Today we’re talking with Jill Martin of Strong Hearts, Strong Women. Jill and her husband Sean live in Texas and are parents to 13 kids: 11 at home and 2 who live in heaven. Their family has been built by birth and adoption, and includes several kids with special needs. Strong Hearts, Strong Women is an online community that Jill has built over the last year.
I’m so excited to chat with this amazing woman about how she’s grown her business over the last year and how she’s used her planner to juggle everything and live intentionally.
You will absolutely LOVE how Jill has gotten her kids involved in planning too! It’s a unique focus that will probably surprise you!
1:15 – From Stay at Home Mama to Encourager and Community-Builder
Strong Hearts, Strong Women started almost a year ago, when Jill originally wanted to coordinate fitness and nutrition groups. It’s a passion of hers and something she already does in her free time. A fitness coach friend of Jill’s encouraged her to give it a go, so she did!
Thirty women signed up for a one-month Facebook group, and when she looked at the makeup of the group, Jill felt like the women would be best served by the addition of a Bible study. In Jill’s mind, “No matter how many push-ups you do, if your insides aren’t right you’re still not going to be happy with your life.”
Jill’s first group was so successful that ladies were begging her to do it again!
These groups, that initially began as month-long groups, kept going for months after. Well into the New Year, Jill hosted a group every single month, with between 30-40 new women in each group.
From these groups, Strong Hearts, Strong Women was born. Jill put together a 3-week test group with women she knew where they talked about common struggles they experience. Together, the group tackled fitness and nutrition issues, but also self-image, forgiveness, or feeling that part of your life was a mistake. (They dug really deep!)
Shortly after this beta test group, Jill’s daughter had a big surgery. During that time, when Jill was using Facebook live to talk about her daughter’s recovery, a lot of people really connected with Jill and asked her to keep Strong Hearts, Strong Women going. Jill was grateful for that interest, but had a lot on her plate! What should she do next?
In July, she was finally ready to reopen the group. Currently the Strong Hearts, Strong Women community is at 260 members! She sees herself as a community leader — helping women to focus on character qualities, growing strong in heart, mind, and life. In short, it’s a safe place to be honest about hard things.
5:35 – Using a Word of the Year
Encouragement is Jill’s word of the year for 2017. (Let us know if you chose a word of the year, too!) And though encouraging others was a big goal of Jill’s, she found that she was the one getting encouragement in return.
6:20 – Family Goal Setting
Jill has always been a big goal setter and she’s introduced the practice to her kids. Each year between Christmas and New Years, the entire family picks areas of life to focus on and decides what they want to learn and spend time on.
All together, they brainstorm the next year and lay out their goals.
One year, Jill’s daughter wanted to make homemade bread, so they chose a new recipe to try each month and wrote it at the top of the month on her calendar. Isn’t that so fun!?
7:25 – Using the Brilliant Life Planner
Calendars have always been important to Jill since she loves scheduling and plotting things out. The Brilliant Life Planner came her way at the perfect time last year and she especially loves the visual planning tools, like the Big Goal Mind-Mapping page.
The way Jill uses these pages is that her kids will choose one character quality to write in the center as their big goal. For example, they may choose kindness or diligence.
One of Jill’s daughters, Joanna, has given us permission to use her worksheets as an example. (Thanks, Joanna!!!)
Joanna chose kindness for the year. She wrote kindness at the center of the mind map. Then she has all sorts of ideas for how to make kindness part of her life on the lines pointing back to the center: have more people over, more pizza nights, read to her brother, and so on.
I love how the Martin family centers their year around these one-word character qualities! And they don’t limit themselves with their goal-setting. Jill says their goals can be about anything: educational, business, personal, spiritual, crafty…whatever they want! As long as the goal connects back to the character quality, it gets put on the calendar for completion.
For Jill’s goal of encouragement, she would plan out how to make that happen for the year, like writing letters to friends or doing an act of kindness.
9:50 – Kindness in Action: How a Character Goal Comes to Life
To give a real-life example of how this plays out, Jill shared more about Joanna’s goal of kindness.
Joanna has some academic struggles, including reading and writing. Jill took this as an opportunity to get reading onto Joanna’s goal list by asking: What are some kind things you can do for others?
Sure enough, reading aloud to another sibling (a brother with a lot of disabilities) made her list. He recently received a diagnosis of brittle bone disease, which means his lifestyle is especially limited, and Joanna found a way to help.
One of the MANY things we love about Jill is how she views challenges as opportunities. In Joanna’s case, she saw the challenge of her brother being in bed as an opportunity to put a smile on his face by reading to him.
Is that not a triple win!? Building character, bonding with siblings, and – surprise – becoming a great reader all wrapped up in the goal of kindness.
Jill and her older teenager have physical copies of our Brilliant Life Planner, while her littles use our printable pages, which you can get for free here: http://bit.ly/blpprintables
Each month, Jill and her littles do a monthly check-in with their goals. I can’t love this enough!!! As a busy mom, I use the weekly reflection pages to check in on my own goals, but how fabulous to check in with the kids on theirs, too!
13:45 – How a Goal of Encouragement Led to an Entire Community
Jill started off 2017 with a character goal of encouragement, and she’s been using that to guide her choices ever since. She says she would never have guessed that her goal of being more encouraging to others would lead to an entire community of women who are growing in their faith and their character.
The Strong Hearts, Strong Women Facebook community is a closed community that’s free to join. Jill governs her Facebook group tightly so the women in it know it’s a safe and secure place to bring their struggles.
Members of her group get a monthly printable and devotional guide, as well as workbook pages; they can complete as much or as little as they want. The topics of these resources are geared around a character quality of the month, which the ladies in her group select.
