Want a copy of this daily to-do list to print and place in a page protector or frame to use with a dry-erase marker? Click here:
To-Do List Please!When you’re a new homeschooler or even when you’re experienced, you can become overwhelmed by everything you think you should be doing in your homeschool on a daily basis. The good news is there’s nothing wrong with you! You may have just overloaded your to-do list. To save our sanity when we’re trying to add too many things to our days, I created a simple to-do list with six tasks that we can accomplish most days.
As a Christian homeschooling family, this is foundational. I shared in the video below that we pray about what we’re thankful for, sorry for, and what we need help with. It never fails that when I’m feeling stressed, prayer will calm me down. We also pray for family and friends by selecting a few of the Christmas cards that are sent to us each year. Want to read more about establishing a family devotional time? Check out this post.
Reading is our favorite homeschooling activity. If it’s not your child’s favorite, check out these tips for reluctant readers. We enjoy reading individually, but love reading books out loud that correspond to our Mystery of History volume. One of our favorite books this year was Raiders from the Sea (a Christian fiction series about the Vikings). Reading is also a critical skill for our kids’ academic and life success, so it’s going to be high on our to-do list. I hope it is on yours, too.
I’ve written before about my angst about art, but I’ve found programs I really liked such as Atelier. But creating time (which is so important to our children’s happiness and future accomplishment) can be writing time, Lego time, robotics time, Minecraft time, or music time. Time to create and some basic materials are all you need.
Science is becoming more important to future careers than ever before. Doing experiments with a science curriculum you love (click to see a list of the best!) is a great way to give kids the opportunity to test their hypotheses, but nature walks are too. Cindy West has created an amazing curriculum for this purpose that you can use on the fly. There’s no reason not to put a little science into your day!
When the day becomes so crowded with seat work and classes and activities that there’s no time for play, there’s a problem. It’s even a problem when we don’t get time to play as homeschool moms. We all need a little margin in our day and dare I say it, a little boredom, to help us unwind and find our own fun. I think it’s really important not to dictate what the play time is used for, because then it isn’t really play. I do, however, believe in setting some screen time limits. I encourage you to pick up your free homeschool daily to-do list if you haven’t already! To-Do List Please!>If you already subscribe to Psychowith6, you’ll find the link to the Subscriber Freebies folder in your welcome email.
Daniel Gold guest posts today. I’m a fan for several reasons. First, his wife homeschools and Daniel thinks moms are the busiest people on earth. Second, he is the author of a book on Springpad that I absolutely love, and finally, because he has a way writing about productivity that makes it all seem simple. Be sure to pick up a copy of the free resources he’s created!
Every January, we resolve to make this year the best year ever. We resolve to lose an extra five pounds, go to the gym more, and of course, be more productive by finding the perfect app and system to keep us on track. Not surprisingly, weight loss centers, gyms, and office supply stores love our new found commitments and resolutions. But, something happens to most of us come February (for some of us, much sooner) – we recoil and settle back to our old ways, declaring that we’re just fine and life is too busy for us to continue and you will start it back up when things get slower. But we don’t, and life never slows down.
You might think that these long-term personal goals have nothing to do with how we get things done with our daily tasks and with the appointments we keep in our busy lives, but they are so very much interconnected.
Think of our lives like climbing Mount Everest. Our everyday action items are like the base camp at the bottom of the mountain (i.e., “Call Bob”, “Buy milk”, “Email Susie”, “Write a new blog post”), and as we climb up the mountain, we get to our higher levels of commitments in our lives (i.e., Go to the gym; Where do I want to be personally and professionally at this time next year, and the next 3-5 years). I liken reaching the summit peak of the mountain to being able to answer the ultimate question: what is the purpose of my life? Why do I exist? The unfortunate reality is that, we find every reason not to put action items into our weekly calendar to work on these. So, how do we get off the base camp and get to the summit peak?
It starts with our intentions and ends with our desire to really do something about truly wanting to change. Therefore, this might surprise you, but it just doesn’t matter what app you use or what notebook you buy, and it most certainly doesn’t matter whether you GTD, ZTD, GSD, 1MTD, Eisenhower, Kanban, or believe in Emotion-based Contexts. What matters is how you think about your goals, projects, and tasks. For any one of us to change a behavior, we must want to change that behavior and truly believe that the reason we resolved to commit to a project or a goal is because there’s a purpose. This is something that no system and app can do for any of us.
I propose two things that we can all do to commit to getting things done better, both at the base camp and at the summit peak of the mountain: writing it all down and reviewing it often.
Writing it all down
Take a moment offline and write down every commitment you can think of until your brain hurts! Then write down everything you’d like to commit yourself to; whether they be big projects, chairing an event at your child’s school, planning a vacation, or (and, this is something I really encourage you to do) answering the big question about why you think you exist and what your purpose is here in life. Then, with your projects and goals, write down every action item you can possibly think of that would need to go right in order for you to accomplish these items. The key here is to ensure that, every week and every month, you are assigning yourself tasks that will help you get these things done. Tens of thousands have looked to me on how to do it in Evernote and Springpad, but truth be told, you could buy a fancy notebook, or even a .99 1-subject notebook you buy at the pharmacy. The point is to get it all down, and know that this is where you will go to capture, organize, review, and look to do when doing everything in your life.
To help with creating long lasting and sustainable habits in our lives, I created a free workbook called Creating Successful Habits TODAY!, which will help you commit to 3 to 5 new habits. Simply write these down, and each day that you do it, you simply put a check mark by that day. At the end of the week, you write down your reflections about what went right and where you had challenges. After doing this for four weeks, I can tell you that you will be well on your way to being successful with this new habit.
I’m a big believer in performing daily, weekly, and monthly sweeps of my action items and project lists. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do when you wake up in the morning or walk into the office, you’ve already lost the battle. Create a list the night before, or at least before you check your e-mail first thing in the morning with the most important tasks you need to do for that day. I created another free download, something I like to call a “Morning Map” that lists out 3 to 5 things that you must absolutely get done that day, in order for your day to be successful. Having it right in front of you like this in big bold fonts and bright red colors reminds you to not only fill it out, but stares right at you to ensure you stay on track.
At the end of every week, look back at your commitments, at open loops which you will need to close during the week ahead. Did you accomplish everything you set out to do? If so, that is awesome. If not, perhaps take a moment to reflect on what could go better next week. Then, write down everything you want to get done in the week ahead. But, be certain to include tasks that will move you forward to your 1, 3-5, and life goals. Again, writing them down is one thing; but, you must find ways throughout the month to take action on them or it was for naught. Finally, at the end of every month, perform the same kind of sweep you did at the end of each week. This time, look at it with a different prism; look inwardly at who you were this past month, what you accomplished, and what you could do better at in order to achieve your bigger goals in life. Be certain to plan for your month ahead with the same vigor as you were doing for each week.
Resolve to Create a Better Version of You Every Day
The whole idea here is to keep yourself accountable to yourself! Like our New Year’s resolutions, they will never get done unless we make it our true intention to do so. I can assure you that with the right mindset, focus, and desire to look at our action list, project list, and life goals in this way, we can make a positive difference not only in the here and now, but in your future as well! Positivity begets more positivity, and you will become an even bigger source of inspiration to your family, friends, and colleagues!
This week I tested whether a Resistance List could help me make better use of my time when I didn’t feel like working. I used Laza Lists to track tasks. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for a full explanation.
How a Resistance List Saved My Sanity This Week
Made me feel like less obvious tasks would get done. I enjoyed thinking of tasks to add to this list, beyond reading and internet stuff. I imagined that I would actually do them once they were written done, and I felt great about that.
How a Resistance List Made Me Crazy This Week
I didn’t use it. And that isn’t because I didn’t experience resistance. I had a LOT of it this week. It’s just that when I’m resistant, I resist lists, period. I gravitated toward all the activities I had intentionally not put on my resistance list: reading and internet stuff and chatting.
I didn’t need it. I realized that I already have a resistance list built into my ToDoist list. For example, a friend suggested I check out a website today. I added that to tomorrow’s list. When I resist doing important tasks, I will naturally seek to check that task off. It will be easy, quick, and fun, yet will keep me working in my to-do list.
Did a Resistance List Help Me Get More Done?
Not at all.I think even the idea that I needed it threw me off course. The comments I received to last week’s post suggested this would happen. At least I know that my low-resistance tasks have to be a part of my main list.
I’ve never even considered using this again.
The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 44
This week I’ll be testing time tracking. I have used a number of different apps to meticulously track my time over the years with marginal benefit. If you’ve never tracked your time, it’s a good place to start. This week I’ll be moving on to tracking time in terms of routine using the HomeRoutines app. But scroll down for some other great options.
The concept. Even though I know better, I tend to try to make numerous habit changes at once. Despite FLYLady‘s warning to me years ago to start with just one habit at a time (shining your sink), I tried to perform her whole evening routine. I wasn’t even content to get that down before I tried to take on her morning and weekly routines, too.
