In 2017, I started this blog when we bought the farmhouse.
I so enjoyed sharing with my readers the transformation of certain rooms, as we moved in, painted, and even added a bathroom upstairs.
I loved to share parenting stories, marriage joys & struggles, and decorating ideas.
There were some weeks during the last year and a half that I was blogging every single day.
Every. Single. Day.
And yet, when I opened the blog today...my last post was in June. JUNE.
That's SIX months ago.
However, a few days ago, I wrote a blog post to share as a guest writer on our minister's blog.
And it sparked something in me.
I realized how much I had missed sharing in this way.
Blogging feeds my soul.
So in 2020, I'm committing to a weekly blog post.
Not only to pour into my readers' lives...but for myself.
Happy Last-Week-of-the-Decade, friends.
Love from the Farmhouse,
We made it.
It sounds crazy to say that. I just keep thinking, "Wasn't 1996 like a few years ago?"
Anyway, for so many of us, waking up on January 1st brings a renewed sense of motivation and excitement for what can happen in this fresh new year.
Over 2018, I read several books to work towards becoming the best version of myself that I can be.
Almost every single one of them spoke in the beginning about the importance of having a vision for your life.
"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." ~ Jonathan Swift
Your vision has to be yours alone.
Picture the life you want and decide TODAY to take steps to get there.
I'm hosting a "Twelve-Week Challenge" group here on the blog and over on Facebook.
So that's my one non-negotiable daily habit.
However, I have some other habits that will definitely help our days run more smoothly, so I have listed nine other daily habits that I would like to track each day.
I love using a habit-tracker for things like this, so I created one on Google Docs to track my progress.
You can view MY January habit-tracker HERE and follow along, if you'd like.
If you would like a printable BLANK copy of my habit-tracker, click the image below.
The Saturday before the new year.
Historically, this is the day where I lay out my vision and goals for the year to come.
I officially decide on my "word for the year" and start to build some specific goals around that word.
The last three years, my words (phrases) have been "simplify", "be intentional", and "be present".
This year, I've had four words that keep coming up as possibilities..
These are all wonderful words.
They encompass all that I want for myself and my family.
And as I have written these goals out on paper and dreamed about what my life will look like in December of 2019, one year from now, I am realizing that all of my goals revolve around inspiring others to live their best lives.
So...I think that's it.
My 2019 Word of the Year...Inspire.
Setting goals and making plans at the farmhouse on this final Saturday of 2018,
One of the comments I hear often from friends and family is, "I don't know how you do it all."
Well, let me be frank...there are days that I DON'T do it all.
I am a known procrastinator, who has been fortunate (or unfortunate) to be able to put things off until the last minute and still successfully pull them off...for YEARS.
One of my biggest struggles in life has been to keep our house clean and organized and we are STILL working to put systems into place to help keep things together.
A few of the successes I had over 2018 were:
While I've made lots of changes over the last year to help with the simplification of things here at the farmhouse, I'm still a work in progress.
None of the growth I've made in 2018 would have been possible without some tools that I have discovered and used over the last nine months.
The Getting Things Done method has five main steps and the first one is to "capture" all of the thoughts in your brain by writing them down or typing them somewhere.
Allen calls this capturing and I call it a brain dump.
As part of my evening routine (and sometimes through the day if I'm having a hard time focusing on one task), I set a timer for about five minutes and start typing out every single thought that comes into my head.
These could be tasks that I've been putting off, worries that I'm struggling with, gifts I need to buy, people I need to call, projects that I'm dreaming about, blog posts that I want to write, and a thousand other things.
I'm basically taking all of the thoughts in my brain and capturing them so I can "clear my head", as the old saying goes.
When I first started this method of productivity, I would use a piece of paper to complete my brain dump.
And then...I discovered Trello.
Trello is a list-making platform that has a web-based component, as well as an app.
It's an online tool for managing projects and to do lists and it is AMAZING.
Simply stated, my Trello is filled with boards that are made up of various areas of my life (shown below).
