Readers have requested that I post an updated version of my schedule, now that all 3 of my children are in school, and I’m working part time from home. I like to have a schedule, because it helps me get everything done and still have time to enjoy life!
I have been (loosely) following a schedule since I became a mother in 2002. I really like having structure in my day, and full-time, at-home motherhood was a challenge in that it offered no real routine or clearly defined expectations. The work had no definitive beginning or end, and there was no boss telling me what to do and when. When I had no schedule or plan, it was very easy for me to become unmotivated and undisciplined. I find that my day goes so much better when I don’t spend it flitting from task to task, or wandering aimlessly trying to decide what I should do next. However, I would like to offer a disclaimer – I don’t follow my schedule to the minute, and neither should you. If you attempt to do this, you will drive yourself crazy with frustration, and instead of being a helpful tool, your schedule will become a taskmaster that you resent. Instead, look at your schedule as a guide, a rough outline of how you’d like your day to go. Remember that you can’t predict what’s going to happen every day, especially if you have young children at home. There will be days, and even weeks when your schedule will go entirely out the window, and that’s OK. Just do the best you can, and remember that time management requires flexibility, too.
When I sit down to create a schedule, I always begin with things that have specific start times, like wake-up time, meals, school, activities and bedtimes. Next, I move on to things that don’t have specific start times, but that must be done. When finding blocks of time to fit them in, consider your personality, energy levels, and the time of day. For example, it’s best to schedule work requiring concentration during nap time or after bedtime if you have young children. I personally schedule tasks requiring a lot of energy for after my quiet rest period, because I’m not a morning person, and I tend to have the most energy and motivation in the afternoon. This is why I work in my office early in the day – it’s less physically demanding. I schedule cleaning for late afternoon because it’s not time sensitive, so when my children come home from school and interrupt me, I’m less likely to be frustrated.
If you have only very young children at home, a detailed schedule like mine may not work well for you. Instead, I would encourage you to simply have a rhythm or pattern for your days (see this post). For example, get up, get dressed, have breakfast, clean up, do housework, run errands, eat lunch, nap, play time, eat dinner, bath time, story, bed. If you get interrupted just deal with it and pick up where you left off. Don’t worry about following a clock, but do try to keep meal and sleep times as consistent as possible, as most children are creatures of habit who thrive on routine.
You’ll notice that while my schedule is broken into 15-minute increments, I typically just assign blocks of time in which I must get certain work done. For example, rather than scheduling 15 minutes to wipe down cabinets, and 15 minutes to clean out the fridge, I simply schedule a one-hour block in which I try to get all of my kitchen tasks done, in no particular order. I also color-code my schedule as a way of “grouping” similar activities so I can see them all at a glance.
Please remember that my schedule is the result of nearly 15 years of marriage, and 13 years of motherhood. My husband and I have also been self-employed for a long time – nearly 16 years for me, and a lifetime for him – and we work from home. Because we have the flexibility to set our own work hours, our daily life is quite different than it would be if we worked for someone else. This schedule also changes throughout the year, which is why I keep it in an Excel spreadsheet that can be easily modified. For example, when track starts in March, my after-school schedule will need to be rearranged so that I can pick up Hayley after practice.
As of right now, this is what works for us, and I offer it simply as a helpful guideline to jump-start the making of your own schedule, if you’re so inclined.