I have two little kids. This means that most of my inner dialogue goes a lot like this: Where are Hannah’s socks? Oh no! Jacob peed on the floor again. I need to wipe that up. Where’s a cloth? That’s not a cloth, those are Hannah’s socks. OK, let’s get those on her. Oh, and we need snacks! We’re out of crackers, maybe apple slices? Gah! My foot is wet! Oh man, I totally forgot about the pee… It’s like chaos around here much of the time, and it’s no surprise that I feel overwhelmed and that I’m always late.
I am actually able to stomach a fair bit of clutter in my environment and I have long accepted that I’m not going to accomplish as much as I used to before I had kids – or at least not the stuff I’d planned to do. But I have a hard time living in non-stop crisis mode, moving from urgent situation to urgent situation. I’m fried. When I do get downtime, I no longer have the brain power to recall what it was I was supposed to do, anyway. So instead of making an appointment for a long-overdue haircut, I spend some time on Twitter and then fight with the kids because they’re fighting with each other.
I finally decided that I needed a little more structure and order in my days, and a little bit less flying by the seat of my pants. Hannah’s daycare has a routine, and it seems pretty effective. There are 24 preschoolers there, and they manage to have two snacks and lunchtime and outside time and nap and crafts and circle time and on and on. I resisted for a while, though, because I didn’t see how I would do it. How could I have a routine when I can’t even pee by myself? But eventually the feeling of overwhelm, um, overwhelmed me, and I decided to at least try it. I drafted Operation Create Order.
There are 3 prongs to Operation Create Order. Prong 1 is setting my priorities. On Sunday I make a list of all the things I need to do that week. There are maybe 15 items, and they are things like ‘write 6 blog posts’ or ‘buy groceries’ or ‘call the dentist’. Then I choose 3-4 to do every day and write that down. I do these things first, before anything else. If it doesn’t happen on its designated day for some reason, it gets slotted in on the next day. Fewer things fall through the cracks because I know what I have to do and I just do it.
Prong 2 (isn’t prong fun to say? prong, prong, prong) of Operation Create Order is instituting a daily routine. I have started setting my alarm clock to the same time every day. In the morning there are 2 hours set aside for getting everyone dressed and fed and out the door. Then there’s some time for me to get things done, and some time to hang out with the kids. We have lunch and more work and kid time in the afternoon. After dinner there’s more kid time, and then more work time after the kids are asleep. And at 11:00pm every night I stop working, because really, fighting with a computer at midnight is not good for anyone.
The daily routine helps to meet everyone’s needs. I’m not trying to do 15 things at once, because I’m just not good at doing 15 things at once. The kids are getting lots of focused attention, I’m getting some dedicated chunks of time to accomplish things, and we’re happier. I’m still tweaking this routine a couple of weeks in, but it’s getting easier.
Prong 3 of Operation Create Order is cutting down on the time spent arguing. It’s a fight to get the kids dressed Every. Single. Morning. There’s a debate over what to wear, and whether or not Hannah needs her parents to stand and watch her put on her socks. So at night, before bed, we decide what they’ll wear the next day and set it out. I explain how it will go in the morning, setting my expectations and listening to hers. For some reason there are fewer debates at 8pm than 8am, so we save time. I’m thrilled because arguing eats up a lot of my day. A lot. And it’s really totally unnecessary, for the most part.
We haven’t established order yet. Actual order is probably an unattainable goal while I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, anyway. But even just two weeks in I’m feeling optimistic. I am more on top of things, and I’m not yelling as much. I like that. So far, the routine is a qualified success.
I’ll report back in another month, and let you know if it’s still going well. But if you’ll excuse me, it’s lunch time now, and I have to step away from the computer.
Do you have any kind of daily routine, or system for getting things done? How does it work, and how do you like it? I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions!