Life goes better when you have a plan, but can things be too planned or structured? If we become slaves to a rigid schedule are we really free to live the life we want?
A schedule tells you what to do and when to do it. It has you looking at the clock, setting alarms, and rushing from one task to the next. While you may be accomplishing a lot, are you really enjoying it?
A routine is a pattern by which you live. It gives structure and order to your day, but it doesn't dictate exactly when things should be done. It allows you to find a flow that works for you on the day you happen to be living.
When working in a daycare, teaching preschool lessons, or during my years as a nanny, a schedule was often necessary to be sure certain things happened in the allotted time. As I transitioned into motherhood, I kept to a schedule and my oldest really thrived on knowing what would be happening and when. As I added more children and began to take their education into my own hands, I tried to schedule everything. I often became discouraged, with my perfectionistic tendencies, reworking my schedule every so often to optimize my performance as a mom. That was not a fun way to live. When I decided to ditch the schedule and live by a basic routine, I freed myself from the self inflicted torture that each failed schedule brought.
Setting up a routine:
Decide what is really important. For me that is meals together, building faith, working as a family to care for our animals and home, reading good books, and learning about the world beyond our doors.
Find the flow. Are you early risers? Do you need some quiet down time during your day? When do you get your best work done? Are mornings your creative times, or maybe afternoons? We are go-getters in the morning hours, but like a change of pace in the afternoons. We also have some that need their own quiet space after a morning together.
Identify your pillars. Our constants are our mealtimes. Everything fits around them. We have before lunch activities and after lunch activities and dinner happens at about the same time every evening. Pick what things have to happen at certain times. Do your kids have school? Do you have set hours for work? You'll need to create your routine around these things.
Create habit. When starting a new routine, keep it simple. Don't throw everything in it at once. Start with your pillars, then add your important things around that. Once you've got those down you may feel like that is just enough, or you may feel you have space to add more things in. Stick to it to create habit.
Be flexible. This may seem to be contradictory, but if your routine isn't clicking and something feels off, switch it up. You are the ruler of the routine, it shouldn't rule you. If one day you feel like straying completely from the norm, by all means, do it. Those days make life memorable. You are in charge. You don't need to worry that you've blown it, the set routine will be back tomorrow.
Here's a glimpse at our current routine for an example:
- Beds made and laundry brought down
- Animals cared for
- Family Work
- Morning Devotional
- Read Aloud
- Subject of the Day
- One-on-one time
- Individual study time, projects, or adventures
- Clean up
- Evening activities
- Prepare for bed
Did you notice there are no times? We are not slaves to the clock. Our meals happen right around 8:30, 12:30, and 6:00, but with our routine, we flow right into them without setting alarms.
If there are times we have to be places we plan accordingly, but we try not to let it mess up the flow of our day. We set things aside and come back to them when our scheduled event or class is done.
It is truly wonderful to be freed from a strict schedule, and we are just as productive, often more productive than we were before. I am not rushing my people to get done so we can stay on schedule. There is no running behind with a routine, it just is what it is. It allows for the structure that my family needs without the stressing.
If you have found yourself writing and rewriting schedules, please consider switching over to a routine. Once it is established, it runs itself.
How do you find balance? Let us know what you've found works for you.