How to Get Back On Track with Minimal Self-Loathing

Be Ruthless with Goal Setting and Priorities

How many of you keep daily To-Do lists? Hands up!

How’s that working for you? Do you have a handle on your list of things to do? Or does that list have a chokehold? Squeezing all the joy out of your day.

I must admit, I have gone from keeping to-do lists to having to-do files! That was over the top overwhelming. Why was I trying to do all that by myself?! Girl, get real!daily themes

I think I had everything in those files. I was listing things that I knew I would NEVER get to. They weren’t even “Someday/Maybe” items. They were things that had come to mind during a brain dump. And whatever was dumped on the paper became a to-do list item or a Someday/Maybe item.

You can imagine how bogged down I felt trying to accomplish all the things in my brain dump. My guilt caused paralysis to set in. The list wasn’t getting done, delegated, or even deleted.

How about you? How do you feel when your list weighs so heavily on your mind you can barely move?

I finally threw all the files in the trash and put all the to-do items on my calendar. As they came to mind, I added them and completed them. That is…as I could get to them.

Well, that worked for a season. Then, things that were important or urgent would come up and bump the already scheduled brain dump items to another date or off the calendar completely.

That didn’t work either.

Oh, well. Next. There had to be something to help me get things done, and not feel guilty for slipping.

Daily Themes

I found themes to be a more flexible way to approach the tyranny of the to-do list. Once I thought about it, it occurred to me that monthly themes are successful in educational settings. They also work well in business. Think about it. You can find themes in advertisements, magazines, blogs, you name it.

As I began to research daily themes and how successful people use them, I decided to give them a try – not only in business but in my daily life. (I also started working out the true purpose of a brain dump.)

Before I began, though, I wanted to answer some questions.

  • What long-term goals did I want to accomplish to decide what my daily themes would be?
  •  How would I apply themes to my daily life?
  • What (or whose) system would I then use?
  • If there wasn’t a specific system for me, was there at least a template I could start with?
  • And was there a way to get back on track (with minimal self-loathing and loss) if I dropped the ball?

If there is one common denominator among consistently successful people, it is that they put in the work. No matter what it is they are working towards, they don’t take the shortcuts.

So, I set out to find my answers until something clicked.

I had to decide what my themes would be. To do that, I took a big picture approach. Setting a goal.

A simple definition of Goal Setting is “the process of deciding what you want to accomplish and devising a plan to achieve the result you desire”.

I needed to know and understand what I wanted to accomplish!

And I had no clue.

Yes, I had a to-do list. But, it was nothing more than a task list.

Entering items from that list onto a calendar might have made them look important, but they were just a bunch of somethings to do. With no true end-goal in mind. No finish lines. Just a never-ending list of stuff. The hardworking way to miserable.

I needed to know where I wanted to go, create a map to get there and then create my travel plan.

And while that was something I already knew, I always found myself, like Bugs Bunny, burrowing on with my list until I popped my head out of the ground hoping to find sandy beaches. Only to realize I was in ten feet of snow.

“I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”

We see the question asked all the time. “Would you set out on a major journey with no real idea of your destination?”

Many us would emphatically say, “No!”

But, that’s what we end up doing anyway with some of our lists. We set our goal and then we jot down everything we need to do achieve it. Then, somewhere along the way, our vision gets blurred. We begin to lose sight of the end. And instead of re-energizing ourselves and our mission, we doggedly stick to those lists.

Our lists begin to lead us and our goal gets lost. How in the ham sandwich did this happen?!

If you’re familiar with the corporate world (or most business models for that matter), you may have heard of performance evaluations. They are sometimes called Performance Reviews. Many in the business world conduct reviews on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. They do it to check out how things are going with the plans they have put in place. Are they getting closer to their goal or have they gone off the path into another direction?

Those reviews help them to achieve those goals.

If we have set goals for our homes, homeschools, and businesses – and we want to achieve them, why would we also not conduct reviews to make sure we are on the right path?

That’s where we often miss it. Where we lose our way. We draw a map and then don’t bother to look at it again to make sure we didn’t miss the turn at Albuquerque.

We are often instructed to make our lists and consistently check them. I’m going to be honest. I am not going to go back to a list every hour trying to recall what I’m supposed to do. I’m not that diligent. I get distracted easily. And I have kids. While I admit to being ruthless with my schedule, I find that ruthlessness comes much easier when they are in bed or at the co-op. (Hey. Not gonna lie.)

And that’s another way we miss hitting our destination. Distractions. The map is so filled with pit stops, sightseeing tours, weekends with relatives and other learning experiences, that we almost completely forget where we were headed. We become distracted by things that don’t necessarily help us to achieve our goal.

Does that mean we can’t enjoy the journey? Of course not. Enjoying the path to the destination will help us stay on that path.

But if we somehow happen to stray off the path? Then, what?

This is why I’ve come to love routines and themes. Routines help us to instinctively know what comes before or after a certain event. Themes help us to easily place those events where they belong. That way, we can focus on following and enjoying the path to our destination.

But how do we even begin to decide what those themes should be?

By knowing what our priorities are and being ruthless with those priorities.

Turning Priorities into Daily Themes

The easiest way to decide on your daily themes is to figure out what is a priority for you. For me it is:

·        Succeeding in my home-based business

·        Maintaining my home

·        Educating my children

·        Refreshing myself

·        Enjoying parenting

Understanding my priorities helps me create themed days for marketing and research, writing, homeschool planning, faith and rest, administrative work, household, and family. My long-term goals are also based on those priorities. So, anything that does not fit those priorities won’t be part of the goals and won’t be placed on the task list.

In other words, there should be no distractions on the way to the destination.

However, if something should happen to try to knock you off course, here is the beauty of daily themes. They can be shuffled.

Real life example:

On my marketing and research day, I found I was too sick to meet, chat or speak with anyone. Not only that, but my kids were sick as well. I couldn’t take them into the co-op to infect all the other kids. So, I had to take make a way for parenting and rest at the same time.

Yes, business is a priority, and goals are set to that priority. Yet, I can guarantee that at some you’ll have to decide between family and work. Which will be the higher priority for you?


The day themed marketing and research became homeschool and homeschool prep. We had a lovely day of learning and rest. And none of us missed a beat.

Thankfully, the co-op is open for classes every weekday.

Our route was changed and we had to make a detour. But we still arrived. No guilt involved.

So, your assignment for this week is to decide what your daily themes will be by understanding what your priorities are.


4 Thoughts on “How to Get Back On Track with Minimal Self-Loathing

  1. Thank you for this post. I am a homeschooler and I struggle day to day to get everything under control. I know that my number one priority is completing the day’s coursework, then working one my lists.
    I have never tried using themes to make the days more sane, but it is definitely something I will try. Thanks for the information.

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