This is the latest in the Stress Less in 2015 series I’m doing. Scroll to the bottom for the other posts so far!
I’m guessing there are a mix of people reading this post. Some of you are at home full time with kids, some work for at least part of the week outside the home and some of you don’t even have kids but like the recipes. Well, you’re all welcome here! This post is really though about why I plan my day outside my paid work. It’s kind of a recipe, I guess, but more of a recipe for getting to the end of the day not feeling utterly defeated. Well, most days, anyway!
Back in the day when I had a job running a busy office, I took it for granted I would put some structure in my day. There were deadlines to be met which couldn’t be hit with a few late nights at the office and endless queries to answer. I took it for granted I couldn’t hit my desk of a morning without some idea of where I needed to start.
I still start my blogging mornings with a pretty good idea of what I’ll be trying to achieve. But paid work is a pretty small part of what I’ve done for the last six years since Pigwig was born so why would I plan the day when I’m at home with children?
Well, here’s what motivates me:
- It eliminates the sticking points of the day. Just checking the calendar and menu plan the night before alerts me to disasters before they occur – a newly-booked medical appointment is going to make hitting the supermarket tricky but we’re out of nappies, a friend is coming for coffee but we have no milk, we now have a play date at someone else’s house so I can’t roast a chicken for dinner and need to switch around meals….that kind of thing. I’m not at my best planning on my feet if tired, and I’m always tired, so give in to the easiest option; the kid who whines most, the endless episodes of Ben and Holly, the junky snacks. Don’t get me wrong – we still have those days, just not every day anymore!
- I spot opportunities to knock niggly little tasks off my list – we’re off to a toddler group and the bank is next door so I’ll pay in that cheque, we’re also going past the corner shop so can grab that milk, I’ll see that friend on the school run so can return her book, hubby is out for the evening so I can make progress on a writing project. It’s made me much more productive.
- The flip side to this is also that I can see when a day simply isn’t going to allow me to return the library books, book the car for MOT or phone my Mum. I don’t go to bed feeling guilty because there’s only so much that I can do in 24 hours and it’s all down to priorities. Planning my day has made me more peaceful. Boy, did I need that!
- I get things ready the night before: I defrost the meat for the casserole, find PE Kit, put library books by the door, hunt down the back of the sofa for change for parking, hide the toy that will distract my toddler on his way out the door. The day is likely to be calmer and the meals healthier.
- I sleep better, knowing the day is more likely to go well and having (usually) used my time effectively that day. I also get to exercise occasionally which helps the sleep too.
- I actually plan in the things I wanted to do when my kids were little rather than seeing the years slip away like I used to. I spot good slots for reading aloud (even when they’re in the bath, sometimes!) which is a huge priority for our family. Calmer evenings give time for craft projects or baking and the laundry and cleaning get slotted into the less precious bits of time when the kids are asleep or watching TV. It’s really satisfying. I even find time for my own creative projects here and there.
It’s a habit I got into almost by accident two years ago.We were still knee deep in the trenches of slime with an energetic 3 year old and an insomniac 1 year old. The house was only vaguely clean and we lurched from laundry crisis to diary clash disaster with alarming regularity. I didn’t have time to think or do anything fun for myself. It was utterly miserable.
Although clearly a bit of a type A personality, it hadn’t occurred to me to have a plan for the large chunks of discretionary time you have when at home with small children. It wasn’t that I couldn’t fill that time; more that there was so much to do, I didn’t know where to start! Once I started taking 5 minutes to plan the night before (it’s on my Zombie List so I don’t forget!), I quickly got addicted to the smoother days it was giving me, tantruming toddlers and capricious school girls notwithstanding. I’m sure it will be even more important now I’m going back to work.
Now, clearly, it’s rare that a day goes exactly according to plan. My kids get ill and throw strops or take 45 minutes to eat ONE SANDWICH!!!! Life’s like that. I’m also a lazy bum on occasions and occasionally find myself spending an hour researching very important things on Pinterest rather than dealing with laundry. But mostly, having avoided some of the predictable sticking points of the day, things go better than if I just sail downstairs of a morning without an idea for what we need to get done.
So, how does it work?
For the first 18 months, I just bought a cheap desk diary which I kept on a cookbook stand in the kitchen. I wrote down the main appointments and activities for the day like meals and nursery runs. Then I looked at the things that always fell off the schedule, or rather fell out of my brain! When would I wash up? When did I need to start dinner to get it done on time? When would the laundry get tackled? These things just don’t occur to me unless they’re staring me in the face. Finally, I’d check my Kinder To-Do List. What could I tackle that day in amongst everything else or what HAD to get done? Did we need milk or nappies or Calpol? I had a bright yellow cheat sheet tucked into the back of the diary to remind me what to consider.
I often didn’t check the plan during the day because I could often remember it anyway but it was a handy reference point if I needed it.
Now I have a planner which I printed myself with just the stuff I need in it but that’s pure geek territory so feel not to go there! There are loads of free printable daily and weekly planners available online if you feel like giving this a go or you might find your phone is a handy companion, plus you could set alarms for useful reminders. I’m just to visual to use that. You admirable morning types might also find it easier to plan early on, before the chaos of the day sets in rather than the night before.
So, this has almost felt like a confession. I’m Jennie Brandon. I plan my days. But it has brought me so much peace and avoided so much stress, I just had to share. I hope it’s useful to someone!
So, do you plan your time at home or are you able to act on the fly? (If so, I’m in awe!) Do you feel planning your time with kids around is a project doomed to fail or does the idea intrigue you? Or is this just so far from your personality style it makes you want to run for the hills ? I’d love to know!
The other Stress Less posts so far: