What Happened to this Single Mom When She Cut Loose
For the longest time, I found myself stuck. Trying to follow a “setting priorities” plan that never worked.
Oh, sure, I would find one that was great for the first five weeks. But the program never stuck. I always switched to another.
And then another.
Each one a beautiful shiny red button compared to the last.
I finally settled on three different go-to programs.
I would toggle from one to the other because after a certain amount of time, I would feel overwhelmed.
My list would get outrageous.
Someone requested something of me.
I’d add it to the list.
Things kept getting added to my list. But I couldn’t get them off quick enough.
I needed to find a plan for setting priorities. And I needed to find a way to stick with it. To keep my heart in it.
I found several setting priorities worksheets.
They were fabulous!
For about five weeks.
Then I’d skip a day…or two…or three…
And then a year later, while decluttering the office, I would find a worksheet with a note I wrote to myself. Something I really wanted to keep in mind at the time.
Why didn’t they work?
The people who created them swore by them. One would be just what I needed as a homeschool mom. One…just what I needed as an entrepreneur. One…perfect for home management.
Not very many were created to work together, though.
But, we single parent, work at home, homeschoolers happen to be all those things. Plus a few more pieces here and there.
So, again I ask why didn’t they work?
Simple. Because we are all those things. We need “setting priorities” worksheet to address all those things.
It doesn’t matter if we focus on one aspect of who we are at a time.
It’s a lot easier to see what we have going on in one worksheet. That’s why I love At a Glance Organizers.
But because I couldn’t find what I needed as a busy single parent homeschooler, I decided to cut loose.
I let go of all the different setting priorities worksheets and At a Glance organizers because they never stuck.
And I created one for myself.
Let me say that there are many great At a Glance organizers out now. So many setting priorities worksheets and planners to choose from.
But there were always one or two elements missing from them. And because those elements are important to me, I needed to include them.
That’s just what I did.
Now, I’m sharing my At a Glance Organizer with you.
I’ve personally been using it for over a year. Yes, a year.
Not five weeks.
And I’ve shared it with a few others looking for something to fit their needs.
I hope it will help you. Especially if you find yourself hopping from one At a Glance organizer to another.
Download the At a Glance Work at Home Planner PDF
The Organizer – At First Glance
As you look at the organizer, you will see some familiar elements. And you will see some that are not familiar. This article aims to explain the purpose of each section of the organizer. The familiar and the unfamiliar – as it relates to a single parent homeschooler.
Because while I believe any parent can benefit from using the organizer, organization is essential for the single parent homeschooler’s success.
Does this mean you can’t wing it sometimes?
It does mean, however, that you won’t have to wing it.
So, let’s go through the sections and get you that much closer to intentional success.
Without having to jump from one shiny red button to the next.
Don’t Start with To Do’s
Some productivity articles like to start with categorizing your To-Do lists in order of significance. But that’s not where this article will start. In fact, we won’t look at the To-Do list until the end of the article.
You know why?
Because you are always looking at them. Your To-Do lists. Whether they get done or not.
You will always have things “To Do.” So, I’ve chosen not to begin with your To-Do list. Instead, we will start with the supporting elements. Those things that will keep your heart in your list.
Now, it’s understandable that you’d want to start with the To-Do list. You want to get things done, after all.
And most of us look for an At a Glance organizer because we are constantly referring to our regular lists. That can be overwhelming. We want to condense those lists into bite-sized tasks.
There was a time when I had To-Do lists in five separately categorized file folders. That got old quickly.
Then, I came across Kevin Kruse’s book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs. And the common denominator he discovered while interviewing successful billionaires, millionaires, and entrepreneurs. Many of them used THEMES to organize their days. To organize their lists. They placed the items they needed to get done under those daily THEMES.
I didn’t stop there, though. I did some research and noticed that a lot of productivity experts also themed their years, months, days…some even had themes within their days.
So, I decided to use my five file folders as themes.
That didn’t work at all.
Because I was using the file folder categorizing system of a guy in a suit who went to work with employees. Did not homeschool his kids. Did not prepare the meals. Did not (have to) do any household maintenance.
Those categories were ALL. WRONG. FOR. ME.
And, I’m guessing, if you are a single work-at-home homeschooling parent, most of the organizers and planners you’ve come across don’t quite work for you. That’s because most of them don’t have Your categories. Your Themes.
Determine Your Daily Themes
So, your first assignment is to Determine Your Daily Themes. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to figure out what it is you need in order to:
- Succeed in your home-based business (if you work at home)
- Maintain your home
- Homeschool your children
- Refresh yourself
- Enjoy parenting
These days, my home-based businesses center around providing music lessons and various types of Content Marketing. So, to take care of those businesses, I need to have certain things in place: marketing, research, planning, and – at some point – writing and teaching.
Take some time today to consider what things you need to maintain your business. List them. They will be the start of your Themed days.
