Deadlines can be scary. As they approach, I struggle fighting the feeling of impending doom. But lately, I have been trying to convert deadlines into motivation—and here is how!

Breaking it Down

One of the biggest (and perhaps most terrifying!) deadlines in homeschooling is graduation. However, it became much less overwhelming for me when I chose to view it as a series of small, achievable steps.

Understanding where we want our children to be at high school graduation helps define the elements needed in elementary and middle school years. Then, high school can be a victory lap of applying lessons learned throughout their education! If we can plan our way back from the ultimate goals of graduation, we can fuel the years to come. Those ultimate goals can be applied on a smaller scale to the goals of the year, the month, the week, and even the day.

Creating a Schedule

Curriculum usually comes with its own suggested schedule of how much should be accomplished each week. But your personal goals for the school year can further break down how many sessions are necessary. Does your science curriculum need to be done daily, or two to three times weekly? Again, working back from your goal for the year and your desired last day of school (which is also a deadline!), you can decide your plans for the week.

Breaking the yearly plan into bite-sized goals will help you and your students internalize the reason and passion to achieve the bigger picture.

What About Military Families?

For military families, deadlines can be driven by upcoming deployments or an impending PCS, which are more concrete and less flexible than family-driven goals. So one of the most helpful things I’ve found is to dissect my time into manageable chunks rather than getting overwhelmed by the big picture.

Rather than thinking of our lives in three-year chunks (the length of an average duty station), I’ve found it helpful to break down the three years and think about them individually, setting goals for each one. For example, there may be museums I intended to "get to" that we never quite explored because I thought we had three years to get there, and next thing I know we are six months from our next PCS, and I am trying to cram them all in the middle of moving preparations.

Instead, you can set shorter goals and milestones to break up your stay at a duty station or you can plan your semester to complement the start/end of a deployment or training period for your spouse.

Staying Flexible

Flexibility is a treasured part of homeschooling, and understanding goals and deadlines can help homeschool parents build in a cushion. For example, getting four lessons done per week where only three are required can enable your family to take a guilt-free cheat day for mental health, unforeseen appointments, or education opportunities that arise.

Thinking About Personal Goals

Since homeschooling is not just an education but a way of life, it is easy to blur the lines between which deadlines are homeschool specific, and which are necessary personal goals—from side-hustle, to meal planning, to holiday shopping.

Making a habit of trying to complete necessary tasks a few days before the actual deadline will give you a sense of urgency without putting yourself in true panic mode. Organizing and prioritizing your to-do list based on your goals will help keep important tasks from falling through the cracks.

Once you have established goals based on approaching deadlines, you will have a good idea of what you need to get done each day. The daily task list can be adjusted as deadlines shift.

My to-do list includes the necessary components of our curriculum needed to stay on schedule, and any professional or community involvement responsibilities. It is important to focus on the necessary things and list additional tasks as a bonus, because we want to avoid the tendency to feel stretched thin.

When I am doing bonus tasks, I like to build in a reward. Since I have no “boss” who incentivizes or motivates me to go above and beyond, I reward myself with a candy treat or time carved out for a hobby when I have surpassed my list of essential tasks and dig into additional activities.

While deadlines can be intimidating and communicate a sense of urgency, they can also serve to help us prioritize what is important. Recognizing priorities helps me see deadlines as a gift rather than impending doom. Ultimately, viewing deadlines as tangible, achievable milestones can turn anxiety into fuel to ignite your passion and motivate you to reach both school goals and other important tasks.