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When you’re a mom, you might think there’s no such thing as a perfect day. After all, no one plans diaper changes or tears at preschool or even “last minute” bake sales.

And while it’s great to leave a little extra margin room, sometimes all the extra time in the world just won’t fix it.

So what then? How do you plan the perfect day?

Create a routine (and write it down)

I’ve taken Make Over Your Mornings and Make Over Your Evenings to create realistic, enjoyable routines and they were so helpful. I was finally able to see where my routine (or lack of a routine) was breaking down.

As you create a basic outline of your routine, you may realize that not every day is the same. Even your ideal day may look different on certain days, but that’s ok!

List all versions of your routine. For example, if you have a different routine in the summer than during the school year, list those. Also, if your husband works an odd schedule or if your child has preschool on certain days of the week, create routines for different days.

Once you have your routine created, write it down. Whether your routine changes every day or stays the same, write it in your planner as a general guide to follow.

Plan your daily activities

Once you have a basic outline of your daily routine, set yourself up for success by planning each day. Start by listing your appointments, then your most important tasks, and then everything else.

I write a general outline of my day in my planner using time blocks so that I know whether or not I have enough time to finish everything. This also helps prevent me from double booking myself, like that time that I accidentally took my son for his haircut while my daughter was supposed to be in swim class.

However, on days when you stay home or don’t have any appointments, try using a time chunk layout to keep yourself on track with your activities and daily goals.

It may seem redundant to write your routine and activities every day, even when you stay home, but at least make sure that you’re blocking out and planning enough time to get everything done.

Set goals

Every day, set three “must do” goals. Even if it’s just taking out the garbage, doing the dinner dishes, and folding a load of laundry instead of letting it wrinkle in the basket, set goals for your day.

Even small goals will help you stay productive and focused during your day.

If you have a larger project, like planning a birthday party or decluttering your basement, set monthly goals and then break those down into weekly and daily goals so you make progress.

Be realistic

Things always take longer than you plan. 

Maybe you made it to preschool in six minutes one time. Good for you! Chances are, it takes longer than six minutes every other day. 

Instead of using the shortest time it takes to do something, plan for the longest, like that time it took 15 minutes to drive to preschool because you had to stop for a train.

Add margin time

A good rule of thumb is to add 50% of the time to your schedule as a bufferIf it takes you 10 minutes to dress your daughter, plan for 15.

Try to add a buffer to each activity as well as the entire routine. 

However, be careful if you’re the kind of person who thinks you always have time to “do one more thing.” I’m famous for starting things because I have extra time, only to get distracted and realize that I’m late. 

If that’s the case for you, still add margin time to your schedule but remind yourself not to use it. Think of it as bonus time that you’ll get at the end of your routine. If you’re truly early, spend a few minutes playing I Spy with your kids, reading on your Kindle app, or even singing off-key to whatever’s on the radio.

Don’t forget the little details

I always wondered why, if it took me eight minutes to drive to preschool, I ended up late, even when I gave myself exactly eight minutes to drive.

The problem wasn’t the drive time, although red lights never helped. It was the fact that I forgot to account for little details, like buckling my kids, starting the car, and waiting at the end of the driveway for the garage door to go down (we had an opossum in our garage last week because I forgot to close the garage door – I won’t be making that mistake again!). 

The little things may take less than two minutes, but if you forget to plan for them, you’ll always be two minutes late.

Having a perfect day (or as close to perfect as you can get) is more about planning and setting yourself up for success than what you actually do during the day. Maybe you didn’t get to go to the spa (or even a shower), but if you made it through the day with your sanity still intact, that counts!