Planning Basics: Weekly Planning for Daily Peace

planningwithbeauty

Daily planning will take less time if we take some time each week to zoom out and look ahead at what’s coming our way.

I’ve struggled with what exactly is important in a weekly review because it always seems to take so much time and I’m often still stressed at the end of it.

In this post I’ll share what’s working for me at the moment.

First, it’s important to realize that the piles of papers, the incoming email, the requests from others, and the interruptions are not the most important things for us to be working on.

Some of it is very important, but the most important stuff will never come as an email or as an ad or as a reminder, except perhaps as a flash of guilt when we’re already feeling overwhelmed.

We have to take the time to think about our deepest values and remind ourselves of what’s most important while at the same time keeping all the other balls more or less in the air.

That’s what weekly planning is for.

Most of the tasks we do each week are routine. Even if you’ve never thought much about your routines, most of the actions humans take are done almost without thinking.

However orderly or scattered we are somehow we get things done the way our lives are structured right now. Don’t try to change all that all at once. You’re doing okay the way you are!

Weekly planning is for those things that are weighing on your mind and that you won’t be reminded of during the week. It’s great to have a cleaning routine, but if you don’t, don’t put all your cleaning tasks on your weekly planning lists. The dirty floors will remind you that you’d like to vacuum.

The reason for this is that if I have a weekly list that requires me to do more than five tasks a day I feel overwhelmed. There actually is more time in the day than for just five tasks, but when the list is too long things get lost in the pile and I want to throw in the towel.

That said, a great task to put on your weekly to do list is to brainstorm better routines that fit your lifestyle – just don’t try to make more than one major change a week!

My Weekly Planning Checklist

1. Start a Mind Dump list with three columns for high, middle, and lower priority. Anything related to the most important people and projects in your life go on the high-priority list as well as anything important that’s due this week.

2. Review the week you just had: your journal, your calendar, and your daily schedule, if you have it. While you review ask yourself what worked and what didn’t so you can answer the next question:

3. What do I want for the coming week? What’s most important? Jot some notes down and keep it in mind as you . . .

4. Quickly sort through your papers and incoming stuff into one of three piles according to priority: high, middle, and lower.  Be sure to sort through your “mid-priority” pile that you made earlier in the week or from your planning session last week.  Remember, you’ll be looking at the mid-priority pile again next week, so everything that can wait a week is safe here, even if it is important for later.

5. Look at the next two weeks on your calendar and visualize what you will need in order to be prepared for each day. Write down any task that is best done more than a day in advance on your “high priority” Mind Dump list.

For example, if guests are coming in 10 days I like to know what I’m cooking in time for my weekly shopping trip, so I’ll write “decide meal for Smith visit” as something that should be done this week. Little things like this save a great deal of stress!

6. Break larger tasks into smaller bits.  Look at your high-priority pile and Mind Dump list.  For every larger or unclear item, decide on just the next step or two and write those down on your high-priority Mind Dump list.

After these six steps you now have a prioritized to-do list and a few piles and lists that can wait another week. Congratulations! Most of the great stack of things waiting for you to do something about should now be neatly piled up in stacks that can be tucked away and off your mind for all of this week!

If you’re like me, however, the high-priority list is still overwhelming. At this point I often find it helpful to take a break and get some perspective before deciding which of my high-priority tasks I will commit to tackling this week.

Roughly Schedule the Week

1. Review your high-priority to do list and mark with a left-arrow those tasks which would best be done this week. Be selective – you want to set yourself up for success!

2. Divide the number of marked tasks by 5: this is the number you must do each day. Is it overwhelming? Can you narrow it down? I find that 3-5 is a good number.

3. Roughly plan which tasks you’ll do on which day.  Write the letter day next to the arrow you made (Monday through Friday and keeping your calendar schedule in mind). This way you don’t have rewrite the list but can easily see which tasks are up for the day. Most tasks don’t have to be done a certain day, but this way you know you’ll get to them all and don’t have to stare at the whole list the whole week. If you get more time one day (haha) you can look up more tasks, but in reality we know that each day has enough going on. If we just manage to do these three or so tasks each day we will be ahead for the week.