Research suggests that one reason we fail to create multiple new habits at once is that we run out of willpower. If I don’t have the habit of getting up early, for example, and think I will also start working out first thing and skipping soda in the afternoon, I’m very likely to fail and forget about all three habits because I just don’t have the will to carry through. Much better to establish one new habit such that it requires no willpower at all.
Since it makes sense to take on one new habit at a time, it also makes sense to see what I’m actually doing now. Tracking my time minute by minute honestly drove me nuts. I invariably forgot to switch activities and I would end up with a timer showing that I’d been in the bathroom for ten hours. Even when I did a reasonable job of tracking my time, I didn’t know what to make of the results. Was I really spending too much time online when that’s a big part of what I do as a blogger and even as a family member and friend?
The House That Cleans Itself taught me the important principle of working with what you’re already doing. So did heatmapping. I would like to know what I’m actually doing as a part of my routine, so I can make one small change at a time or simply rearrange activities to where they fit better. I decided to track for two weeks since unusual circumstances could skew my results. Next week will be my second week.
If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Watch this Quantified Self video on using Google Calendar to track time. Decide if you’ll use a digital or paper method to track your time. You could just use a notebook to write down what you do. I’m not as concerned with how much time I spend doing things as the order I do them in, but you might be. Just observe your behavior without trying to change it.
Click here to see how time tracking worked for me.
I look forward to hearing what you learn about how you’re spending time.
Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:
This week I tested whether Inbox Zero (with the help of Sanebox) could help me get more done. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post to see exactly what I did. One addition I made was to use Boxer on my iPhone which integrates with Sanebox.
How Inbox Zero Saved My Sanity This Week
Saved me time .Sanebox sent me an email telling me how many minutes I had saved by using their service. I honestly didn’t need the email to see that. Wow. I was amazed by the difference an empty inbox made. I did not have to filter individual emails or even bother unsubscribing for email that I didn’t care to look at. It was all in folders I could quickly scan.
Prevented important emails from going unread. I mentioned last week that one of the problems I have had with filtering is that I never look at the filtered emails. Sanebox’s reminder to look at my folders of various emails to see if any should be in my inbox solved that problem. Not only did I look at them, but I was able to scan them so quickly when my important emails weren’t mixed into the bunch.
How Inbox Zero Made Me Crazy This Week
Surprised and a little depressed. I really couldn’t believe I had that few “real” emails. I kept reloading my email and searching through the folders to be sure. When I really was sure, I was disappointed that I didn’t have more. That may be pathetic, but it’s true!
I didn’t need many of the options Sanebox includes. I did not use the service to snooze emails. I also found that the various folders such as “bulk” and “black hole” weren’t really necessary for me. The “Later” folder did the job as well as any. I also found that the fee for these extra folders and services was more than I would be willing to pay.
Did Inbox Zero Help Me Get More Done?
Yes!I am delighted that I no longer have to waste my time sorting and filtering my email. So yes, I have decided to subscribe to the Sanebox Snack Plan which is $49/year. The time savings is very much worth it to me, even though I feel a bit lonelier. 😉 If you’d like a free option for doing this, consider turning on Gmail Tabs. The difference is you will have more tabs and will not be reminded to check the emails in your tabs. There is not yet an Android app for viewing tabs, though the Gmail iOS app will enable you to view email this way.
I am still using Sanebox and am saving myself tons of time. I enjoy Sanebox even more now that I’m using the @blackhole folder for things I don’t want to see again. It’s so quick and hassle-free. I highly recommend it!
The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 43
This week I’ll be testing a resistance list. This article from Lifehack gave me the idea that it might be effective to have a list of tasks ready for when you don’t feel like working. I will be adding my tasks to Laza Lists, a free iTunes app.
The concept. We all have times when we just don’t feel like working. That time would be now for me. It would be great if we could still manage to get things (anything!) done during periods of resistance. Heatmapping helped me a lot with this. Getting Things Done would have us create a low energy context for such tasks. The problems I have with that is I tend not to want to even look at my main list when I’m resisting and I don’t put a lot of good low resistance tasks on my list anyway.
I am interested to see if I can get through my high resistance times by doing productive tasks I’ve added to a separate list. I think any kind of list could work, but I’m choosing Laza Lists because of its ability to randomly choose a task on a list. I think this introduces a gamification aspect that could help.
Last year I bought my daughter, Elaina, a Zentangle book and some pens for Christmas. I bought myself a book, too, and discovered that I was zentangling when it was called doodling.
It turns out that doodling is good for you and produces some pretty cool looking art, too.
