Recently I received an email from a reader with a question:
When I read that, my first thought was, “Yes, I wish I knew that too.” My routine changes; I have to stay flexible.
Small children can divert and change the best-laid plans. If I were to write my routine on poster board with a permanent marker, I’d have to tear it up as soon as I finished, because it would need to be different.
Instead of having a schedule that would be ignored day after day in real life, I follow a daily routine of touchstones — key elements to mark a successful day.
* Wake up early. It’s essential. I wake up so much earlier now than I did before, but it’s still not early enough to beat the kids. It seems like they hear me and wake up too. I downloaded a free eBook called Maximize Your Mornings. This book shows you how to get up early, read your Bible and exercise before the day begins. Its practical tips are incredibly motivating.
* Start the laundry first thing in the morning. The sooner I get it started, the sooner I can put it away so it’s not a pile of clean laundry waiting to be jumped in and poured out on the floor.
* Make the bed. An unmade bed is like wearing sweatpants, but a made bed makes me feel ready for the day.
* Play outside. If it’s warm enough, kids can run off excess energy in the morning.
* Eat lunch. This one is hard for me while I’m trying to take care of the baby, but I want to be refueled by nourishing foods.
* Afternoon rest time. Lane stays in her room and hopefully takes a nap. I still can’t convince both kids to go to sleep at the same time.
* Early dinner. If dinner is postponed, it throws off the evening routine, makes everything feel rushed, and results in late bedtimes.
* Pick up and wash dishes. I try to do this every night before I collapse into bed.
Everything else settles in between these daily markers. I might have planned to work on something, but then the baby needs extra care, and before I know it an hour has passed by. I keep a list of weekly tasks and another of unique to-do’s, and I try to do some of both each day so I feel like the basics are taken care of, but I also make progress on special projects. We are at home most days, and I run errands or do grocery shopping one afternoon a week.
What are the kids doing?
Lane doesn’t like to play by herself very much, so I try to involve her in what I’m doing.
If I’m cleaning, then she walks around with a spray bottle full of water and a dish towel. If I’m baking, then she either helps me or I pour some salt into a bowl and let her play with the measuring spoons.
Sometimes she watches a movie. Sometimes she’s in my closet trying on my clothes.
The baby is always close by, watching me, or I’m carrying him in a sling.
One of my favorite parts of living in an apartment is that both kids are always within earshot, and I don’t have to wonder what they are doing.
What about a cleaning routine?
I think a cleaning routine needs to be changed regularly to keep it fresh and appropriate. I always do the same daily basics such as dishes and laundry, but my cleaning routine varies according to our family’s current needs.
At times I do all of the house cleaning in a few hours during one afternoon, but these days that is exhausting and impractical. I’ve also divided up the tasks between days of the week and that works well too. These days I know what needs to be done, and if I have a good moment I just look around and see what looks the worst, and then I do that.
A couple of years ago, I knew my daily barriers were:
1. Feeling tired and grumpy.
2. Being over-ambitious in planning.
3. Procrastinating and not taking advantage of short time increments.
Now I feel I’ve succeeded in overcoming those. I get enough rest by going to bed early. I stopped drinking sodas so I have more consistent energy during the day. I don’t try to plan too much, even though I do have days when my to do list doesn’t get done, and I have to move things to the next day. I’ve learned to stay busy and do things when I have the chance, because I know that getting a solid block of two hours to concentrate just isn’t going to happen.
Now one of my challenges is to be able to shift gears once things are quiet, because I am so used to having my attentions divided and staying up and busy.