If you’re struggling to ‘get it all done’, use my method for rebuilding a schedule that works for you.
I’ve often had people ask me “How do you get it all done?”. They know I homeschool three kids, gig, manage two businesses and they stare at me in amazement (or possibly pity!). In any case, their question is about having the time to get everything done.
I wasn’t always productive. In fact, ten years ago, I was the dictionary definition of chaotic, purposeless, and unproductive. Now I’m a lot more productive and I’m continuing to grow.
Before my current schedule came about, I had a few others that were, now that I think about it, quite unrealistic. Even now, I’m still slowly easing into this new schedule and so it may be a few weeks yet until I know how it will stand up to my current lifestyle.
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Before I go through my schedule in detail with you, I'll just fill you in on my current season of life right now at the time of writing this.
My Current Season of Life
I have three children ages 13, 9, and 5 whom I homeschool. We attend church, and I blog and run a stationery membership site. I also sing and do gigs. My kids all attend drama classes, two of my kids do swimming lessons and both of my girls do ballet. We also attend 1-2 homeschool meet-up groups in the week. I'm also the family accountant as my husband and I are both self employed. Phew!
Where My Schedule Started
Back in the day, I was never one for having a structured life. Being a jazz musician, I embraced the easy-come, spontaneous lifestyle of a creative. But after having my first child and realising that kids kinda need some sort of routine, I started thinking about creating one.
So I read Laura Vanderkam's book '168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think'. In it, she talks about how we all have the same 168 hours in a week as the next person. So, basically, what are you doing with yours?
What was I doing indeed! Often my husband would come home and ask me what I had done that day and a foggy expression would drift over my face as I struggled to remember the day's events. I was so busy. I was sure of it. But exactly what I had done had escaped my mind. I blamed it on "baby brain". But 'baby' was fast approaching a year old... I would soon need some fresh excuses! All I knew was that I felt constantly drained, exhausted, and beat.
So I wrote a list of all the things that I do in my week. Including all the things that I wanted to get done even if I wasn't doing them right now. I calculated the hours needed for meals, housekeeping, play groups, activities, work, and even sleep. I wrote every single thing down. And you know what? I ended up with MINUS HOURS!! My 'time bank' was overdrawn. No wonder I felt completely spent!!
So next I thought I'd be clever and see where I could skim off a few hours. I initially estimated at getting 8 hours of sleep a night, but realistically I knew that I never really got that many hours sleep, so I took that down to 6 hours (I don't recommend you do this by the way). But that didn't make much difference.
So I took out some of the things that I wanted to get done but weren't vital to our survival. You know, you've probably got some of these up your sleeve: things like the painting I'd hope to do when I got a minute. Or the ministry visits I intended on paying to ladies in my church.
But my bankable hours were still overdrawn! I was so frustrated that I gave up! I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed! It was obviously impossible to get everything done!!
Where It All Changed
I complained to my husband.
He knew I was totally deflated. With another kid added to the mix, the house was a mess, there were no clean clothes to be found. Schoolwork was barely getting done. My blog was getting nowhere and where on EARTH did I put my phone??!! I was so despondent about it that I couldn't even cry (although I really wanted to). I knew that if things didn't change, I'd be heading for depression.
My husband is a font of wisdom and suggested we get a maid. After all, he needed some clean clothes to wear! But a cleaner would cost around £160 a month! We really needed that money for other things like paying off our debt. But he convinced me that it was worth every penny. He didn't want me to go down the road of depression. And he contended that I shouldn't worry about the expense because a cleaner would help ease my frustration. So I reluctantly agreed.
Question: Do you often feel exhausted at the end of the week?
Have you tried to tally up the number of hours you use to get everything done? Do you think you will have hours left in your time bank or will your time account be overdrawn?
If you need help, see if you can bring in friends, neighbours, family members (or their kids) to help. And if you can afford it, hire someone even for a couple of hours a week. It might not sound like much, but it'll be a start!
