I am burnt out on planning. I find myself having to re-plan all the time. Meals, play dates, lessons, next year’s lessons, activities, chores. You get the picture. I get so overwhelmed by decisions! How do you cope with this or minimize having to keep making new lists, rules, incentives all the time as the kids needs change?
First of all, raising kids by biblical standards means you don’t have to change certain things. Right is right. No matter how old a child is, the basic rules stay the same. If you have to come up with new incentives to motivate them, you are putting the pressure on yourself to be the one who motivates them to appropriate behavior. That is like training them to be circus dogs who perform for a reward. Children should be trained to do what is right and necessary because it is their role as productive members of the family team, not because of the external reward they get. They should do it because it is the right thing to do. They need to learn self-motivation. Sometimes the best way to generate some self-motivation in a child is through their little bottoms.
Second of all, if you are a list maker and a rule keeper like I am, you likely suffer from the same problem I had – trying to keep everything in order and on track based on my expectations and my schedule as a means to feel a sense of security and control over my world. I’ve learned the secret to conquering overwhelm is to let go of needing to control the outcome of every situation. Here are 10 ways to help you do just that:
10 Tips to Tackle Overwhelm
- Lean into the overwhelming day. Instead of leaning away with dread, ask yourself “what promise and possibility could this day hold?” Instead of thinking: “I have to” which is the mindset of a helpless victim who is being forced to do something against their will, change it to “I get to…”
- Learn to let it go. Relax. Why do you feel you have to do all those things on your over-flowing to-do list? Ask God to examine your heart and listen to what He reveals. God does not overburden our lives so they are stressed out, chaotic, and joyless. Yes there are things that have to be done on a daily basis. And yes, sometimes those days are overwhelming. But if that is a constant state of affairs, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate why you have so much on your plate.
- Outsource! Go back over that overwhelming to-do list and re-evaluate how much of it HAS to be done by you. Delegate. Teach the kids.
- Build some margin into your day. Don’t schedule everything back to back. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If you don’t have margin, there is no flexibility when the inevitable disruptions come up. My Thursday afternoon is left open for appointments and errands. Friday is my margin day. Nothing is scheduled in there. I can use that time to catch up on things, to play, to pursue a hobby, or to deal with the unexpected call from my husband saying “honey will you go to the garden store and get some mulch to put in the garden this weekend?”
- Get more rest. Running yourself ragged all day every day wears you down, burns you out and makes you less effective. Taking 20 minutes to relax or go outside and play with the kids, or to just listen to some worship music is not a luxury. It is a necessity. You will be more effective, efficient, and energetic for the remainder of the day.
- Know the warning signs. Know your personality: do you need social time? Make sure there is social time in your schedule. Do you need quiet time? Make a concerted effort to get that time. Maybe one day a week during the baby’s nap, instead of scurrying around getting a quick clean up done give yourself time to rest. Trying to deny how God made us by giving up what we know we need only creates an unhappy, burned out martyr.
- Progress over perfection. Choose your 3 top priorities for the day, the things that are the most important. It may be spending time with one child helping them with a particularly tough math challenge. Or it may be to work on sitting still skills with your youngest. Maybe one of the most important things you need to do today is spend just 15 minutes in quiet time with the Lord. Whatever your top 3 things are, make progress in those areas before anything else. Trying to be perfect and get everything done every day usually means we make very little progress on anything because our efforts are so scattered and we end the day feeling like we didn’t achieve anything. By focusing on just 3 things and getting those done first, you’ve accomplished your most important goals and anything else you manage to take care of is just a bonus!
- Set boundaries and priorities. If you need 4 uninterrupted days per week for the children to get all their school lessons done, write that in ink in your schedule. Block out those days. Period. No exceptions for last minute play dates or other “good” opportunities. Good is the enemy of best. Life will chart your course for you if you don’t take the helm. If you don’t identify and commit to your priorities, you end up being pulled off course by every urgent, but un-important opportunity that comes along. That doesn’t mean you can’t change things when an emergency comes up, but it does mean that for the vast majority of your weeks, you do school lessons during set times.
- Come up with a list of 3 to 4 weeks of simple, nutritious, family-favorite meals. Create a master ingredient list for those meals and store it in a document on your computer. I have two of these. One list for summer meals and one for winter. When I need to plan meals, I pull out my master list of dinner ideas and pick enough for about 2 weeks. Then I pull out the master ingredients list and figure out which items I need to buy and add those to the grocery list. If you have the freezer space, make double of every meal each night and store half in the freezer. If you do this on a regular basis you will build up a nice supply of ready-made meals that can be thawed and reheated quickly on extra busy days.
- Plan your school lessons no more than 3 weeks in advance. You can roughly sketch out the whole year, but don’t get into the details of which pages to read on which days and which questions to answer just yet. Put the instructions for each subject on a separate piece of paper instead of using a planner notebook. Then put each paper in its own folder. The kids can pull out the folder when it’s time to do that subject and simply follow the instructions. If they get behind in a subject, the next time you do the 3 week plan, you only have to change that one subject, you don’t have to re-write everything. I used a master template on the computer for each subject. Each time I wrote up the lesson plans, I would save the template with the updated lesson plans. 3 weeks later I could open the template and if a child hadn’t completed all the work, I simply erased the work that had been done, left the uncompleted assignments on the page, added the new ones and printed out another copy. For free printable planning forms complete with plenty of how-to’s check out Donna Young. org
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