I wanted to share one of my favorite tools for organizing life as a mom: time-blocking. This approach has worked for me in so many stages of life – when I was a new stay-at-home with little kids, when I was homeschooling, and now as a stay-at-home mom with school-aged kids who are away from the house for a few hours each day.
Time-blocking is a way to give yourself a routine that includes plans for all the major things you need to get done every week – without setting a rigid, minute-by-minute schedule. Here’s my current time-block layout for this school year:
YES, I know: I’m an ultra-nerd who likes color coding and owns a lot of pens and highlighters. You can do this with pencil and the back of your kids’ school newsletter, though. (Well, maybe keep the school newsletter on the fridge so you won’t miss the Book Fair. But you know what I’m saying. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Use what you have.)
I like using a legal pad because I can do 3o-minute time slots from the time I wake up until my kids’ bedtime. I write times down the left margin and the five weekdays across the top. (I don’t currently time-block our weekends, but you could if that fits your family!)
The first thing I write in is school drop off and pick up. These are the rails on the road of my kid-free time, so I need to respect the time they take. Next, I put in two hard and fast time commitments: my volunteer afternoon at my kids’ school, and the Ladies’ Bible study I joined in the fall.
Then I considered time for fitness. I have been attending a group fitness class, so it went on the weekly grid, and then I added two days to run and one day to bike.
On Wednesday, I typically try to schedule errands and appointments in the morning while our housecleaners are here working their deep-scrubbing magic. I like seeing them and chatting each week, but then I try to get out of their hair because they work as a great team and I don’t want to disrupt their flow. When I get home, the lovely clean house makes me want to tackle my chores – I stumbled across an Instagram friend who calls the day she manages all the home stuff that tends to pile up her “lady of the house” day. It cracked me up and I borrowed it!
That left me with Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons wide open. Thursday is Chris’ day off, and we don’t get hang out and go on dates every week – but I like reminding myself of the opportunity. So it’s penciled in for day dates! Then I have blocks on Tuesdays & Fridays I labeled for chore catchup (’cause let’s be honest, there’s always a few more chores to tackle!), hobbies, projects, and friends.
Y’all. That has been the very best investment I’ve made in my mental health this school year. I’ve been more conscious to schedule time with friends – a few coffee dates, breakfast dates, lunches, walks, and just hanging out with people – every week. The reality is that I can’t spend three hours, two days a week, just chilling with my homies. I do have some adulting to do. BUT having that reminder in my time block reminds me to try to get together with someone each week. It’s also reminded me that the projects and hobbies I love don’t just happen – I have to carve out time to do them.
Back to the blocks: at that point, I had two tiny spots in my school-day that were blank, so I filled them with “write.” I haven’t used them as consistently as I would like until November started and I jumped into another NaNoWriMo. But that big block at 5:00 a.m.!? I’ve been writing almost every single day thanks to this commitment. It’s been wonderful! And at 6:00 a.m., I step away from my fictional world and start my morning routine. (It actually also includes my quiet time – prayer and reading my Bible – too. I can’t remember why I didn’t write that down initially.)
The after-school/evening section undergoes the most shifting. When I created this page, my youngest was playing baseball. That season has ended, but in a few weeks she is heading back on the ice for skating lessons one night a week and her big sister is starting art lessons one evening a week.
This tool has been so wonderful for me. I love the flexibility — if a certain doctor can’t see me on my preferred Wednesday, then I try to shift all my errands to whatever day the appointment needs to be, so that I can still focus on utilizing one day to be out of the house a bunch and another day to stay home and do my projects or chore catchup.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share more of the ways I stay personally organized and keep my family organized! Check back soon.