I have everything...a long-term Bucket List, Christmas details for this year, a board for each girl, Farmhouse654, Finances, Meal Planning, Newkirk Photography, School, and Self-Care.
On each of these boards, there are categorized lists and cards on each list.
You can add notes, links, images, due dates, checklists, and lots of other details to cards...AND you can easily drag cards from one list to another!
My Brain Dump is on my "Getting Things Done" board. I set a timer and add things as they pop into my head.
Today (so far), I'm planning to finish our Menu for this week, get the Christmas decor put up, and go through a daunting stack of envelopes on my desk (that I've been putting off!).
I need to update my KonMari list for our purging project that we're planning between now and spring break, so I will move that task to "Current Projects", as it's an ongoing project and not something that will be completed today.
In my "Daily" column, I have those items that I need to do each day -- cleaning out my school bag each night, so I don't forget something important, reviewing my calendar each morning, and going through my list of current projects to see if there is anything I could move to my "TODAY" list.
My "Waiting On..." list are tasks that I cannot complete without some other piece of the project being complete. An example would be planning our Alaskan cruise for next summer. The cruise and flights are booked and we got our passport paperwork all sent off for verification last weekend. Now we're in the process of waiting for them to be sent back to us before we need to move forward with the rest of the detailed planning. So that task is sitting in the "Waiting On..." list until we get passport confirmation in the mail.
Someday Maybe includes items like "Explore Doctorate program", "Finish Book", and "Design Home Addition" -- dreams or thoughts for somewhat far into the future.
My last two lists on this board are "Desk Items" and "Waiting Room Items".
These are lists of tasks that don't have to be done right away, but could be completed while I'm sitting at my desk waiting on hold on the phone or sitting in a waiting room, working from my phone. It's nice to be productive when you're tied up on a phone call or waiting on a child to get finished at the orthodontist.
Google Calendar (with Reminders)
Google Calendar is where it ALL comes together.
From my calendar on my desktop at home or school, as well as my iPhone calendar, I can see all of the personal and school events we have going on, my Special Education meetings, event invitations, and my personal favorite part of the calendar...reminders.
I can easily add tasks by clicking anywhere on the calendar and setting a reminder.
The option is there to add a time stamp and have the reminder pop up at a specific time or check the box next to "All day" and have the reminder be part of the ongoing "to do" list like the one you can see above.
When you click the "Add day" option, whatever reminders don't get checked off that day will automatically move to the next day! Fancy-Schmancy!
I hope my Brain Dump, Trello, & Google Calendar explanation makes sense! My system is definitely still evolving, but I feel more in control than I have in a long time!
So...what questions do you have for me? What did I leave out? Would a video be helpful?
Have you moved into online planning or do you enjoy paper/pencil more?
What are you doing this week to set yourself up for a successful 2019?
Dreaming of an organized new year at the farmhouse,
2019 is coming.
In fact, we have ONE WEEK left of this year.
The day after Christmas is always when I really start planning and thinking specifically about the year to come.
We take down our Christmas decorations and get the house "back to normal".
I go through my calendar for the entire next year and fill in various events, reminders, and appointments.
I sit down with a piece of paper and I start to dream about what's to come in the new year...things I want to accomplish, dreams I have, and specific goals.
This week, I thought I would go through each piece of my planning process for anyone that wants to follow along.
Some of the things I'll cover are:
One of my big goals for 2019 is to stay in touch with my readers more!
So with that in mind, I've started working on an email list!
I'm currently in the middle of a chat conversation with my email provider to figure out how to turn off my subscription form for those of you who have already subscribed...for now, just click the "X" when it pops up, if you're already a subscriber!
Thanks in advance for subscribing and following along with us during the new year!
Prepping for 2019 at the farmhouse,
One of the things that really helps me to stay on track during the stress of the school year is trying to be productive early on each day.
I'm not a good "sleeper-inner", but there are also mornings that I get up early and do more sitting and wasting time than doing my best work.
