The most important thing a working homeschool mom can do is write down priorities. It is a step we are tempted to skip. We want to get right to the schedule or organization or even 5-year plan, but then we put the cart before the horse. To be successful in our multiple roles and responsibilities, it is imperative we start off with clear directions.
This simple – yet slightly time-consuming – exercise of clearly defining and ordering life priorities yields several benefits. Priorities give clarity of focus to daily, weekly, and long-term projects. Priorities ease the “I should be doing something else” guilt and eliminate the”I didn’t get it done” sleepless nights. With clear priorities, we can confidently do what should be done at any given minute, resting in God’s perfect plan for our lives.
I’ve been writing my personal life priorities since I was a teen. I’ve always kept to a list of ten (I’m a little weird about numbers). I always write them down somewhere. And I always re-evaluate regularly.
When to Set Priorities
Priorities change. That is a good thing, not a bad thing. Life changes, time, personal growth, and trials can all affect goals, interests, and resolutions. I re-evaluate and re-write my list
- with each significant life change (birth, death, marriage, move, etc.).
- when experiencing a period of intense trial, fatigue, or difficulty (illness, burn-out, relationship problems, financial crisis, etc.)
- before beginning anything new (new job, new ministry, new routine, new year)
So I do end up re-evaluating priorities at least once a year, usually more often. I find the process extremely therapeutic, calming, and energizing (is that an oxymoron?).
How to Set Priorities
1. Get Away.
This is when your vacation home on the deserted island comes in handy. I don’t have one of those. I do prefer to exit my life as much as possible. I have flown – alone – to a family member’s home for a few days. I usually just clear my calendar, turn off the phone, and hide at the library, a bookstore, or a museum. Sometimes, I’ve just told my husband I need a break and shut myself up in the bedroom for a day or two!
2. Get Some Rest.
Really. Sleep. A lot. Things that seem so difficult and impossible to the weary and frustrated will become much more manageable with rest. At least one day of plentiful sleep and healthy food is necessary to re-charge my mental, emotional, and physical batteries. A week is better.
3. Pray It Out.
Just let it all out to God: the fears, the frustrations, they hurts, the inadequacies. For me, this time of prayer is cleansing. Maybe it’s my inborn pride, stubbornness, and rebellion, but it takes quite a few hours of throwing it all toward the Mercy Seat before I’m ready for my Creator to peal back the layers of self and sin to reveal the root of my problems.
But don’t rise from the knees yet. Communing with God here, now, on the basis of forgiveness and restoration, I now am yielded and listening to His still, small voice of authority over my life. This is peace, this is success, this is purpose, “finding God’s will and doing it.”
4. Write It All Down.
Out comes the paper and pencil. I don’t think about the order, the time, or the significance. I just write. Everything I do, everything I am, everything I want. I write it all down … pages and pages of lists, fragments, thoughts, and goals in a jumbled heap of words.
After a time, some prayer, maybe some more sleep and a sandwich (writing makes me hungry), I look it all over. Is there a pattern? Do some things belong together? What doesn’t fit or doesn’t belong? A list begins to emerge.
Some questions I consider while brainstorming:
- How do I define success?
- What am I doing that I love?
- How do I find fulfillment?
- What are my current strengths, talents, and gifts?
- If I were to die today, what is one thing I will be glad I did or wish I had accomplished? (then expand to two things, then three things)
- What do people depend on me to accomplish for them? (then evaluate each: are these right expectations of me?)
- What is my legacy?
- How do I picture my life in 50 years? In 10 years? Next year? Am I living toward that now?
- What is my role within God’s economy (His kingdom, His Church, His creation)?
After writing a rough draft of my top 10 list, I pray some more.
5. Seek Counsel.
As private and personal as my list is, I at least share it with my husband, sometimes with another trusted counselor, too. I need an objective evaluation not of my process but of the product which will set my course over the foreseeable future. Did I forget something? Did I miss-sort it? Is this realistic?
6. Post the List.
My current priorities (written just this summer) are copied in my personal journal, posted on my bulletin board beside my desk, and inked on the front pages of my planner. I hand-write every copy of my priorities; the act of physically copying the ten helps me remember and personalize them.
7. Live the Priorities.
Every week I re-read my priorities. Sunday afternoon I relax with my planner, my homeschool planner, and my priorities to plan the family schedule, make my to-do lists, and generally look ahead. This is ensures I live out my priorities in the immediate future, no matter how chaotic the role juggling becomes.
I’ll discuss how to live your priorities within your weekly schedule later. Suffice it to say that establishing sound priorities is foundational to scheduling and handling periods of stress or emergency.
I’m not sharing with you my current top 10 for a reason. After seeing the Lord grow and change my priorities drastically over the past decade, I’ve come to the understanding that each person’s priorities are personal to their walk with God. Like me, you will want to evaluate how your marriage, your family, your homeschool, your extended relationships, your work, your care for yourself, and your relationship with God all fit within His divine will for your own life.
Have you recently re-evaluated your priorities?