Now when you do your daily planning you can look at your weekly to-do list and check which ones you scheduled for that day. I re-write these tasks on my daily schedule for two reasons.

1. It reaffirms my commitment to these tasks even if they don’t seem so urgent at the moment – they are what I need to complete in the week to give me peace in the next.

2. I can check them off twice! First when I complete them during the day, and secondly when I review my weekly to-do list when I plan the next day. “Oh look! I did that already!” It feels good. And really, those yucky tasks deserve two checks when they’re done, right?

This takes me more time than I’d like to admit, but if I avoid the temptation of walking away from an overwhelming to-do list and push through to make it feel doable, then I go to bed on Sunday feeling ready for the week.

(On the weeks that I shove my list aside and just hope I’ll survive . . . you can guess what happens.)

Most of the time we don’t know what’s coming our way in the week. Most of life is lived as it comes and I think that’s a beautiful thing. We want to be able to handle the unexpected with grace and joy all the while knowing that we are prepared for what we know is coming.

Some weeks we need to throw out the schedule. This week was just such a week for me. We all got sick and that was just the start. The morning after I’d spend the whole night throwing up and caring for sick kids I cried out to God and he gave me my task for the day: breathe.

It sounds simple, but it’s hard to breathe when you’re trying to sing the morning hymn while you’re close to tears. It’s hard to breathe when the kids whine and complain and you want to snap.

“My job is to breathe” was my mantra for the day and that was work enough. I knew what was on my lists and I knew they could wait. We got through the day better than expected and though I felt behind and overwhelmed in my weekly planning session yesterday I powered through in culling and prioritizing until I found peace.

I wish you all the best in your planning and in your living this week!

See the other posts in this series: how I keep sane, daily planning, and E-mail.

Planning Basics: Daily Planning

A photo by Aaron Burden. unsplash.com/photos/xG8IQMqMITM

We need to plan well because we need to be ready to change the plan.

We can’t map out the whole day. We need to be flexible and responsive. We need to get the most important things done.

How?

Last week I shared my recipe for a successful day. The last ingredient was “time to plan” and I ended with key to planning effectively:

Only organize and plan the most important things in your life. Let the rest organize themselves.

To do this we need to quickly sort our high priority tasks from the rest. I find I need to do this every day because so many things come my way over the course of the day. I dump the physical stuff in a pile and write down the thoughts, requests from others, and ideas on a white-board.

I learned much from Getting Things Done, but the advice to handle every paper once has really tripped me up. I’ve discovered I make better decisions about less important things when I have a few day’s or week’s perspective. Plus, it’s easier to batch process less important things at one time.

The Quick Daily Sort

I quickly sort everything into one of three piles: high priority, mid-priority, and lower priority. When planning for tomorrow, only the high priority stuff gets my attention.

It helps to think of tasks in terms of their positive and negative consequences. What kind of positive impact would I see if I complete this? What might be the unwanted consequences I don’t do this?

This perspective helps me get rid of things like coupons for shoes that expire soon. Really, if I don’t act then nothing bad happens. My time is better spent on something else.

The lovely thing about this system is that it self-eliminates many tasks that aren’t that important. At some point I’ll go through the “lower-consequences” pile and toss half because they are no longer relevant (like that shoe offer).

I feel no guilt because I know I’ve been working on what really matters and I realize that these little things that I thought I cared about, I don’t actually care about at all.

(It helps me to know I’ll be doing a quick sort on the mid-priority tasks every week so nothing will slip through the cracks, but weekly planning is another post!)

Plan your day the night before

Weekly and monthly planning are hugely beneficial, but to keep sane, daily planning is all that’s necessary.

Each night after the kids are in bed I do my quick daily sort of all incoming bits and pieces I might want to do something about.

After that I have a clean white-board, a clear desk, and a small pile of high-priority items.  It feels great!

Next I look at my previously scheduled commitments, like my calendar, and sketch the day out.