The problem was, I didn’t have any place to put my zentangles. I Googled for notebook templates so I could make my own notebook using my Zutter binder, but couldn’t find any. You know what they say about necessity! Microsoft Word to the rescue. I downloaded and installed this script font and block font for the initial. I then created a cover and inside page template, copied them onto acid-free cardstock, added an acetate cover and bound the book with silver coils. The finishing touch was some black and white ribbon I had lying around.
My daughter saw me making my notebook and begged me to make one for her, which I promptly did. We zentangled the front covers of our notebooks in pencil first and then used acid-free black marker to go over the design. The inside pages allow you to add four zentangles each.
If you need a gift for a kid or someone who’s at all crafty (not artistic, because no art skills are required), you’ll love a zentangle notebook. It’s fun to make and would make a great accompaniment to a zentangle book and pen set. If you don’t want to create this yourself or if you don’t have a binder, you could have it put together at an office store.
How a Problem Solving Approach Saved My Sanity This Week
Gave me perspective . One of the problems I’ve been having concerns the kids’ chores. Writing the answers to questions about this problem reminded me of my purpose: to teach my children. If they aren’t doing a good job cleaning, it isn’t because they’d like to drive me nuts, but because they need to be taught. I found my stress level was reduced after writing, which in turn enabled me to focus on my work.
Helped me make tough choices. Another problem I wrote about concerned my membership in a paper scrapbooking club. I love these monthly kits, but I’m not keeping up with them. I’m sad about that, but writing helped me realize that right now, ending my membership is the right decision.
Advice sparked my creativity. With the kids’ cleaning issue, I decided to get advice by searching online. One of the things I read resonated with me: kids desire novelty when it comes to chores. Lately my kids have complained that they have to do X chore too often, even though they’re rotated. That gave me the idea to create a system for randomly assigning chores that the kids are liking. I’ll be sharing a template with subscribers for this as well.
How a Problem Solving Approach Made Me Crazy This Week
Takes time. I found I kept putting the writing off. When I started, I realized why. Problem solving takes time. Even though it can save time in the long run, it can feel impossible to step back from it all long enough to find solutions. Once I started the process, I became so engrossed in it that I missed my dentist appointment (even after getting my iPhone reminder!). I then found myself reluctant to return to it because it was a time suck.
Can be a little scary. I know one of my issues was a minor one, but I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t have time for the monthly scrapbooking kits I’m receiving. If you have bigger issues to address, I can see where it could be threatening.
Can be overwhelming. In my clinical practice, I would have people do a brain dump of all their worries and it was quite effective. But I discovered if you’re going to truly problem solve, addressing multiple problems is too much. After this week, I think writing down every problem can be cathartic, but really tackling more than one is ineffective. I did discover that many issues could be grouped into one, however.
Did Problem Solving Help Me Get More Done?
Yes, but peace of mind is the most important benefit I noted. I would need a longer test period to determine effectiveness of the solutions I’m testing. While asking people for advice has been very useful to me in the past, I’ve learned that the internet is chock full of advice if you’re short on time.
I still use a problem solving approach, but I still need reminders to do so. It’s so easy to just keep flailing around, trying different things or submitting to hopelessness.
The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 42
This week I’ll be testing Inbox Zero. The new approach I’m using to control email is Sanebox which will limit the number of emails that are in my inbox, while providing me a reminder to read the rest.
The concept. Prior to reading Getting Things Done for the first time, I was drowning in thousands of emails. I was constantly forgetting to reply to important email because it was mixed in among all the sales mail and Yahoo group emails (remember those?). I was spending gobs of time processing them, too. David Allen helped me realize that I had to get email out of my inbox into folders based on whether I needed to take action or was waiting on information, for example.
Since then, I’ve reduced my email significantly with a number of different approaches I’ve tried: Goodtodo, Active Inbox, IQTell, and most recently ToDoist (with their Gmail extension). Using Gmail, I’ve also been careful to unsubscribe from unnecessary email. I do not use Gmail’s new tabs for sorting email because I already have so many filters set up. But that’s the problem. I can’t keep up with the new senders. Either the unsub option doesn’t work or the sender cleverly changes the “send from” email to bypass my filters. The result is I spend way more time than I should managing my email.
There are other options for automatically filtering email, but I like that Sanebox will send me an email reminding me to review my filtered emails. For me, out of sight is out of mind. Once I filter something, I don’t look at it again, which isn’t good when an important email gets filtered. Sanebox is supposed to get “smarter” by remembering which emails you move from the inbox to “Later” and vice versa.
If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Decide on a method for managing your email. If you want inspiration for achieving Inbox Zero, read this. If you want some options for achieving it, read this Mashable post. Of course, feel free to try Sanebox, too. It offers a free trial which is what I will be using.