How to Evaluate the Closing Year and Plan for the New Year

Reviewing the past and planning for the future are essential parts of getting things done and finding balance in our lives. Here’s a simple 3-steps-in-a-nutshell plan:

1. What did you accomplish this year?

2. What do you want to accomplish next year?

3. How will you make it happen?

And here’s a more thorough approach that I use and that I teach in my downloadable course, How Do You Do It All. (Use this coupon code for a $20 discount on the complete course: 7tools20)



1. Evaluate the closing year by reviewing your personal, family, business, and ministry activities and accomplishments.

If you have been keeping a weekly goals document, you can begin by cutting and pasting from it into an annual evaluation document. The main difference is that the weekly one is chronological (and more detailed), and the annual one is more topical.

If you don’t have a weekly goals record for this year, just review your calendar or any other records you have.

a. Personal – On this page include things like exercise, spiritual growth, hobbies, things you did just for fun (not including family activities), etc.

b. Family – Include family-wide activities such as field trips and travel, as well as a sub-category for each child’s major accomplishments and activities.

c. Business – Summarize your business activities for the year. The details will vary depending on your business, but you might include categories like sales figures, clients served (either number of clients or names of individual clients), projects completed, products created, speaking engagements, conferences attended, education (such as teleseminars and home study courses), etc.

d. Ministry or Charity – How have you given back? Have you served in your church, volunteered at a food bank, counseled a hurting friend, helped hurricane victims rebuild, etc.?

e. Reading – I cut and paste this from my ongoing list of books I’ve read. This might be overkill for some folks, but I like to see everything for the year in one place.

2. After completing the annual review document, compare it to your goals for the year to see how well you’ve stayed on track.

What goals did you reach? What fell through the cracks? Did your priorities change over the year?

If you didn’t write goals for the year, just assess how productive your year was and use the data to help set a direction for the following year.


1. Review your Big Dream. Has it changed? Do you need to add or subtract items? Use this long-term vision to help set your yearly goals.

2. Write down specific, measurable goals for the coming year in the following areas: personal, family, business, ministry. Aim for a balance between realistic and ambitious. Your goals should be do-able, but they should stretch you.

3. Mark your calendar and/or pocket date book for the year with birthdays, holidays, and any other date-specific events you have already planned, such as vacations or conferences. Remember to schedule time between Christmas and New Year’s Day for your next annual review and planning.

4. Review your annual goals on the first Sunday of each month to help you stay on track throughout the year.

5. Reserve half an hour a week (Sunday afternoons work well for most people) to review the previous week and plan specific goals for the week ahead.

This note is an excerpt from my home study course, How Do You Do It All: Balancing Family and Home Business in the Real World, which includes customizable planning forms. Available at

Use this coupon code for a $20 discount: 7tools20


Of Dwarves and Dinner

Cook once, eat twice (or thrice). That’s my primary strategy for feeding a horde of hungry hobbits (er, boys).

I love leftovers, especially when I’m extra tired. So tonight—after a long day of running errands and working on my book—I was looking forward to converting the leftover roast, carrots, onions, and rice from Tuesday’s dinner to easy soup. So resourceful, doncha think?

Only one problem: The refrigerated rice had spontaneously generated a science-experiment-worthy ring of black mold all around the pot. Ewwwww. What’s more, I discovered that no one had eaten ANY of the meal Tuesday night . . . while I was away roaming Middle-Earth with Bilbo Baggins and 13 dwarves.


Image courtesy of David T. Wenzel.

You see, the roast HAD to be cooked on Tuesday (“use by” date looming), but that was the only night my oldest son Forrest and I could go to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. He had already seen it with his girlfriend, and I had already seen it with my 3 younger sons, but we wanted to watch it together.

Forrest is my number one Tolkien fan. At age 11, he would regale any unsuspecting repairman who entered our home with obscure Tolkien lore, and at 21 he can explain—in excruciating detail—not only the differences between the books and the movies but also their sources in Tolkien’s lesser-known works. Encouraging my children’s interests is really important to me, as is making memories together. I wrote about both of those things in my upcoming book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. Plus it made a good excuse to see the movie twice.

