Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Planning My Week

         True to my Type A personality, I love schedules/routines, plans and organization. I thrive with these elements in life! So, naturally I orchestrate my weeks beginning with a good plan. Having a written plan allows me to accomplish necessary tasks each day, provide healthy and balanced meals and snacks, maintain the housework, care for and give attention to each member of my family etc. I can strive for excellence in my homemaking through the use of careful allocation of my time and energy each week. I do that by utilizing a planner, charts/lists, and having a "command center."

       We budget our finances, and so why not budget our time? I often desire to fill my day with 19 waking hours of activity, instead of a more reasonable amount. The result is always burnout. I'm exhausted, the "to do" list grows excessively, and attitudes (and behavior) sours. In these moments I want to toss my hands up and exclaim "I can't do it all!" or "I'm only one person having to tend to more than can be reasonably done!" This doesn't get us anywhere, though! Instead of defeat, I simply need a plan!

      A proper plan allows for a time for everything. I create our daily schedules with a time frame so that I can see what is realistically able to be accomplished in a single day. We rarely follow our daily schedule by the times specified and instead follow the order of activity, but by creating the structure of our day according to times I'm able to keep our activities manageable. Do I realistically have the time and energy to do multiple deep cleaning tasks in a day? Am I able to make fully homemade meals or snacks? At what points can I devote my attention entirely to each of my children? When do I have time to properly care for myself? As a Mama, I have so many areas that need addressed each day that it can be overwhelming! However, I believe I can "do it all" as long as I approach my time usage wisely. I need to spread my tasks across the time available in each week. As I used to say in college, "divide and conquer!"

      Planning my week has been a matter of organization and self-discipline. Truthfully, I'm much better at the first part! I still have much progress to make in the area of self-discipline. Nonetheless, I still strive for excellence. I begin by determining my priorities for activities for each day. For instance, I always list laundry, room tidying, deep cleaning tasks, and one-on-one time with my family. There may be other extras like a project I'm working on, bills that need paid, appointments, or activities for the children outside our home. I have in mind certain categories when planning. I then set a limit of how many activities I can realistically expect from myself. I can't expect myself to clean all the rooms in our home, but I can do a quick ten minute tidy of at least two rooms. Likewise, I can't sit at the computer for an extended period of time to accomplish certain tasks, but I can spend 5-10 minutes a day (our computer is located in our bedroom & this room is not child proof at all. We desire to keep it as our space & restrict the children from it.). If not careful, though, these little bits of activity each day can really add up. Therefore, I prefer to limit the list to 5-6 items a day. It's better to have a smaller list that can be realistically accomplished, than a long one that just builds day after day.

     Even with so few tasks, I still don't accomplish all that I plan. Some days there is housework that needs caught up, or children who need a little more playtime with and attention from Mama. By the end of the week there may be a day's worth of tasks remaining. They still need done, and so I try to find some time on Saturdays to do them. This isn't ideal for me because I want to rest during the weekends too. Having less to do during my weekend provides good motivation to work hard during the week.

     But, sometimes things still go undone. I've learned it best to just forget about those things and move on to focusing on the upcoming set of tasks or activities. Trying to play catch-up from the previous week(s) not only creates more to do than can realistically be accomplished, but also creates a lot of stress. Those other tasks will rotate back around, and be able to be accomplished then. It's best to focus on the week at hand only.

      When it comes to planning materials, I've tried numerous apps for various purposes but still find paper to be best. For one, I don't like having to constantly refer to my phone or computer. I furthermore don't want my children to learn from me to have a dependence on screens. (They're too young to understand the purpose of this particular usage, but they can understand that it takes my attention away. I'm thus relaying a message of greatest value to them.). Second, I like to be able to create my own charts & lists that are tailored to our needs. I don't waste my time or energy sorting through aspects of premade planners that don't apply to us. When the chart or list is just of our days' activities or tasks, I can quickly and easily mark them off as we go.

      My favorite tool is a simple planner book. I purchased my current book from Wal-Mart for about $12. I could have gotten a more basic one that was cheaper, but I enjoyed the colorful nature of the one I got. A pretty planner is more delightful to look at each day! My planner has monthly views, weekly views and some resource pages in the back (I use these to jot down blog post ideas, encouraging quotations, book lists for myself and the kids, and toy ideas for the kids). I also purchased some inexpensive colored pens. Again, it's just more  fun to have a colorful to do list.

     Other planning resources I use are my daily schedule, cleaning rotation, meal/snack rotation charts, and menu plan. I incorporate the cleaning routine into my weekly planner book so that I can keep up with what is current since these tasks rotate. Breakfast and snack options also rotation, but those are written on our weekly menu plan sheet.

      All my charts and schedule are kept inside sheet protectors that are taped to the side of our bookshelf pantry in our kitchen. This location is central in our home, and easy to reference as we go about our day. The sheet protectors allow me to mark off tasks/ activities with dry erase markers as we accomplish them. I always find having a visual to be a great encouragement! The planner book is kept nearby on the end of a kitchen counter (same central location in our home). I, again, like to cross off items as they are completed for continued motiv.


(Our daily schedule on top, then the cleaning routine, and menu plan on bottom)

      I assume lead before our children and day, and when I lead proactively with a clearly defined weekly plan then there is less chaos and more joy in our home (and myself!). Properly planning my weekly tasks is an asset to my homemaking. All these resources assist me in managing our home as smoothly as possible. We rarely get all points executed perfectly, but we at least have a goal! We're working towards conducting our days and weeks in a proactive and orderly manner. Doing so, really helps me to focus on the most important areas of my to do list, and consequently be less overwhelmed. In turn, we personally and our home can be more peaceful and joyful each week!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Our Morning Routine

     A good morning start to our day is essential. I need to be able to prepare for the day ahead by taking the moment to get myself ready, complete a few household tasks and read encouraging words. By the time the children awake, I am awake myself and ready to lead our day with purpose. Maintaining a daily routine/schedule allows there to be peacefulness and order in myself and our home. (With two children only 17 months apart, chaos can very quickly take over if I'm not proactive in our activities).
      Implementing a daily schedule or routine can be much more difficult than devising one. It takes a lot of personal discipline, a character quality that still needs much improvement in myself. Furthermore, maintaining a schedule/routine with young children necessitates flexibility and margin. We're still adjusting and learning the most efficient use of our time together. We rarely accomplish everything on our morning daily schedule according to the specified times. On more difficult days it may take us all day just to complete the morning's tasks! Yet, we at least have a pre-determined focus so that the chaos can be kept to a minimum.
     The following is our current morning schedule with two little ones ages 17 months and newborn:  
Daily Schedule - Mornings
Tennyson (17 months)
Annelise (nb)
5:40-6:40 a.m.
Morning Routine:
·         Shower/ exercise
·         Dress
·         Make bed up
·         Carry dirty laundry downstairs
·         Fix hair
·         Make-up
·         Put away clean dishes
·         Personal devo.
6:40-7:20 a.m.
Feed Annelise
7:20-7:40 a.m.
Prep. breakfast
Sleep/ wake
7:40-7:50 a.m.
Tennyson’s a.m. routine
Morning routine:
·         Diaper change
·         Dress
·         Straighten bedding
·         Carry dirty laundry downstairs
7:50-7:55 a.m.
Start laundry to wash
Free play
7:55-8:15 a.m.
Tidy downstairs
8:15-8:45 a.m.
Breakfast & family devo.
8:45-8:55 a.m.
Clean up kitchen and dining room
Pack n’ Play or table activity
Sleep/ wake
8:55-9:30 a.m.
Stroller walk or children’s bath
9:30-10:00 a.m.
Outside Play
10:00-10:40 a.m.
Feed Annelise & read story to kids
·         Group story
·         Morning snack
·         Independent play
10:40-11:00 a.m.
Playtime with Annelise
Independent playtime
Playtime with Mama
11:00-11:20 a.m.
Playtime with Tennyson (“Tot School”)
Playtime with Mama
Independent playtime
11:20-11:40 a.m.
Facilitate sibling playtime
Playtime with Annelise
Playtime with Tennyson
11:40a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Tidy downstairs
  • I call it a "schedule" and do include the times. However, the times are more of a guideline for me to know what can realistically be included in a day. Otherwise, I'm likely to plan too much and then we'd have trouble reaching those goals. Throughout our day, I ignore the times and try to follow the order. My desire is to establish consistency and predictability for the children and myself, qualities that help us to thrive and not just survive the day.
  • Newborn feeding schedule- Tennyson was on a feeding schedule beginning in his NICU days, and it was fabulous. I loved knowing exactly when he'd eat and plan accordingly. I didn't have much luck doing the same with Annelise. She feeds on demand. So, although our schedule includes a timed feeding schedule for her, we don't abide by it. I still added those occasions to our schedule so that the time would be accounted for and I would be prepared with an activity for Tennyson.
  • Tidy downstairs- The downstairs of our home is our main living area and includes the laundry closet, dining room, kitchen, and living room. This is were we are during the day and it can become messy fast. I've found the best way to keep the mess down is to have a tidy time at certain times throughout the day. A quick tidy at least 20 minutes before each meal works well for us.
  • Pack n' Play- The kitchen is one area that is difficult to clean with a curious and busy toddler. I need to be able to sweep the floor and do dishes without "helping" hands. My solution has been to set up a pack n' play in our dining room area for him to play in for 10 minutes after each meal. This allows me to get the kitchen and dining room tidied back up after a meal. It also allows him practice in accepting boundaries (he'd rather have free range of the house, of course!). It's good for him to learn to be contained in one area and occupy himself with what's available to play with, and not meltdown. He's come a long way, and will contentedly play until the 10 minutes is up. (I set a timer for him to have a visual and auditory indicator of the 10 minutes. When the timer sounds, he's allow to get out and I offer him a reward). 
  • Playtime- Tennyson is still getting used to the idea of a sibling. Although not severe at all, we do have moments in which he has a difficult time sharing attention. (He'll go where he shouldn't or pull everything possible onto the floor).  Therefore, I desire to have designated times in which each are getting attention individually and then a time in which I work with them sharing the attention. Currently, their sibling play is me asking Tennyson where Annelise's  foot, hand, nose, ears etc are located. He points to each part on me, himself or her. Another way to bring them together is to read a book while both are cuddled up in my arms/lap. We don't do this as often because he's quite wiggly and it's hard to handle him while protect her from getting unintentionally hurt. It's still good for them to see that attention can be shared!
  • "tot school"- I'll have more on this later. We've begun adding pre-planned activities to our day, which has been so much fun. He enjoys having the one-on-one time with Mama, as well as something new to do each day.

      Our daily schedule will continue to evolve as the children grow. We're currently focused on just the morning routine, and once we become proficient at it and/or the need arises for more then I'll add an afternoon and evening routine. 

     So far, this plan seems to work for us! A well organized day is much better than a chaotic one!

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