How to Create a Weekly Routine to Maximize Your Time at Home
As I was preparing to go back to work after maternity leave, I was overwhelmed (and that’s an understatement) by everything I needed to get done every single day.
I was barely keeping up with taking care of the baby and housework; I couldn’t imagine how I was going to fit in getting ready for work (heading to a professional setting meant I’d actually have to brush my hair and maybe slap on some makeup), daycare drop-off, commuting, and actually getting my work done. My husband had been back at work for a few months, but he’d have to take on daycare pick-ups, plus some a lot of additional household work.
Planning really helps take the stress out of any situation for me, and it makes me feel empowered to take on whatever challenge is coming my way. So I needed to think through how we’d handle what needed to be done and how our days would flow.
I figured I’d start by listing every single thing that we needed to get done through the week and plot that time out, half-hour by half-hour, and for some portions of the day, I thought about smaller increments of time.
This exercise showed us that there was no way we fit in everything we wanted to get done every single week (and stay sane and happy). It forced us to remember our values and appropriately prioritize the tasks we made time for. I hope it helps you too, whether you are returning from parental leave, getting ready for a new school year, or wanting day-to-day life to better align with your family values.
Here is what we did, step by step:
Gather supplies. At least one manila folder, a pen, a ruler, and post-it flags (one color for each family member).
Create a date/time grid on the inside of the manila folder. Be sure that your rows are tall enough and your columns are wide enough for your post-it flags to fit!
I have a column for each day of the week (and a column for weekends), and a row for each half-hour. You can use different increments of time.
Maybe it makes more sense for you to go hourly, or maybe it makes more sense for you to do 15-minute increments. Or, you might want to use several folders – one for morning, one for evenings. I didn’t map out times we’d be at work, but maybe you want to. Figure out what parts of your days/weeks need to be mapped out.
Reserve time for sleep – just leave it off your grid entirely. For example, I want to sleep at 9PM, so the 8:30PM time slot is the last on my grid.
Also, leave off any time that you don’t need to plan for. As I mentioned, I left out work hours. I did that because I figured that once I got into my office, my day would pretty much sort itself out (or be a complete mess that no amount of planning can prevent!).
Finally, keep in mind that the number of rows and columns you have are limited by the number of post-its that can be lined up on the folder!
Figure out what your family needs and wants to get done. And figure out who will do what. Write each task on a post-it flag, using a different color for each member of the family (my tasks are pink; my husband’s are blue).
If it’s a task or event that needs to occur multiple times in a week, create that many post-it flags. (For example, I wanted to work out three times a week, so I created three pink flags labelled with “workout.”) And don’t forget to plan some time “off” for each member of the family, unscheduled time for you each to do whatever you want.
Place the flags on your grid. Start with the events that must happen at a specific time. For us, these include D’s waketime and bedtime. If you can, carve out some unscheduled time. Then, put down other items that must be done. Last, add in items that you’d like – but don’t need to – do.
Move the flags around as needed / Make new flags / Throw out some flags.
If you are gearing up for a specific event, like returning to work or the beginning of a new school year, it might help to give your weekly plan (or at least a few days of it) a practice run to see how it actually works for you.
A Few Tips:
1. Be realistic when you plan your time.
For example, I initially had chores in the mornings. Then I decided it was too ambitious to expect myself to be up before 6AM.
2. Avoid over-scheduling.
Try to give yourself some buffer time between tasks. That will save you from constantly stressing about staying on your schedule and leave you some time to enjoy.
I learned this the hard way! I had packed too much into my schedule, which meant I had no room for error. I noticed this when my husband stopped me to give me a kiss when I was rushing off to simultaneously clean the bathrooms and dust all the furniture upstairs. Instead of enjoying his sweet gesture, I stressed because I didn’t have time for that! That was not okay with me. I always want to have time for that stuff.
3. Review your grid.
Do the items on your grid reflect your values? In other words, are you spending your time in a way that aligns with what you want most out of your life?
For us, priorities are taking care of our child, enjoying home life, and our health. So, it was important to plan our schedules around D’s daily bedtime and wake-up time. We also wanted to make sure we planned to prep meals and to exercise a few times a day. We want to carve out time to catch up, so we plan to have a quick dinner together every night.
Do you have flags that don’t have a spot on your grid? Hopefully, you’re okay with that and the things you do have on your grid are more important to you. If not, see if there’s a flag taking up space on your grid that you can switch out and make room for something else.
4. Consider whether you can delegate any tasks on your grid.
For us, having a clean home brings us a lot of peace, but cleaning it is time consuming. We can’t afford house cleaning more often than every month or two, so we struck a compromise.
We’re taking on the tasks that don’t take a lot of time but help a lot in maintaining cleanliness, like dusting furniture and vacuuming. But we’re giving up on wiping the baseboards and dusting our shutters…we’ll save those tasks for the times when we can afford a professional deep cleaning. So yes, dust is going to build up in these places, but the time and frustration it takes to clean those areas is too big of a time investment, in our opinion.
5. You might also re-assign some of the tasks.
My husband sweetly agreed to take on washing D’s bottles, and loading unloading the dishwasher, taking those things off my plate (no pun intended).
6. See if you can combine tasks.
My husband and I each have commutes that are about an hour each way. But, I have public transportation options so I can combine commuting with other tasks. My plan (and I’ll let you know how it goes!) is to take the bus to and from work and use that time to catch up on emails (work and personal), work, or do household tasks, like meal planning and budgeting.
That’s it! Hope this helps you guys! Let me know if you have any questions or want to share how it goes!