I always feel a little bit of dread the month we focus on The Power of Organization. Why? Because I don’t really consider myself to be a super organized person. Sure, I understand the value of having an orderly home, and I like the idea of efficiently checking things of my to-do list, but, to be honest, I resent that my life even requires that much effort. Why can’t we all just live a more organic, go-with-the-flow lifestyle, and follow our hearts, moods, and whims? I like the sound of that a whole lot more than I do organizing my paperwork or consulting my schedule several times a day.
But you know what? I’m a mom. So whether I fit the Type A personality of an organizational whiz or not, being organized is a skill I simply have to master. Not just because I manage a house full of stuff but because my kids have to be at certain places at certain times with certain things, and I have more responsibilities and projects on my plate than I can handle in my allotted 24 hours.
What I’ve learned in my annoying yet unavoidable quest to be more organized is that being organized actually creates more opportunities for going with the flow. When your stuff is organized, your brain is more able to relax, breathe, think and imagine. And when your time is organized, it allows you to enjoy those organic, follow-your-heart moments more freely, without that nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you you’re supposed to be doing something else.
I’m not even going to attempt to talk about organizing material things in this post. There are resources upon resources that talk about how to make a place for everything and have everything in its place. No, today I just want to give a little plug for organizing your family’s time by creating a schedule. (Boring! Tedious! Unspontaneous! But oh, so necessary.) The key is to think of a schedule as a flexible thing that works for you, not as an unbending rod that will break you. My favorite thing about having a schedule is knowing when I can get off of it!
It’s hard to even talk about schedules for an audience such as ours because every mom’s life is so very different depending on the number and ages of her children, whether or not she has a supportive spouse, whether or not she works, etc. The point is simply to take stock of your current situation and stage of motherhood and make a simple schedule the whole family can (loosely) stick to. (I’m speaking to the beginners here. I know there are plenty of you out there who have long since mastered these skills on much more advanced levels. Go enjoy another article.)
For example, my four children span a bridge of 10 years, so each of their schedules and responsibilities are very different. (And my schedule as their mother is light years different from when they were all small and mostly at home.) At the start of this new school year, I typed up individualized morning schedules for each of my school-age children and put them where they could be seen every morning. This one little thing has made my life about a thousand times easier! Not only do I no longer stand at the bottom of the stairs hollering up at them to do x, y, and z before we need to walk out the door, but I have the peace of mind knowing my kids are learning the joy of responsibility through self-discipline. (My kids know I’m really big on the “first things first” principle.)
The same thing goes for the after-school hours. We are at a stage in our family’s life when we have just enough homework and extracurricular activities going on after school that we would fall apart without a master schedule. As a result, I actually made a spreadsheet-style schedule that lists each family member across the top, and the afternoon and evening hours down the left-hand side. I have a different schedule for each of the first four days of the school week (we don’t need one for Friday because it is totally free — yippee!) and I post it in the kitchen near the back door where we all come and go. It is invaluable for making sure instrument practices don’t overlap, or carpools to extracurriculars aren’t missed.
I know it’s totally neurotic, and I’m slightly embarrassed to show you this, but here’s what both the morning and afternoon schedules look like:
(Again, I know you advanced-level organizers have already been doing this for ages. Just turn away.)
I’m not even going into my own daytime schedule for which I have yet another daily time map that changes with each day. And while sometimes I resent that my life has brought me to such a degree of uptightness, I have to remind myself that I chose this life. I chose to have four children. I chose to sign them up for various after school activities. I chose to make daily homework and chores a priority in our family, so this is what I need to do to follow through.
Just to summarize and break it down for the beginners (or those who resent having to get organized in the first place):
- Decide what needs to happen at certain times of each day to keep everyone in the family happy and on track. You may want to include morning routines, after-school activities, individual responsibilities (homework, chores, instrument practice), mealtime, bath and bedtime routines.
- Plug it into a daily time map.
- If it’s complicated enough, put it on a spreadsheet.
- Type it up and post it somewhere for all to see.
- Follow it like a little OCD soldier. (Not really, but I know it will feel like that to some of you. Sorry, but the good part comes next.)
- Enjoy your down time, free and clear!
Maybe your brain doesn’t work this way, and you think you would never look at a printed schedule, but in my own experience it is because I am more of a free spirit that I need specific guidelines throughout the day to help me get the most important things done first. If I didn’t have a clearly defined schedule for myself, it is highly possible I would fritter away my time watching “Downton Abbey” and making chocolate chip cookies.
But don’t worry, that’s on the “schedule” for this weekend, and I’m going to enjoy every single minute of it!
QUESTION: Do you live by a schedule, and if so, what works for you and what doesn’t? How long did it take you to fine tune the details?
CHALLENGE: If you haven’t been using a personal or family schedule up to this point but think you could benefit from one, what are you waiting for? Go for it!