Weekly Planning

I’ve used many systems over the years. I find them comprehensive, but exhausting. A client once said it best, most are a “huge energy suck”. Now, I simply do this.

Notebook Review – 5 Minutes

I keep a notebook, in addition to my electronic devices, where I journal during the day and capture random thoughts. I flip through the notebook pages to make sure I don’t forget any note, task or idea. I usually put notes, tasks and ideas where they need to go right away, but I check just in case.

Task App Review – 5 Minutes

I go through my task app and delete what can be deleted, what is no longer relevant.  

Schedule and Plan What Matters Most – 5 to 10 Minutes

I plan my meals for the week, review calendar with my husband and confirm kids’ schedules. I make sure I have a date on my calendar with my husband and family; I block them off first.

Project Review – 10 Minutes

I review current projects and write down all new projects for the week. I use the same task app to manage my projects and their related tasks.   

Current projects – I go through my project action plans. I see what needs to be done this week, assign them to days and block off time in my calendar. I do a quick brain dump and record anything else that needs to be done with my current projects. I record all related tasks in my task management app.

New projects – I schedule time in my calendar to develop an action plan. I also do a quick brain dump, noting all that needs to be done for these new projects right now. I make sure all related tasks are recorded in my task management app.

I also record random tasks, that don’t belong with a project. I make sure they are all recorded in my task management app.

Review Schedule – 5 Minutes

I have a set schedule, time blocks, that I follow most days. I review it for the week and move blocks around accordingly.  


I’ve learned to leave white space on my calendar.

I schedule lunch time for myself everyday, although I rarely take it all.   

The whole process takes 30 minutes and it includes the planning for Monday. I do it Sunday night.

With Purpose,


Leading a Great Meeting

Once I had a boss that started conducting team meetings because she thought she was suppose to have one.  

Many board chairs call meetings because the bylaws require the organization to meet at set intervals.  

Scheduling a meeting just to say you met is never a good idea. Meeting for a specific purpose, with set outcomes – most always a great idea.  

Often, agendas are late to arrive, team/board members aren’t sure how best to contribute and the meeting is filled with folks reciting their list of recently completed tasks.  Attendees leave the meeting not entirely sure the purpose of the meeting and even more overwhelmed.  

Here are a few things to help you have a great meeting. Because leaders, we can do better! 

Prepare an agenda in advance.  Not just a last minute list of items that come to your mind.  Meetings aren’t about regurgitating information.  You can do that via technology.  Meetings are for collaboration, idea generating, big question exploration.  Agendas allow attendees to know the purpose of the meeting and that the meeting actually has a purpose.  Agendas show you value attendees’ time and it allows attendees to come prepared.  If appropriate, make sure attendees have an opportunity to contribute to the agenda.  Your team has valuable insite, use it.  

Start on Time and End on Time.  Even if no one is in the room, set the expectation that the meeting will begin on time.  I guarantee the next time everyone will be in the room on time.  End on time, respect everyone’s time and end on time.  People need to know when they can get back to their workday, even if you are the boss.  And, don’t allow folks to come speak/report and then leave, it is rude. Of course things will happen, but make it the expectation that if someone wants to be heard – they also need to listen to others.  

Report Time verse Discussion Time.  Report time is not a time for folks to start a discussion.  It is when reports are given.  I prefer to have folks send in reports for team members to read on their own time and then just open the meeting report time for clarifying questions – not discussions.  Discussion time should be separate.  When discussion time begins, make sure your team sets norms so everyone feels comfortable participating.  

Team Time. If your team is new or doesn’t get together often, make sure you schedule some team building.  Folks that know each other tend to work better together. 

Meetings should be worth having or we shouldn’t have them. Time is valuable and not just figuratively.  Add up the salaries of everyone in the room for the amount of time you keep them in the meeting.  Are you getting that much value out of the meeting?  Or, are you being negligent with the organization’s money?    Something to ponder…

With Purpose,


Returning to Normal – A Case for Self Care

I find myself trying to return to normal this week.  A normal work schedule.  A normal way of eating.  A normal way of moving and sleeping.  A normal way of caring for myself.  

My kids are older and their needs of me as their mother are different, but ever still present.  

