If you are anything like me, without a routine you are doing good just to be on survival mode.
I NEED a routine to function.
Without it I either:
A- run from task to task while never actually completing a thing and end the day completely exhausted with very little to show for it.
- B) Realize I am absolutely incapable as a human and promptly and firmly plant my butt on the couch. I then turn on the television, pull out my phone (or both!) and spend the rest of the day agonizing over what I need to get done while accomplishing nothing.
Chances are if you are a mom in general— whether you work at home, outside of the home, or you are staying home to raise your babies, YOU run the show.
You set up appointments, play dates, and run the errands. You do the meal planning, budgeting, and make sure the bills are paid. You run the kids where they need to be, volunteer at the school when you can, keep up with the housework and try to find time for an occasional shower.
If you are working you have the added responsibility of trying to fit that into the already bursting at the seams schedule.
If you work at home, finding a routine for your day is absolutely crucial.
Look, my family, is just like yours:
- My husband works outside the home and has countless other obligations that mean I’m often home running the show solo. Although when he is home, he is a great help!
- I have 4 kiddos – 3 in school and one newborn!
- I’m transitioning from being a stay at home mom to a WAHM (work at home mom). All while adjusting to life with a newborn and 4 kids. Fun stuff.
- We have busy social calendars and obligations.
Before establishing a routine, I tried living life on the fly. Dinner was whatever I could dethaw the quickest after I had forgotten to pull anything out of the freezer. We missed dr appts I forgot to write down, ran out of milk for cereal, and ate way too much takeout. My house stayed semi-tidy, but never all at once, and I was constantly drowning in laundry, misplaced toys, and dishes.
This was what our life was.
And I was losing my mind.
Something had to give.
When I finally hit the point that I couldn’t take another day of the madness— I knew I needed to establish a better routine.
While deciding on how to create my routine, I did countless hours of research and trial runs. What I found was that, although they vary a bit here and there, most routines follow a basic structure.
I’m going to walk you through this structure, from which you will be able to create the perfect WAHM routine… for YOU. I will even walk you through my routine for inspiration.
Are you ready? Let’s begin!
Before getting started…
Before you can even think about creating any semblance of a routine you need to write everything down. I’m talking everything. Write down your appointments, your meetings, your kids’ homework assignments, and your project deadlines. If you are anything like me be sure to also pencil in time to shower. (I’m kidding…. kind of)
Just write EVERYTHING down so you can then decide WHEN you will do everything.
Start with obvious. Things you can’t change. For example, you can’t change the time your kids get out of school. Write those down first. This list should also include work project deadlines, meetings and homework assignments.
Next pencil in appointments and errands. These are things you probably don’t want to change but if they conflict with anything above, you can.
Finally, add in anything additional to your schedule. Be sure to schedule things that are important to you, and are not just work-related, such as times for quiet bible study, meditation, exercise, and journaling.
Once you have a basic list of things that need to happen in any given day, week, or month- then you can break it further down and decide the times of day you will complete these tasks.
This can be as detailed as an hour by hour or minute by minute schedule, or you can create a more flexible routine that just states the order of the order of events.
The important thing is that you make it flow in a way that works for YOU.
Make Time for You
It is no mistake that this is first on the list of creating a perfect routine! If you do not take time for you, then you risk the chance of burn out, discontent, and also severely limit your productivity. You will work better and be much more productive if you take time for YOU each day. I prefer to do this first thing in the mornings- and also schedule longer “me times” at least 1-2 times a month.
My daily “me time” consists of early morning bible study, meditation, journaling, and yoga. When I do these first thing in the day I am able to face the rest of the day feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
A couple times a month I pencil in some time away from everything. Work, school, housework, and life in general.
I don’t do much. You don’t have to either. Normally my bi-weekly “me time” consists of going to get a mani/pedi, and grocery shopping after. It’s just nice to get out of the house without kids and feel like my own person for a while. Plus I swear I feel 99% more productive with fresh nails ( anyone else? Just me?)
Now I know you may be rolling your eyes and thinking this would never work for you. Believe me. I’ve been there. I spent YEARS without a single “me day”. I felt like I signed up to be a mom and taking time for me was impossible or even selfish.
I’m here to tell you this simply isn’t true. You can’t fill anyone else’s cup until you take time to fill your own.
I’m also here to tell you- you will only make time for things you WANT to make time for. If you don’t want this for yourself, you won’t make the time for it. Give yourself permission to WANT this time for yourself and do whatever you have to in order to get it.
I do realize you may not have the resources or finances to make this a reality. It is still important that you still find something you CAN do. Maybe your me time is giving yourself permission to enjoy a relaxing bath and a good book during your baby’s longest nap period instead of doing housework.
Find something that works and MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Have set working hours and give what you are doing 100%
This one is super important and probably one that I have the most trouble with! I tend to be a workaholic. Not on purpose… but I truly love my WAH job and have trouble shutting off my creative brain when the “work day” is over.
It is SO important to set time aside just for your family though. Without set working hours, you will find yourself working constantly and actually being less productive. The reason being, you are trying to be in two places at once. When you are cooking dinner, you are thinking about project proposals, when you are trying to type up a report you are helping little Sally with her homework.
Do yourself a favor and decide the hours that you will work and when that time is up, put your work away. It is much easier to do this if you have a designated space for working. Having a designated working spaces makes it easier to “turn off” your working brain and step back into mommy mode as you are able to physically shut a door or walk away from a desk.
You do not have to think about working hours in the same way as working in an office outside of your house. One of the reasons you work at home is undoubtedly for the flexibility it provides. Your office hours do not have to be consecutive, nor do they have to be 8-5. Just choose the hours that are the easiest to be productive for YOU, and work from there.
For me, I choose to work from 4-6 a.m., 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and 8:30-10:30 at night. More important than my “work hours” are my family hours. I try to consistently be available to my family from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. every night. This sets clear expectations not only for myself but also provides stability for my family and makes it easier for them to accept the hours I have designated for work.
Eat that FROG!
If you have never heard the term, “Eat That Frog”, you are probably trying to figure out what planet I come from as I type these ridiculous instructions. However, “eating the frog” has absolutely nothing to do with eating… or frogs for that matter. Instead, what I am trying to say is- take the most important task or tasks you have for a day and DO THEM FIRST. Whatever it is that you are dreading for the day. Get it done first thing. This will leave you feeling super accomplished and ready to take on the day and anything life throws at you.
If instead, you choose to procrastinate and push the harder or unpleasant tasks off, you will spend the day dreading them and will be much less likely to be productive. Another super helpful tip or way of explaining it is this- find a morning routine that is so amazing that even if you got NOTHING else done for the rest of the day, it would still be a good day.
I always get my serious writing done first thing in the morning, along with a morning chore list that is very short and brief- however, even if I clean nothing else for the entire day- my house is still presentable. This makes me feel good about myself, and my productivity. After I have tackled this morning routine, I feel like I can do anything and will usually, in turn, have a super productive day.
I have also accomplished “enough” so that even if something unexpected happens- the baby doesn’t nap, one of the older kids has a fever and has to stay home, or I have to run an unexpected errand- I still feel accomplished enough for the day to not feel guilty. I am able to put my entire focus on the task at hand instead of spending the day worrying about what I didn’t get done.
Find a system that works for you!
One way to get the most out of your routine is to find a productivity system that works for you. For me, I use the Pomodoro Technique and find it helps me to stay super productive, and on task. I also have an instrumental audio track I listen to only when I work- this always helps me switch into the “creative mindset”. You may find it easier to work straight for a few (or even several hours) or find you work more productively as you turn on the history channel in the background. The idea is- find a system or technique that works for you and weave it into your WAHM routine.
Make a plan for time suckers
Although I chose to put this one last on the list, it doesn’t make it any less important. In order to have an amazingly perfect WAHM routine- you have to come up with a plan for time suckers. Time suckers include anything that causes you to waste countless hours without even realizing it. Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling facebook(?), answering emails every five minutes(?), texting throughout the work day(?). Whatever it is that causes you to lose productivity, you need to find a way to eliminate the distraction. Use airplane mode on your phone or laptop during work hours. Delete social media apps on your phone and only log in through the browser. Turn off notifications for the apps you decide to keep. You can even choose to work in a browser that is designed to limit distractions such as the Stay Focused extension on Google Chrome. Make a plan for the time suckers, and stick to it. You will find your productivity increases exponentially.
Need Inspiration for your WAHM routine? Here is mine:
4-6 a.m.- Morning Work – I do my focused writing in the morning before everyone wakes up.
6 a.m.- Yoga, bible, meditation
6:30- Wake big kids up, get them dressed and off to school- I usually try to get myself dressed during this time too.
7:00- 8:00- Morning Housework ( Swish and Swipe Bathroom, Unload Dishwasher/Load Breakfast dishes, Switch and Fold Laundry, Make my Bed, Quick Pick up of the house, and a few minutes in my room of the day)
8-9- Playtime with the baby
9-11:30- Morning Work ( Usually tasks that do not require a lot of thinking- proofreading, editing, data entry…etc)
11:30-1:30- Creative Meeting with my team
1:30-3:30- Open/ Usually I take a lunch break, run some errands, play with baby etc
3:30-4:00- Pick up kids from school
4-8- NO WORK. Family time. Homework, Dinner, baths, bedtime routine etc
8-10:30- Work. If the baby is asleep I will do some more creative writing
10:30 p.m.- 4 a.m.- Sleep
That’s a Wrap!
I remember how overwhelmed I was when I first started creating my routine. All the hours I spent searching…. my advice to you? Stop searching.
Take the main points above- and make the schedule your own! You can search schedules and routines for hours, and you will NEVER find one that is perfect for YOU. Routines and schedules should fit your personality and flow easily. You will also change your schedule and routine often and that’s okay! Your babies are growing, ages and stages will change! The best routines are those that leave time for the unexpected and go with the flow of the day. I hope you can use these tips and tricks to create a perfect routine for yourself!
Do you work at home? What is your routine like? Have you found something useful you would like to share with us? Put it in the comments!
Jenna is a former Early Childhood Educator who now spends her days chasing after her four rambunctious children all while pursuing a freelance writing career, guest posting, writing for the website Mommyish, and running her own blog. As a writer, she is passionate about bringing charisma and color to everything she writes. You can find out more about Jenna by visiting her website or by clicking the social media buttons below.