How to Plan an Effective Schedule to Make Your Week Run Smoothly

How to plan an effective schedule to make time for your real priorities.

If you’re anything like me, the way you feel at the end of the week is often determined by how smoothly the week flowed. Did you feel anxious and frazzled? Or did you feel accomplished and organized? Did something slip through the cracks or were you prepared ahead of time?

Though our success in life isn’t based on how much we do in a week, life certainly feels a lot more peaceful when we aren’t constantly racing against the clock. The best way to ensure that we feel organized is to plan an effective schedule for our time.

Whether you have children or not, whether you work outside the home or not, whether your kids are in school full time or not, we all have one thing in common: we only have 168 hours each week.

Those hours may look vastly different depending on your circumstances, but the key to feeling calm over chaotic is in how you use your time. In her book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think, journalist Laura Vanderkam explains that when we don’t think about how we spend our time, we tend to spend it doing things that don’t really align with our priorities.

“We don’t think about how we want to spend our time, and so we spend massive amounts of time on things – television, Web surfing, housework, errands – that give a slight amount of pleasure or feeling of accomplishment, but do little for our careers, our families, or our personal lives.” – Laura Vanderkam

So how do we plan effectively? How do we set up our schedule so that we’re running our lives and not the other way around?

Here are a few things to consider when planning your week.

Pick a time to map out your week in advance

By looking ahead at what the week holds in terms of time commitments, you’re jogging your own memory. Seeing that it’s your aunt’s birthday on the calendar gets that in your brain and reminds you of any associated tasks, such as sending a card or remembering to call.

You’re also forming a picture of whether the coming week will be busy or slow-paced. You can allocate important tasks to days that have fewer time commitments. Rather than feeling like you have to squeeze things in, you’re giving time to what needs to be done.

Sunday evening is an ideal time to look ahead at the week. You’ll wake up Monday with a clear picture of how the week will go. Obviously life isn’t entirely predictable, but at least you’ve got a fighting chance when you know what to expect outside of the fluke events that throw a wrench in our plans.

Batch your tasks

Studies show that when our brain has to switch between activities frequently, we accomplish less. We get in the flow of one activity, and then disrupt this flow when we start doing something else.

For example, if I’m writing blog posts and decide to stop and clean the kitchen, it takes my brain more energy to get back into the flow of writing than if I hadn’t stopped. The solution to this problem is batching your tasks.

Some people like to batch by days, while others prefer a time blocking method each day. Either way, your goal is to focus on one type of task at a time before switching to a new activity.

For me, this means that instead of cleaning up after breakfast, then spending time writing, and then vacuuming, I do the bulk of my housecleaning chores in one sitting. I’ll empty the dishwasher, load breakfast dishes, do a quick tidy-up and vacuum. Then I sit down to work on blog posts.

Routines help us to be more productive and efficient because we know what to expect and how to balance our schedule accordingly.

Incorporate Routines

We often have routines that are so ingrained in our daily life that we don’t even think about them. For instance, every time I shower, I follow roughly the same steps in the same order out of habit.

Routines minimize the brain power needed for a specific task. I don’t need to remember to put shampoo in my hair in the shower so my brain is freed up to focus on other things. By incorporating routines in other areas, you’re allowing your brain to spend less energy on the mundane so that you can focus on higher priority tasks.

For example, if you empty the dishwasher every morning before breakfast, not only do you not have to remember to do this task, but you also know that it’s ready for loading breakfast dishes. You’re saving mental energy AND crossing two jobs off your list: emptying and loading the dishwasher.

My typical daily Schedule

Since it can be helpful to see how other people manage their schedule, here’s a peek at my day.

6:00 Wake up, have coffee & quiet time
7:00 Get breakfast for the kids & get ready for school
8:00 Drop off at school, walk with the dog
9:00 Pick up the kitchen & do any other house cleaning tasks
10:00 Shower
10:30 Work on writing/blogging
12:00 Take a break for lunch
12:45 Errands, household chores, or work
2:20 Pick up kids at school, afternoon activities
6:00 Dinner, family time
7:00 Kids shower & get ready for bed
7:30 Read with the kids & put them to bed (usually by 8:30)
8:30 Time w/ my husband, read, watch tv
9:30/10 Bedtime

Not every day flows like this. Sometimes I have appointments or commitments at school. Other days are more laid-back and involve brunch with friends or a pedicure. The general flow is what helps me to predict my day though. I’m allocating time to my family, to work, and to myself.