Everyone was home for winter break and here are a few things things we did…

Attended a Carolina Panthers game, had a gingerbread house building contest, hosted a boyfriend, hosted the in-laws, hosted a house full of high school junior and seniors overnight on new year’s eve, cooked lots of favorite meals, celebrated a child’s 21st birthday, cleaned out some rooms and redecorated a bathroom, attended Christmas Eve Mass and made a Christmas light drive at 12:30 Christmas “morning”, complete with hot chocolate and popcorn.  

As the college kids drove away Saturday night, I laid on the couch unable to move – literally exhausted.

I didn’t fully realize how much we did over break.  I also didn’t anticipate how much energy it would take to keep up with these young adults.  However, looking back – it was a great break.  

As I’ve gotten older, I finally understand the importance of caring for myself and accept that the consequences of not doing so are devastating. As I return to normal this week, I am reminded of the basics of self care.  

  1. Sleep – get back to a normal schedule as soon as possible, even if I can’t fall asleep or stay asleep.  Go to bed at my “normal” time and get up at the “normal” time. My body will soon adjust.
  2. Rest – find a few pockets of time throughout the week to rest.  I can lay down and close my eyes or watch a movie or read a book.  I am not yet sleeping “normally”; my body is recovering and I need to give it extra rest.
  3. Eat Well – focus on eating 7-10 fruits and veggies every day and consume lots of water. If I do this, I won’t have to worry about what else I eat!  
  4. Move – be active everyday!  I don’t have to have a fancy gym membership.  Dance around, play outside, or even clean the house – just do something I love and move..  
  5. Reflect – remember the good.  Too often we take down the decorations, throw away all signs of the holiday and return back to “normal” as fast as we can.  Sit, reflect, celebrate and remember.  

As you return to normal, remember – it is a process. It isn’t about how much we get done or how fast we return to full functionality.  Maybe it is about living, embracing and enjoying.  Take time to savor what was, what is and what will be – linger a little while. 

With purpose,


The Hiring Irony

A good team player.  A leader that gets along with others.  A motivator.  A positive encourager.  A kind compassionate human.  A generally good person.

These are all things that I look for in a strong leader.  Someone that I want to be a part of my team.

Yet, when we put someone through the hiring process, what do we do?  We sift the pool of candidates with a couple of rounds of interviews and eliminate the very best.  We are often left with the downright arrogant and the ones that simply know how to play the game.  The genuine, sincere and best leaders rarely make it through the process.

When leading teams, I rarely use the word I.  I don’t say “my” team.  I don’t say “I”.  I try to always say “our” and “we”. Why?  It is important that everyone feels a part of the team and contributes to the process.

Leaders hire the brightest folks and create environments conducive for greatness, allowing the best work to get done.  Leaders run effective meetings, so the best ideas can percolate and be developed.  Leaders need to be trusted and that must be earned.

I was once being interviewed and I was using the words “we” and “I led a team”.  The recruiter kept asking me, “what did you do specifically”. I didn’t know how to answer her.  I didn’t do anything by myself.  I either hired smarter people, rallied our team to produce the best product, encouraged our team to write grants to fund an expert contractor, or surrounded myself with people that could teach me what I didn’t know.  There wasn’t anything I could personally take credit for alone.  If I did do things on my own, why in the world would you want to hire me?

The people I know that personally take credit for things, aren’t the people I want to work with.  They take all the credit when things go well and place all the blame on others when things go south, leaving team members trying to validate their worth constantly.  It feels awful.

Whoever paid that recruiter and all recruiters that look for the words I and me, you are truly wasting your money.  You will end up with someone unable to lead a team, unable to motivate people to greatness and unable to bring out the best in others because they can’t see past validating themselves.

Hiring managers, recruiters and leaders looking to find and develop future leaders – look for those that are humble, who don’t take credit and don’t use the word I often.  Look for those that believe in the value of teamwork, finding strengths in others and encouraging others to be their very best.  That simply can’t happen from a person that talks at great lengths about their own accomplishments.  Listen.

Structure and Boundaries – The Stages of Raising Kids

I’ve spent a lot of years working with parents and I’m deep in the throes of raising four adolescents, ranging from 15 to 22 years of age.  These lessons come from hands on experience, not all of them positive if I am being completely honest.  This post isn’t about parenting the perfect children.  I made plenty of mistakes and my kids are definitely not perfect.

