Obviously, I’m a big fan of a schedule. Without one, I wander through some days like I’m lost and unsure what to do, and then overload myself trying to do all the things at once. A schedule keeps me on track and balanced.
But this is only true if your schedule is working for you. I have pretty grand ideas sometimes that don’t always play out the way I expect. What sounds great in theory may turn out to be a disaster.
If my schedule is not working, then I’m not either. I’m just reacting.
One such disaster occurred when I tried to make a to-the-minute schedule of my day. I felt like I was going to be super productive, maximize my day, and just generally be a rockstar.
And just as you could have guessed (hindsight is 20-20), around 30 minutes into my new schedule, I was crashing and burning. Unexpected interruptions kept popping up and throwing me off, and nothing was fitting in its allotted time. Not to mention I was one frustrated, frazzled mama trying to single-handedly lift the train back onto the rails.
Believe it or not, I’m pretty stubborn. I kept trying this schedule for about a week, thinking if I just tried harder or did better, that it would work. Boy, was I wrong. While I had a schedule, it was totally wrong for my life and personality, and was destined for failure right out of the gate. As soon as I realized this and moved on, I was able to adjust and make a more productive (and happier) schedule for everyone!
Why Evaluation is Important
Schedules are designed to declutter your life and give everything a space – just like when you declutter your house. They bring order and structure to an otherwise chaotic existence of running around trying to get everything done. That said, schedules don’t always achieve this purpose! Sometimes we make schedules, trying desperately to control everything around us that feels like it’s falling apart, only to find we’re more exhausted and weary as a result. Evaluation is a great tool to lessen future burnout.
Schedules aren’t set in stone or written in Sharpie. A schedule is merely a tool for making your life easier. If it’s not doing that – if it’s stressing you out or just not working – by all means, adjust! We don’t live and die by a schedule, we rule it! If you’re in a place where you feel controlled by your schedule, keep reading. I’ve been there, and I’ve got some tips for you.
What To Do When Your Schedule Is Not Working
When you’re in the thick of things, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. We might be able to discern how we’re feeling overall (frazzled, stressed, overwhelmed, or withdrawn, to name a few), but not be able to pinpoint why. Being able to visually see my schedule has been a huge help to me in narrowing down what might be the cause of the problem. When I’m ready to evaluate, here’s my plan.
- If you haven’t already, write everything that you do down.
- Make note of spaces and times that things are especially difficult, always have you rushing, or that make you frazzled. Look for overlapping events or when you have to rush from one place to another (like if one kid’s therapy ends at 10, and the other kid has practice at 10:15, with a 20 minute drive between the two), and spaces in your calendar where you don’t give yourself enough time for the activity (allowing 10 minutes to vacuum the entire house when it really takes 30 minutes).
- Highlight the unchangeables (appointments, practices, events, etc)
- See what’s left, and where you can move it
Once this is all written out where I can see everything in a glance, I can then move on and think critically about my schedule, and what isn’t working!
What to Change?
We need margins. If you don’t feel like you have space to breathe in your day because of your schedule – it’s too full. There are certainly seasons of busyness, and at times, our schedule is out of our control due to outside circumstances. But as we are able, we need to make sure there is blank space in our schedule. This will give you a buffer to allow for things that take more time than planned, as well as give you some time that isn’t running around frantically, but rather an opportunity to savor the day and opportunities before you.
From your evaluation above, take a long look at those moveable things in your schedule. Is there something that you could move to a different day or time that just makes more sense for your family? Maybe moving everything to one day, and knowing that day will be busy, but then the rest of the week flows easier, will work for you. Perhaps you’ve piled everything in your schedule at the beginning of the week, and each week you start out stressed and tired. Moving things to the end of the week, or spreading them out may help you tremendously.
Once you’ve moved some things around, the only way you can test a schedule is to try it on. Write it down, set reminders for yourself, and get busy doing it. It may look like the best schedule ever – until you add life into the mix.
Give yourself a week or two to get used to the new rhythm of things before deciding if it’s working or not. Sometimes, the newness can make things hard or awkward. Other times, just the opposite is true. The change makes things feel better, when in reality, it’s just different. If you allow yourself time to settle into the schedule, then you can really see if it is helping or hurting.
If you find that you still haven’t got it quite right after a couple of weeks, then don’t be afraid to repeat the process. Your schedule is just that – YOURS – and no one else can tell you how to best organize your life. If turning things completely upside down from what is normal works for you and your family, that is perfectly acceptable.
If you do family breakfast instead of lunch, or sleep in and stay up late, or love the 50 different extracurriculars your family squeezes in each week, then don’t change just because someone else says that doesn’t work for them. Keep trying, and you’ll find what works best for you – unique characteristics and all.
Consider Letting Go of Some Good Things (for greatness)
When fitting everything into your day and schedule that you have to do is nearly impossible, it might be time to consider your priorities. There are so, so, so many GOOD things that we can do, and often get busy doing, that we crowd out the GREAT.
We weren’t made to do it all, friends. When your schedule is pressing down on you and choking the life out of you, it’s time to say no to some good things. It will be hard. You will feel like you’re letting people down. But you have to find balance to be able to serve and love well in the roles that God has given you.
Progress, not Perfection
One word of caution about going back to the drawing board – at some point, you just have to be done.
Sometimes, you just have to let go of the desire to make a perfect schedule (as long as there’s housework to do, there will be no perfect schedule, am I right?) and just go with what you’ve got. I can get stuck in a trap of rearranging and planning for days, and actually accomplishing nothing that needs to do be done. This isn’t helping anyone or anything either.
When you’ve got some order that is working well with your family, then run with it. We will never be perfect. We can’t stay in planning mode forever. Get out there and live your best life – knowing that your schedule is there to help, and that it’s not your dictator when things get a little bit derailed!
Keep your eye on the great – loving God, and loving others, starting with your family. With these priorities in mind, slim down your schedule as needed, to free you up for what really matters.