Because of this, I've developed a morning routine that is built on habits and not a lot of random time-consuming choices.
My morning routine really starts the night before when we lay clothes out and prepare for the next day (more on that coming in another post).
However, in August of this year, I decided to make my bed every single morning and build the habit. It stuck. I don't even think about it anymore and when I leave my bedroom, I've already got a little bit of productivity under my belt.
I used to shower and get dressed & ready for the day right after that, but I have realized that in the wintertime especially, I love drinking my coffee and doing my morning Bible reading and prayer time in my warm and cozy jammies. I just have to be sure to set a timer or I would sit there all day!
I have found that taking a nice chunk of time each morning for my coffee, Bible study, prayer time, and running through my day BEFORE THE GIRLS GET UP really starts my day off on the right foot.
I am usually going through a few Bible studies at the same time on my YouVersion Bible app. You can see the ones I was working on this morning in the images below.
I have found that I HAVE to set a timer during the morning to keep myself on track or I will get carried away reading or during my prayer time and before I know it...I have forgotten to get the girls up and we are running late.
So by 5:45, I like to have the girls up and going before I jump in the shower. I get dressed, fix my hair, and occasionally whip up some eggs. A lot of the time I don't even eat breakfast...fancy people call it "intermittent fasting" and I call it "I'm just not hungry yet."
My girls always grab something to eat...they are breakfast people.
We are...er, really try to be, out the door by 6:30.
Once the girls are up and running, I know that my day won't be quiet again until they all climb into bed that night.
This is why that morning time in the peace and quiet of the farmhouse seems so valuable to me.
I'm working hard to be centered and intentional with my time and getting up early is just another piece of that puzzle for me.
My morning routine helps me to be the best version of myself, for Mr. Farmhouse, my girls, the rest of my family, my staff, and my students.
Trying to "rise & shine" from the farmhouse,
I am an over-thinker.
I often complicate things that should be simple.
I sometimes spend more time writing out a detailed and systematic to-do list than actually working on the task at hand.
I have often created elaborate New Year's Resolution plans and intricate systems for managing my work- and home-life.
These systems are almost always difficult to implement long-term.
Every day is a new day, full of surprises and challenges.
My work calendar has been filled up with meetings, webinars, and out-of-town conferences for the last few months.
I knew this year would be an adjustment period, but to be honest...it's been pretty overwhelming.
We've had some situations come up in my department that are uncharted territory for our district. We've had students transfer in and students transfer out. I've been working with and learning from several outside agencies.
I've been reading several books about leadership and project management and not putting unrealistic expectations on yourself.
Through my reading (and YouTube & blog exploration), I've come up with three goals for myself to really focus on from now until the end of this school year.
There are a million things biding for my time every single day.
I have some choices about what I allow to take my energy every time something new comes across my desk, across my phone or email inbox, or in front of my door.
I have choices about when to say "yes" and when to say "no"...and I can assure you that when it comes to my family, the answer should always be "yes".
I need to be intentional with my time, with my commitments, and with Mr. Farmhouse and the girls.
Some days, this might look like closing my office door and pushing through the items that haven't gotten enough attention that week.
Some days, it might look like closing whatever I'm working on at school and heading home right after school.
Some days, it might look like laundry, dishes, and sweeping the kitchen floor.
Being intentional is so important.
I have always been a "just in case" person.
I'd better keep that piece of paper "just in case" we ever need it again (even though I could print if off the internet any time I want).
I'd better save those toys and clothes in a tub in the basement "just in case" (even though I trashed boxes that hadn't been cracked open in over eleven years when we moved last summer).
I've realized through the years, however, that I have hardly ever needed those "just in case" items!
Thanks to the KonMari method, I pared down quite a few of our belongings right before we moved to the farmhouse.
I tried to be very intentional in my decorating and purchases made when we moved in.
I've tried to transfer a lot of my "paper clutter" from paper to digital copies.
