As always, I hope you will find it worth your time to read and be blessed!
Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As many of you know, I love a good planner and there are so many fun, creative ways to have all the information you need nowadays at your fingertips. Despite the enumerable technological advancements made in helping one get a grip on one's schedule, I remain a paper girl at heart. Part of that may stem from the fact that I don't own a smart phone, but I am seriously not willing to pay that price at this point in my life. Besides, the techie way is not all that pretty. I like pretty. I like cursive. And stickers.
See? Isn't that nice? :)
Years ago before I was a mother and even afterwards when I had smaller children, a monthly calendar really met all my planning needs. I often wondered if I'd ever be the person who would ever use the hourly planning charts. Frankly, it seemed a little bit ridiculous and a lot restrictive.
Oh, how times have changed.
This year I am not only planning my own homeschool schedule, but I will be taking into account two homeschool co-ops, PSEO college courses for my older daughter, and my own college schedule. We can't forget church and church commitments (for me it's greeting once-a-month, singing once-a-month, and preparing communion once every few months), youth-group activities, Bible study, and community volunteering commitments. Did I mention exercise? How about groceries and menu planning and actually cooking the food. Blogging? How about a shower? I have a feeling that last one belongs closer to the top of the list!
I started planning hourly this way when, last year, I was having a hard time getting dinner on the table before 8:00 p.m. some nights. And then it was late after clean-up and there was hardly any time for me before bed and before I needed to start all over again. I needed to have down time, to feel I was actually having some form of real life or pleasure in my days; that I wasn't just ticking off a list. I know others feel this way. And yes, there are times - periods, even seasons - in our lives that things just are busy. But they should not - and usually cannot - be sustained. Last year, I knew I needed at least two, sometimes 3, hours to just be before bedtime. I wanted that time to knit, to read, to watch something, or even just gaze at pretty things on Pintrest and dream.
I started by planning backwards.
I marked in the time that I wanted to have in the evenings and knew that dinner therefore, needed to be at a particular time and making dinner therefore, needed to be at a particular time and that would mean that I needed to start things earlier. On some days that meant starting dinner at 3:30 in the afternoon. And that was okay.
It was okay, because the best thing about having a plan, is not that it restricts you. Contrary to what I imagined previously, the plan actually frees me to be fully in the moment!
Before planning my day this way I might sit down, tired, after the days activities, to have a cup of tea and look at e-mail or what have you for the next hour or so. It was the "or so" part that got me in trouble every time, because though I knew I should be "allowed" some time to relax in my day, I never knew how much and there would always be this niggling feeling in the back of my mind telling me I should get up and start supper. But when? And heaven forbid if I didn't already have a menu. Staring in the fridge is a time-waster and more than once I've forgotten that the "quick meal" I was going to throw together actually had the words, "bake for one hour" at the end of the recipe.
Now, however, I know that when I am cooking I am not supposed to be doing something else. Likewise, when I am relaxing, I can fully relax because I know the times I should be working are already taken care of.
Over the past few weeks, as I have learned what our new schooling schedule requirements are going to be, I have been filling them in on my "Tracking My Week" sheet. I just needed an overview of what I am in for after Labor Day. Some of our schooling, such as the co-ops, won't actually start until that week even though we're starting on the 26th of this month, but I needed to see what was going to fit where in my days to see if things were actually even possible.
So, I start with the things that I must do and work the more flexible things around them. I know that this sounds so common-sense as not to even really be worth a long blog post like this, but I still think that many people only pay attention to those main things that they must do and then let the rest slide, even if those things are things that we say are priorities in our lives. Things like exercise, planning time, family or couple time, or rest, just get pushed aside when we are tired and don't want to think about what could fit where. And then we get unhappy and unhealthy and wonder why we can't manage to stick to our exercise plan or diet or why we feel distant from our partner or are grumpy with our kids. These kinds of things are important to put into your schedule too!
This is why the monthly planner with a 1.5 inch square just won't cut it for me anymore. I realize that at some point I will not need to have my hours spoken for, but for this season of my life it remains important in order to achieve the balance in my days that I seek.
There are some blank spots in my schedule and for that I am thankful! Part of that is that I don't know yet what kind of time commitment my new class will require of me. I also suspect that some blanks that are filled may not require as much time as I've allotted to them and that would be a bonus too!
Notice, also, that I've scheduled in a time for planning, because I simply really need to keep on top of it in order for things to go smoothly.
In addition, and something I'm SUPER excited about, is that I've planned an entire ten weeks worth of dinner menus! I've planned the last two weeks of August and then the month of September's menus will be repeated in October. I'll switch things up at that point to reflect more seasonal and holiday dishes. So, now I just need to look at the following week's menu on Friday when I plan and add any needed items for a grocery stop on Saturday.
Also, the last Saturday of the month I have already penciled in a "Food Prep" day for August and September. I plan to do just that: chopping and freezing some items, baking a few items and mixing up doughs for the freezer, cooking and freezing beans, and topping off some baking and seasoning mixes.
As noted, schedules regularly need tweaking and they, like our lives are always a work in process. I'll try and give an update somewhere in September so I can see how it's all going. For right now, I'm encouraged and even finally, a little bit excited now that it seems I may just be able to juggle pretty well after all!