Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back on the (Routine) Bandwagon

Now that our lives are getting back to normal after all the moving and house projects of the past several months, I've been finding more time and mental energy to get my life organized. Three  ways I do this are by setting up a daily routine, a weekly routine and with a habits chart for the boys. I'm sharing my routines and charts in the hopes that others might see some good ideas they can use. I've actually gotten many of my ideas from friends, blogs, or books, so I can't take credit for much of what you're about to read!

Daily Routine
It may seem excessively orderly for someone to schedule out their day, but there are several reasons why I've found I need to form a routine for my day and write it down:
  • There are several things I'd like to do in a given weekday that if not scheduled will never get done, or at least won't get done with any regularity. Some 'necessities' I've scheduled in my day are reading to the boys for 30 mins, cleaning the house, and taking a walk with the boys (which all three of us desperately need daily!)
  • It keeps the boys on a routine so they always know what to expect.
  • It helps me involve the boys in my daily life - When it's time to clean, we are all in the same room working on different tasks. When it's time to make dinner, the boys are often in the kitchen with me washing or chopping vegetables or just playing. 
  • It helps me set aside time to play with them - If I know I've already scheduled time to clean the house and do other things I need to do, then I can take the time to focus on them with a calm heart.
  • It takes the stress out of figuring out what to do next or how to fill large amounts of 'empty time' in a day.
  • By scheduling cleaning and other chores during the day and involving the boys, it ensures that I have naptime free. I always have a few things to finish up or pick up, but for the most part, the boys' naptime is my quiet time to sit with a book or Bible study and recharge for the rest of the day.
Finally, I should note that my routine has been made for me, not me for my routine. It is pretty rare that I follow the schedule exactly from one day to the next. But it is there for me if I need it.

Here are some helpful tips if you're interested in making a daily routine:
1. Pay attention to the chunks of your day that seem to flow well, and figure out why they flow well. Do you like it when you make it to the gym by 9:30am so you can head over to the grocery store before lunchtime? If that's important to you, schedule it in.
2. Pinpoint 3-4 main tasks you'd like to get done in a given day (such as going for a run, cleaning your house, spending 15 minutes quality time with your kids, family worship, etc) and structure your routine around those.
3. For some, it's ideal to schedule a routine around mealtimes. We like to aim to have meals around the same time every day, so it was easy for me to build my routine around those anchors in my day. 
4. Pay attention to when your children like to do certain activities. For example, I've learned that my kids are full of energy early in the morning after waking up, so giving them free play right after breakfast is perfect for them. After goofing around together for 10-15 minutes, they are ready to settle down for reading time. After 15 minutes of sitting still, they're ready to ride their bikes down the street.

Weekly Routine
It's taken a few weeks of trying  and tweaking routines, but I think I've finally hit on one that works perfectly for our family (at least for right now!). I arrived at this schedule the same way I arrived at my daily schedule: I decided on things that needed to get done in a given week (like cleaning the house, going to the grocery store, doing an art project with the kids, etc) and scheduled them into my week. Then I moved them around the week depending on other 'anchor' activities (such as a Wednesday morning Bible study and a Thursday Stay & Play). 
The best thing about scheduling errands and cleaning days is that I only have time to do them once per week. This means that I don't waste time making multiple trips to the grocery store in a week and I don't vacuum the floors every third day, because those things have a designated time. And just like my daily schedule, there are plenty of times that I deviate from this weekly routine, but I like knowing it's there to follow when I need it. 

Habits Chart
Almost one year ago to this week, I started a 'habits chart' with Tommy to help him learn to go through his morning and evening routines on his own. We've neglected doing this for so long, but I was recently encouraged both by a friend and by this book to get back in the habit.

I designed this chart so that both Tommy (who is almost 4) and Ben (who is  2½) could use it with ease, and so that one routine could serve for both morning and bedtime. When they get all eight boxes marked (which is four days' worth of morning/night routines), they are rewarded with a family date to our local frozen yogurt shop. Right now I have to go through the whole routine with them, but the goal is that eventually they will be able to do the full routine on their own, and then the rewards will slowly fade out so that we're not having frozen yogurt twice a week (not that I should complain about that). Tommy is already able to do each 'habit' himself, but he still needs encouragement to stay on task. 

I know that charts and scheduling is not for everyone, but if your days are feeling disorganized and chaotic, it may be worth a try. And if you're feeling truly lost and don't know where to begin to organize your time, ask God for wisdom and He will be faithful to help you.


  1. I love it - I also have a daily schedule I typically have posted on my wall. It needs changing though since it is outdated - Perhaps me and the girls will sit together and make another one tomorrow morning!

  2. I like how organized you are. I was just thinking the other day how important the routine is to us as well even though it's not split into minutes like yours. I think that it's impossible to give strong powers of observation to a child who doesn't know what the normal course of events is. He/she wouldn't even recognize exceptions or little miracles that make every day different from the one before.