What’s your key to an effective schedule?

Click here for more tips & strategies for living an organized life!

*This post contains affiliate links. I only link to products I love. You can see my full disclaimer here.

Easy tips to help you plan an effective schedule to make time for your priorities.
Share with a friend:

3 Elements for a Killer Morning Routine

How to create your ideal morning routine.

It took me a long time to get to a place where I enjoy the morning. I was a perpetual night owl, even after my kids were born. I woke up every morning wishing that I could stay in bed just a little longer.

Eventually I realized that staying up late and waking to the sounds of my kids getting up wasn’t working. I hate to say it, but I was often grumpy and snappy in the morning until I’d had a chance to fully wake up.

It’s hard to open your eyes to immediate demands, even if they come from someone unable to meet their own needs. I didn’t like that I sometimes felt resentful that my children had woken me up. In yet another example of God’s perfect timing, that’s when I discovered Hello Mornings.

I found a community of moms who felt just like I did. They didn’t want to be grouches, dragging themselves out of bed in the morning. Just like me, they wanted to greet their babies with smiles and hugs. So I retired my night owl tendencies (mostly) and worked to create my ideal morning routine.

Do you want to make your own mornings more effective and pleasant?? Here’s what I do:

1 | I wake up early.

If there’s one element that has been a game changer for my morning outlook, it’s getting up before my kids. Sometimes I’m only up 15 or 20 minutes before my oldest, who typically wakes around 6:30, but it really makes a huge difference.

The key to getting up ahead of my family is getting to bed at a reasonable time. I am a sleeper. Just ask my husband. Most nights I get about 8 to 8 ½ hours of sleep. If I get less than that, I either need a nap or a second cup of coffee.

Once you figure out the time you plan to wake up, count backwards the number of hours of sleep you need. That’s your bedtime goal. For me, I set my alarm for 6:00 so I’m usually lights out by 10:00pm. That might seem really early to some people, but it works for me so that I feel rested and ready to get up in the morning.

Start slow. Try getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal. After a few days, try 20 minutes. Keep working incrementally until you’re at your ideal wake time.

2 | I’m intentional with my time.

The idea behind getting up before your kids is that you start the day with intention. Waking up ahead of schedule means that you have time to do something for YOU before you have to do anything for your family.

The first thing I do when I come downstairs is make my coffee. I actually wake up looking forward to it. Am I the only one who does this?!

After I’ve got my coffee, I sit down with my Bible, journal, and my Bible study. I spend anywhere from 20-45 minutes soaking up some good study time. If I don’t do my quiet time in the morning, it just doesn’t happen, no matter how good my intentions might be.

I can feel a difference in my day when I spend even a short time reading my Bible and devoting time to studying God’s word. I’m calmer, more at peace, and more aligned with God’s direction when I start my day with even a short time in the Word.

If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other ways to get your day off to a good start. Journaling, reading, yoga, and meditation are all ideas for purposeful self care first thing in the morning.

3 | I assess the rest of my day.

On Sunday, I map out the week so I can see all my appointments, kids activities, and important dates ahead of time. Each morning I review what’s on the schedule for the day.

It helps me remember any time commitments, and I also write down tasks that need to be done. Before I launch into the day, I have a good idea of what it’s going to look like.

In the past, I wrote things on a monthly calendar, which I still do. But if for some reason I didn’t look at the calendar in the morning, a commitment or appointment might slip through the cracks. Now I’m just taking some time to refresh my memory so this doesn’t happen.

Having a routine to start off my morning improved my attitude, not only as a mom, but personally as well. I no longer dread the sound of my alarm. Actually I’m often already starting to wake up before the alarm goes off. If you struggle in the mornings (and you have kids who sleep through the night most of the time,) developing a morning routine can be a huge improvement.

One final reason I truly believe in the power of my morning routine… if I’ve been off the regular pattern for a few days, I look forward to getting back to it. Even if I’ve been on vacation, I’m still excited to put my habits back in place. To me, that says it all.

