As promised (in this important post about the first step you should take to get beyond an overwhelming schedule), here are five guiding principles that help me tame my days. I’ve run through them so often in my planning that now I mostly do them without thinking:
Know your best hours and protect them like they are your children. Everyone has a rhythm; listen to yours.
Mornings are my jam. By 1:00pm, I’m mental toast, and I won’t perk back up till late afternoon and evening. I do 90% of my most important and creative work by the time lunch rolls around or it won’t get done — even if that means I get up before 5am. And I try to not to schedule appointments or errands or distractions during this time; I save those for when my brain’s less focused. I have an “ideal week” system on my Google calendar to help me do this well — hoping to pop on Instagram stories soon to talk about it.
Each Sunday night I look at my schedule and see where tasks or events can be combined. Kids’ orthodontist appointment? Schedule busy work to do while I wait in the lobby. Staff meeting? Write some thank you notes while I’m waiting for it to start. Errands to run? Move them all to 1-2 days based on the area of town. I try to eliminate small empty gaps of time so I can have bigger chunks of it later.
My husband and I are also big believers in making our kids a part of our lives instead of our lives belonging to theirs. That’s probably worth a longer post, but we are far more likely to create fun for them in what we already do rather than run around creating fun just for them. That frees up our schedule like crazy.
Because of the age you were born in, you’re in luck: you delegate stuff every day without thinking about it — dishes to the dishwasher, laundry to the washer and dryer, lunch to the microwave. Just 50-75 years ago, most women couldn’t even imagine having a household full of servants like these. We are Ladies of the Manor, ya’ll!
Expand this concept as much as you can: give away chores to the kids, the husband, the local wash and fold, the grocery service, the meal delivery. Can’t afford those? Been there, still doing that on a lot of days (hello, college tuition). Trade work with friends and train your family. You don’t have to be the hero of all the household stories; feeling guilty for giving tasks away is as crazy as thinking you have to use a washboard to be a real woman when your Whirlpool is sitting right there. I’ll write more on this sometime; it’s that important.
If you absolutely love homekeeping, and cooking, cleaning, and organizing your house light you up on the inside, that’s awesome. You should absolutely choose that, which means you’ll probably have to let go of other expectations.
Somewhere along the way, we learned women could do anything, and we interpreted that to mean we can do everything. We’re killing ourselves in the process.
Most of my bills are automated. I schedule these blog and social posts. I have subscriptions to most of my household supplies and toiletries through Amazon. I have alarms set to remind me to take out the trash, take medicine, take stuff to school. Tech life comes with many downsides; take advantage of all the upsides to make it work for you instead of distract you.
I also automate myself: I have written morning routines and evening routines that I’ve done so often that they’re a habit. I review them every so often to add or subtract.
If you can’t do one other thing on this list, this is the most important one; your “don’t do” list is as important as your “to do” list. First to go on my schedule? Stuff I’m doing out of guilt or keeping up appearances, even if it’s stuff for my kids. I also know my highly introverted self — I can’t have too many days in a row with social engagements, or I won’t be able to do what I am called to do. Make it a regular goal to clean things off your schedule instead of put them on.
It helps to see a whole week at one time and make choices from there; if you don’t have a system like that, I have a couple of super simple printable weekly schedule and meal planners you can download to help.
So there are some of the ways I keep it rolling. How do you keep your schedule in check? What am I missing out on? Any tools you use you can share? Anything here you’d like to hear more about? Let me know in the comments below!
Related post: The First Step Beyond an Overwhelming Life