My complicated systems are now simple and intentional daily reminders...a checklist that I move through during my free time at home and school.
Less is more.
A simple and manageable system is so much more effective than an over-complicated and unattainable plan.
One Day at a Time.
At the end of the day, we can't be all things to all people.
We WILL NOT mark every single item off of the "to do" list and even if we did, there would be more tasks tomorrow.
We have to be intentional with how we spend our time each and every day.
I wake up in the morning and do my Bible study, have some prayer time, and then I crack open my calendar app.
I look at my list of the things that must get done that day on my Trello board and I schedule them into my little pockets of open time on my Google Calendar that used to be wasted.
As I work through the day, I mark items off my list as I complete them and I move the tasks down through the day if something comes up that is a higher priority item.
If I don't finish the tasks for the day, I have learned to forgive myself and move them to the following day.
We can only do what we can do.
We can do our very best...
give our best effort...
try to strive for perfection...
and still we will fall short.
We will never be "caught up"...but do you know what we can be?
We can be present.
We can wake up every morning renewed and full of purpose, ready to try again.
We can be intentional and we can strive for the beauty of simplicity...one day at a time.
Have a great week, friends.
Love from the farmhouse,
Back in January, I made the goal to read 30 books in 2018.
Well, it's mid-April and I am in the middle of books number SIX and SEVEN.
Book number six is The 7 Experiment (Jen Hatmaker).
And book number seven is The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact (Michael Fullan).
I will post a completed list at year-end, but for today, I would love to talk to you about the book I finished just last week, The 12-Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Get Done in 12 Months (Brian P. Moran & Michael Lennington).
I immediately downloaded it and started listening to it that night.
The concepts in the book were so obvious and yet, I needed to hear them so badly.
How many of us wake up on January 1st every single year with so many hopes and dreams for the year?
We make goals (New Years' Resolutions, if you will), whether on paper or in our heads.
There are so many things we want to accomplish by December 31st, and yet by the time February hits, adequate progress towards most of our goals has not been made.
We don't have to work too hard in January and February because December is still SO...FAR...AWAY.
We push through March and April, making excuses as to why we are not moving towards our goals.
It's so cold.
When it warms up, I will get to work on those goals. I promise!
When the school year ends, I'll have so much more time to focus on my plans.
There's still PLENTY of time to meet my goals before the end of the year! We're not even halfway through the year!
May, June, and July come and go.
The summer is just so busy. When school starts, I'll be able to focus more.
It's too hot!
Summer is for rest and relaxation.
By the time we hit August and September, we are ready to get the kids back into the routine of school and get to work on those "New Years' resolutions"!
But it's just crazy when everyone is trying to get back into the grind of school.
On October 1st, it hits us...we only have three more months to reach our goals.
We start to get a glimpse of the urgency that is needed if we're going to hit our goals before January 1st, but by this point...it feels like it's too late.
We'll try again next year.
I knew I couldn't continue this cycle forever.
With all of the changes coming in our life over the next six months, I knew that I needed to get it together.
I'll be starting a new job on August 1st and life will be different at the farmhouse at that time if we don't start to mark some things off of our giant to-do list.
The basic premise of the 12-week year is that we get rid of our "annualized" thinking when it comes to goal-setting and working towards making our vision for our life a reality.
We start to think of each 12-week section of time as a year.
Instead of putting off tasks until the end of the year when the urgency starts to take over, we keep that sense of urgency year-round, while setting realistic goals and focusing on the execution of daily tasks to help us reach our desired result.
"If you want to know what your future holds, look at your current daily actions. Those are the best predictor of your future. Not your hopes and dreams and visions. Your daily action. Because daily action is what moves a person forward."
We can have the most well thought-out vision and the most wonderful plan in the world.
However, if we don't execute well...none of that matters.
So remember as you think about your vision, your goals, and your plan that we need to also think about the effectiveness of our execution.
We have to DO the hard work every stinking day. Even when we don't feel like it.
Just do it.
We are in Week 2 of our first 12-week year and we are LOVING the results we are seeing.
I'm going to take you through the process of how Mr. Farmhouse and I set up our first 12 weeks.
This is, in no way, a substitution for you reading the actual book and following the plan.
But I'm hoping it can at least inspire you to get started!
1. Write out your personal vision for your life 10 or 15 years down the road.
Be specific! Close your eyes and picture the life you've always dreamed about! There's no goal too lofty. Just write it all down!
2. Based on that vision, think about what parts of that vision you could work towards for the next three years.
We are zooming in at this point.
We're taking that lifelong vision and breaking it into more measurable and attainable chunks.
We went through our vision and wrote some attainable goals.
I'm not going to share every single part of our personal family vision because your vision should be your own.
However, on our long-term vision, we wrote that we want to be completely debt-free in ten years.
So for our three-year plan, we want to work towards having everything paid off except for the farmhouse and my student loans.
3. Based on your three-year goals, set goals for the next 12 weeks.
We are zooming in even farther at this point.
What can we do to move ourselves closer to meeting that long-term vision and that three-year goal in the next three months?
At this point, we broke down our 12-week plan into fourteen very specific, small, and attainable goals.
It includes blogging goals, a plan to get my classroom completely cleaned out before I move into an office next year, and a plan for our first garden here at the farmhouse.
On this step, be specific.
And be realistic.
4. Create a weekly plan including activity that needs to be completed every week to help you reach your goals.
We did this on the Sunday evening before we started into our first week.
These are very specific tasks that will move you toward your 12-week goals.
Here's an example of this from our 12-week year.
We want to finish the wall and closet for the fourth bedroom.
During week 1, we needed to measure the closet and wall space and make a materials list. We needed to order the supplies from Sutherland's. These are the only two tasks for that goal that we could realistically finish in Week 1.
But we finished those two tasks and moved farther along in the process than we have in the last six weeks.
We aren't putting that task it off any longer because now it seems manageable.
It seems attainable.
We can do this!
5. Every single week, check your progress from the previous week and plan the next week.
This part is crucial to the success of the 12-week year.
What daily action did you carry out regarding each goal?
How much progress did you make towards your goals?
Were you diligent in doing the hard work every single day?
If not...OWN IT and vow to do better this week!
After checking your progress, make a new weekly plan!
In the book, Moran talks about three different blocks of time we need to religiously schedule each week.
Strategic Blocks - 3 hours of protected time early in the week where you knock out a lot of your weekly activity work (1 time per week)
Buffer Blocks - 30 minutes to one hour blocks of time where you do those mundane yet necessary daily tasks like checking emails and social media (1-2 times per day)
Breakout Blocks - 3 hours of time later in the week where you BREAKOUT of the work cycle and focus on pouring back into yourself (1 time per week)
I tried this schedule this week and could not believe how much more I was able to accomplish during that first strategic block when I wasn't distracted by emails, my phone, or other daily (sometimes meaningless) tasks that I spend so much time on each week.
Week 13 in the 12-week year is for reflection and celebration!
Because you're not thinking about the annual goals that are looming over you, you are able to be more focused on a few attainable goals and the tasks that will get you to the end result you desire.
I would encourage you to grab the book or at the very least, try to plan your own 12-week year soon.
You won't be sorry.
Happy Windy Saturday from the farmhouse, friends.
Week 2...here we come!
I am typing this from the airport in Tampa, Florida.
Due to my new position for the 2018-2019 school year, as the Director of Special Services in my district, I was asked to attend the Council for Exceptional Children's national convention in Tampa this week.
Making the decision to accept the invitation was a big ordeal.
There were many factors to be considered:
- leaving Mr. Farmhouse and the girls for four days
- putting my classroom in the hands of a substitute for three days (for the umpteenth time this school year)
- missing the girls' school picture day, Valentine's parties, and basketball games
- the cost associated with traveling out of state
With much encouragement from a few colleagues and a long talk with Mr. Farmhouse, I decided to jump in head first and head south for the winter.
Okay...head south for four days.
I dropped the two older girls off at school Wednesday morning, dropped my Mattie-girl off at my parents' house, and headed north to meet a few coworkers who were making the journey with me.
About five minutes from the location I was to pick up my teacher-friends, Kathi & Jolie, my cell phone buzzed with a plane delay notification from my Delta app.
Your flight has been delayed. 12:15 takeoff time, now 1:32.
Okay...so an extra hour and fifteen minutes in the airport won't kill us.
Our connecting flight in Atlanta didn't take off until after 3:00, so we would still be fine.
We sat down at IHOP for a little brunch, just in case we were unable to grab lunch during our layover in Atlanta.
As we were pulling into the airport, we received another notification.
Your flight has been delayed. 1:32 takeoff time, now 2:07.
Okay...so we should still arrive with half-an-hour to spare.
We parked, jumped on the shuttle, and headed to the Delta gate.
As we were standing in line to visit with a Delta employee about our options, just in case the delays kept coming...it happened.
Your flight has been delayed. 2:07 takeoff time, now 2:57.
And with that, our chances at making our connecting flight went out the window...or down the runway.
We found a seat near an outlet to charge our phones and we started receiving texts and calls from the secretarial staff at school, who apparently had been notified off the recent changes to our itinerary.
The bookkeeper got us a new hotel room in Atlanta for the night and cancelled our Tampa accommodations and it was settled. We would stay in Atlanta on Wednesday night and get up super-early to fly to Tampa on Thursday morning.
We made it to Atlanta and headed to Ground Transportation to grab a shuttle to our hotel.
At 7:16 p.m., we finally made it down to the shuttle parking lot.
Our hotel shuttle left at 7:15 and would be back at 7:45. Seriously.
So we sat on a bench to wait.
Eventually, a shuttle driver from another hotel offered to take us to our hotel and we decided it was well-worth the large tip we would give her in exchange for a ride.
We checked in, dropped our belongings off in our rooms, and headed to the restaurant.
After a tasty "soul food, Atlanta, Georgia" supper, we headed to the hotel and went to bed.
Thursday, we were up at 4:00, at the airport by 5:00, and flying into Tampa by 8:45 a.m.
At the recommendation of one of my BFFs from high school, we decided to eat at The Columbia in the Ybor City Historic District of Tampa.
I was so very thankful to be able to meet up with the best man from our wedding and enjoy a meal with him. After an eventful and somewhat exhausting trip, it was amazing to see his familiar face and introduce him to my colleagues.
Friday, we were up bright and early to attend the rest of the conference sessions we were looking forward to!
We learned so much, found many resources, and I am excited to be able to share our newfound knowledge and strategies with our SpEd team when we return!
When the conference ended on Friday, we had time to make a short trip to Clearwater!
We ate at Frenchy's Rockaway Grill on the water and it was ah-ma-zing. The fish tacos were spectacular!
We ended up at a Little Greek Restaurant by the hotel.
I had a gyro and it was also spectacular.
I called Mr. Farmhouse and the girls and we all rejoiced that I would be home in less than 24 hours.
Okay, two of three girls cried...
one made funny faces at herself as we FaceTimed,
and Mr. Farmhouse rejoiced.
So now...our journey begins.
Praying for traveling mercies, an uneventful trip home, and a happy reunion at our nice, warm farmhouse sooner than later.
Much love to you, friends.
Mr. Farmhouse has been working tirelessly in all of his spare time to get the girls a second bathroom.
We paid a buddy of ours to do the rough-in work and plumbing (thanks, Brent!), but Mr. Farmhouse decided he could finish the rest out himself.
With lots of help from our dads, we have finished the sheetrock, cement board for the tile, and wiring.
Next up is paint,
then putting in the vanity & sink,
finishing the accent wall with barn wood & metal from the barn that is lying beside our house,
the tile work,
and installing the toilet & plumbing fixtures.