Here's how it usually happens: We go through a busy or hard season of life and I get off track of my usual routines, become disorganized, and things feel generally chaotic. So, I spend time putting together an elaborate routine, making all these amazing plans of how I will be more on the ball, more disciplined, more structured, and I will get our home, kids and myself back on track.
Anyone want to guess what happens mere weeks (or even days) after I try to implement all of this amazingness? Putter. Cough. Pfftt. I run out of steam before I barely even get going and I give up on my grandiose, but highly unachievable, plans.
The issue isn't with what I've planned or the very thoughtful routines and ideas I've come up with. The problem is with me. I try to tackle it all at once, expecting myself to go from fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants to seamlessly-executing-intricate-routines-with-precision. In exactly 2.7 seconds. Ready, set... fail.
There has to be a better way.
And there is. I've been resistant to it for so very long, but over the course of this past month or two, as I gradually recover from burn out and fatigue, this little gem of wisdom has become my friend.
Long term change happens one small step at a time.
The ability to follow a routine requires more than just self-discipline and determination, I'm learning. It requires the establishment of habits. We need to get into the habit of waking up at a certain time, following through with our morning routine, leaving the kitchen clean after each meal, and completing our most important tasks for the day before we move on to others, before we can expect our desired routine to become a reality.
Habits are not acquired simply because we decide that they're good and valuable and we want them to have a place in our lives. Habits required time, effort, purposefulness and persistance in order to become consistent.
Giving myself room to develop habits.
After more than 6 months of feeling insanely busy, scattered and constantly tired, I have been spending the past month or so with a focus on rest, recuperation, time with the Lord, my children, my husband, my friends. Miracle of miracles, I am learning how to slow down (seriously, if you knew me in real life, you'd know how much of a miracle that really is).
Now that I'm beginning to feel so much more like myself again (happy, energetic, less frazzled, motivated) I have some goals I'd like to put into place. Waking up at a certain time, having consistent devotional times, making homeschool a priority once again, keeping my house a bit more kept up, working on some heart and character issues in my kids that popped up while I was struggling.
I have proof (a nicely drawn-up flexible daily routine) that informs me I have sufficient time to accomplish all of these things and more. Previously, I would have ran full force towards these goals, expecting myself to be able to accomplish them in record time, and then feeling discouraged and incompetent when I couldn't.
Thankfully, I'm learning a few lessons in my getting-older age (I did just hit an age milestone this year... surely that comes with at least just a teensy bit more wisdom?).
Work on one new habit at a time. This includes retraining myself to get back into old habits. Once that habit is more or less established, then I can begin to add something else.
My first priorities have been decent meals and regular mealtimes. Next, doing at least the homeschooling basics (math and language arts) every day. Then implementing a morning routine, bit by bit. Staying caught up on the laundry. Tackling a few organization projects. When I feel like I'm making progress is one area, I begin to slowly move on to the next thing.
Simplify at first and start small. Ultimately, I would like my morning routine to include getting up extra early to do devotions, exercise, start a load of laundry, get ready for the day, plan my day, and start breakfast.
I'm taking a bare bones approach to begin with- waking just early enough to manage devotions, getting ready for the day, and starting breakfast. Just this week I added back in taking 5 minutes to plan my day. Baby steps...
Give yourself grace. Lots of grace. Because no, you won't succeed in making all the changes that you want to right from the start. You'll have days where you slip up, days where you accomplish part of something but not all, and then days where you feel genuinely successful about the habits you're trying to form. Celebrate your victories, and don't berate yourself for your failures. Tomorrow is a new day.