I Wasn’t Going Crazy. I Just Needed a System.

Two years ago I was drowning in a sea of piles, to-do’s, and unfinished projects.

But if you came to my house, you wouldn’t have been able to see it.  It was my brain that was a mess.  I felt a persistent swirling in my mind as I was always wondering if I should be doing something else.  It was difficult for me to be content when I was working on one task because I was thinking of all of the other things that I could or should have been doing.

I even had a difficult time listening to audiobooks in the car because I was continually distracted by thoughts interjecting themselves in my mind.  I can’t forget to pick up food for the teacher luncheon.  Did I ever text my sister back?  I wonder when I need to return our library books.  This muffin top is getting ridiculous.  When am I going to find time to exercise?  Maybe I should just give up on wearing jeans.  Darn!  I forgot to text Mike and tell him we’re out of dog food.  Christmas is coming!!!!  And on, and on, and on.

My focus seemed to jump from one “urgent” task to another – whichever one was loudest in the moment.  There was plenty to do and I was always busy.  I got my people fed and clothed and kept the animals alive.  But I didn’t feel productive and I had this nagging sense that I wasn’t living my life in line with my values – what I thought was most important.  When nothing urgent was screaming for my attention, it was difficult to decide what to do.  So I would just wash the dishes in the sink for the eighth time that day or find something to cook or clean.

Why was my mind in this state?

It might be that we were just coming out of a personal family crisis and I was catching my breath.  Perhaps it could have been because I was in a transition state after my daughter started school and I was no longer in “full-time” mom mode as much as while homeschooling both kids.  Coming out of a year of survival mode after our move to the farm could have had something to do with it.

In his book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr suggests that modern technology – especially the internet and our constant interaction with smart phones – causes such regular and persistent distraction that they actually change the way we think and impact our ability to focus.  I don’t think he’s entirely off base.

Whatever the cause, it is clear to me from my journal entries during that period that I was struggling and something needed to change.

Do you sometimes wish you could hire a boss?

Andy Warhol wrote:

When I think about what sort of person I would most like to have on a retainer, I think it would be a boss. A boss who could tell me what to do, because that makes everything easy when you’re working.

This is one of the challenges in my role as a “stay at home” (Ha!) mom.  There is no one setting my priorities.  I don’t go into a meeting once a week that forces me to sit down and arrange my day to be productive toward tangible goals.  I have to make it up as I go along.  There are no mandatory profession development hours, no professional conferences for the mom.  But flying by the seat of my pants doesn’t work for me.  It may work for other women, but it just makes me feel crazy.

Fast forward two years.

I am in a very different place now.  My mind is much clearer and I am better able to focus on one thing at a time.  The biggest change is that I have a plan for the day and much more confidence that is the right plan – that I will be doing the right thing at the right time.  While I am writing, I am not thinking that I should be doing the laundry or getting dinner ready or trying to remember to call my mom.  There is a plan for those things and there will be time for those later.  I have planned to write right now because it is a priority for me.

This year I launched this blog and now spend some time writing most days.  In the summer I increased my running mileage, signed up for a half-marathon, and am on track with the training plan.  Time spent in the kitchen is much more reasonable and meal preparation is more efficient.  My son has started a new homeschooling curriculum this year and it has gone extremely well – in part, I believe – because I have prioritized our time together every day and don’t feel rushed to move on to the next thing.  We completed a kitchen renovation, added a kitty to our home (yes, ANOTHER animal), and completed several other home and farm projects.   I can listen to an audiobook in the car and actually follow it!

Is everything perfect in my house?  No!  My house is actually less clean than it was two years ago.  But I’m okay with that.  There are more weeds in the flower beds and there is more gunk on the shower grout.  Those things will get taken care of in time.  I haven’t vacuumed or dusted in a REALLY long time.  It’s on the kids’ chore list and they do it regularly – not exactly like I would do it, but it gets a swipe.  The house may be dirtier but my mind feels cleaner.  I feel more productive and less schizophrenic.  

Why am I sharing all of this?

Because I suspect I am not the only one who has been stressed out and overwhelmed by all of the decisions and choices that moms make every day.  Because there are specific resources that I believe God put in my path that have made a HUGE difference in my life and perhaps have changed my trajectory.  Because there might be just one person out there who reads this and could benefit from a simple, specific process for focusing each day on what is important.

Ephesians 5:15-16

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a series called Simple GTD (Getting Things Done) for Moms, in which I will share an uncomplicated system that helps me stay focused on my priorities and keeps the mind clutter at bay.

How do you keep all of your to do’s and projects straight?  How do you decide what to do next?  Do you have a system and is it working for you?  Are you a paper or phone kind of gal?  I want to know!



  1. Thanks for sharing your heart Jeni! I needed this today. Looking forward to following along with your series!! ❤️

    1. I’m so glad you liked it Jill. I’m so grateful that God used me to encourage you. I pray that the rest of the series is helpful to you!

  2. Great post, Jeni! I can relate- completely. I will be looking out for the next in the series. So glad you found time to write.

    1. Thanks for reading, Gina! You seem to be able to prioritize well. I’ll look forward to hearing about your system too!

  3. So happy I am reading your blog, Jeni! I could feel myself nodding yes to everything you were saying. When the boys were little, I followed FlyLady, who helped me create a system for cleaning, but then I felt like I was cleaning (and worrying about cleaning) all the time. At the moment, I just try to keep my head above water and survive. I forget where the boys are going, dinner isn’t at a set time because of the boys’ activities, and I don’t know when bills are paid because my husband takes care of that ( And he worries that if something happened to him, I wouldn’t know what needed to be paid when! True!). We both work, but get direct deposit, so I don’t even check our finances (which I should). My mind is going in ten different places at once. I love writing to dos down, but then there are so many. We keep a calendar on the phones, but it’s hard to remember to look at it and keep it all straight. I look forward to reading your posts about Getting Things Done!

    1. I did the fly lady too! I think that’s where I got my clean sink neurosis ????.

      Too many to dos on one list makes me overwhelmed and want to not do ANY of them.

      I hope Getting Things Done will help!!

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