What does your morning routine look like??

Share with a friend:

Dealing with Mom Guilt & 4 Ways to Let it Go

Why does mom guilt hit so hard and what can we do to overcome the feeling that we just don't measure up?

Being a mom is hard. Let’s just be honest about it. It’s amazing and joyful and fun and tender and rewarding. It’s also demanding, tiring, and overwhelming at times. We work so hard to be excellent moms, but sometimes we succumb to mom guilt anyway. Why does mom guilt hit so hard and what can we do to overcome the feeling that we just don’t measure up?

Too Much Comparison

Our ability to compare ourselves to other moms is at an all-time high. With social media running rampant in our every day lives, it’s no wonder we don’t see the merit of our work when we’re constantly watching how everyone else does it.

We’ve gotten to a point where we subconsciously assume we can and should do anything we see someone else do. You guys, this is pointless and ridiculous!

Our time is much better spent investing in our own passions and interests than trying to be good at everything. We each have unique gifts and talents for a reason.

Unrealistic Expectations

The unfair expectations we put on ourselves can easily turn our best efforts into a crushing disappointment. I shared about this here, and I believe that we’re happiest and most successful when we set realistic goals for ourselves.

I hate running. It’s not something I’m interested in doing or find value in, so there’s no reason that one of my life goals should be to run a marathon. Just because I’m inspired by someone on Instagram who’s training to run 26 miles doesn’t mean I need to do the same.

Taking on too much

Right alongside comparing ourselves and setting unrealistic expectations is the problem of taking on more than we can handle.

I just spent an amazing weekend away with my three best friends. One has two kiddos and works as an ER nurse; one works full time and is step-mom to a teenage boy; one works from home with three littles and two step-kids. I’m a stay-at-home mom to two kiddos. We’re all different, but none of us is doing it all. every. single. day.

When we try to do everything all the time, we end up exhausted. When we think we should do everything all the time, we end up feeling guilty when we can’t live up to our own benchmarks.

4 Tips to Overcome mom guilt

Set Reasonable expectations

I don’t know why, but sometimes it’s hard to accept the fact that I can’t do everything.

Some days I feel like Superwoman, accomplishing so much. Other days, I feel like the only way I could have been less productive is if I never got out of bed.

Most days fall somewhere in between. Moms juggle a lot of responsibilities and we need to learn to cut ourselves a break when things don’t go entirely as planned.

ask for help

I’ll be honest; this one is hard for me. Because I’m a SAHM and my husband is the breadwinner, it’s hard for me to delegate certain jobs to him.

I feel guilty asking him to do more than he’s already doing because not only does he work hard, he’s very involved in taking care of the kids.I also feel prideful about being able to take care of things on my own.

My pride fools me into thinking it’s better for me to be exhausted than to admit that I can’t do it all alone.

There’s nothing shameful about asking for help when you feel overwhelmed. I’m saying this as much to myself as to anyone else. We all have limits and the days don’t always go as we planned.

Last year, I was in charge of teacher appreciation week for my son’s kindergarten class. One of the responsibilities was decorating the classroom door. I was out of town the weekend prior, and when I got home later than planned, I had to race up to school to get it done. I was frazzled when I could have easily delegated the decorating to any number of creative parents in our class.

Invest in friendships with other moms

Being able to share my struggles and shortcomings with other moms helps me stay grounded. In relating with one another, we’re able to see that we all fall short sometimes.

Having a safe space to confess my deepest insecurities about motherhood not only prevents it from building up inside, but it helps me keep it in perspective. Guilt has a lot to do with listening to the negative voice inside that points to our weaknesses and ignores our strengths.

Hearing the words of those who value us counteracts the negative and points to the truth that we are a balance of strength and weakness.

Get on your knees

The best way I can let go of my guilt is to ask God to take it away. Rather than listening to that negative voice that tells me I’m failing, I’m able to hear the truth that I need to find my worth in God alone.

Does this mean I don’t want to be a good mom? Of course not. But instead of seeing my value in the precarious quest of “being a good mom,” I entrust my self-worth in the unwavering love of God.

