I have done it, you have done it, and everybody’s done it. You decide that enough is enough. A new era is dawning in your family. Its time for a schedule. Wake up a 7:30, Get dressed at 7:45 after your devotions, breakfast at 8:15, lunch at 11:30, family quiet time at 1:pm.
The next day, you are cheerful and dressed on time. The kids don’t want to wake up, but tough luck, kiddos. Time to eat a nutritious breakfast. Of course, Thomas is refusing to eat anything yellow and throws all his eggs on the floor. Which means he hungry again at 10 (when it Laundry Time). Plus he looks sleepy because he woke up earlier than normal. You feed him and put him down for a nap just to stop the whining. Which messes with Family Quiet time in the afternoon because Thomas will be awake again by then.
Right after lunch, the neighbors kids ask if your kids can come out and play with them in on their new slip and slide. You think, "Well, I ruined my schedule anyways, so why not? Kids, have at it.” An hour and a half later, they come in tired from the heat and sopping wet, just when you were going to get dinner ready. Ah! The joys of an organized life!
I used to be like this. I had a love-hate relationship with schedules. The love came from the the allure of having my day all mapped out and in control. The hate came from what I call “post zealous guilt": the feeling you get when after three days, you give up.
Let me just share with you what I recently learned.
Schedules are bad.
Do not make a schedule.
Do not try a schedule.
And do not ever, ever, feel guilty about not sticking to a schedule!
Instead, invest in the magic of routines!
And what are routines?
Routines are tasks in relationship to each other, not in relationship to a schedule or a set time. It's simple. In fact, a routine is just a schedule without times next to it.
Here is my morning routine:
Get Arthur up
Let dogs out
Drink coffee and write while Arthur plays
Put Arthur down for his morning nap
Exercise (or nap if I am sore or pregnant)
Shower and get dressed
Start lunch routine
You will notice that there are no times next to anything. It is just a list of things you should do before lunch if you want a decent day. Its that simple! There are no time limits, and there is nothing written in little blocks next to specific times.
The amazing thing is that I flow through my entire morning routine, without thinking, most mornings. It does not seem to matter anymore if I feel lousy or do not want to get up. My routine works if have to get up early for an appointment or if I sleep in until 10am. And…believe it or not, I am usually done with my morning routine at about the same time every day.
Why do routines work so well?
1) Routines are easy to stick to: it does not matter what time you wake up, you can still get everything done.
2) Routines don't make you play catch up. You are never behind because as long as you keep doing the next thing, everything is on track.
3) Routines are flexible. If you have to hit the snooze button because Baby Charlotte is still sleeping after a rough night, no problem. You don’t have to adjust all the times on your schedule. All you have to do is the next thing.
4) Routines take advantage of muscle memory.This means that your body can help you keep your routine. After a week of doing one thing after another, your muscles will remember the pattern. They will will guide you from one task to the next, whether you are in the mood to be productive or not!
5) Routines break perfectionism. Perfectionism makes us slaves and wears us out. But you don’t have to be perfect about your routines! You don't have to do everything on time. You just have to get it done. Not right this minute, but sometime.
Alright, now that you are completely sold on the whole routine thing, how should you create one that works for you? I will go into later in more detail in another post, but for those of you that are ready to jump in now, here are some hints.
Start with a bedtime routine. Remember: your morning starts the night before. If you go to bed with a sink full of dirty dishes, how are you going to make breakfast if you cannot find a clean frying pan? How will you get dressed if all your clothes are still in the dirty clothes hamper? And lets not forget about the coffee pot. Rinsing out my coffee pot and replacing the filter is enough work to nail my head to the pillow on some mornings.
And start small. Think about the one thing you dread doing in the morning, or just one thing that would help you start the day with a smile. For me, waking up to a clear sink makes me feel like I am going to have the best day ever!
Once you have picked out one task, make sure you practice it awhile before adding anything to it. Do not be zealous! After a few days or even a few weeks, add one more helpful task to your routine. For example, you do a load of laundry every night, or get coffee ready for the morning. Then practice again for awhile before adding more tasks.before adding to them. After that, add one more thing at a time until you have a manageable list of bite sized tasks.
Here is my bedtime routine:
Quick clutter clean up
Do the dishes
Wipe out highchair tray
Throw in a load of laundry
Brush teeth and take pills
Figure out what to wear tomorrow
Rinse out coffee pot
Let dogs out
Get to bed at a decent hour
After about three months, I pretty much have a rhythm going. About an hour before bed, I get started and move through the routine without having to think too much about it. Its pretty much amazing. And life changing.
So, why not start today? Just pick one thing you'd love to have done every night and do it before you go to bed tonight. And there you go, you have taken the first step to a more organized life.