How to Feel Less Busy Even When You Can’t Be

There’s a common misconception by many non-homeschoolers that what homeschoolers do all day is stay tucked inside their houses reading classical literature and practicing for the National Spelling Bee. This misconception feeds into the whole socialization myth that continues to plague every homeschool mom who ever lived.

Typically the reality is much, much different than the perception for most homeschoolers I know. So we were in good company about late September when I realized that I had filled our schedule for the year with far more activities than I was comfortable squeezing into our week. And yet, I also found myself unable to give up some things due to commitment and totally unwilling to give up all the rest.

How to feel less busy when homeschooling even when you can't be graphic

Faced with a year of busyness and stress, I started to consciously consider how I might fool myself into thinking I am less busy than I actually am. Or in other words, what is the zen of busy and how can I squeeze it into my life. 😉

Don’t scoff. When I consistently implemented the following principles they really did help. I can feel more at peace in my week without changing a thing in my schedule. Not ideal, but totally doable for the next five months until life slows down. And remember, these are all about perception. You will not be any less busy, but you might just feel that way. Give them a try.

You can read or listen to this post.

1. Prepare the night before

This one is an oldie but there’s a reason for that — it really works. Lay out clothes the night before Mass or co-op. Check karate uniforms to make sure all pieces are present and accounted for and tuck them in a safe place. Pack your lunch the night before the field trip. Whatever you can do to make the morning less hectic before it arrives, will help you to feel less rushed when the time comes. That, my friends, is a good thing.

2. Leave early — really early

Much of my perception of busyness comes from the frantic yelling at the kids to get their shoes on and get in the van and the rush to beat all the lights as we speed across town trying not to be late. Not to mention the danger in driving too fast.

Go ahead and make a short list of things you can do while sitting in a parking lot waiting for an event to start: listen to audio books, practice memory work, play a verbal phonics or math game, do a read aloud, etc. Then strive to have that time to use by arriving at your destination ten or fifteen minutes early. Because you are not rushed in the micro sense, you will feel less rushed overall.

3. Clean up your calendar

I mean this in the literal sense. For our large wall chalkboard calendar I erased all other notes that cluttered the edges. The only thing on there now are our activities. For my digital version I set up multiple calendars which I can switch on and off. Looking at all the calendars at one time (birthdays, liturgical year, Matt’s calendar, holidays etc) stresses me out, but if I turn off everything but the ones we use each day, I feel so much more at peace with what we have to do. I turn the others back on when we need them.

less busy when homeschooling calendar

If you are using a paper calendar use a pencil to be able to erase instead of filling it with splatters and cross-outs of a pen. Try to write in a small, neat hand and avoid adding visual clutter. If you are at all a visual person this is going to make a huge difference in how you perceive your days.

4. Consolidate

Having some days totally free in the calendar has helped my perception of how busy I am. I have done this in a couple of ways this year. First we moved multiple activities to the same day. Now we have a couple of days each week that are busier, but we also have a couple of days each week that have no set obligations. I use those wonderful days to recharge. I found that was easier for me than having one activity per day spread across the week.

I did the same thing with cleaning. Instead of using a cleaning system that requires me to do a little each day, now I don’t worry about having to do household chores on the days I am otherwise busy. Instead I give myself a pass for anything beyond the basics and confine my bigger cleaning to days when we don’t leave the house — I just do it a little longer than I used to. This has made such a huge difference for me, not having one more thing to check off (and the accompanying nagging mental clutter) on the days we are on the run.

5. Start the day with quiet time

As often as possible try to begin your day with no noise or distractions. Sit and pray, reconnect with the kids by cuddling or enjoying a leisurely breakfast, work on a hobby. Many days will find us on the couch together or even at the school table working on drawings, the Rainbow Loom, or prepping for the school day. By beginning the day with a few minutes of peace before we start our routine, we feel recharged and rested to begin.

mom's quiet time

These few tips have been a boon to me. During the times I am feeling overwhelmed I find that if I stop and focus on doing these few tasks, it helps to calm my scattered nerves again.

What about you? Do you have any tips to help you feel less stressed, less overwhelmed, less busy? Please share them in the comments.

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  • Erin says:

    Great list, and yes I think your last sentence sums it up, “During the times I am feeling overwhelmed I find that if I stop and focus on doing these few tasks, it helps to calm my scattered nerves again.” I've found the mental attitude plays a huge part, it's our mental mind that makes us feel, busy, busy busy. Mind you looking at your calendar you have plenty on it!

