Monday, May 8, 2017

Taming the Chaos: 6 Principles for Creating an Effective Routine

When I first became a mom, I didn't have much of a plan at all. But as more children joined our family, I began to get overwhelmed. I realized that we NEEDED some structure to our days! Our home is busy!

I mean, look! At meal times I feel like a cafeteria worker!

But as I began to try to figure out a routine, I have had a hard time coming up with a routine that works for us. I have read books, researched articles, and interviewed other mamas.

Here are the 6 things I've learned:

1. My routine will not look like anyone else's. 

When I first started researching how to "do" life with my kids, I had a hard time finding an example that was PERFECT for my family. Probably because no one's family is exactly like mine!

Here's my life: My husband and I have been preparing to be missionaries. I do not work outside the home. I have 5 children 7 and under, and we homeschool. My hobbies are writing, reading, and watching movies (also Facebooking). For exercise I do yoga and go for long walks.

Whose life is exactly like mine?


At the end of this blog post, you will find my current routine. But DON'T try to follow it exactly! Your home, your family, and your LIFE are all different than mine!

When you are trying to formulate your own routine, it can be frustrating that you can't have an easy answer. But it can also be freeing: You don't have to be tied down to someone else's routine! You can find what works for YOU and run with it!

2. The most effective routine removes the extras and sticks with what is best. 

I used to imagine a PERFECT schedule. The morning looked something like this:

6:15- Wake up, make bed, prayer time
6:30- Read Bible
7:00- Do yoga
7:30- Wake kids up, fix eggs and toast
8:00- Eat breakfast while we listen to classical music and read poetry

Let's stop right there. 

Can anyone else see the problem with this picture of perfection? Actual day may run like this:

6:15- Reset alarm because I'm tired
6:45- Go yell at kids because they're fighting and I'm trying to sleep
7:00- Drag myself out of bed and open Bible, but get interrupted by child in poopy diaper
7:05- Open Bible again, but get interrupted by kids who are "starving." Try to read again, but then kids says baby's poop came out of diaper in bed. Change sheets. Yell at kids. Feel guilty for not reading Bible
8:00- Stare at the pots crowding the counters, realize we're out of eggs and milk, and give each kid a tortilla for breakfast
8:15- Cry


You know, all those things were GOOD things to do. Getting up earlier, Bible reading, etc. But they weren't right for MY life with MY kids. I was trying to cram in too much "goodness" and it ended up being a miserable failure!

Another thing is that for ME, the clock is NOT my friend. I need a morning routine that looks more like this (in fact, this IS my current morning routine):

7ish (no alarm): Wake up, do yoga/prayer time (when kids poke their heads out of door remind them they may come out at 7:30)
7:30- kids wander in and watch if I'm not finished yet, then we move on to couch time
(whenever)- I sit on couch and tell the olders to get dressed while I snuggle the kids one at a time and change and dress the youngers
(whenever)- I fix breakfast and then we do our morning chores (more on this later)

We're usually done with all that by 8:30 or 9!

Do you see? I have what is MOST important to ME in this season of my life, which is starting with exercise, time to snuggle the kids, no clock to watch, and a focus on chore training. 

All those extras: Reading my Bible in the morning, poetry, music, cooking a nice breakfast... those may work out better for me in ANOTHER season. 

3. A routine will only work if I am willing to work.

I hate this one. I WISH a routine were a magical thing that just flew into my life like Mary Poppins come to make my life beautiful, but it's not like that. I have to be the grown up. I have to be diligent.

 I have to discipline myself. There is no one else to do it. 

I used to spend hours planning, but very little time actually working. Proverbs 14:23 says, "There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty." 

Ouch. That's so me, so much of the time!

Here's another verse that stings: Proverbs 13:4: "The slacker craves, but has nothing, but the diligent is fully satisfied." 

Hard work brings great reward. 

HOWEVER, that leads me to my next point: 

4. A daily rest period is a life saver

We can get so caught up in hard work, that we forget to rest. Work and rest are equally important. BOTH are vital to a successful routine.

The way I incorporate rest into my routine is by having a 2 hour rest period every day after lunch. We call it "nap time." It's nap time right now at our house, and the silence is blissful! The baby is asleep in my room. The 2 and 3 year olds are napping in a bedroom. The 5 year old is playing quietly in another bedroom. The 7 year old is reading books in the living room. And after I finish writing this, I'm going to go doze for a half hour.

Doesn't that sound wonderful!?

I can do whatever I want for 2 hours, but I'm not allowed to do anything I don't enjoy. I must rest. I also have a "no work after dinner dishes are done" policy, and a "Saturdays are usually unscheduled" policy. Of course, these "policies" get broken occasionally for something important, but we try to maintain the seasons of rest.

In fact, did you ever stop to think that the first FULL day that Adam and Eve were on the earth was a day of rest? God intended that they rest so that they could work. We often get it backwards: "I have to work hard SO THAT I may rest." But God's design is different: "I have to rest SO THAT I may work."

 Because we were created to work. We find our greatest fulfillment in work. 

Teach that to your children and their lives will be easier.

5. Once I get used to working and resting, the routine will run itself

This is the point where I was pleasantly surprised. Once I got used to regular periods of work and rest, the routine kicked in. My kids knew what to expect, and they were happier and more ready to comply with the next thing on our schedule. I knew that nap time was coming. And as time went on, we could do our routine without really thinking about it.

You just have to buckle down and work hard for a few weeks (or months) before you see the fruit of your efforts.

6. My routine will constantly change (and I need to be okay with it). 

This one stinks. I wish I could have ONE routine that works for ALL TIMES. If I could come up with ONE perfect routine, I'd be rich! But there are many things that can throw off my routine. 

Here are some:

-Baby stops morning nap
-Toddler potty training
-Rebellious child who keeps defying me every step of the way
-Adding a new child in school

See? Things keep changing. There are many seasons in life. 

So I have to be flexible enough to change my routine when it needs to be changed.

If you need more help, here is The Secret to Making Your Routine Work

"So, what IS your routine like?"

I'm so glad you asked! Here's what our basic routine looks like:

1. Early Morning Routine (starting 6:30 or 7ish)
-Get out of bed, get dressed, do yoga and prayer and read Bible if there is time

2. Morning Routine
-Get everyone dressed, prepare and eat breakfast
-Table Chores (*)
-School time

3. Afternoon Routine
-Stop school and eat lunch at 12
-Table chores
-Nap at 1
-Laundry time while we watch a show (kids help fold)
-Finish school (if not finished yet)
-Go outside (if time and weather is nice)

4. Evening Routine
-Prepare and eat dinner (timed to when hubby gets home)
-Table chores
-Free/family time
-Story time/kids to bed by 8
-Couple time/to bed by 10ish

*Table Chores
-Kids clear and wipe table, sweep, take out trash, pick up toys, and in the morning brush teeth/make bed
-I clean the rest of the kitchen and in the morning start laundry and do at least one chore in my chore rotation


Books that have inspired me:

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