Now I further sort my “high-priority” times until I have a maximum of three top-priority tasks. I’ll do these tasks in my “time to work” slot I discussed in my last post. These are high-impact tasks that usually aren’t urgent but are very important.

Next I pick a five to ten “up next” tasks that would be good to if and when I have time throughout the day.

All I see on my schedule are my appointments, my top-three tasks and my next 5-10.  The other stuff is on separate lists I’ll look at in the evening when I plan again.  I don’t like to be overwhelmed with a never-ending to-do list!

Most of our days as parents are unpredictable. We must be ready to go with the flow and deal with emergencies. I leave lots of breathing room in our schedule so I can still be a happy camper when the unexpected happens.

Knowing I completed my top priority tasks gives me a sense of accomplishment for the whole day. No matter what happens after that at least I moved forward a bit!

Sometimes I do have a little extra time and can get to my “next 5-10” tasks. Most days I’m surprised by how much work I can get in as opportunity and inspiration present themselves.

Some days are still horrible, like today. I couldn’t get this post written in my working time. I tried to finish in the mid-morning break. I ditched the 1,200 word monster and tried again while my husband fed the kids for lunch, and now I’m trying again after I sent the kids out of the house because they “lost the privilege” of being inside.

Still, because I’d set myself up so well due to last night’s planning, I was able to finish up the preparations for our new homeschool routine and we got most of it done today.

One thing going wrong doesn’t have to mess up the whole day if we’re properly prepared!

Rest is number one on my list of ingredients for a successful day, but planning is worth staying up a little later for.  Sadly, it still takes me 30 minutes or more, but It’s worth every moment ten times over.

If I don’t know what’s on my plate it does no good to run around trying to eat things faster.

The less time I have to plan the more important it is to plan. No one can afford to spend time on what doesn’t really matter in the end!

There is SO much more to planning, but I’ve struggled long enough trying to formulate the basics. Let me know where you’re struggling and I can share more details.

See the other posts in this series: how I keep sane, weekly planning, and E-mail.

How I Keep Sane: My Recipe For A Satisfying Day

woman-sunset

Exhaustion. Never ending to-do lists. Neglected kids and spouse. No strength to move forward. No strength to say no. No time to recover.

Juggling the demands of family life is no easy task. I’ve been searching for years for the perfect system and have written extensive explanations about the complicated systems I’ve used.

There is a time and a place for systems complex enough to cover nearly every aspect of life, but today I want to share the basics that keep me sane.

When the most important things seem to be slipping through the cracks what we need is something simple we can start today that let’s us know we’re on the right track.

We need something that gives us hope that our most important projects and relationships are moving forward – something that lets us fall into our pillow at night with satisfaction and peace that we did well today and will do well again tomorrow.

All my life I’ve worked hard, but many times I’d ask myself at the end of the day, “I’ve been working all day and have nothing to show for it!”

I used to believe that the little breaks I took, or the few indulgences I succumbed to were the reason I didn’t get everything done. If I just worked harder and more steadily, I’d be able to accomplish it all.

Over the span of 20 years I struggled to work harder and grow in self-discipline – to focus on what really matters and never indulge in time-wasting, unhelpful activities.

I came close enough to success to realize that even if I eliminated the small fraction of times I wasn’t productive, I would still never get to everything on my to-do list.

So forget trying to do it all, and forget beating yourself up for not getting it all done! It’s not possible – and this is very good news!

I’m still far from getting to everything I care about, but I have much more peace at the end of the day, much more joy during the day, and a great deal more hope for the future.

(Important note: my kids mostly let me sleep at night and that is the biggest difference. If you still have little ones keeping you from quality sleep – be extra gracious with yourself – you have permission to cut your to do list by half at least!)

If you’re already organized and at peace – congratulations! Don’t learn from one who is still has much to learn – and do add your tips in the comments!

If you’re struggling, I hope this sketch helps you. Let me know where I should elaborate for next time. I want you to have the same peace and confidence I’m finally experiencing in my life!

