Productivity. It’s a word that can carry tremendous pride and immense guilt. In the course of a week, I can swing from, “Wow! I got so much done!” to “Did I get anything done?”

And just when I think I’m doing well, some well-meaning article will tout that we can’t simply check things off our list. No, we must be purposeful. Seriously? Don’t misunderstand. I want to accomplish things that matter. But I wonder what exactly purposeful means. And I don’t just want to drown in guilt when I’m just trying to survive.

I’m the wife of a disabled veteran. We’ve been married twenty-two years, and we’ve moved every two-and-a-half years. We have three children, ages 21 to 16, and I homeschooled them from the very beginning. I volunteer within local military ministries, and I’m an author, along with all the blog posting, social media, and education trappings that go with the job.

And I like to sleep. And read. And watch movies with my family. And occasionally they like me to cook and clean.

How do you do it all?

Yes, I hear that a lot. Which is why I rarely tell people all that I do. I could give you a list of books that I pulled tidbits from, but I thought you’d prefer I just give the quick guide to how I got to a life I love. You can always pick up timesaving books from the library later.

1. Decide what you want in life.

Some will ask you where you want to be in five years, but I do better if I ask that in reverse. Five years from now, what will I most want? I decided on four goals:

  • To love being married to my husband
  • To have a great relationship with my kids
  • To teach and mentor women
  • To author encouraging books

That was a huge list to me, particularly since I avoid the limelight whenever possible. But, as I thought through the list, they seemed right.

2. Are you doing anything that supports these goals?

I looked at my life – how I spent my time, events covering my calendar, who I talked to through email, what I was doing on social media – and I started decluttering.

The easiest part was finding those things counter to my goals. Out they went, mostly without a second thought. The things that weren’t directly opposed to my goals were tougher. I examined each one to determine whether I needed to cut it out or tweak it so it didn’t consume so much time.

3. Consider next steps.

I looked again at my goals and considered what it would take to achieve them.

Making time to write had to be a priority if I were going to author books. But to have an impact on women meant I had to prioritize friendships. To have a relationship with my kids meant I had to spend time with them, and to love my husband meant he had to be a priority, too.

I felt overwhelmed! I couldn’t possibly do all of that and still get a healthy amount of sleep. So I circled back and confirmed my goals before circling back to decluttering life.

4. Grace

I have a bad habit. When I decide to do something, I assume it must happen now. All of it. Immediately.

I wasn’t giving myself time to ease into my new habits. I was trying to invest in my husband and invest in my kids and influence women and write books and be great at all of it without any learning curve.

I needed to realize that this process is itself a process. Some days are not going to go well, and that’s okay. Some days I will focus more on my husband and less on writing, and that’s okay. Some days my family will fix their own dinner because I’m in the middle of writing a really good chapter, and that’s okay, too.

5. Discipline

Once I had my plan, I needed to proceed through it one step at a time. Faithfully. Consistently. I had lots to learn; I still have lots to learn! But I had to start, and I need to keep going.

One question to ask: Are you happy where you are?

If so, then keep doing what you’re doing. But if you want anything to be different next year, then you must change something now.

Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2018/2019 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

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Carrie Daws

After almost ten years in the military, Carrie's husband medically retired from the US Air Force. They now live in Northern Virginia with their three children. Carrie stays busy with homeschooling, writing, and volunteering with Cru Military.