    Some years after an active year I then have a far less active year, helps recharge. Don;'t really have any tips to add, you've summed it up well:) oh you could add things like use your slow cooker for dinner.
    My recent post "Most" Posts of 2013

  • Sarah Mackenzie says:

    This is really helpful. Believe it or not, even though I'm a visual person, it never once occurred to me to write neatly and in small letters on my paper planner to keep the visual clutter from overwhelming me. That makes so much sense.

    What do you use for your digital calendar?
    My recent post "Most" Posts of 2013 {a link-up}

    • edsnapshots says:

      If I am ever getting stressed with the house or the school room you can just about bet that it is because there is clutter about. ANY kind of clutter visually just messes with me in a bad way. Things may not be all that clean, but if it is uncluttered I usually feel pretty good. 🙂

      I use iCal for my calendar because it syncs across my computer and phone. I love being able to turn those calendars on and off. I have about eight different ones set up.

  • Patty says:

    Excellent points. One thing I forgot to do this last quarter for finals week, clear the calendar of all (if possible) extra curricular activities. Our finals are really stressful with Seton, especially the upper grades including High School. We have always put academics before extra curricular, but this past quarter I forgot to clear the week off. I learned a valuable lesson. Let's just say, my husband brought home some brandy to go in my egg nog last night (I live in a dry county)! Thanking God school is over for a bit and tonight is my last CCD Confirmation class for two weeks.
    My recent post Throw Back Thursday

    • edsnapshots says:

      Our activities have slowed down this week too and you are right, it is huge. Makes things feel so much better to have that little break at the end. And finals! I can't even imagine how stressful that must be. I have never been an egg nog fan, but the brandy might convince me. 😉 Thank you for stopping by.

  • Amanda M says:

    Did you write this post *just* for/to me??? 😛 You surely must have peaked at my calendar book. You surely mean my tardiness. Etc. Etc. I start off the new “year” with a new paper calendar and DO try to write neatly but I forget to write in pencil and end up with lots of scratch outs by the end of the year. Or scribble in add-ins too quickly. Anyhoo…all sounds good, except my biggest problem is making time for that quiet meditation and prayer. Oh sure we take it easy in the mornings around here when we can LOL and we eventually get around to prayers, but….I don't know…

    • edsnapshots says:

      Oh yes, I have seen that calendar and I am really not sure how you do it. If there is someone out there with more irons in the fire than me — it is definitely you. How about using a pretty ribbon to tie a pencil to your planner? I know your habits. You might want to do morning prayer for the next day before you go to bed each night. It should still qualify since it is technically morning. 😉

      • Amanda M. says:

        Bahaha just saw your reply 😛 Touche'!

  • Mystie says:

    These are great tips! Clutter of all sorts messes with my head, too, and that was a huge reason behind my decision to go digital with my planning stuff. It stays neat and doesn't take up extra space. 🙂
    My recent post Education Is for Life: Cum dignitate otium, or Rest

    • edsnapshots says:

      Yes! Yes! Yes! Every homemaking binder or paper calendar I ever had needed to be out on the counter to get used. And then it was also in the way!

  • fancyrock says:

    Love this post, so very helpful! My favorite tips are to write neatly (I do use a paper planning system), and to leave early. I never thought of having tasks ready to do in the van while waiting in the parking lot for our event/appointment to start!! I have printed your article and will put it in my 3-ring teacher binder. Thanks! :o) Becky in OR

    • edsnapshots says:

      Thanks for stopping by Becky. On days I know we will spend time in the van I even cut our morning time short and save some of the memory work specifically for travel and wait times. Frees up more time in the morning and gives us something to do.

  • Very good ideas! I've been retired from homeschooling for some time, but I still use many of these techniques, which I think are for me not about perception so much as about clearing out some of the brain overload. Your calendar cleaning-up, and the different calendars that you can turn on and off, for example, would be very helpful. On my weekly calendars/to-do lists that are partly pen-and-paper I use different colors of ink for types of activities. If it's somewhere I have to GO, it's in a totally different category in my mind and psyche than any number of other tasks.
    Thanks for sharing your success. 🙂
    My recent post A cookie might be a little seedy bun cake.

    • edsnapshots says:

      Yes, Gretchen, we think very much alike. GO activities have their own color here too. Appointments are also a different color than activities as well. The color coding really helps my brain organize things.

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