Next, consider how much time you need to maintain a ‘good enough’ order in your home. You can always step it up once your days are more manageable.
I use this awesome checklist by Taylor Flanery to make sure I hit those important cleaning areas.
Depending on how much time you need, that may also become a Theme.
Because we participate in a homeschool cooperative, homeschooling has its own Themed day. Two days actually. Decide if you will need a day or more dedicated to all things homeschool.
For those who homeschool four or five days out of seven, you may want to dedicate a day to a homeschool planning theme.
And with all we juggle, taking time to rest and refresh should also be a priority. For me, it is crucial to be energized enough for business, home, school, and kids.
Only you know how much rest you need and if it deserves its own Theme. I’ve since learned that with my schedule, I have to make sure I have at least 90 minutes to myself each workday. Whatever I need to do to refresh and disconnect is what that time is for. It might be stretching, baking, or listening to chimes while napping.
Of course, your main motivation is your children. Don’t forget to set aside a time, or a Theme, specifically for them.
Go over your list now.
Do you have more than seven categories?
Determine what themes cam complement one another and make them one day. For example, if you finish homeschooling before lunch, you can include errands or shop in the afternoon.
Here’s how mine look (for now):
- Admin/Follow-up/Website Updates (1 Day)
- Homeschool/Planning (3 Days)
- Writing/Content Marketing (1 Day)
- Family/Home (1 Day)
- Errands/Shopping (1 Day)
- Bookkeeping/Budget (1 Day)
To clarify, this list doesn’t mean I write one day out of seven. I write every day. It does mean that there is one day devoted solely to writing.
Similarly, I don’t neglect my family six days out of seven. However, there is (at least) one day my girls know to be theirs.
And while one page, At a Glance organizer can’t be an entire gratitude journal, it can be an important component of your day.
In the book The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success and Happiness, author, Jeff Olson, encourages the reader to list three things for which they are grateful. It is one portion of Shawn Achor’s Five Happy Habits. In doing so, you ultimately train “your brain to search your circumstances and hunt for the positive.”
I mean, think about how much smoother your day goes when you’re not focusing on the bagger who put the package of ground beef on top of the loaf of bread.
Why is that?
Perhaps because you’ve chosen to be thankful for the provision to even buy the beef and the bread. As a result, you decide you will either return the loaf with an explanation or make sure to let the bagger know…gently.
Who knows? That bagger might have been super distracted that day and your gentle, attitude of gratitude could just be what they need.
That’s why I put a section at the bottom of my At a Glance Daily Organizer to write down three things for which I am grateful.
Make sure not to forget this most important step. It can be the difference between a list that gets done As Smoothly As Possible or a list where you just can’t seem to cross off one item.
How you start your day is of utmost importance. It sets the tone for how the rest of the day will go.
Ask any successful person and I’m sure they will tell you they have a certain routine they go through every morning.
Ask someone who is constantly chasing their tail and I’m sure they will inform you that their mornings vary from day to day.
Even frequent flyers like Anthony Robbins can say that he has a certain morning routine – no matter where he finds himself that morning.
Why is this a common factor among successful people?
Because it sets them up for a day that goes As Smoothly As Possible.
As single, work at home, homeschooling parents with so many variables to our day, we need to do the same.
Set the day’s tone A.S.A.P. (As Smoothly As Possible…As Soon As Possible) In other words, In. The. Morning.
There are so many morning routine courses already out that I’m not going to take much time on this. If you need a course, I recommend:
The main idea is that you know what you need to have done at the beginning of the day to feel energized, centered and prepped to get your work done.
I’ve given you four to start with. These come from Kevin Kruse’s book. In it, he explains the importance of immediately hydrating your body when you wake. You can also find this in Shawn Stevenson’s book, Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success.
Kevin also talks about how centering yourself (spiritually) helps you get through the day. He explains how movement (physical) in the morning gets your body primed for all the activity – you know as a single parent – that you do. And then, he mentions how reading books for personal and professional growth are also important.
There are two other slots if you feel you need them. I like to put my budgeting and daily email writing there.
Exercise and Nutrition
These three sections can sometimes be overlooked when we get super busy. But, make no mistake, their importance cannot be understated.
Proper diet (mealtimes and water) and exercise can have a positive impact on your day.
Did you know that, for some people, eight glasses a day may not be enough? See here.)
While an intentional fast can help us spiritually and physically, forgetting to eat because you’re too busy eventually takes a toll on your body. It can affect your blood sugar, your urinary tract and your ability to think clearly.
Spreading meals out 4-5x/day is an easy way to consume the proper number of calories. Doing so keeps you from bouts of hunger or overeating.
What you choose to eat is up to you.
There are many eating plans and “diets” to link up with.
It’s best to consult a nutritionist and choose one that aligns with your nutritional goals.
As far as exercise, I know it can be downright difficult to find 30+ minutes to work out and get all other important items accomplished.