My Recipe For A Satisfying Day

  • Rest
  • Quality time with my kids
  • Time to work
  • Time to plan

There are many things that should be on the list: exercise, quality time with my husband, healthy meals . . . the list goes on and on.

I find that many of these things can slip a little and life goes on. I survive when my husband is on a business trip; I survive a day without exercise. I don’t want to get in the habit of neglecting these things, but the basic four elements I listed above have immediate and serious consequences if I neglect them for even one day.

Rest

This is the most obvious, the most neglected, and the hardest to be self-disciplined about.

Everyone knows how important rest is, but nobody admires the person who stops work or play to go to bed. It doesn’t seem heroic, productive, or sexy, but it’s the most essential prerequisite for being any of those.

Quality time with my kids

Kids don’t need much to feel special. Just us fully present. Listening. Being there.

Why is it so hard? Because we’re “doing nothing” and there is so much to be done! Organization is a way to silence the voice that says “get back to work or you’ll regret it” when we’re hanging out with our kids.

When we are organized enough to know with certainty that everything can wait 15 minutes, we can infuse our children with love and care with relatively little effort. When our kids feel loved and a part of our day then they are much more able to take care of themselves for longer stretches and survive even the busiest of days.

It can even be a way to get in some rest!

Time to work

Each day is only one day. Each week is only one week.

“We tend to overestimate what we can do in the short term, and underestimate what we can do in the long term” – Gretchen Rubin

Understanding this is key. If each day is only a day then don’t put a week’s worth of tasks on the schedule.

I discipline myself to work on my top-priority to-do list (which only has one to three things on it) when I am least likely to be interrupted. For me this is the morning before the kids are up, but it could be after they’re asleep or when someone else is watching the kids.

This is hard. This is heroic. This is where the magic happens.

How often do you procrastinate? You’re too exhausted, too intimidated, and have every excuse to take a break. But imagine you actually sit down, focus, and DO the task that will have the biggest impact.

It’s done! Now celebrate and DON’T think you have to go back to your to-do list for more. You slayed the procrastination dragon – enjoy the rest of your day! Today is just one day and you rocked it.

Tomorrow you will do another high-impact hard tasks, so relax.

“Right,” I hear you say, “and what happens to the other million things that I have to do to keep the house running?”

Think back to the last time you finally did something you’d been avoiding. How invigorating did it feel to have it over with? Remember the energy you had? Imagine having that energy every day!

When the most important forward-moving tasks is complete, all the other work we have to do looks easy.

I also use the two-minute rule to knock over a lot of tasks before they even hit my to-do list. I do whatever comes my way if I think it roughly important and it will take less than two minutes: wipe a sink, snuggle a kid, or answer one email.

I’ve stopped planning housework. Sorry, FlyLady, I just couldn’t keep up when we moved to a larger house, and really, the toilets will survive if not cleaned every day.

Instead, I hang out where my kids are and keep my eyes out for housework I can do nearby – fold laundry, swish and swipe the bathroom, wipe blood off the wall . . .

I’d like to do better, but the cleanliness of my house is not something of eternal value. If I happen to vacuum every 10 days instead of every week nobody will care – maybe not even myself.

Time to Plan

In order to use my working time well I need to plan well so that nothing important slips through the cracks. Next week I’ll write more about how to plan, but here’s the key:

Only organize and plan the most important things in your life. Let the rest organize themselves.

See you next week!

See the other posts in this series: daily planning, weekly planning, and E-mail.

The Antidote To The Checklisted Childhood: Raising Self-Directed Learners

checklist

How often do you read something that convicts you as a parent but fails to provide sufficient help on how to change?

It happens to me all the time. I can see problems myself, people, what I need is help and solutions!

I recently watch this engaging TED lecture about How to raise successful kids – without over-parenting.

Julie Lythcott-Haims’ critique is good, but her solutions just scratch the surface.

She points out that over-parenting sends the kids the message “Hey kid, I don’t think you can actually achieve any of this without me.”

“[O]ur overhelp, our overprotection and overdirection and hand-holding, deprives our kids of the chance to build self-efficacy, which is a really fundamental tenet of the human psyche, far more important than that self-esteem they get every time we applaud.