But I digress. Before I left home to meet Forrest at the theater, I had Perry (17) put the roast in the oven and arranged for Andrew (18) to add the carrots and onions and cook the rice later. They’ve done it dozens of times and are very self-sufficient in the kitchen (another strategy in my book). They and my youngest son, Thomas, would feast on roast while Forrest and I nibbled on popcorn at the theater. Or at least that was my grand plan.

I have no idea what Andrew, Perry, and Thomas ate on Tuesday night, but tonight we all had not-very-filling beef-and-vegetable soup without rice.

But you know what? One wasted pot of rice and one not-so-satisfying batch of soup were, after all, a small price to pay for a memorable evening with Forrest, who will soon be leaving home. I have no regrets. However, next time I won’t wait 48 hours to look at the leftovers.

P.S. – Perhaps next time I should use potatoes instead of rice. As Sam told Gollum, “Po-ta-toes. Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew…”

A Tale of Two Ovens, Part 1: I Fried the Motherboard

Ah, Thanksgiving. It brings back so many sweet memories, doesn’t it?

Counting our blessings. Gathering with family and friends. Enjoying delicious food. Setting the turkey on fire.

OK, maybe the setting-the-turkey-on-fire thing isn’t traditional. But Thanksgiving always makes me recall the year our turkey fried the oven motherboard.

First, a bit of context: I’m not a noted cook. (That may be the understatement of the century.) Yes, for a few years I ground my own wheat and baked my own bread, but that was a short-lived aberration. I’ve finally relinquished my dependence on Hamburger Helper (we once should have owned stock in the company), but I still keep things simple and fast.

In fact, now that my four sons are older, they often do the cooking. (They also do laundry, housework, and yard work. I expect to have very grateful daughters-in-law someday, but I digress.)

All I really expect of a range is that it boil stuff and bake stuff. Is that too much to ask?


When we bought our house 11 years ago, it came with a fancy-schmancy Jenn-Air, and I was suitably impressed. However, after a few years, while I was cooking our Thanksgiving turkey, something malfunctioned and created a spark, so we shut off the power to the oven. We averted a full-scale fire, but I have a lasting appreciation for the fire-extinguisher scene in The Santa Clause movie.

(Stop laughing. I didn’t exactly burn the turkey. It wasn’t my cooking! It was the oven’s fault. Really.)

The repairman said the MOTHERBOARD had fried.

1.  The words motherboard and oven shouldn’t be in the same sentence, much less the same appliance.

2.  An oven is designed to be operated at high temperatures. This seems like fairly common knowledge. One would hope that appliance manufacturers would have that basic understanding.

3.  If, against all reason, an appliance manufacturer insists on putting a motherboard in an oven, the motherboard should be, at minimum—How shall I say this?—HEAT RESISTANT.

4.  Disclaimer: I am not a computer whiz, appliance manufacturer, repair expert, or even a great cook (see above). I’m just a busy mom with apparently unrealistic expectations for kitchen appliances.


About $200. Yikes.

I have never roasted another turkey. Ever. For a few years I outsourced our holiday turkeys to Kroger, until I discovered that the nearby Texaco station (that’s right—Texaco station), which serves the best Southern-style plate lunches in town, sells delicious whole smoked turkeys. I’ll be picking up ours tomorrow.

Do your holiday memories include any cooking catastrophes?

Welcome to Flourish at Home!

Moms at home are often exhausted, overloaded, and hovering on the brink of burnout. It’s easy to be paralyzed by focusing on everything we can’t do and to become trapped in a crisis-management approach to life. False guilt only adds to the burden.

In 21 years of mothering (the last 12 as a single mom), homeschooling, and running a home business, I’ve found a lot of  practical ways to trade in the juggling act for a more peaceful, balanced life. I’m definitely not Supermom though—I’ve personally test-driven a lot of mistakes so you don’t have to. I’m going to tell it to you straight—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My hope for this blog is to offer encouragement, inspiration, and practical strategies to help you flourish at home!

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What are YOUR biggest challenges as a stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, or homeschooling mom? Your comments will help me help you!