Even before I had children, I often times found it hard to make any sort of schedule or plan for myself. I loved to-do lists, but I would add so much to it that I felt overwhelmed and never felt that I accomplished anything because the list was so long. Now that I have two young children I have even less time to devote to the ever growing list of tasks on my never ending to-do list. I hope I am not alone in this! As I have mentioned in previous posts on setting goals and making your mornings more productive, having goals and a plan are key to making your day run smoother and your time used more efficiently.
I have never been able to schedule out my day hour by hour like some people can do. And once I started staying at home with my children everyday I quickly realized that scheduling down to the hour DEFINITELY would not work now! Life with kids is too unpredictable for me to write down what we should be doing at specific times of the day, all day. Except for things like appointments, dance classes and karate lessons, which are at set times and days, I don’t schedule what will happen each hour. I would drive myself crazy trying to do that every day!
Using a time chunk schedule
Instead, I schedule our day using blocks, or chunks of time. I have a blank calendar that I fill out on Sunday for the upcoming week and it is broken down into different parts of the day (chunks of time) instead of by the hour. There are sections each day for morning, afternoon, evening, and nap time (my favorite section!). While I don’t plan our day hour by hour, we do have a routine that we follow everyday. Get up, eat breakfast, do chores (my daughter who has the memory of an elephant conveniently forgets about this part of our routine everyday…hmmm!), start school…..etc. Having a familiar routine works because it lets the kids (and myself!) know what the order of things will be throughout the day, even if it is not tied to a specific time each day.
On Sunday I can look at each day of the upcoming week and fill in what we will be doing (or plan to be doing) in the morning, afternoon and evening of each day. Then I fill in what I want to get done when my youngest child is having a nap. I save this precious time of the day (as well as first thing in the morning before anyone else is awake) for work and tasks that I need quietness for, like writing my blog posts and doing my devotions. Most of my other tasks can be done throughout the day when my kids are awake and playing (if they feel like cooperating!).
I have a list of things that are best done when it’s quiet and I refer back to this when I fill in my weekly time chunk schedule, placing these tasks in the very top of the morning section (for before everyone wakes up) and in the nap time section. I call this part of my weekly and daily planning my “mommy schedule” since many of the tasks revolve around my children! Here is the weekly time chunk schedule that I use:
Download this FREE weekly schedule here
Prioritize your tasks
I have found that when planning for the week and for each day, it works best when I prioritize what needs to be done. If I write down my to-do list for the day in whatever random order comes to mind, I am less likely to get anything done. It reminds of a quote by Mark Twain that says,
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Kind of a gross thought, but it makes sense! If you do the one task you dread, have been putting off, or your one important thing first (your “frog” for the day, so to speak) then that will be one big thing to cross off your list, yay! When I get this “frog” out of the way first thing in the morning I feel so much better about the rest of my tasks for the day. Even if my kids have a terrible day and everything gets off track (as it sometimes does!), I at least have one thing accomplished!
Prioritizing my tasks also makes me pause a minute to make sure that I am not filling up my day with too many small, unimportant things, but that I am making the time for the big stuff first. I liken this process to the story told by a professor about how we should best manage our time. He has an empty jar and proceeds to fill it with large stones and then asks if it’s full. Everyone says yes, until he fills it more with pebbles, sand, then water. He goes on to say that this is how we should approach life. We all start with that empty jar each day and if we fill it with sand and pebbles first (the small insignificant things in our life), then we will never have room to fit in the large stones (the things that matter most; our health, our faith, family, friends, taking time for yourself, reaching a goal, etc). He says to start each day with your empty jar, your “jar of life,” and be sure you are filling it first with the “large stones,” the things that matter most to you and then as time allows, fill in with the “sand and pebbles,” the smaller stuff.
I really like this analogy and try to think back on it as I plan my schedule and to-do lists so that I am first making room for the things that matter the most to me, then filling in with other, less important tasks once the big stuff is done.
Having a daily to-do list
The other tool that I use to plan my day is my daily to-do list. I find this form to be very useful in laying out my plan for the upcoming day based on my priorities for that particular day. I fill this list out the night before so when I wake up a list is already in place and I can get started on my tasks…well once I have my tea and wake up a little bit first!
As I mentioned earlier, I include my “frog” for the day (my most important task to complete) right at the top so I can’t miss it. This is followed by my top 3 things to get done for the day; my top priorities. Then comes the things I should get done (tasks I feel are a medium priority) and the things that I want to get to that day, but aren’t a huge priority. I also made a spot where I can write down calls or emails that need to be done and a section where I can jot down what we are having for meals that day. Oh, and that quote about eating the frog is at the very bottom to remind me to get that one big thing done everyday!
When I created these printables, I knew that I wanted all of this information on my to-do list, but I wasn’t sure if just a half sheet of paper (2 per page) would be enough, so I made it into a larger 1 page list as well. So far the half sheets have been working great for what I need…plus they save on printing costs, yay! But I have included both so you can pick the one that works best for you!
Trying to make and keep any sort of schedule can be a bit tricky when you have kids, but I have found that scheduling my day and week using chunks of time makes this much easier. And having my to-do list broken down into tasks based on their importance has been a huge help as well. I hope you have found these tips and printables helpful as you plan out your day too! What else have you tried when it comes to scheduling your day and week when you have little ones at home?