Having the bare bones for a Routine doesn’t do much if you don’t know how to actually turn it into a routine. But to do that, first you have to know how to manage your days in the first place. This is where Time Management actually comes in.
Time Management is crucial to getting the big list of to do’s done in an efficient and orderly fashion… Or, at least, in a fashion that gives you leftover time- either for yourself, for your family, or for both.
But time management hardly matters on a weekly basis. It does to some extent, of course, but where it really impacts you is on the daily basis; if you can’t complete one day’s tasks, you have to do them the next day- which leaves you less time for that day’s tasks. Eventually, if you’re not careful or you wind up with less time than anticipated, they pile up and you become overrun.
For this aspect of Routine creation, I like to use a combination of the lists we made in the last installment of this series- and good, old fashioned daily scheduling; the Weekly and Daily lists will give you the run down of what you need to accomplish, and scheduling allows you to actually sit down and think about how you’re going to tackle it along with everything else you might need to do in a day.
As a result, each morning while I’m drinking my cup of Tea (or, more recently, Coffee) I’ll take a look at what I need to accomplish that day according to the lists. Of course, though, there are always other things that need to be done as well; things which are important for my Household but which don’t actually deal with its upkeep in the traditional sense- like Doctor’s Appointments, and so on. Once I have a good idea of what I need to do, I get down to actually planning out my day.
First, I start by breaking everything down into three sections: Critical, Important, and Other.
Critical tasks are going to be those that are the most time sensitive; things like doctors appointments, picking a friend up from the airport, or things such as that.
Important tasks are going to be those which need to be done today- but which aren’t time sensitive or absolutely critical for you to do; these are going to be tasks like your Grocery Shopping, your Laundry, and so on.
And finally, the Other category is going to include things that… Well… Don’t fall into any other category. These items aren’t time sensitive- nor do they require a whole block of time set aside to make sure you can accomplish them. Instead, they’re things like scrubbing the baseboards, or wiping down your walls, and so on tend to fall into this group; you’d like to do them if you could, but they’re things that could feasibly wait until the next day if they really needed to.
Next, I’ll use a spreadsheet or Google Docs to plan out my day accordingly. When doing so, however, there are some scheduling tricks that I use- most notably in how certain categories themselves are scheduled.
For instance, for Critical items I use “Clock Time” to manage these tasks. They are, after all, time sensitive. As a result, it makes no sense to stuff them into any available corner in our schedule. Instead, I tend to schedule my days around these items- making them the focal point of my day. And because they are often time sensitive, using “Clock Time” to determine when I should do them (and when they should be accomplished by) makes it easier to actually get them done.
With Important tasks, though, I use a combination of “Clock Time” and “Relative Time” in order to schedule them. By this, I mean that I set aside large blocks of time in my day in which to do them; I don’t schedule them as strictly as I would items in the Critical category, but I do set aside a significant chunk of dedicated time in order to ensure that I can get them done without conflict.
For the Other category, I tend to not schedule them at all. Instead, I stuff them into any corner of my daily schedule and do them whenever I get an extra few minutes… For instance: If I allotted a block of 4 hours to do laundry but complete it in 3, I’ll use the remaining hour to get something done from this category of tasks.
Sometimes, however, things are going to take longer than we expect. Maybe we had to run to the store for cleaning supplies because we didn’t realize we were out of something… Or maybe it took an extra 2 hours at a Doctor’s Appointment. When this happens, it’s not such a big deal with this method; sure, that extra hour at the Doctor’s Office cut into our Laundry time, but those two or three loads we missed out on can still be done next week- or they could be completed at another point in the day if we finish another task earlier than expected.
But still, sometimes even the best Routine- no matter how well planned and executed- ultimately fails to work out; we flounder, we don’t have the energy, we get sick, or any number of other things which mean, for whatever reason, that it just ain’t happening today. And when that happens, it’s ok to sigh, shrug, and leave it be fore another day- and there’s no shame in that.