My self-esteem often depends on my accomplishments, but God sees me as his beloved child, regardless of whether I did all the laundry or put a nice dinner on the table.

Don’t let mom guilt distract you from the amazing job you’re doing! It’s difficult to avoid, but not impossible to overcome.

Why does mom guilt hit so hard and what can we do to overcome the feeling that we just don't measure up?
Share with a friend:

How to Spend Your Time Wisely

Some days my house is spotless, but I’ve barely had a spare minute to do anything else. Other days are packed with fun, but our home looks like a bomb went off. Our family goes through seasons of busyness and periods of calm, and our days rarely feel perfectly balanced. Going through life as a family will always bring extra responsibilities and expectations into the mix. My mindset during this time: embrace the chaos, but don’t invite it in.

Spend your time wisely by making decisions that reflect your priorities.

Life moves in seasons

From the time babies are born, they constantly move from one phase to the next. Just as you feel that you’ve figured out one new behavior, they continue on to the next. A few days after we brought our first baby home, one of our good friends left us a hilariously encouraging message saying, “So right about now, your biggest question is: where the heck is the manual for this thing?” It was 100% true. Even at 6 and 9, my kids still go through periods that have us wondering how best to parent them. I have no doubt that some of the trickiest phases are still ahead of us in the teenage years.

The good news is that these phases are typically short-lived. A busy time in our family pulls us in many directions, but is often followed by a period of rest. Just as the harvest is often the busiest time for a farmer, afterward he is able to enjoy the result of his hard work. This is never more true for me than during the Christmas season. I put in a lot of extra time shopping, planning, wrapping presents, and decorating our house so that we can enjoy the celebration together. By doing the work ahead of time, I’m able to relish the joy of Christmas with my family.

Make your “yes” meaningful

Ecclesiastes 3:9-10, 12-13 says, “What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with…I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always “take pleasure in all my toil.” I’m thankful that we have food on the table, but I’m not exactly thrilled by another trip to the grocery store. These verses remind us that God did not intend for us to sit around all day. After God created the first man and woman, He gave them responsibilities. Our time on Earth is meant to be productive. In order to be joyful about my work, I have to be careful about how I manage my time.

In The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst writes, “The decisions we make dictate the schedules we keep. The schedules we keep determine the lives we live. The lives we live determine how we spend our souls. So this isn’t just about finding time. This is about honoring God with the time we have.” (p.23) If we’re constantly running on empty, we’re not honoring anyone with our time, no matter how many commitments or jobs we can check off our list. Being busy may be culturally appropriate, but it doesn’t allow our souls to thrive.

Obviously there are times when we can’t help but be busy. Sometimes my kids have back to back school performances or events scheduled at the same time. I’m not talking about that type of accidental overcommitment. I’m talking about when we stretch ourselves too thin by saying yes when we should be saying no. By turning down commitments that we know will drain our time and energy, even though they might be fun, helpful, or worthwhile tasks, we are saying yes to our own well-being and that of our families. In this way, we’re not inviting chaos into our lives without purpose.

Making purposeful decisions about your time helps find balance and allows you to use your time well.

Making purposeful decisions about your time

How can we acknowledge the reality that family life can be busy without surrendering control of our time? By making purposeful decisions about how we use our time. Instead of committing to projects on a whim, we have to think honestly about what it entails. Here are three things to remember before you take on another commitment for yourself or your family.

Don’t underestimate the requirements. How much time will you need to devote to this task, event or activity? I often over-simplify tasks in my head and end up overwhelmed when a project requires more time than I planned. It’s hard to say no to something you genuinely want to do, but if it demands more time or energy than you have to give, it will quickly become a burden rather than a blessing.

Manage your expectations & those of your family. This goes hand in hand with the previous point. There’s a conference I want to attend in a few months, but it falls on the same weekend as a father-son camping trip. Before I make my decision, I need to discuss the timing with my husband, and also plan childcare for our daughter. To make a decision without considering the impact on my family would be disrespectful and potentially problematic.

Count the cost. My daughter takes a dance class once a week. She enjoys the class and rarely has to pass up other activities because the time commitment is minimal. We’re not going to sign her up for a highly competitive dance program requiring several practices a week because she doesn’t have the necessary passion for dance. If an activity or project is going to stretch the demands on your time, you need to make sure it’s worth it.