“Self-efficacy is built when one sees that one’s own actions lead to outcomes, not one’s parents’ actions on one’s behalf, but when one’s own actions lead to outcomes.

“So simply put, if our children are to develop self-efficacy, and they must, then they have to do a whole lot more of the thinking, planning, deciding, doing, hoping, coping, trial and error, dreaming and experiencing of life for themselves.”

So if we shouldn’t micromanage and limit our kids to the checklist of things that we personally deem as important in life, what should we do?

“[A]m I saying every kid is hard-working and motivated and doesn’t need a parent’s involvement or interest in their lives, and we should just back off and let go? Hell no.

“What I’m saying is, we should be less concerned with the specific set of colleges they might be able to apply to or might get into and far more concerned that they have the habits, the mindset, the skill set, the wellness, to be successful wherever they go.”

But how?

In her talk, Julie Lythcott-Haims goes on to discuss the importance of kids doing chores and parents providing unconditional love, and that’s a very good start.

But does requiring chores train kids to “think, plan, decide, do, hope, and cope” or develop the “habits, mindset, skills set, and wellness” necessary for success?

That’s asking a lot of chores.

Happily, this time I won’t just leave you with questions, I can point you to a resource that addresses this very question of how we train our kids in their self-efficacy so they become makers, dreamers, and doers full of hope and grit and ready for success wherever they are.

And you can buy it from me for just $987! – JUST KIDDING!

This stuff is so valuable it should be available to every parent, and it is.

Lori Pickert writes at Camp Creek blog and volunteers countless hours to help parents learn to be mentors in their children’s self-directed learning.

She has a book that explains her ideas and gives concrete steps on how to start NOW wherever you are, whoever you are, whoever your kids are, whatever your budget.

She is also one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met. Her standards are high, but she believes everyone can take that next step toward raising self-directed learners.

The book is Project-Based Homeschooling, and don’t let any word in that title intimidate you. The book is about how to support that part of your child’s life that he or she is in control of, and you as the parent gets to decide how big that part is – this is not about letting go of all control or giving your kid one type of education!

Lori’s book explains how to be a supportive mentor in the work your child does apart from the checklist you give him.

There’s nothing wrong with a checklist. Put chores on the checklist, put hiking or family time or whatever aligns with your deepest values on the checklist, but make sure you pay attention to, appreciate, and encourage the work your child does apart from the checklist.

When you learn to appreciate your child’s work and see how important you are in supporting it, it will be much easier to know how to cull the checklist so you don’t ruin your child with the “checklisted childhood”.

So don’t worry about your lengthy checklist now, just do the next right thing.  Skim the blog, read the book. Contemplate how the ideas might fit well with your situation and family life.

Remember, you are in charge, you are wiser and more knowledgeable than your child in many things – but not everything.

Then let’s enjoy the journey! It’s anything but easy and well-defined, but it is every bit as exciting as a great adventure story!

“My job is not to make [my children] become what I would have them become, but to support them in becoming their glorious selves.” – Julie Lythcott-Haims

Full disclosure: I write this of my own free will and won’t earn a cent from it. Lori’s ideas have challenged and encouraged me like no other so I’m happy to pass them on!

An Experiment In Obedience

long-road

We are three weeks into a six-week experiment with training our kids in the habit of obedience.

I prefer to secure the child’s will, give him lots of choice within boundaries, and give him time and space to make a decision. But sometimes a child just needs to obey because a parent knows better.

Our kids weren’t bad about obeying, but sometimes it took some convincing. Convincing takes time that we sometimes do not have.

Then I ran into this quote,

“Tardy, unwilling, occasional obedience is hardly worth the having; and it is greatly easier to give the child the habit of perfect obedience by never allowing him in anything else, than it is to obtain this mere formal obedience by constant exercise of authority.” Charlotte Mason

Over time we’ve tried various methods to “exercise our authority,” but no matter what the method used, Ms. Mason is right, it’s a terrible burden.