I figured that shaving off a couple of hours here and there wasn't enough to squeeze all of my tasks into my week. I still needed to do something more drastic! So I decided to cut some things out completely.
Basically, I decided to do a reset.
The Big Reset
This part was very difficult because everything seemed so important or valuable to me. But I had to face the music, and my 'music' recently wasn't a tune I liked very much! So I took out a couple of the kids' activities like swimming and drama club (I hear some mums gasp!). And I brought everything back to the bare essentials - the things I felt we absolutely HAD to do. Things like homeschool, church, basic household chores, personal hygiene, and meals. That was IT!
Putting Stuff Back
Once I had the bare bones of my schedule down. I could slot in other things. The first thing I put back in was work associated with my blog and stationery business. 'Why wasn't that in there before?' I hear you ask! I know!!! If my blog had to stop for my life to get sorted, then it had to STOP! Drastic measures people!! Once that was in, I added some self-care, the kids' activity classes, and one homeschool group.
My husband and I worked on a schedule where he would take the kids to drama and I would take them swimming.
I also delegated the grocery shopping to my husband. At first, it was a bit painful. My husband is not a visual person, so all apples look the same to him. But we'd often find soggy fruit and veg when he returned from the supermarket! He's been getting much better, bless him!
This is often the case with delegating any job. Things might not be perfect at first, but you've got to allow others to get better instead of jumping in and taking back the reins.
I also included a bit of buffer time. I felt that if everything was going smoothly in my week I could use the buffer time to do some of the things I had previously cut out, like ministry visits to ladies in my church, painting, organising, or hanging out with the kids!
My New Schedule
So this is how my schedule has ended up! If it looks packed full, it's not. Buffer periods are blocked off here. And also, I built up to this schedule. Remember the Big Reset I mentioned earlier? Yeah, during that time my schedule was pretty bare. So this is where I am right now.
This serves as a guide for my week and I don't follow it strictly. For example, I don't have any of my gigs here because my gigs happen at random times. And when I gig, I definitely don't wake up early the next day - I have a different routine for my morning.
The Walk Through
So here's a detailed analysis of my schedule. My mornings all have roughly the same routine: quiet time, self care, laundry, and then getting some things ready for our meals that day are all part of my morning routine. Then I often do some work-related tasks.
When my kids wake up, they have breakfast and start going through their morning routines. Then we do school together. Blocks labeled 'Home Care' refer to my household chores. Everything else on my schedule is pretty self-explanatory I think.
The orange blocks are periods of time are where I might have some free buffer time. For example, I take my kids to ballet or drama, but whilst they're in their class, I could read a book, call some friends, or pop to the shops. So those are Flexi-periods for me.
I usually hang out with my husband on Thursday, Saturday or Sunday evenings, depending on what's going on during the week. And I'll move my pamper evening around accordingly. Ladies, whatever happens in the week, give yourself some pamper time! You'll never look back!
Also, any period that I've labeled "To Do List" is a kind of catch-all/buffer period. And I can use it for anything I like.
Every week I do a weekly review and fill out my plan for the upcoming week. I use the Weekly Review and Weekly View - items included in our monthly bundles. And I'd feel totally lost if I didn't do this every week! It helps to make sure I'm not overloading myself (which is very easy for me to do).
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So there you have it! This is what my life looks like right now! Is it perfect? No. I would love to fit in more exercise or coffee with friends, and other things. But this is the season of life I'm in right now. And I'm cool with this for the moment. And like I said, it's a guide.
So I do have coffee with friends, but not every week. And when I do, I'll move things around to accommodate those less frequent activities. Having a schedule that protects my most important priorities helps me to make better decisions when it comes to adding in new or infrequent events.
What does your week look like? Do you have some breathing space scattered around your week? Do you need to get drastic and just cut some things out of your schedule for now? If you're feeling overwhelmed by your schedule, it may be time to do a reset.