As a mom, I often feel like I need to be all things to all people. The truth is it’s just not possible. If we want to be able to enjoy the harvest, we can’t be responsible for sowing the seeds everywhere at all times. At some point, something’s gotta give. We have to make decisions that allow the best use of our time for ourselves, our families and for what God is calling us to do.

 

{Linking up to A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Thoughtful Thursdays, Salt & Light}

Share with a friend:

How to Get Out of a Rut and Into a Routine

Four ways to find balance and get out of a rut.

The past couple months have been busy for our family. Between Mother’s & Father’s Day, my daughter’s birthday, a camping trip, and end-of-school stuff, it’s been pretty crazy. I’ve been productive out of necessity, but it’s completely thrown me off my routine and I’ve been feeling beyond frazzled.

I know I’m not the only one who feels a little less than motivated by this time of year. Jen Hatmaker’s post “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever” will literally validate everything you are thinking about the last month of school when we must do ALL THE THINGS. Field trips, plays, socials, projects. It is thanks only to Amazon Prime that my daughter even had a costume for the second grade play about bugs.

As much as I want to throw in the towel, we all know that’s not reality. We might have said adios to all of our school responsibilities, but we have now entered the all-inclusive entertainment package that is summer break. For a stay-at-home mom, summer break is similar to tax season for an accountant. It’s a whirlwind of activities, sunscreen and a never-ending stream of wet towels.

Thanks to some, umm, gentle prodding from my husband, I’ve had our kids signed up for a handful of day camps since March. In the summer, it doesn’t take long before my little ones are tired of spending every waking minute together. Then the good times stop rolling and the bickering starts. “Referee” is one of my least favorite mom roles so I’m doing everything I can to head this one off at the pass. The quickest way to kill summer break is a tired, cranky mama so I’m working on getting back into my own routine.

So what does that look like exactly? Here are four things I’m doing to take back my sanity.

Get an early start

I really see a difference in my day when I have some time to myself first thing in the morning. Now, if you have a baby who still wakes during the night, you are probably shooting the screen with lasers from your eyes right now at the very suggestion of sacrificing sleep. Before you stop reading, let me be clear that I never did this when my kids were babies. I was taking advantage of every minute of sleep that I could get (and sometimes I still do). My kids are now 5 and 8 which is a completely different season of life and makes this an actual possibility. Take a look at some of my tips for waking up early here.

Get plenty of rest

My habit for a long time was to take advantage of the time after my kids’ bedtime to get things done or have time to myself. Two problems result from this habit. First, it makes getting up early a lot harder and I’m more likely to be tired the next day. I’m not a morning person so waking up even 15 minutes before them means a few sips of coffee, some time to gather my thoughts, and a much happier mom to greet them. The second problem with burning the midnight oil is that it doesn’t leave much time to spend alone with my husband. We need that uninterrupted time to reconnect after a busy day. Whether it’s meaningful conversation or watching tv and quietly unwinding in each other’s presence, it’s important. 

Get moving

Admittedly, this is not my strong point, but getting regular exercise really does make a difference. It took a long time for me to recognize that I feel better overall when I’m getting even 30 minutes a day. Still, when there are a lot of other things competing for my attention, I tend to drop exercise first. I’m trying to get in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning because then there’s not as much risk of plans changing, but this is definitely a work in progress.

Get a break 

One thing that my husband and I have always done is make sure that each of us gets time to recharge. This looks different depending on the phase of life we’re in, but even a couple hours to relax, hang out with friends or just go to the bathroom without someone hammering on the door asking for a snack can be worth it. Too often, we feel guilty for needing time away from our family responsibilities, but raising kids is incredibly demanding. Taking time to do things on my own keeps me from burning out and actually makes me enjoy my kids more.

Whether it’s kids or a job keeping you busy, it’s easy to feel like you have no control over your day. For me, doing even one of these things helps me feel less frazzled and more balanced. A combination of the four makes a huge impact, but trying out even one of these suggestions can help you get into a better routine. When you feel like you’re in charge of your time, it can make all the difference in your overall attitude.

Share with a friend: