09/10/2012 10:45 am ET Updated Aug 01, 2013

Wax On, Wax Off Parenting: How to Stay Focused and Calm While Getting Things Done

As you and your children settle into the new school year with new schedules and new activities, it can all be quite overwhelming. Your role as family manager has just stepped into high gear -- planning, organizing, directing, monitoring and motivating are in the forefront as you help your children adjust to everything this school year brings. So how can you get everything done and not lose your marbles?

It's as simple as focusing on one thing at a time, yet I know that's much easier said than done. As parents, we are often juggling the biggies like work and kids while also struggling to find some tiny shred of time for ourselves. So while we are doing one thing like helping kids with homework, we might be thinking about something else, like a work email that needs to go out. Or while at the dinner table, we might be thinking about what homework is left to be done, researching the best math tutor or registering for soccer.

When we are not mentally present at what we are doing, we can feel scattered, overwhelmed and just plain exhausted. The people around us are not getting our full attention, which can be unfulfilling and hurtful to them, and the tasks we are trying to accomplish are not getting our best effort and ability. On the other hand, when we ARE present, to whom we are with and what we are doing, our inner state of mind is quieter and more peaceful. Those around us are getting our full and undivided attention (honestly, this is what our children want most from us), and our "to do" activities are more easily taken care of when there isn't all the extra brain clutter.

Here's a simple way to stay present. Ask yourself the following three questions: Where is my attention right now? Where is the best place to be putting my attention right now? Can I make the choice to shift my attention?

This practice can be profound in its impact but it does take practice. When you find your mind wandering away from what you are doing, ask yourself the three questions and bring your attention back again and again and again.

Think back to our dinner table example. Shifting your attention back to the present -- to the meal and to your family -- will undoubtedly be a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience for all. But what do you do with your thoughts about homework, math tutors and soccer? This is where you need to find the best "brain drop" system that works for you. What I mean by this is the most effective system for you to drop and organize all of the thoughts in your brain.

After attending one of my seminars where I spoke about focusing on one thing at a time, one mom proudly showed me how she created a personal organization system with five separate pads of paper each designated to one of the five major areas of her life. Personally, I have an online task manager which keeps all of my "to do" lists organized. Whether it's a smart phone app, a pad of paper or some other kind of system, find what works best for you and commit to it. You need to find somewhere to drop the contents of your brain so that your thoughts and endless lists don't clutter your mind.

And last but certainly not least, don't forget to put your heart into what you are doing. While your mind can be harnessed for focus and attention, it is your heart that offers connection and care. Without your heart, you can be super organized, very attentive and disciplined yet the people around you still won't feel connected to you and you will feel a certain level of emptiness in everything you do. Again, it's a practice. Don't strive for a state of perfection; simply aim to keep your heart open and to share your heart with others. With a present mind and an open heart, not only can you be a compass of strength and calm to your family, but your experience of parenting and life itself will be richer and more fulfilling.