A few days ago I posted about how I scheduled God out of my life by being too rigid in my personal expectations. That being the case, this post might seem a little contradictory. But to the contrary, scheduling has been a great asset to me through all of life’s stages, from single woman to married career woman and now as a stay at home mom.
My favorite author, Gretchen Rubin, recently published a book called Better Than Before. This book discusses what she calls the “four tendencies”, four personality types that handle habit-formation in different ways. Of the four types, I am what is called an “Upholder”. Upholders desire to meet both outward expectations (work deadlines, dates with friends, church commitments) and inner expectations (personal goals to exercise, eat well, pay bills on time). They are generally self motivated and disciplined, but often inflexible and unadventurous as well. (Take the four tendencies quiz by visiting Gretchen’s site at www.gretchenrubin.com)
As someone who finds joy in being busy, I always have multiple outer and inner expectations to meet. But the busier my schedule, the more likely I am to forget something, run late, or overwhelm myself to the point of anxiety. Marriage revealed to me just how often I lived in a stressed-out, anxious state – despite the habits I had already formed. So I began to devote more time to developing a real schedule and establishing a morning routine.
To some people, establishing a set routine and schedule sounds like a stressor in and of itself. However, it actually works to the opposite if you are diligent and consistent. Below are five reasons to schedule your life, followed by my own morning routine.
1. Scheduling relieves stress and anxiety.
The most stressed-out people I know are the ones who do not take the time to schedule anything. Instead, they live in a constant state of “seat of the pants”, jumping from one thing to another, trying to remember all they have to do.
Scheduling your months, weeks, and days takes no more than an hour, but it produces exponential results. By telling yourself where your time must go, you are able to calculate the time you have left for recreation and projects long left undone. Time, like money, must be budgeted down to zero. For instance, when I would plan my weeks as a working woman I took every waking hour from when I rose (5 AM) to when I went to bed (9:30 PM) and assigned a task to it. Yes, I even assigned my “free time” to a slot! Because I knew where my time was going, I was not stressed about missing anything.
Now, there must be some flexibility with this kind of scheduling – which I discussed in the post about time with God. Over time I learned to switch things around in the schedule as my day went on, rolling with the punches instead of letting Monday punch me in the face.
2. Scheduling blesses the people around you.
My husband is blessed when I am not stressed. (Hey, that’s a nice mantra!)
By scheduling my days, I come into each week calm and collected and leave each week refreshed by what I have accomplished. This is much better than racing through the week, hanging onto its coattails and wishing you could get everything done. If you want to do something – schedule to get it done!
By organizing yourself you free yourself to reach out and serve. The goal of scheduling is not to add MORE to your plate but to compress what already exists into tangible, reasonable time slots. The best pace to work is in 90 minute intervals. Once again, Gretchen Rubin offers plenty of great tips on how to make the most of organization and scheduling in her book Happier at Home.
3. Scheduling cultivates healthy habits.
We do what we make time to do. If you want to get better at exercising, put it in your planner! Give it a time and plan to be there.
For example, one of the best ways to change eating habits is to plan your meals. You can write down what you plan to eat, or you can actually pack your meals ahead – I have done both. I would often pack my lunches for the week on Sundays, or at least the night before, and my planner would outline which recipes I’d make for dinner that week. By making a plan you set yourself up for success instead of wandering through the pantry and refrigerator last minute, which takes many more minutes of last minute preparation and brainstorming.
My morning routine is integral to cultivating my health habits, from what I eat for breakfast to my exercise routine. Though it has changed over the years, it is still basically the same, enabling me to keep on track with my health no matter what stage of life I’m in.
4. Scheduling increases efficiency and productivity.
By allotting times for certain tasks (or at the very least, days to do them) you tell yourself what to do and when, which reduces procrastination and inefficiency. Left to myself I am a horrible procrastinator, so my schedule disciplines me into getting things done. Most people who live by a schedule do so because without it they would get much less done. It is a misnomer that people who discipline themselves do so because they enjoy it – usually, they enjoy it because they made it a habit, and the habit was formed because they were needed that discipline in the first place!
By scheduling our days we get things done much faster, which opens the schedule up for more time with family and friends, more time for recreation, and simply more time in general. That is the goal of making a schedule. Rather than running pell-mell, stressed out and anxious, with no time for the things we really love, a schedule allows us to be more productive in a shorter span of time – leaving more time for the things we love.
5. Scheduling leads to freedom.
This leads us to the final point: scheduling leads to freedom. Some people think a schedule is inhibiting, but when done correctly – and with realistic flexibility – a schedule means freedom! It allows us to no longer be run by our tasks or commitments. It opens windows of time to spend with our boyfriends, husbands, and kids.
No person’s schedule can look the same through every stage. Each time I’ve had a significant life event – job change, marriage, new baby – I’ve had to adjust my schedule accordingly. By doing so, I’ve developed a routine that gives me the freedom to enjoy my family and my life. So what does my routine look like? I’ll give you two examples.
Before I had Adeline, I was working 8 AM to 5 PM in the office (when I was not traveling – that required a different schedule). For most of my career I was also in college, finishing a second undergraduate degree. My schedule as a single and as a married woman was largely similar as I planned meals, packed lunches, and managed our apartment in both situations. Below is a sample of my pre-baby schedule:
5 AM – Wake, head to the gym
6:45 AM – Shower at the gym, dress, makeup, drive to work
7:30 AM – Drive to work and park (I had a 10 minute walk on top of the drive)
8 AM Eat breakfast at desk, make list of day’s duties
12 PM Packed lunch; do devotions or homework
5 PM Drive home and make dinner, do homework or devotions (whichever was not done in the morning or at noon)
This schedule was adjusted depending on my commitments. If I had a meeting or a riding lesson to teach in an evening, I wouldn’t do homework that night, and I’d try to do my devotions on lunch. Sometimes I decided to go home and shower instead of use the gym bathroom. Flexibility was necessary depending on the day’s events, but because I planned the week on Sunday, I knew what to expect.
I had a lot of freedom with my schedule as a single and newly married woman. Now with a newborn, it looks a little different:
Check out this post to see how I established a routine that developed as Adeline grew.
4 AM feed the baby; if she cries, Josh takes her downstairs with him while he packs his lunch and eats breakfast, then lays her back down
7 AM 5 minute shower, dress, makeup, feed and dress the baby
8 AM Light candles, turn on Pandora, make breakfast and coffee, check email and social media
9 AM Devotions, reading, blogging, play with baby
10 AM Walk, listen to podcast, get the mail
12 PM Feed the baby and make lunch
Each day I try to combine what I have to do (feed the baby, do dishes, clean the house) with something I like to do or something educational. For instance, I’ll listen to a podcast while I do dishes, read while I nurse, and cultivate a pleasant environment in the house with music and candles. Even though I am home all day and could get around to things “whenever”, I try to schedule them just as I did when I had a full time job. This keeps the house running smoothly and most of all, brings peace to our home environment.
Scheduling relieves stress. That’s the goal! If your schedule is stressing you out, you need to adjust it so that is not the case. Finding a routine that works for your lifestyle is integral to a happy home and a peaceful life.
Do you have a morning routine that works for you? Share in the comments below!