What does “never allowing him in anything else” mean? Charlotte Mason suggests taking six weeks to train a new habit and she views obedience as a habit.

Six weeks sounds excruciatingly long to work on one thing, but it sounds blissfully short if it means never struggling with our kids over obedience again.

I won’t go into all the details, partly because I don’t like to make suggestions when an idea has not stood the test of time, but here’s a little bit of what we’ve discovered along the way.

Week 1

We saw lots of progress in the first week. I was thrilled to have obedience be a positive interaction with my kids. Since we all discussed the new idea and the advantages it would bring, they were eager to be on board.

I yelled much less, we all celebrated when a child was prompt, cheerful, and lasting in his obedience, and often it only took one child to obey promptly and receive praise to inspire the others to do so, too.

At the end of each day I was exhausted, but not worn out and frustrated, just exhausted like I’d done a hard day’s labor – and I had!

It was work to not give out too many commands, interrupt my work to be sure my command would be heard and obeyed, deal calmly and firmly when someone did disobey, and find my way in this new experiment.

Toward the end of the week the kids rebelled a bit, as if to say, “That was a fun experiment, Mom, but can we go back to doing things our own way when we feel like it?”

It was the first sign that maybe six weeks are necessary. Normally I revel in the success and start to coast. I coast until I wake up one day later and realize I’ve coasted right back to where we were before.

Week 2

We’d been fooled to thinking our work was mostly done because we’d seen so much fruit, but week two revealed that my husband and I weren’t fully on the same page. When he was lax, I was more likely to be lax and we all fell back into old habitual ways.

We had to work details out and remotivate ourselves.

We read through our list of motivations for this obedience experiment that we’d made at the start. We discussed the advantages with our kids again. Obedience brings liberty. Mom and Dad yell less. Not yelling was probably the biggest reason for us all.

We struggled this week, but we got back on track.

Week 3

We’re finding our rhythm. Stephan and I still have to find full alignment, but it’s getting easier for us all to require and deliver obedience.

The house is a bit of a mess. In order to train the habit of obedience, I haven’t been nagging about everything, which means pick-up time hasn’t happened because I’ve wanted to avoid an obedience fight over it.

Yesterday I asked Vivienne to pick up the beads that were scattered all over the floor and to tell her siblings to help as well. She said, “Oh yes, Mommy!” with a smile and ran off.

Stephan and I nearly fainted. Is Charlotte Mason right? Can obedience really become such a habit that it is really no great effort for the child?

I don’t know. This time Stephan went in to help them all pick up and keep a positive atmosphere, but such help in the past would not have been enough to prevent the kids from whining and complaining about the difficulty of the task.

This week I’ll try making more frequent requests for small pick-up tasks and see how it goes.

At this point, three more weeks doesn’t sound horribly long and I’m starting to hope that we really have habitual happy obedience at the end of it!

Have you ever focused on one aspect of parenting over a long period of time? If so, how did it go? If not, why not? The idea is new to me, so please share!

Living in the Moment

red light

For a long time now I’ve been trying to live more in the moment.

I want to enjoy my family and not be worried about tomorrow or stuck in the past.

Why is it so hard?

Then it hit me: I DO live in the moment. I’m actually very good at it.

“When is this stupid red light going to change?” “Look at the traffic!” “Come on, go already!”

Waiting for my d e l i b e r a t e and s u p e r  s l o w preschooler to put on his shoes is an exercise in torture. It feels like an eternity.

Isn’t that what living in the moment is? Being so present that now feels like all there is?

Maybe living in the moment isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When I’m razor focused on the most obvious thing in the moment, I often miss the important.

When I focus on my son’s task of putting on his shoes, I’m blind to him as a person, to the beauty of nature outdoors, to appreciating how the older ones have learned to get themselves ready and out the door on their own.

I’m so focused on the task at hand that eternity of the moment is forgotten.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “the present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

But surely that red light will not be there in eternity.

Maybe living in the moment means focusing on the part of the moment that is eternal: the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Not the shoes, but the boy-turning-man.

Not the traffic, but the people I’m with.