One homeschool mom and her certified trainer husband developed an inexpensive, pay-one-time, yours-for-life, exercise routine, especially for the busy homeschool mom.
Here’s their info if you’d like to try it out.
Time With Kids
This section may cause your eyebrows to raise.
You may even ask the question, “Are my kids a to-do item to be checked off?”
In the regular day of any parent, quality time with the kids may take a backseat to “emergency mode”. Constantly putting out fires.
So much that our kids see us in the morning when we’re instructing them to get ready. Then, in the evening when we’re instructing them to wind down.
In between that time is a series of commands, requirements, and regulations.
In all that, kids may wonder about their priority in our lives.
I love the “silver bullet” given by parenting expert, Amy McCready. She suggests – at the least – scheduling 10 minutes of one-on-one time, twice a day, with each kid. She calls it “filling their emotional basket.” I highly recommend Amy’s training course. By filling their basket, kids begin to feel they have significance in our lives and in our family.
The reason I’ve included it in my At a Glance Organizer is because it is super important to me.
It must be remembered if you expect your day to go as smoothly as possible. Otherwise, you may find yourself fighting a tantrum in the middle of a conference call. Or dealing with a meltdown as you’re preparing dinner. (Experience talking.)
So, there are three lines for each child’s name. If you have more than three, feel free to use the back. Do not be tempted to combine a session. Give each child their own time.
I realize three children will take about an hour. But, seriously…an hour is a small exchange to make sure your kids really know their place in your world.
Because they’ll remember your presence or your absence.
Email Check-In Times
There are so many productivity apps to help you get to “inbox zero.” However, no matter which email app you choose, productivity suffers if you are in your email constantly. You can become easily distracted when a new email message pops up on your screen.
Disable those pop-ups. Determine to check your email three times a day. No more.
I like to check my email in the morning after my writing session, then after lunch to see if any emergencies have come up, and check-in just before I end the workday.
The same goes for any Instant Messaging programs. Disable them while you are working, or teaching.
If you use a programmable app, even better. You can set it to start and end at a certain time.
The check boxes and time slots are there to keep you organized with your email check-ins.
While it doesn’t mean you must look three times a day, any more than that will start to eat away at your time.
Oh…and if you’re worried that a real emergency will come up, make sure the appropriate people have your phone or WhatsApp number.
MIT and Other Tasks
We’ve finally arrived at the To-Do list section of the article.
But I won’t tell you how to write your list down.
I won’t suggest that it would be better to do a brain dump or put your list on a calendar or separate it into five different folders (although we know how that worked out for me).
Because, ultimately, the best To-Do list is the one you will consistently stick with. No matter which one you choose.
What my At a Glance Organizer aims to do is take your to-do list and make sure it syncs with your daily theme and your Most Important Task.
First, let’s talk about what a Most Important Task is and how it fits into the Organizer.
I got to tell ya, I searched DILIGENTLY to find a simple explanation for the Most Important Task.
Hoowee!!…is all I can say.
Your Most Important Task, or MIT, (some people have more than one) is a certain activity that will have the most positive effect on the progress of your goal.
Because I’m assuming you are a to-do list person, I’m also assuming you have written down your goals. If not, go here. Being able to define your MIT will be next to impossible without knowing what your goals are.
I suggest you do your best to keep your MIT within the daily theme – knowing that your themes also fit within your long-term goals.
Don’t Stop There
Now, that stated…I’m of the school that your Most Important Task…isn’t your ONLY task.
You got other stuff to do, too!
And finishing your MIT does not mean you “float” for the rest of the day.
Don’t throw the rest of the list to the side.
So, you’ll see there is a box for other tasks and meetings.
And there are no more than five lines because you know how we do. Trying to squeeze everybody in the car to get to the theme park.
As a matter of fact, during my homeschool theme days, I only use two of the lines.
Do not beat yourself up if all those other tasks are not done. That’s why there is a separate section for your MIT.
Do make sure you show integrity and give your meetings priority, though.
Does this mean you do your MIT first?
If it brings you peace to check your email before diving into a project for 2 hours, do that. Then, note it under your Email Check-In Times.
But make sure your MIT is done when your energy is optimal.
The best it can be.
Why It Works for Me
What I love about this worksheet is that it is not binding. If I feel overwhelmed, I can adjust the contents. I don’t have to adjust (or completely switch) the worksheet.
If my team expands and I have someone else doing the marketing and research, I no longer need that as a theme. I can separate two themes that were originally sharing a day, give a theme an additional day, or create a new theme altogether.
If I find my schedule has become so tight that showering is becoming an afterthought, I can include it in my morning routine. (Experience.)
And then, of course, double check to make sure all that I’m doing fits within my goals and themes. Make sure I’m not just filling time with random tasks.
If you haven’t already, download this one page At a Glance Organizer by clicking the link below.