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Parenting, Productivity

The Art of the Schedule – How to Spend Time with Your Children, AND Be Productive

When I first had my son, I had no schedule whatsoever. I felt, as most new moms do, that I couldn’t get anything done while caring for my new baby. I wasn’t totally wrong; newborns can be overwhelming. You and your baby are just getting used to each other, and your family is learning a new way of life! But as my baby got older, that feeling didn’t go away. I was always scrambling to get things done and usually feeling like I was one step behind where I needed to be. The care of my home was a struggle. Simple things like completing the laundry and remembering to feed myself fell by the way side.

To top it off, my son refused to sleep through the night until he was about one year old. I felt like things were never going to change and my life was to be a permanent state of chaos.

The Art of the Schedule

I am not a “cry it out” mom. I can’t stomach it. So, I lost sleep. Neither can I allow my children to play all day in front of the T.V. without me for the sake of getting a few things done. The dilemma presented itself daily, between being a good mom and doing what needed to be done in my home, and my baby won every time.

Eventually the wear of my lifestyle became to much for me to handle and I started looking for help. I found the book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, and it changed my family’s life. This book, by parent educator Elizabeth Pantley, focuses on learning your child’s natural rhythms and using those to encourage a healthy sleep schedule. You guys, this woman is a genius. She saved me. If you don’t have a baby and miss your sleep, get your copy here. It’s a quick and easy read and WELL worth your time.

With the help of the No-Cry Sleep Solution, I was able to get my son on a sleep schedule. We stuck to that schedule as if our lives depended on it, and our lives got better! My son has since gone to bed at 8 o’clock every night. My evenings are for myself and my husband, and we no longer take turns rocking the baby from 7:30 P.M. to 11:00 P.M.. It is REALLY nice to not have to fight with children about bed time.

My children’s sleep schedule is as follows:

Roman, 3 years old: Nap at 2:00 P.M. til 4:00 P.M. at the latest, bed time between 8:00 P.M ad 8:30 P.M.

River, 10 months old: Nap at 9:30 A.M. til 11:00 A.M. at the latest, nap at 2:00 P.M., bedtime between 7:30 P.M. and 8:00 P.M..

Their nighttime routine consists of floor play or outside play with Mommy and Daddy after dinner, a bath, a bottle for River and a book for Roman, and then lights out! They both sleep with a fan; I find the white noise helps them stay asleep.

Daytime Schedule

After seeing the effects of a routine at nighttime, adding a routine for the daytime became a very appealing idea. My son is now three and a half years old and we also have a 10 month old baby girl, but we still stick primarily to the same routine. It works! Children crave routine. (I think we all do!) It helps regulate all their bodies’ systems (they eat better, they sleep better, they poop better). And in addition I believe it makes for happier, well-adjusted, and secure children. The CDC says that having a routine can help improve your child’s behavior and strengthen the relationship between parent and child. Their little bodies know what a 2:00 P.M. nap time means, and my kids both will start yawning and rubbing their eyes about 10 minutes prior to scheduled nap time.

I recently opened our home up to three more children, quitting my part time waitress gig and starting the babysit full time. (I promise a post on that transition soon!) So now, I have my own two little ones, as well as a two year old, a four year old, and a three month old. This could spell the recipe for total disaster, if we were not committed to a strict daily routine.

Here is the daily routine we follow when the children I babysit are here:

Daily schedule for kids for increased productivity

6:00 A.M. – Wake up, workout, read, have alone time

6:45 A.M. – Start one load of laundry and make breakfasts for myself and kids

7:00 A.M. – Shower and dress

7:30 A.M. – Wake kids, kids eat breakfast

7:50 A.M. – Kids change clothes and brush teeth

8:00 A.M. – 8:30 A.M. – Drop off time for babysitting kids, free play

9:30 A.M- Nap time for infants, big kids activity time (play-doh, coloring, craft)

10:30 A.M. – Clean up activity, free play

11:30 A.M. – Kids pick up toys while I prepare lunches

12:00 P.M. – Big kids lunch time, infant floor time

12:30 P.M. – Infant lunch time, my lunch time, big kids quiet time

1:00 P.M. – Outdoor play or story time

2:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. – Nap/quiet time

4:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M Play time until pick up

6:00 P.M Dinner

7:30 P.M. -Start bedtime routine, River in bed no later than 8:00 P.M., Roman in bed no later than 8:30 P.M.

I am a little more flexible in this routine on the days that it is just my own kids and myself. But I really try not to vary nap times by more than an hour, and we always make sure we have our meals on time.

How to Get S*** Done

My to-do list is a revolving door. It is never ending. From preparing meals to laundry to helping my husband with his buisiness, there is always some task that needs my attention. My kiddos also always need my attention, so you see m dilemma. How do I balance it?

The first key is grace.

Be gracious with yourself and know that not everything can be perfect. Your children are your first and biggest priority. Give them your best and accept that you CANNOT do everything.

The second key is organization.

Just like your budget your money, you need to budget your time. Plan out your day and recognize where there are natural times in your family’s routine that allow you to complete your required tasks. Taking it one step farther, plan out your week, and leave as little to chance as possible. Schedule things like household chores, cooking, and office work. Schedule your workouts and quality time with your spouse (and yourself). Plan your meals and prep meals and snacks if possible.

In my home, this looks like a giant dry-erase board where I lay out our family’s schedule, meals, upcoming events, and tasks in need of completion.

How to Use a Schedule to Be More Productive

The third key is doing what your can, when you can, and not attempting to do too much.

In the above picture, you will notice I have a Weekly To-Do list, as well as daily tasks listed below my schedule. Each Monday morning, or Sunday night if I’m feeling like an over-achiever, I sit down to write down what I need to accomplish that week. Then each day, I pick out tasks I feel I can work into that day’s schedule.

I don’t overwhelm myself by trying to do my whole list on Monday. Likewise, I don’t try to clean my house in one day. I have kids – this would never work. Rather, I split up the maintenance of my home into different tasks for Monday through Friday, and assume that the big projects (yard work, reorganizing a room, etc.) can be completed during the weekend with assistance from my husband.

The last key to staying productive with kids in your home is the most important.

You are the most productive when you have a clear head. Don’t sacrifice the most important things, ever. If I am too busy to give myself alone time, my week is shot and I am not my most productive self. The same goes for my relationships in my family. If my husband and I do not have quality time to reconnect throughout the week, I lose focus and we are not in sync. If I sacrifice time with my kids because I am too busy or have to much to do, they act out and are not at their best and I am distracted by the guilt I feel. So, I have realized that tending to my my needs and those of my family first allows me better focus on my tasks when it is time to complete them.

Plan, But Be Flexible

The secret to productivity in any area is planning and avoiding procrastination. Raise your hand if you are a chronic procrastinator. ✋ I think we all put off tasks we don’t enjoy doing. But I have found that attitude only compounds the work to be done and adds to my stress.

So I plan what I am going to accomplish during nap times and when my kids are having free play time. Sometimes I join them to play cars on the floor, and sometimes I steal a moment to finish the dishes. Each day, I write my to do list and plan when I will complete each task. I try not to plan anything for after 3:00 PM. That was way, if I fall behind, it’s no big deal.

The next time you feel overwhelmed, remember, it’s about balance – not perfection. It’s about moments and memories and the people in your life.

<feedback please!>

  • What methods do you use to keep your family organized?
  • In what areas do you feel you fall behind the most?

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