas.” She’ll be enthusiastic. “That’s great! Good for you,” she’ll say. And you’ve accomplished your goal as far as your subconscious is concerned. No need to sweat it until next year when you see her. You can join a different gym then.
If you aren’t following through, there’s a good chance your “why” for your plans or goals is weak. Next time I’ll share strategies for keeping a strong why.
You don’t know how you work best
The third reason you aren’t following through is you don’t know how you work best. Some of the homeschool bloggers you follow have their kids start school by 7 a.m. It works for them, so you’ve been trying that. But you’re a family of night owls. Every time you try to get the kids up in the morning, it’s a battle. They’re tired and you’re cranky. Once you start, the kids sit and stare into space, falling asleep during your great read aloud. You’ve tried letting them get up much later, but that doesn’t really seem to work either. You have no idea how to get it all done without being mad at your kids and yourself.
And that’s just the beginning. You don’t know if you should be a year-round homeschooler, a textbook homeschooler, or a co-op homeschooler. Do you have time to work, blog, or start a business too? It sure doesn’t seem like it, though your finances could certainly benefit from the extra income.
Your super fit relative gets up early to work out. It gives her energy, she says. But you are so exhausted from staying up late and exercising early that you just want to crawl into bed and skip school. You’re just not the exercising type, you decide, and the fitness goal is forgotten.
You don’t know how you work best because you’ve been trying to make what other people do fit you. I did this for years in my homeschooling. I wondered what was wrong with me and my kids.
I also did it in my efforts to blog and write books. I thought I was a loser who wasn’t cut out for writing because I couldn’t make other people’s approaches work for me. And then I tried something new. Instead of continuing to force myself to use other people’s methods, I started experimenting. In 2013, I tried a new method to help me follow through and be productive every week. In the process, I found some things that worked brilliantly and discovered others that people raved about that didn’t work well for me at all.
At the end of that year, I felt like I understood better how I worked best. I planned to write a book about my experiments and share the secret to getting more done. But months went by. And then years. And I still hadn’t written the book. During that time, however, I learned more about how I can get more done. In fact, I started becoming more productive than I’ve ever been. In fact, in addition to homeschooling and podcasting, I published The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner and three volumes of Grammar Galaxy language arts curriculum. I began speaking at homeschool conferences and running a business while still having time for my family and several hobbies.
At the beginning of my year of experimentation, I thought I would be telling people the best strategies for getting more done and following through with their plans. But five years after finishing the experiments, I understood that the most powerful strategy is to learn how you work best. I finally felt ready to write a book about others could discover their unique productivity formula like I did. It’s going to be available to you next week when we talk about how you can get more done in 2019.
But if you can’t wait until then to develop your own method of following through, you can download a free sample of the book, A Year of Living Productively, that will get you started. Click the book cover above for your free sample and productivity updates.
Next time I’ll explain how I overcome these three obstacles to follow-through to be the most productive (and happy) I’ve ever been. Talk to you then.
What’s your biggest struggle with follow through? Comment and let me know.
Organizing didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had to learn it the hard way. But today I feel like I’m organized enough to do everything God has called me to do as a homeschooling mom. If you’d like to take a shorter journey to organization than I took, this article is for you. These are the habits of an organized homeschool mom.
The first habit of the organized homeschool mom is regular time with God. I know there are secular homeschoolers who feel it’s possible to be organized apart from God. I’m not going to argue that point for them. But if you are a follower of Jesus who struggles with overwhelm, the first place to start is with your personal devotion time.
Busy homeschool moms frequently find it difficult to have regular devotional time. I understand that. I had three children three and under. That was the most challenging time for me. When you have been up most of the night with a screaming newborn, devotional time tends to fall by the wayside. I get it! But I also see time with God like I see eating. When you’re really busy, you might have to eat standing up or on the way to an appointment, but few of us would forgo eating all day long, no matter how busy we are.Fortunately, time with God is easier to fit in then eating.
The thing that interferes with regular time with the Lord is our notion that devotional time has to fit a formula. It doesn’t. My time with God has looked different during various seasons of my life. When I was nursing a newborn, it meant I was praying in the middle of the night. When I was in a moms’ Bible study, it meant I was spending a lot of time digging into the Scriptures. Today my devotional time is very eclectic and all day. I read a little of my Bible with study notes; I read from a church or another devotional; I pray in the morning using an app and throughout the day.
You can consistently have time with the Lord if you lose the perfectionism. Just talk to Him and read His responses the way you would with a friend who is messaging you. That’s all it is. Yet it is the most powerful organizing habit of all. My mood and my schedule for the day have been dramatically changed as a result of being in God’s presence intentionally.
Organizing habit number two is a routine. I know you’ve heard it over and over again that you need a routine. Strangely enough, I never heard that as a new homeschooling mom. It was news to me. But my willingness to do a few of the same key activities in order, day after day after day, changed me from a woman who was ready to give up homeschooling and having more kids to a woman who felt like she could do this homeschooling thing.