Parenting is unique.  Every parent/child relationship is different and these are only my thoughts.  Please no judgement, as I won’t judge you.  Parents have enough to worry with, let’s not add lack of support from one another.

Here’s how I see it.

Structure and Boundaries in the Beginning

Few expectations, minimum responsibilities and limited conversations…

When my kids were little, I was structured.  I had elaborate schedules. My babies ate, played and napped and that repeated until it was time for bed.  Conversations mostly consisted of adults talking and reading to them.  As they grew older, they were expected to rest, even if they didn’t want to sleep.  Reading and workbook time was a part of our daily routine.   You get the idea, the expectations grew and I provided structure for them to be successful.  Conversations grew and “why” became an ever popular question, which I tried to always entertain.

I didn’t use a lot of child locks or gates.  I kept them close by – exhausting at times. But, when we went places, I had a level of comfort because they weren’t use to complete freedom.  They had lots of boundaries and structure.  My kids checked them often and dad and I were right there to make sure they knew where the lines were drawn.  When they were ready, their boundaries expanded.

I was crazy about maintaining a regular schedule and providing boundaries during this time in their life. It worked for our family.

Structure and Boundaries Begin to Change

Increased expectations, more responsibilities, and developing conversations…

As they got older, the boundaries expanded and more of the structure was turned over to them to set or not set.  I began to expect more from them.  They had responsibilities that increased with age and conversations were expected to go two ways and to be meaningful.  I expected pleasant, respectful, helpful and kind beings in my home.  I didn’t always get that, but I kept expecting it.

I believed that talking to them about healthy choices while they were little was important and I tried to provide the foundation for more difficult conversations that were to come.  We discussed things like sleeping and eating habits at first and then the conversations turned to relationships, substances and consequences of their choices as they grew.  As they aged, the conversations did get more intense, deeper and tougher.  They didn’t always enjoy the conversations, but I just kept talking – providing the structure and the expectation.

Oversight of Structure and Boundaries – Adolescents and Learning to Adult 

They begin to set their schedule and boundaries with our oversight and approval and conversations became critical…

This is a tough stage, not going to lie.  Some years are a challenge.

With cell phones came a freedom that was impossible for me to put a boundary around.  Many parents try, but they often end up teaching their child to work a system, a system parents simply can’t keep up with – technology.  I could never keep up with the apps, video games, music, TV shows, etc.  I felt by giving kids strict phone use restrictions and non-negotiable curfews, instead of encouraging deep conversations, I was only pushing them away.

I decided to try something different.  I expected them to learn to use their phone in a responsible mature manner, instead of trying to monitor and restrict.  I placed reminders and appointments on their calendar and communicated with them through their phone, often using the many apps that I had them teach me how to use.  I “friended/followed” them and many of their friends on social media, much to their friends encouragement.

I talked to them, all the time.  The structure and expectations had been set.  I asked all kinds of questions about their friends, feelings, classes, relationships, and current events.  I was now the one asking all the “why’s” and I expected them to at least try to entertain my questions.  I didn’t keep up with their homework, but I expected them to let me know if there was a problem.  I let go of more and more.  They controlled their curfew and other privileges by how respectful and mature they were, within reason and with my oversight.  Of course things happened and of course there were consequences.

Hopefully, if we do it right…

Final Stage – An Independent Life with Us by Their Side

They are living on their own and we are a healthy part of their life…

Final Thoughts

I think we get it backwards.

Structure was learned from an early age, boundaries grew as they grew, and conversations deepened as they became more complex thinkers.   A trust was established; a relationship and foundation were built.  They learned that privileges and expectations grew together.

Kids need to learn how to structure and schedule their busy lives.  We see extremes.  We see kids stressed and burned out from overachieving and/or spaced out in front of the screen playing video games for hours. They need help learning what a normal schedule looks like and how to set one.

Us nagging them, or continuing to set limits for them doesn’t help them long term.  Us teaching them along the way to set their own limits definitely does.

I learned things by making mistakes – believe me!  Again, this is not a post about how I did it right.  There is no such thing; I have four kids.  My oldest and I laugh all the time about how she had to experience all my bad parenting, while I learned.  I made mistakes and learned along the way, it’s okay for kids to see that too.

