My days are just a little bit full, between teaching university classes and local workshops, running an online tutoring company, blogging, serving on two local leadership teams, and trying to keep up with the activities and education of my children, sometimes I just get frazzled. I genuinely love what I do, but I sometimes have trouble keeping track of it all. As a working mother who also homeschools her children, I have found that a balance between structure and flexibility is vital to make it through the day.
Striking this balance is the challenge. If I am too rigid with my time schedules, my day quickly falls apart as soon as an activity exceeds the time allotted for it. Once we get behind, there seems to be no catching up. We feel hurried and discouraged because we are constantly running behind. While a schedule creates the framework we need to get school and work done in a day, we also need flexibility to have the room to shift the structure to suit the needs of the day.
Each year I experiment with schedules and routines looking for that sweet spot that will provide the direction each of us needs to make progress while accommodating the unexpected elements of daily life. As the year progresses, I evaluate how my latest attempt to organize my day is working and make changes or take notes for next year. This year I implemented a morning routine, school routine, and work routine that have literally saved the day.
The morning routine links the activities of our morning from getting up to starting school. We know what comes next so we can prepare and be ready for it. The morning routine has helped us add exercise to our daily activities and allowed time for breakfast and reading together. The order of tasks and activities makes sense for our family and give us a clear picture of what the morning should look like. By following the morning routine, we have eliminated questions of what to do next and focused our attention on each step to accomplish the whole.
This year I also implemented a school routine in which I assigned an order to each child’s school list. This has brought order to the mayhem of everyone needing my attention at once. Plus, we have removed the conflicts over computer use or workspace. Like a carefully choreographed dance, each child moves from one subject to the next with the time or attention they all need to complete it. For instance, my older students need the computer at different times and my younger kids can read to me when it’s their turn. Following this study routine has also helped me keep track of what each student has finished and what they have left to get done.
Similar to the school routine, I added my own routine for tackling work tasks. While the school routine is the same each day, my work routine is specific to the tasks of each day. It guides me through what needs to be done on a regular basis. Of course, there are still items that come up unexpectedly, but the routine allows me to move through maintenance items without the need to schedule them each week.
One of the main benefits of implementing routines is the ability to make decisions once and then simply follow through on them. For instance, I don’t have to decide if I’m going to exercise each day. I already made the decision to add it to my morning routine, so instead of taking the mental energy to choose exercise, I only need to follow through on the routine I established. This takes less time and leaves me with a greater sense of accomplishment because I get more done.
My kids have also enjoyed the benefits of creating routines for their studies. They have less to remember and a sense of comfort in a daily routine that is consistent and familiar. Like me, they no longer have to figure out how to fit each task or activity into their days because the subjects are already outlined for them. They move smoothly from one item to the next knowing that the computer will be available when they need it and Mom will be ready to read. No more arguing about whose turn it is or wasting time wondering what to do next.
These routines have helped me get more done in less time without more energy expended making decisions. Plus, the routines provide a degree of flexibility not as easily afforded by schedules. We use schedules to record blocks of time for routines and to mark specific appointments, but the bulk of our day now runs on routines. Make the routine once then simply follow through.
Please share your thoughts! What routines do you use? How do routines help you maximize your day?