A routine is not boring; it’s not rigid, and it’s not confining. A routine gives your mind the freedom it needs to think about important matters. If you don’t have a routine for cleaning the house, homeschooling the kids, and making meals, your mind will be preoccupied with these things. Any new stressors will put you over the edge. Ask me how I know. I resisted having a routine but the routine liberated me. Routines have had to adjust as my children have grown and my activities have changed. But having routine is the second most important habit for being an organized homeschooling mom
Organizing habit number three is decluttering. Whether you are removing things or activities you don’t use, need, or love, you will never be organized when there’s just too much. We have become victims of our own abundance. Where once it was challenging to find curriculum that worked well in a homeschool setting, now we’re tearing our hair out trying to decide what to buy and what to use once we buy it.
Buying more bookshelves is not an organizing habit. Don’t get me wrong! I love books. We have many of them. But I’ve learned to become comfortable with giving them away. I can bless other homeschoolers, I can repurchase or borrow anything I find I later need. I was not given the job of lending library to the world. Neither were you.
The third habit works together with the first and second habit. We need to ask God to show us a routine that will serve our family. Our routine should include a regular time for decluttering. Rather than think we’re going to take the next month off to declutter and simplify, we need to make decluttering a part of our routine, so that we will never find ourselves overwhelmed with stuff again.
The fourth habit of organized homeschool moms is realistic expectations. I have been guilty of basing my expectations on what other homeschooling families say they are doing. Whether I read their blog posts, look at their photos on Instagram, or see their amazing activities on Pinterest, I can feel like I’m falling behind.
I attended a kindergarten graduation with my second son and was wowed by the kindergartners who performed musically for the ceremony. These children seemed so advanced. My son sat at the graduation, clearly not paying attention to the ceremony at all. It’s so ridiculous now, but I thought he and I were lacking something. That son ironically grew up to be an advanced student and a part of our church’s worship band. I didn’t begin pressing him to do more after that kindergarten graduation, but I could have. I could have let fear about not measuring up add to the burden of homeschooling instead of the joy of it.
Realistic expectations also mean that our to-do list is manageable. We should be able to finish our day’s list on a regular basis. I hear from homeschooling moms all the time who are frustrated and depressed about their students and their own lack of progress. Most of the time that frustration comes from trying to do more than any normal homeschooler can do.
The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner will help you to create the habits of an organized homeschool mom. First, every day your planner will direct you to spend time with the Lord. Rather than having long lined pages to complete that aren’t realistic for busy moms like us, you’ll have a few lines on which to write your gratitude to God, the word you heard from God, and your response to Him in prayer. Even if all you do is just complete that part of your daily plan, you’ll feel connected to the Lord.
The next habit The Organized Homeschool Life helps you develop is routines. Each day you’ll create a basic schedule for your day. You’ll be guided in the process of creating a routine with a helpful printable. Once you’ve created a workable routine, creating a loose schedule of specific tasks for the day will be easy and gratifying.
The third habit The Organized Homeschool Life helps us develop is decluttering. You’ll be challenged to declutter after Christmas, to declutter bedrooms, clothing, used curriculum, and the places in your home that tend to collect clutter. In the Organized Homeschool Life Facebook group, you’ll receive prompts to remind you to keep up your decluttering habit.
The Organized Homeschool Life also helps you have realistic expectations. Each challenge is made up of four steps that take just 15 minutes each. You’ll be amazed by how much you can do in such a short period of time. The Organized Homeschool Life Planner includes space for your organizing task of the day, so you’re reminded to stay on track with these missions or other organizing tasks you need to do.
In studying my own productivity for a year, I found that on average I completed just six tasks a day, aside from my routine tasks. That’s why there is space for just six tasks on your daily planning page. It feels amazing to complete your task list for the day and not feel like a failure because you haven’t done all 30 of the items on your overly long list.
Finally, The Organized Homeschool Life is a plan. You can develop your own plan for organizing your homeschool life or you can save yourself time and use or tweak mine. The Organized Homeschool Life gives you a starting point. Each week, the four steps of the challenge for the week are outlined for you in a very short read in the book. The weekly planning page in the planner lists the steps for the week, allowing you to plan when to do them. The planner is organized into months and weeks but isn’t dated, so you can start organizing your homeschool life at any time.
I want homeschooling moms have the peace and joy that I have in planning an organized homeschool life. That is why from now through November 17th, 2018, you can gift yourself both the book and planner at launch pricing. Whether you prefer digital books and planners or you love having a printed book and beautifully spiral-bound planner to use, you’ll find both here.
Not sure you can keep up the organizing habit? Be sure to check out How to Keep the Happy Planning Going. You can also give The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner a try with the Christmas Planning challenge. You’ll receive sample pages that will tell you if the The Organized Homeschool Life is for you before the sale is over. Click the image below to have the sample emailed to you. You’ll also be subscribed to Psychowith6 and the Sanity Saturday newsletter.
Which of these habits has been the biggest struggle for you? Comment and let me know.