Creating a daily routine, especially if you’re a stay at home mom, might seem like a pointless task. If you’re in survival mode, just trying to make it to bedtime, how’s a routine going to help you?
I was so much more organized when I was a working mom than a stay-at-home mom, simply because I had to be. After months of feeling like I would never get my act together, I finally stopped to think about what had changed. What was so different about my life now? WHY couldn’t I get my act together as a stay-at-home mom?
Bottom line, when I was working, I had routines. I had plans. I had to in order to stay organized.
But life as a stay-at-home mom can be organized, too. If you’re struggling to “get it together” on a daily basis, here’s how you can create a daily routine to simplify (or at least organize) your life.
How to Create a Daily Routine
Use a planner, even when you don’t leave the house
Writing things down in a planner helps you organize your day. It also helps you remember upcoming appointments.
Maybe you have a stockpile of planners and journals and notebooks collecting dust. Maybe you’ve given up on trying to create a routine or organize your day. Or maybe you think that you don’t need to use a planner if you’re staying home.
A planner only works if you use it.
I was religious about planning my day when I was working, but when I became a SAHM, I stopped using it. I would set reminders in my phone for upcoming appointments, but I would “just wing it” for everything else.
And then I wondered why I was disorganized.
I’ve since returned to using a paper planner, even on days when I don’t leave the house. It helps create structure in my day, makes me feel more organized, and helps me get my thoughts, priorities, and focus on paper in a way that I can visualize.
Bottom line, even on cold winter days when we’re buried in Kleenex, laundry, and germs, my planner helps me take control of my time.
On days when I have appointments or scheduled activities, I time block my day. And on days when I just need to get a few things done around the house, like folding a load of laundry and actually putting it away, I use a time chunk layout.
Find out how you’re using your time
If you have a newborn or toddler, you’re just trying to make it through the day. After all, what’s a routine when your kids are up all hours of the night, taking short, inconsistent naps during the day, and needing a bottle and diaper change every two hours?
But that’s just it. Even when you think your kids aren’t following a routine, they are.
Kids (and moms) still need to eat on a schedule. They still sleep according to a schedule, even if it’s not the schedule that you would choose. And they still feel secure when they’re following a schedule.
Whenever my kids were sick and my mom would watch them instead of sending them to daycare, she would write down their schedule. Everything from their medicines, time slept, and how much they ate or went to the bathroom was recorded. But the fascinating thing was that, even though they were sick and weren’t following their typical daycare routine, they still fell into a pattern.
For a couple days, record your time. Even if it’s not a “typical week,” list everything that you do.
Be honest with yourself, though. If you grab your phone to send a quick text to the babysitter and get sidetracked on Facebook for 15 minutes, record that.
Once you’ve recorded your time, look for patterns.
Chances are, you’ve fallen into a routine, even if it’s not one that you particularly want to follow (hello, flop on the couch time after the kids go to bed). Do your kids take naps at certain times every day? What about meal times?
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Create a routine based on how you spend your time
To create your routine, block out the non-negotiable activities that you do every day, like eating dinner. Base your routine on your time record.
You may notice that certain days are different on your time record, and that’s ok. You’re trying to create a basic routine. If your kids take naps from 1-3 p.m. on most days, include that on your routine.
However, you may notice that certain days are consistently different. For example, if you go to storytime at the library every Wednesday and your kids don’t take a nap until 2:00, make a different routine for Wednesdays.
Think about how much time you spend doing activities that you take for granted, like making dinner, or even throwing together a simple breakfast. As you add them to your routine, be honest about how much time they take.
Also, think about how you could streamline those activities. Could you batch cook one day a week and prepare your meals for an entire week? Or, as you make dinner on a night when you aren’t in a rush, double the recipe and freeze enough for an extra meal (I love using MyFreezEasy’s simple recipes for this).
Set three goals or tasks that must get done
Every day, set three “must do” tasks or goals for the day. These could be things like finally putting away the kids’ laundry, vacuuming the stairs, or even spending 15 minutes to paint your nails.
You could create an overarching goal for the week, like declutter the basement, and then break that down into tasks that you could do each day, like tackling the Christmas decorations one day, paper products the next, etc.
The trick to setting (and actually accomplishing) your goals is to stick to simple goals. If you know you only have 15 minutes to work on something, go ahead and start decluttering the kids’ toys, but realize that you may not finish the task.
As you’re setting your goals, make sure you’re being realistic about the time that each task will take. Especially if you’re a mom with little kids, plan on doubling the amount of time that you think something will take.
Limit your to-do list
Similar to setting realistic goals, create a realistic to-do list. While it’s important to capture everything that’s in your brain so you don’t forget important reminders, you may want to consider making separate to-do lists.
Create a master to-do list of every task you need to complete. Do a brain dump and capture everything from the tasks that you hope to “someday maybe” complete as well as the tasks that you absolutely must complete today.
But then you need to break down that list.
As you create your weekly and daily plan, pull a couple activities off your master to-do list to accomplish. Remember not to get too ambitious, though!
Choose one day every week to plan your upcoming week. You may want to do this on Friday night, based on what you still need to complete from that week, or even Sunday night, as you plan for the upcoming week.
Your weekly planning session shouldn’t take long, especially as you do it more frequently. Spend a few minutes planning your weekly menu, looking over your monthly calendar, and checking for upcoming appointments, kids’ practices, and schedules.
Also, take a couple minutes each day, either at night before bed or first thing in the morning, to plan your upcoming day. Are there any appointments that you need to plan? Do you have any scheduling conflicts?
Use this time to review your goals, track your habits, and set yourself up for success for your day.
By following these tips to create a manageable day, you’ll be able to stay productive and focused, even on days when you stay home, covered in tissues and germs.