**This article is part of an ongoing series of posts taken from my book “How do I Get it all Done …and Still Have Time to Enjoy it? “
To start at the beginning and read the articles in order click here
How many times in a day do you have to decide what to do next? You know you have plenty to do, so it’s not a matter of thinking something up; it’s a matter of choosing which responsibility gets your attention at this moment. You start reviewing your “to do” list in your head. About half way through the list you get overwhelmed. (You’ve been through the list 17 times already, just thinking about it makes you tired!) And instead of choosing what to do next, you do the thing that screams at you. You put out the next fire.
You need a routine.
Do you ever flip from one task to another without finishing the first? At the end of the day do you feel like you’ve been busy all day, yet you can’t be sure of what you have accomplished? Do you walk around the house moving things from one place to another and forget to ever clean the toilet?
You need a routine.
Routines take the guess work out of your day. They are what keep you moving gracefully from one element of your day to the next. They keep your day balanced, reminding you to spend time on each thing that is important to you.
Routines are different from schedules. You may have to use a schedule to some extent, to remind you to be certain places at certain times. But many of us find schedules to be too confining when we try to use them to keep our daily lives in order. Schedules are static, and homeschool life is not. Frustrated by the constraints of a schedule, you might try to get through your day with no plan at all. Instead, set up your day in blocks of time, assigning each block a general purpose.
An example of a daily routine may look something like this:
- Morning; shower, breakfast, quite time, exercise, chores
- Mid-morning; help older kids with school work as needed, supervise/ play with toddler
- Noon; lunch, read aloud, quick clean up
- Afternoon; nap for the little one(s) projects for the older kids, office & special project time for Mom
- Early evening; supper (prep, eat, clean)
- Evening; family time, free time, ministry time, etc.
Notice I didn’t list what chores I will do at chore time, or what time I will eat breakfast. For my daily routine, I just want to know, without consulting a list, what are the basic things I want to focus on in this section of the day. After I do my daily chores I have a chore time where I do the chore that is assigned to that day. This helps me avoid doing the most obvious chores every day and forgetting to do the others. For this I use another, more specific routine that I have lovingly named “Wash on Monday”. To establish a routine that works for chore time, I simply write down all the chores that I want done and how often. Then I plug them into a routine. So, my routine might look something like this:
- Monday: vacuum downstairs, mop kitchen & dining room
- Tuesday: clean bathrooms
- Wednesday: clean fridge (trash truck comes on Thursday morning)
- Thursday: ironing (oh, who are we kidding, I iron about once every three months!)
- Friday: vacuum downstairs, de-clutter one area
- Saturday: laundry
The only way I can give attention to each area is to avoid the compulsion to vacuum every day, (or some other “Squeaky -wheel” job) though it sure can use it! As long as I keep a steady pace and follow the routine, things will get done. Keep in mind also that even though you may only have “vacuum the family room” on your list once per week, you can also put it on each child’s list as well. You just may get that clean floor every day after all! As for those mundane tasks that often get overlooked, like cleaning the moldings and washing the front door glass, keep a list and do them when you’re on the phone.
To set up your routines, think about the basic elements of your day, what do you want to accomplish? Now group similar tasks and decide what part of the day will work best for those activities. But don’t be so specific that you can’t stick to it. As you go through your day, stick to the purpose of the time block you are in. If you have planned a section of time for each of your most important activities, then each one will get done, or at least it will get a respectable amount of attention. It is when you get distracted and let one time block bleed into another (reading email for an hour during your chore time… trying to clean out your bedroom closet before school time… ) that your routine crumbles and you feel overworked and overwhelmed. (And you never do get around to cleaning the toilet.)
You know the saying “a place for everything and everything in its place”. To help you to remember to let your routine work for you, change that phrase to; “A time for everything and everything in its time.” By setting your responsibilities and your free time into a routine, and following it, you’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish. And don’t forget… when its free time, that means your work is done, even if its not!