I am a mother of 2, full time teacher and recently started my Masters program online. A three credit class runs 6 weeks. Can you give me tips on how to manage lesson plans, grading papers, maintaining an organized home and my new classes?


Wow you certainly have a lot on your plate! Kudos on starting the masters program – there’s nothing like stretching yourself intellectually. In terms of juggling all of these things without losing your mind, applying the 3 Buttoned Up principles will really help. First, give yourself a break. Some things are going to have to be done ‘imperfectly’ – and that’s ok. You aren’t ‘failing’ as a mother, spouse, teacher, or student if you’re not as on top of something, like clutter, as you were before you took on the additional course work. Second, pick your top priorities in each area and make sure that you spend the bulk of your time each day on activities related to those priorities. As a general rule of thumb, focusing on 20% of the tasks on your to-do list will get you 80% or more of the way there. And finally, lean on those around you for help. Are your children old enough to help out around the house? Can your spouse pitch in on things, like scheduling or paying the bills, that you used to handle alone? Do you have an assistant at school who can help you with grading? Here are some specific tips that use those three principles in each of the areas you mentioned:

Ditch Perfection

If left for a few days, clutter – whether mail or toys – can get out of hand. Understand that you may not be able to stay on top of it as often as you might like. Rather than throw your hands up in despair, throw some baskets around. Literally. Put one on the kitchen counter (or wherever the mail accumulates), one in a place where toys accumulate, one on your desk – anywhere you need to catch those ‘craplets’ that you just don’t have time to get to today, but will have time to get to tomorrow or the next day – and just need a place to stay somewhat organized in the interim.

80/20 Rule

Institute a new to-do list habit. When I was juggling two full-time jobs and motherhood, I devised a to-do list system that enabled me to keep both detailed lists of EVERYTHING I had to get done – but also stay focused on the priorities. Go get a five subject notebook (or four if you create one of your own) to house your to-do’s. Label section 1 “Today,” section 2 “Teaching,” section 3 “Masters Program,” and section 4 “Personal or Home.” Under each section, keep a running list of everything that you have to get done. You can categorize if that helps you – so, for example, you might have Lesson Plan and Grading sub-sections under your Teacher to-dos. Expect this list to be long and frankly, a little messy. It’s just where you jot down everything you need to do so you don’t forget… Then every morning, in the “Today” section – write one to three things that you absolutely, positively have to get done on your master list in each area. If you’re lucky enough to make your way through that list and still have time left over, pick a few more things from the master lists and bring them forward. This system really worked for me – because it let me keep track of everything, but still got me to focus on the most important things each day. Once you’ve got the hang of that – bring ‘you time’ into the equation! Take the fifth section in the book – and name it “Me.” In there, keep a list of the friends and family you want to connect with, and little things you can/want to do to recharge. Remember to bring one of those things to your “Today” section a week!


According to our research, over three-quarters of women say they are solely responsible for organizing their families. We just pile more on our plates than ever before and yet rarely seem to ask for help. Letting go of control enough to delegate can be difficult and even nerve wracking but it is worth the effort. With a little practice you can get quite good at it and free up some time to take care of yourself. Start with the laundry… Have in each person’s room three laundry hampers – one for whites, one for darks, and the other for dry cleaning. While that may seem like a lot of hampers, you have just managed to get the first task of laundry, sorting, done with no effort. Rotate laundry chores with your spouse (and your little ones if they are older than 10). One friend of Alicia’s also has a Wednesday Pre-Treat Contest where armed with bottles of Spray ‘n Wash and Shout family members tear through their clothes to see who can finish the fastest. The losers have to fold the winner’s clothes