Not my problems and my troubles, but the blessings I’m thoughtlessly taking for granted.

Maybe planning the future and reflecting on the past aren’t the enemies of living in the moment, but rather a way to use the present to connect with the eternal parts of the past and the future.

Or maybe planning and problem solving are only helpful in that they make the path smoother so we can focus more on the eternal part of the present moment.

I can’t enjoy my son as a person when we started to get ready too late.

Or can I?

Can I still enjoy the scenery when we’re late and in traffic?

Only if joy is a higher priority than punctuality.

Ouch. I want to be joyful and punctual, but if I have to choose . . . I usually choose being pissed off because we failed to be punctual.

Like I wrote last week, I’m no longer pretending I have more solutions than questions, so this is where my thoughts end and yours begin!

Daring Greatly

diver

This blogging project has been great fun and a huge learning experience. It’s been more work than I realized, but the moments of connection it’s facilitated have made it worth it.

Thank you for your engagement. I deeply appreciate all of it, but I can’t go on this way.

Some of you respect my experience and abilities far too much than is warranted and I’ve let that go to my head. I thought I could chart the path toward making a Blue Ocean family while I discovered it myself, but I’m wrong.

Sometimes I feel brave and experienced as I chart the parenting waters.

Sometimes I feel lost and ignorant and supremely unqualified to write a parenting blog.

I am a brave explorer with valuable experience that can help others, but since this blog is about creating your own blue ocean, how can I think I should or could give you a map?

I’ve struggled since the beginning to put into words what I’m doing with this blog and what I hope to inspire in my readers.

How do we think deeply about my choices as a parent while respecting the choices of others and at the same time avoid the trap of saying it doesn’t matter what we choose?

I just finished Daring Greatly by Brené Brown and could jump for joy because she nails it.

This blog is about daring greatly in parenting.

From the book:

“To me the questions of parenting values is about engagement. Are we paying attention? Thinking through our choices? Open to learning and being wrong? Curious and willing to ask questions? What I’ve learned from my work is that there are a million ways out in the world to be a wonderful, engaged parent, and some of them are going to bump up against what I personally think about parenting. . . I think the key is remembering that when other parents make different choice than we’re making, it’s not necessarily criticism. Daring greatly means finding our own path and respecting what that search looks like for other folks.

 

“I’m not a parenting expert. In fact, I’m not sure that I even believe in the idea of “parenting experts.” I’m an engaged, imperfect parent and a passionate researcher. . . I’m an experienced mapmaker and a stumbling traveler. Like many of you, parenting is by far my boldest and most daring adventure.”

I can wholeheartedly say the above for myself, except that I’m not an experienced mapmaker.

So Mom, don’t worry. I won’t give up blogging. I’m just changing the tone. I’m a stumbling traveler.

Sometimes I’ll extract lessons from my explorations and sometimes I’ll just share my struggles to dare greatly as a parent.

Together we can ask tough questions, engage deeply with our families, and share the joys and tears along the way.

Together we can dare greatly. (Now go read the book!)

Tiny Habit Check-In

Over the past three weeks we’ve created a way to effortlessly replace one limiting belief about our family with a liberating truth using a tiny habit.

How are you going?

I have to admit I’ve forgotten more than I’ve remembered. Maybe repeating the same phrase every time I flush is a bit much.

I’ll try this next week:

After I greet the first child awake in the morning I will say to myself “There is nothing I’d rather be doing than sharing the exciting world with my bright and beautiful children.”

Please share how the week went for you, and how you plan to tweak your habit, if need be.

If you didn’t make a tiny habit now is your chance. Today’s post is so short you have a few extra minutes make a first version.

Don’t make it perfect. What’s the simplest version you can start today?

An Effortless Way to Improve Your Family Culture Almost Instantly: The Final Key To Replacing Limiting Beliefs With Liberating Truths

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Two weeks ago we came up with liberating truths to replace the limiting beliefs we sometimes unconsciously hold about our families.

I know how transformative this kind of shift in thinking can be the idea seemed to resonate with readers, too.