15:50 – How Block Scheduling & Buffer Zones Help this Mama of 11 Run a Tight Ship
Can there possibly be a typical day with 11 kids in the house!? (And did we mention Jill homeschools her kiddos!?)
Surprisingly, Jill actually does have a typical day. She says she runs a tight ship, and she likes it that way: “I’m that person who likes surprises when I plan them,” she laughs. “I like to know what to expect.”
Having multiple kids with special-needs, Jill has spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices. And you know what? Her favorite doctor, an orthopedic surgeon, taught her about efficiency! She only waits ten minutes in the waiting room, her family gets to spend a half hour with him, it’s not rushed, and everyone leaves happy!
That wonderful doctor taught her how to schedule her home. While homeschooling and managing her kids will change with the seasons of life, what doesn’t change is block scheduling and leaving buffers. That’s what the smart surgeons do!
The offices that squish everyone in for the sake of more patients end up spending only 5 minutes with each patient, which means nobody's happy.
Jill didn’t want that for her life.
She follows the natural rhythms of life to block out her day:
- From Get Up to Breakfast
- From Mid Morning Snack to Lunch
- From Lunch to End of the School Day
Then, depending on the ages of her children, Jill will put 3 – 5 tasks in each time block, accounting for buffer time within each block.
Her high schoolers get to come up with their own schedules, but they’re not allowed to get behind on work!
Life will happen in the middle, so Jill PLANS to have time to change diapers and deal with meltdowns…or answer the phone…or fix a clogged toilet…or whatever comes her way!
Here’s her trick: At the end of the block, nothing from that block moves on to the next.
20:00 – What We Can Learn about Productivity from High Schoolers
It’s really simple when you think about it! Even high school works like this: If English class is over, but you haven’t finished all the work for that class, do you stay in English or move on to the next class?
You move on to the next class, and you pick up where you left off with English tomorrow!
Jill uses the same system with her time blocking.
The things that occur in her morning block (between Breakfast – Morning Snack) stay in that block. And she has a buffer zone built in.
So, if it’s a good day, Jill might use that buffer to do business and social media stuff. She does mini tasks in those buffer zones or gives extra help to her kids, whatever is needed.
If a Morning Block task doesn’t get finished, it moves on to the next day in the same block. So the next block is FRESH.
Jill is fresh, tasks are fresh, and no one is stressed out. Tomorrow is always there!
(I LOVE that!)
21:20 – The Rhythm of the Day
The tasks that Jill needs to do every day are defined by the fact that most of her 11 kids are at home. The 2 oldest are away at school, but she has every age from littles to teenagers still at home. Her family lives on a farm in the country and they homeschool.
So first up in the day? Farm chores! These come before breakfast. Then, after breakfast, they do morning school work. She’ll put the hardest tasks first on the list, the ones that hit her children’s weakest points. It’s a mental thing and it teaches her kids to push themselves. So that might be spelling, language, or vocabulary development.
Jill’s buffer zone almost always includes diaper changes, bathroom issues, and medication delivery.
Then they have additional reading time, then go into math and writer’s workshop.
Next up is lunch and a prep time. Each kid has an assigned job. These jobs stay the same for the school year. One person sets the table every time, every meal, every day…for the whole calendar year!
Each person does their job before lunch. Then they do afternoon school work: history, science, singing, and art.
Then the afternoon includes free play, outside time, and farm activities.
For the evening there’s family time: Dinner, playing outside, games, riding bikes, whatever sounds fun!
24:50 – Rolling Right Over the Stuff that Keeps Others Down
Jill has an incredible mindset when it comes to her kids with special needs. She doesn’t want the disabilities of some of her children to define their family life, or their own lives!
She describes their approach as “not fussy; we just roll with it!” she says, “some kids get vitamins, some get seizure meds. It’s not an obstacle for them, it is what it is.”
27:00 – No Obstacles. Only Opportunities.
Isn’t Jill proof that every mom is capable of doing and accomplishing so much more than we think we can!?
Jill says, “If you make too much out of it, it will be. The mountain in front of you is only as big as you perceive it to be. You can decide: I’m not going to let this be an obstacle, I’m going to let it be an opportunity.”
Jill admits that her schedule was much more complex when she had just two kids. Now, it is much simpler. She sets those boundaries now because she has to.
27:35 – Facebook Live Tips – From one Brilliant Biz Mama to Another!
One thing we love about Jill is how she leverages Facebook Live to grow her online community and her ability to encourage others.
Jill says that she doesn’t practice, and she doesn’t do trial runs. If she’s going to a friend’s house, she’s not going to practice how she’ll answer a friend’s questions or have a conversation with them! She’ll just talk to her friend!
Jill treats Facebook Live the same way She usually has reasons for going live and she won’t just fish up topics for fun. Her content is natural and relevant for her audience.
So Jill’s Facebook Live Advice? “Don’t practice! Don’t make it too big. If you flub up, just go on or delete it. It’s not a big deal!”
And rewatch yourself to catch those mistakes or quirks you might want to fix for later lives!
30:40 – Jill’s Funny Mom Moment
One of Jill’s favorite memories is when her eldest, Jacob was really struggling with how to be patient with his youngest brother – who was a bit of a copycat and drove Jacob just a little crazy!
The two were playing basketball in the driveway when Jacob yelled, protesting, yet again, about his brother’s copying. Jill started out with a stern warning in her Mom voice, and Jacob quickly responded, “But I’m sick of opportunities for leadership!!!!!!!!!!!”
(Too funny! Jill’s kids love to joke about how she frames every struggle or nuisance as a “leadership opportunity!”)
Stay In Touch With Jill
Personal Page: Jill Martin
Facebook Page: Strong Hearts Strong Women
Facebook Group: Community Group-Strong Hearts, Strong Women
Jill's Full Course: Recalibrate