Edit: For those who didn’t read the first post in this scheduling series, here is the link to it.
Before I had babies, I was one of those people who never really stops. I had an incredibly full schedule all through high school and university, balancing a heavy course load with church meetings and extra curricular activities, all on top of significant part time jobs. My scheduling looked something like this: 6:30 am wake and shower, 6:50 grab breakfast to eat in car, 7:00 leave for school, 7:15 arrive at student lounge, devotions until 7:45, study until 8:50, walk to class by 9:00, etc.
It’s not that I’ve ever been one to keep a schedule perfectly (certainly not, I have had many days where the schedule ended up out the window), but I had so much that I wanted and needed to fit in that if I wasn’t organized about it, I wouldn’t have been able to do it all. The point was that if I had something I needed to accomplish, I planned it, plotted it into my schedule, and got it done.
Fast forward many years to the birth of my first child (some of you moms are already laughing)… suddenly I went from productivity to, well, chaos. I had no idea how to work around the continually changing needs of an infant. My daughter took very short naps (around 30 min, 45 min. max). I felt like I would just get her to sleep, sit down to rest or grab something to eat or drink for a minute, begin to do a task such as making dinner or cleaning the bathroom and suddenly… "waaaaahhhh".
Those early weeks and months of motherhood were a very emotional struggle for me as I was forced to give up my old expectations and methods of scheduling, and learn to be more flexible, to take advantage of the time that I had, to find ways to work with her, and to begin a journey of learning how to still be an efficient, productive manager of my time, but in a different way.
One thing that I have found about motherhood is that each new season with our children brings with it new challenges to our scheduling. Changes in nap times (either dropping a nap or napping at different times), babies sleeping through the night (or barely sleeping at all), pregnancy the second time around (when it’s more challenging to get the rest that you need while running after a toddler), and adapting to the birth of a second (or third or seventh) child. All of these things (and many others) can completely alter the schedule that was previously working for us.
Many times this has discouraged me. But what I am slowly learning is that it is not about the individual schedule for that season, but instead there are several factors that greatly impact our productivity, no matter which season we are in. These are our pitfalls, and our patterns of peak efficiency (no, I didn’t plan all the p’s, it just happened that way!).
Recognizing my pitfalls is something that I have not truly done until recently, because I was somewhat in denial about what they were. I wanted to blame my poor scheduling or lack of productivity on the children, or too many phone calls, or having too small of a house (or too big of a house) or anything else that didn’t come down to me in the end. At long last, I am willing to declare it to the world- I have weaknesses (gasp!) and it is such a good thing to know and admit what they are! Here are mine:
Procrastination– I struggle with doing the things that I don’t want
to do. Some days I find it easier to simply do what needs to be done,
but many days I am continually challenged by my desire to do a task
that I prefer, rather than the task that needs to be done.
Distraction– This has been particularly difficult for me since
starting this blog. I really, thoroughly enjoy doing it, and it
requires a lot of time and effort, and many days I would prefer to do
this than clean, make necessary phone calls, get dinner started early
in the day, etc. I also find it easy to be distracted even from my
blogging work, because I love to read and can so easily be caught up in
an interesting article, blog post or ebook. As well, having very small
children requires almost constant multi-tasking, and while I don’t mind
this, if I am not disciplined, it can easily get me off track and
suddenly I find myself spending 45 minutes on sorting through the
children’s bins of next-size-up clothing because I realized we’re low
on onesies, when all I meant to do was go into the room for 5 minutes
to change the baby. Anyone relate?
Knowing where we are weak can help us to make a plan
to be more successful in being good stewards of our time. Now that I
have honestly evaluated my weaknesses, I feel more equipped to create a
schedule that I can actually stick to. Once we’ve got the painful part out of the way (ouch, that hurt a little, didn’t it?), now it’s time to examine our strengths.
Most of us have times or ways of doing things that just work better for us than others. For example, although I am so apt to stay up late, getting caught up in whatever it is that I am doing, I know that it is not my best time of day. I lose focus, I get distracted, I’m tired, and worst of all, I become so exhausted from going to bed late that I end up sleeping in the next morning, and getting off to a very slow and unorganized start.
On the other hand, when I discipline myself to wake up early, before my children, I begin my day much more on the ball. By the time they wake up, I have already showered and dressed, had a nice hot drink, spent time with the Lord, worked on my blog, and started breakfast and kitchen tidying. For me, these morning hours are far more efficient than those late at night, and they also set the right tone for the rest of my day to be organized, focused and cheerful.
Now, before you think I am saying that we should all get up early, I am not. What I am saying is, this is what I have found to be most effective for me. Therefore, it makes sense for me to be disciplined to schedule my day in this manner. Perhaps your husband works nights and you find your evenings are the perfect time for accomplishing much of what you need to do. It will always look slightly different for all of us.
Once again, I’ll leave you with a few questions for examining your pitfalls and peak efficiency patterns:
- What about you? If you were to be really honest with yourself, what
are your most common pitfalls when it comes to staying on task and
getting things done? Is it procrastination or distraction, or how about
over-scheduling (expecting more of yourself than is really reasonable),
or idleness (let’s be real, ladies, we are all capable of being lazy),
or lack of planning?
- What is the time of day when you do your best work? When do you feel most creative, focused, efficient?
- What are the needs of your family? Do you have older children who are able to help with a lot of the housework and be self-directed? Do you have toddlers and babies, and find it faster to work around their naptimes when it comes to certain tasks (although there are many ways to learn to do housework even with young ones around- see this great post) Is your husband at home or gone all day, and what does his night and morning schedule look like?
Next I’d like to spend some time discussing actual, daily schedules, the different styles of scheduling, and coming up with what works for you. This is something that I am currently re-examining in my own life, as I need to take some time to make a new schedule for this current season that I am in, and I am working through some worksheets that go along with 24 Hours is All You Get.