With Purpose,


Priorities with Purpose

I struggled with my priority list, my task list.  It always seemed to be a long list of what others needed from me.  After years of trying to please everyone and years of being a perfectionist – I was left exhausted, burned out and not knowing where to begin each day.

I’ve tried just about every system out there.  I planned my year, my months, my week, my day.  I stated my values, my vision, my roles.  I am a wife, a mother with four kids and have a whole lot that needs to get done.  The programs that tell me to pick one item for each role or three items each week and three each day are also the programs that tell me if I don’t take care of myself I will burn out.  But at the end of it all, I was running from one obligation to another, with no real passion, direction or purpose.  I may have made a dent in what others needed of me or pleased people temporarily, but I was always left with unmet goals and a very neglected ME.

What was a busy woman, who knew she was meant for more, to do?

Here is how I now start each day – Priorities with Purpose.

Spend 15 minutes each day.  Set a timer.  Do it daily, either the night before or first thing in the morning 

  • The Coming Day will be a Success If…
    • Complete the sentence and write it down – “the coming day will be a success if…”
    • Call it meditation, daily planning, intention setting, visioning, it doesn’t matter – just set aside time and do it.
    • The purpose is to begin thinking about how you would like the coming day to go.  We have so much internal strength when we are intentional, very little when we operate from an emotional, “out of control” place.
  • Gratitude
    • List three things in which you are grateful.
    • Start paying attention to the patterns that emerge, a little data analysis.  Things you are grateful for are also the things that are important to you and bring you joy and purpose.
    • These are the things that you want to make sure you continue to make time for in your life, prioritize them.
  • Activity Buckets.
    • I no longer list my roles (wife, mother, friend, employee, student, volunteer, family member, etc), there are simply too many.
    • I list main activity buckets.
      • Money Generating, Volunteering, Adventuring/Fun (Self-Care falls here, but it sounds better listed as adventure and fun), Home and Space Decluttering (one of my main goals this year).
    • I quickly run through my activity buckets and identify tasks that should get done and add them to my task list, see next bullet.
    • I keep a running list of on-going tasks that have to get done when I can, that may or may not belong to an activity bucket. I use an app for task management that syncs with all my devices. Reoccurring tasks are set up on the app to repeat, so I don’t have to think about them.
      • Example – every month my app tells me to give the dog her Sentinel.
    • Remember, you’ve already intentionally stated and written what success will look like for the day!  Don’t be tempted to change it because your tasks overwhelm you here!
  • Schedule It
    • Take a look at what you wrote for “the coming day will be a success if”.  What do you need to do to make it happen?
      • Schedule time in your calendar NOW to make this happen.
    • Now review your task list.  It will have all your tasks (tasks from your activity buckets and running task list, which also includes your reoccurring task list).  What can be done today?  What needs to be scheduled?  What can be removed or delegated?  Update your task list for the day.
    • Be mindful, but not insane, that your top few tasks on your updated task list are ones you want to get done today and then do your best.
  • Set a Schedule
    • You won’t need to do this every day.  Just review and adjust as needed.
    • Bill paying, laundry, weekly reports all those tasks that have to get done repeatedly – create a schedule for the same time every week/month, post them where the family/team members can see them and make them part of your routine. 
    • Whether work or home, tasks that need to get done repeatedly – automate them!  Let the team know, this saves everyone time, confusion and frustration.  Once you determine how long these tasks take, put them on your calendar as reoccurring appointments. 
    • Example – my kids know to bring their laundry down on Sunday and Wednesdays.  They also know when to come get it and fold it.  If not, it is subject to long delays of wrinkling causing piles or being placed in the wrong pile never to be found again.  Having the schedule posted, gives them a way to contribute to a smoothly run system without any discussion, nagging or confusion.
  • Review often
    • Review your gratitude list and make sure you are including things you love into your everyday list of things to do.

And there you have it!  I never finish my task list.  But, I am learning that continuing to complete the easy tasks or the tasks everyone else wants/needs done – will only cause me huge amounts of resentment and extreme dissatisfaction.  Find your purpose.  Live it, every day.

With Purpose,