You can create the best daily routine, planned from the minute you wake up until the minute you go to bed, but if it doesn’t work with your lifestyle then you are not going to follow it.
One of the first things you need to do when creating a daily routine is to capitalize on the most productive times of your day. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you have children to get out the door in the morning, but a block of time in the mid-afternoon where you could be productive if you put your mind to it? Do you feel energized at the end of the day and find yourself getting your best work done after everyone else has gone to bed? Take note of all those things, and build your schedule around that.
I shared in my last post about creating a morning routine. My children are both grown and in college now, and in spite of the fact that I am a morning person, I would have had to wake up very early to fit this routine in when they were little. In fact, we all departed at the same time when they were in elementary school, and our mornings were crazy. After my youngest left for middle school, I could have made it work but it would have been squeezed in between his departure and when I had to leave for work. Don’t add stress to your day by working against what you are already dealing with. Make your routine work for you, not against you.
Take a big sheet of paper, or seven sheets of notebook paper, or use your computer, and created a page for each day. Next, write out everything you MUST DO during each day of the week. Not what you want to do, but things you have to do. You have to go to your job or your going to get fired. You have to get up in the morning, and you have to go to bed. You might have to take medication at a certain time each day. Maybe you have to drive your children to school because the bus doesn’t stop near your house. Those are MUST DO’s. You might want to exercise every other day before you shower, or after dinner, but you don’t HAVE to. We’ll address those later.
Next, schedule in any recurring events that happen during the week. Do you have meetings that happen on a regular basis? Do your children have sports practice or music lessons that they need to get to? Do you attend religious services on the weekend? Even if it happens every other week, or once a month, put it on there, and make a note next to it.
Are you starting to feel stressed about how busy your week is looking? Take a deep breath. Now might be a good time to get a drink of water or have a small snack.
Okay, now think about things that your family needs you to do each day. Do you make breakfast for your children or are they old enough to do that themselves? If it falls to you, schedule it in there. If your kids make their own breakfast but you are making school lunches during that time, make a note of it (“get ready for school”). How about lunch, if you are home during that time. What about homework help? How much time do you need to allow for dinner preparations and eating?
Finally, don’t forget about yourself. Self care is very important. If don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of the people you care most about. Look at where you have holes in your schedule, and plan time for exercise, crafts, hobbies, dates with your partner, time with your friends, etc. Whatever fills you up so that you can keep pouring out at your job and into your relationships, make time for that.
Now, take one blank page, and make a master schedule using all the information you just generated. Look for where the common ground is in your day-to-day life. Let’s say you wake up at 5:30 and then spend the next half hour engaged in a morning routine. Then, from 6-7:00 you have breakfast, shower, and get ready to start your day. From 7:00-8:30 you spend with your kids doing school prep: breakfast, dressing, whatever that looks like, including getting them out the door and off to school. Then you are at work by 9:00. (I know, just humor me). So you have your work day blocked off until 5:30, and you continue filling in your schedule from there. When I’m done blocking out my day, I like to go back with some different colored markers, and make notations on where and when the schedule changes. I put a dot in the block of time, and then make a note at the bottom of the page. So say that every day between 1-2 I drive home from work, get my mail, and walk my dog. On Thursdays, I don’t work until 2, so this changes. I would put a dot in the block, and at the bottom the note would say *except Thursday.
Here’s a tip: Stick with your morning schedule all week. On the weekends, your kids aren’t going to spend from 7-8:30 getting ready for school, are they? In fact, maybe they will even sleep in a little. Decided that you are still going to get up and get your stay started the same as if it was a week day. There are a lot of studies about why this is a good idea if you want to spend the time researching it. Take that time and use it for yourself. Don’t use it to do chores or other tasks you have been putting off all week. Read a book. Listen to a podcast and do something crafty. Go for a long walk. Enjoy that time and start your day off feeling refreshed.
Ok, here are some tips for making your day a little less crazy, and finding room for self care.
One thing I like to do is start with what isn’t working, and build from there. Is your morning crazy? Build strategies into your evening routine that will make your morning run smoother.
Look at what the weather will be like for the next day, and pick out your outfit, right down to the shoes and accessories. If you have children, help them pick out their clothing as well. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all of your choices, consider creating a capsule wardrobe. Capsules aren’t just for adults either. As you shop for back-to-school, look for items that can be mixed-and-matched instead of focusing on single outfits. The less items a child has to choose from, and the easier they are to pair with each other, the easier picking out clothes to wear will be.
Once you have clothing taken care of, think about breakfast. Maybe you want to set the table the night before, and get out whatever items you need to prepare breakfast with and have them ready. Or maybe your kids are going to be having cereal for breakfast. If they are old enough to be able to pour from a small jug, think about setting all the stuff on the table, including the box(es) of cereal, and having the milk in the fridge at a height they can reach. Then, when they are up and dressed, they can get their own breakfast.
Make lunches the night before. I know this can take up time in an already hectic evening, but look at it this way: you have to do it. It either gets done in the busy morning, or the busy evening. If you do it in the evening, then it’s done and out of the way, and one less thing you have to worry about in the morning. Then, if the alarm goes off late, or your child is having a fit about something (we’ve all been there, it’s okay), you don’t have to rush around getting those lunches made on top of that. While you are at it, make sure all the homework folders are signed and tucked into the school bags. I’ll share more on this in the upcoming weeks in a back-to-school series.
Speaking of the evening routine, one way to make that run smoother is to consider meal planning. Whether you do it one week at a time, or one month at a time like I do, it takes away the stress of deciding what to have for dinner. Then, because you already know what you’ll be having, you can take out any meat that you need to thaw in the morning before you leave, or know if you need to start dinner early because it takes longer than usual to cook. In addition to an easier evening, meal planning allows you to do some of the prep work on the weekends. If you know, for example, that you have two dinners that require rice, you can make a big batch of it on Sunday, measure out the portions for each dinner, and store them in the fridge. While it might require a little extra time on Sunday, it saves time during the busy evening when you are trying to get dinner on the table.
OK, I think that’s all the tips I have. Stay tuned over the next few weeks. I will be blogging about getting ready for back-to-school for both college and elementary/secondary schools. I will be sharing a lot more on meal preparation and time management in those posts.
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