Saturday, September 5, 2015

Manage your time, not just your money - First week impressions of our new schedule

Awhile ago I wrote about things that are just as important as money, if not more. I shared my struggle with managing my time well, and my hope to get a better schedule going with my kids.

Well, that day arrived this past Monday, and by the end of it, I was exhausted.

But let me go back a little bit. After returning from vacation, I gave myself one week to get things back in order around our house, and then I planned on getting started with our homeschool on August 31. It seemed simple enough, but as reality and jet lag hit, I realized that my planning time was consumed by trying to catch up on laundry that somehow appeared even though we had been gone, and unpacking, groceries, etc.

I was not really ready to work on my schedule until Sunday, but thankfully, I had already ordered most of our books, knew generally what we were doing, and had worked on my "list of activities I want to accomplish" for each member of our family, except for my husband, of course!

The method outlined in Managers of Their Homes relies on listing these activities and then assigning them to half-hour or one-hour squares. Each family member has their own color. Then you take your master schedule and assign activities to times. The new thing in all of this for me was that every person had an assigned activity for each time. So while I was planning to do homeschool with child #1, I also had a plan for children #'s 2, 3, and 4.

As I sat there at my desk with the sunlight streaming through, I cut out the colored strips of paper and put on Spotify. I chose my husband's "Soundtracks" playlist, which included music from the Dark Knight. For some strange reason, the music almost made me feel villainous as I sat there snipping the paper - I felt like one of those crazy people who is creating ransom letters in a movie as paper cascaded to the floor. And maybe I was a little crazy. After all, who decides that their four children are just going to go on a schedule and survive?

But as I settled into the cutting and sticking, I felt a calm settle over me as I could see how it all would work out. It was kind of like doing a budget when you are assigning a category to every dollar you have. You only have so much money, and you only have so much time.

Once I finished, I showed my husband and the kids the schedule. I was actually excited about it, even though I don't like having a schedule myself. But having read the book, I knew that there were many blessings that would come with it, including (hopefully) greater peace and control over my home, and a sense of fulfillment in being able to work on what God was actually calling me to.

As for the actual first day? Well, I failed, a lot, but I also got much more done than I normally did, and while my kids had some discipline issues, I felt like they were fewer, and that we all weathered them better.

Here are a few things that helped me navigate the first week:

Whatever you do, try to get back on track

On Monday morning, my schedule said I was supposed to wake up at 5:30 am, but in reality, I didn't come out of my room until 6:15. I wasn't discouraged, though. I knew and expected many failures the first day, even the first couple of weeks, as the book had warned that it took time to figure out what really worked and didn't work. And it didn't help that my one-year old decided to start cutting her molars either. I kind of botched my morning routine, but just kept trying to look at the next square and pick up when the schedule said that activity started. So if I missed my morning reading time? Oh well - now it says to do laundry. And this really seemed to work.

Look at your failures for insight, not excuses

I expected to fail, but I also knew from the book that my day would give me insight into what was working and what wasn't. After the first day, I realized (very quickly!) that giving my 13-month-old just one nap in the afternoon caused her to be up by 3 or 4 pm, a very stressful time for me because of dinner prep and just being tired from the day's activities by that time. So I decided to start giving her a morning nap again, which helped with morning activities, and then moved her afternoon nap to later in the day.

I expected to fail - a lot! And I expected pushback from my kids too.

Having reasonable expectations went a long way in keeping me going. I knew from the book that I would probably have a rough first few weeks and expected it. It's kind of like going on a new supplement or exercise routine - sometimes it takes a bit of time to see the results.

I focused on what I got done.

Even though there were a lot of parts of my schedule that didn't happen, I did get a lot more done than I expected. We had a "morning time" for homeschool in which we worked on memory work, listened to the composer of the quarter (Bach) and read from one of Opal Wheeler's books. We also had a morning chore time that allowed us to maintain our environment a little better. I was surprised that within a few days, my oldest was pulling out the vacuum to do the living room even though I hadn't asked him, and that our house started to look a little better with each day. We also got all of the key subjects in homeschool done as well as planned nature walks, outside gardening time, and a "fun Friday" visit to the local children's museum where we brought a picnic lunch. Our week was much richer and calmer, even if everything I hoped to get to didn't get done.

It's important to remember these things whether you are trying to manage your time or your money. When you set out to gain control of your finances, for example, there are going to be setbacks and failures, but even if you don't meet a particular financial goal for the month, you should remind yourself of how far you've come and what things would have looked like if you hadn't tried at all.

For example, we've only begun to make a dent in our student loans, but I remind myself that had we taken the easy road and made $0 for our monthly payments (which we are allowed to do under our current repayment plan) our interest would have ballooned and we'd be worse off than we started.

I committed to persevering

I am glad that we have a 3-day weekend to regather my resolve before the next week begins, but already, I am thinking about what parts of the schedule I am going to focus on next that didn't go so well this week.  In the same way, I don't give up on our budget, even when we have setbacks. Instead, I pray and always seek new ways to either add income, improve our spending, or enrich our lives more with what we currently have.

Time is important and despite the fact that we have a limited income and large amounts of debt, it is one of the resources I have right now to improve my life and those around me.

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