Moving past the juggling and learn to flourish
Are you paralyzed by such a long to-do list that you don’t know where to start? Do you drag through the day exhausted, thinking only of how much longer it is before you can finally collapse into bed . . . just to get up and start all over the next day? Is your life so dominated by the urgent that you never get to the important?
Balancing all the responsibilities of home life, home school, and home business can often seem overwhelming—better suited to Supermom than ordinary mortals. But take heart! There are practical ways to manage your life so that you can flourish. Here are some of the best strategies I’ve learned in 22 years as a stay-at-home, work-at-home, homeschooling mom.
We often talk about juggling our many responsibilities. The problem is that the juggling act inevitably leads to dropping the ball. Sooner or later, everything will crash—including you. It’s more useful to think in terms of balance. Imagine a performer on the high wire at a circus or crossing the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. Tightrope walkers make frequent small adjustments to maintain their balance; they move a little to the right and a little to the left, adjusting gradually without drastic shifts. That image of maintaining balance rather than juggling can make a powerful difference in the way we approach daily life.
When we’re caught up in the juggling act, we think in terms of crisis management, resulting in a triage approach to life: We ignore the things that aren’t going to be done no matter what, ignore the things that will be taken care of anyway, and give all our attention to the current crisis.
You just can’t live that way for very long. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ve got to find a pace that you can maintain for the long haul. Rushing frantically from one deadline or crisis to the next will burn you out and eventually injure innocent bystanders—your family. Constantly operating in triage mode is a signal that your life is like a disaster scene.
So don’t think in terms of crisis management. Don’t even think in terms of time management. Think in terms of life management—balancing all of life in the real world.
Find Peace in the Space between the Ideal and Reality
One of my most fundamental principles for life management is this: Find peace in the space between the ideal and reality. The ideal is what you would do and have if you could do and have anything you wanted without any complications or the hindrances of an ordinary life. The reality is your everyday life—the facts that you have to deal with. No use whining about that. The real question is: What are you going to do in the middle?
Once you accept that no one can “do it all,” you realize that it all boils down to prioritizing. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to other things, so be very intentional about what you choose. Opportunity does not equal obligation. Figure out what it is that only you can do or should do, and focus on those things. Eliminate unnecessary activities, and delegate or outsource tasks that have to be done, but not necessarily by you.
Set Written, Specific, Measurable Goals
Once you’ve decided what you need to focus on, setting goals will help keep you on track. Writing down your goals makes them more real and helps you take them more seriously. Goals must be specific and measurable. If you can’t measure something, how can you know if you did it? Sharing your goals with a mastermind team or accountability partner will help keep you on track.
Set both short-term and long-term goals. Building our lives primarily around short-term tasks keeps us focused on the urgent rather than the important. Instead, start with a long-term vision for your life and build your yearly goals around that. Then you can plan each month, week, and day in alignment with that vision.
Setting goals in 3 major categories—personal, family (including homeschooling), and business—helps you see the balance (or lack of it) in your life each week. You won’t always have a perfect balance among the categories—and it’s not just about the number of items in each group. Some weeks will necessarily lean more toward one area than others. But if you often have 25 items in the business list, 5 in family, and 0 in personal, you’re headed for burnout fast!
Take Care of Yourself
Many moms neglect taking care of themselves, but you simply can’t nurture, provide for, and educate your children well if you’re always on the edge of burnout. Make time for personal rest, renewal, relaxation, and even recreation. Be sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right, and drinking plenty of water.
When we get bogged down in the difficulties and challenges of our busy lives, we start drooping like a wilted plant that hasn’t been watered in a long time. But it’s the flourishing plant—one that has been well tended, with the right balance of good soil, water, and light—that grows and offers beauty or nourishment. When you are flourishing, you can take better care of your family so that they too will flourish.
God Is Faithful
Even with the best strategies and goals, things won’t always go exactly as you plan. But if God has called you to homeschool your children, He will provide the strength, patience, grace, resources, and time to do it. May your family and your life be a testimony of God’s faithfulness.