Monday, September 12, 2016

Part III - Scheduling the Day to Day

Being a part of the Q&A panel at the end of last year's Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat was a lot of fun, but this one kind of left me floundering: "Regarding scheduling: when do you get done laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, etc.? Do you guard your mornings from these tasks?"  It's a fairly simple question that seems to call for a simple response, right?

"We do this..." That's not so hard.

But the more I thought about it, the less I was inclined to give a straight answer. You see, what works for me might be a disaster for you. By saying "We do this..." I risked laying a burden on someone who hears, "This is the right way to do it, so you have to do it my way." We all get 24 hours each day, but how we spend them is going to look unique for each family, even if we follow the same principles, like the ones that drive a Charlotte Mason education. How does someone go about creating a schedule for their day?

Eventually, this simple question turned into the series you've been reading. In Part I - Finding the Given Times, I wrote about attending the Living Education Retreat and being inspired to make huge changes to how I organized my day. In Part II - On Your Mark; Get Set..., I discussed some of the things I did to lay the groundwork for successful change: how did I figure out what I needed from a schedule, what I was currently spending my time on, and what needed to change? Now we finally get to sit down and do the fun part―putting pen to paper (or color to spreadsheet box, whichever you prefer) and figuring out what we want our days to look like.

Please join me over on the CME Retreat blog to wrap up our series. As we finish up, I would love to hear your thoughts. What ideas are sparking your interest as you look at planning your own days out?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Part II - On Your Mark; Get Set...

Welcome back to our planning series. In the first part of this series, I talked about my experiences at the Living Education Retreat. So... there I was, feeling all inspired and ready to change my whole life. Maybe you've been here before? You see or try something and it seems like The Answer to All Your Problems. You adopt the system wholesale, but after a while it fails miserably. Yup, me too. I’ve failed so many times at getting organized that I was feeling a little cynical that I ever could do better. This time, I knew I needed to start well so that I would be encouraged to keep going. That made my first order of business to figure out what I wanted from a schedule.

A schedule isn't a moral good in itself. It is a tool for accomplishing a purpose. Like any other tool, I needed to know what I wanted to build before I could decide what tool would help me do it. When it got down to the essentials, what I wanted from my schedule was (1) to have the decision-making done beforehand. Decision fatigue was sucking me dry. I needed to know exactly what was next, so I could put my energy towards actually doing it; and (2) to still have the flexibility to deal with unexpected situations. It’s important to me that I can drop everything to help a friend, or that I can see that my kids are wiped out and what we really need to do today is go swimming with friends. Perfect order and perfect flexibility. No, we're looking for doable, not perfect. That means I wanted my time to be reasonably ordered for a normal kind of day without accounting for every second, but still flexible enough to handle a not-so-normal day.

Where are you now?

The next step for me was to do a Time Evaluation. Sounds fancy, huh? Actually, I just tried to consciously observe how I normally spent my time. Did I do a good job deciding what needed to be done? How much was used for the task I had planned on doing? Where did I use my time well? What caused me to waste it? How much time did it take for me to transition from one task to another? How about my kids? What did we actually DO all day? I might bristle if my husband asked that last question, but it was one that I needed to ask myself. If you like to write stuff down, you might keep a time journal. (That wasn’t going to happen for me. Ahem.) A few days of paying attention made my problem areas surprisingly clear to me.
  1. Transitions - I wasted a lot of time looking at a To Do list (when I had one), and trying to decide what to do next.
  2. Distraction - Even when I knew what to do next, I often got distracted by something that needed put away or cleaned, a project that looked more appealing, or whatever thought happened to pop into my head at the moment. Things that needed to be done by a particular time were being dropped because I got distracted by something that could have waited.
  3. I have kids. They aren’t so good with transitions either, especially starting chores and school time. If I’m not ready to help them get started, they get distracted by something more interesting and I have to start the rounding up process all over again.
  4. The internet. ‘Nuff said, right?
If you are struggling, I encourage you to do your own Time Evaluation. Get as fancy or simple as you need to. Write things down... or don’t. The key is to be honest with yourself. Remember to include things you can’t change, so that you know that you need to figure out a way to work around them. If you have babies and toddlers, you must have a certain amount of flexibility to meet their unpredictable needs. The whole point here is to get an honest picture of your life right now. Being aware and realistic—about the good and the bad—is the first step to changing things.

Once you have an honest evaluation done, it's time to get to the good part... daydreaming about what you do want!

So how about you? Have you ever tracked your time? What did you learn from it?