But can you recite any of those liberating truths right now?

If you’re like me, you either can’t remember or it took quite a bit of mental effort to dig up those thoughts from so long ago.

How often in my life have I learned something so exciting and seemingly simple that I think I’ll never forget it, only to have it fade from consciousness in a matter of days?

New ideas won’t help us unless we take action, but when our to-do lists are already oppressive, that’s not welcome news.

Luckily there’s a very easy way we can all take action to remember our liberating truths and allow them to shape our lives for the better.

I learned the idea from B.J. Fogg and his Tiny Habits method. You can take a free on-line class from him, but the basic idea is simple (and therefore deceptively easy to forget . . .)

  1. Pick a trigger that you do automatically every day without much thought.
  2. Pick an action that is easy super easy and takes 30 seconds or less.
  3. Rehearse the trigger-action in your mind so you form a few pathway in your brain.
  4. After a week of trying your new tiny habit, review and see if it worked or if you need to revise one of the elements.

Step four is the hardest because you have to remember to check if your tiny habit is working. If the tiny habit is a good fit, you’ll have formed a new healthy habit in less than a week with very little effort.

If it’s not a habit yet then don’t blame yourself for not acting on it, but admit that you didn’t pick the best fit. Tweak one of the elements and try again.

It’s not true that any habit takes 20 or more days to form. It depends on the habit and the trigger.

I propose that reciting one liberating truth is a super easy action that definitely take less than 30 seconds.

Now the trick is to find a good trigger. Here are some examples.

  • After I brush my teeth I will recite one liberating truth.
  • After my feet hit the floor in the morning I will recite . . .
  • After my alarm goes off I will . . .
  • After I hear the footsteps of the first child awake in the morning I will . . .
  • After I’ve left the room from putting the kids to bed . . .
  • After I’ve poured my coffee . . .
  • After I’ve flushed the toilet . . .

Toilet humor is funny because the subject is universal. So toilets will serve as a good example for tiny habit formation.

Flushing the toilet is something we do automatically even when we have very little time. Even when the kids are calling for Mommy (because the Mom on the pot is their trigger to need help, right?) you still take time to flush the toilet.

After flushing the toilet and either washing your hands in leisure (if you’re lucky) or rushing off to see the damage, there is enough mental space for you to remember your tiny habit and act on it at the same time as carrying on with your life.

Can it get any easier?

Still, there is one more way to help the tiny habit take a firm hold: celebrate your accomplishment.

This part is always hard for me since the action is so super simple I feel stupid celebrating, but it’s scientifically documented as important for getting the brain re-wired.

So after you accomplish your goal (even if it’s as simple as reciting a sentence) give a fist pump or do a little silly dance, or celebrate in an equally small, but encouraging way. (Keep it simple or your celebration will take more effort than your tiny habit!)

Note that toilet flushing has nothing to do with a good family life (well, unless you have a forgetful child . . .). You might think that reciting the liberating truth would be good to do when you are experience a negative emotion toward your family.

The trouble is that we don’t think clearly when we’re upset, and being upset is not a precise trigger – nor one we want to practice! In my experience, the more unrelated the trigger, the better it works.

Here’s your simple action plan for today:

  1. Find where you wrote down your liberating truths and pick one, or make up a new one now.
  2. Pick a trigger that you think might work for you. (Don’t obsess about it.)
  3. Rehearse your new tiny habit using this form “After I . . . I will . . .” saying it out loud to yourself at least 10 times.
  4. Don’t worry about remembering to check how it’s working – I’ll do that for you in the next post.

DO NOT put this on your to-do list. Either do it now – it will only take 5 minutes! Or decide guilt-free that it’s not for you.

I look forward to hearing how it went for you!

Happy Switzerland Day!

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Today is the day the Swiss celebrate their country.  In honor of my adopted country I will take the day off of blogging.

If you get the chance, share with just one person that Switzerland is the land of mountains, chocolate, and cheese in the middle of Europe and is not a Scandinavian country . . .

Why don’t you come visit and discover it for yourselves!

Happy Switzerland Day!