Routines and Schedules: Which do you prefer?

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Schedules

Once upon a time I bought a book. There wasn’t anything unusual about this, as I am a book lover. I buy more bookshelves for my books (because you can never have too many books!!), and I’ve often loaned out books as apparently I have better collections of certain kinds of books than some libraries.

This particular book is well-known among veteran homeschooler and large-family circles. Entitled “Managers of their Home” (also in the series Managers of their Chores, and Managers of their School), and written by a homeschooling mother of many, the book focuses on creating a schedule for everyone in the home. The idea is that if you schedule every minute of their day, no one has a chance to get into mischief, and everyone (ideally) should know what they need to be doing at any given time, including mom.

Schedules are by their very nature, tied to a clock. When is key. A schedule tells you exactly when something is to occur and for how long it should take. The dictionary definition is “a plan for carrying out a process and/or procedure”. It’s a time table, where the relationship between time and the event is fixed.

Pros and Cons of Scheduling

Everyone needs a schedule of some sort. After all, doctors’ appointments, work deadlines, soccer games and dance classes all happen at certain regular times, and if you miss it, you can’t really make it up later. Schedules help large groups of people meet at certain times to accomplish specific things. Time-sensitive needs work better with strict schedules.

39cac-id-10082056Schedules mean that there are not supposed to be any surprises. There’s clarity. A person with a schedule knows exactly when certain things happen, and when other types of events can happen. For example, when you have a schedule for your day, you know when meals happen, when children need naps or have baseball practice, and you know that Sunday dinner with Grandma will work this week but not next week.

Schedules are reliable: your family and coworkers get to know when you are free to join them and when you might not be so available.  These timetables show the clear definitions between activities, and can help give warning signs when they (and your family) may be overloaded, overwhelmed and over-scheduled.

But schedules can create almost as many problems as they solve. Fixed schedules don’t leave room for interruptions or spontaneity. There is a distinct lack of flexibility. And that can create feelings of rushing around or being “late”, which can then lead to more frustration and conflicts with others. They require a lot of planning to create, and can also lead to wasted time!

Just Not for Me

“Managers of their Home” is all about creating a schedule. And I soon grew very frustrated with the whole process. Maybe it was a lack of detail about remembering to include preparation time (for meals for example), or maybe it was that at the time I had the book, I also had 4 children under 10, and 3 under 5, including a special needs child, or maybe it was just me. I soon sold the book and turned to other ways to manage.  I thought, schedules just aren’t for me.

There is another way to “schedule” things. Setting up a series of routines is a way to take advantage of the pros of a schedule, while trying to keep the cons to a minimum. A routine is simply a series of events following a set, regular procedure. It’s a fixed program, a constant, unvarying, repeated formula. But, and this is key, it’s not tied to a clock.

Routines

A routine is simply a way of tying habits together. This follows that follows this follows that, in regular order, so that you don’t have to even think about what you’re doing. Human beings naturally do this. We follow the same streets to the store, to work, to church every time.  People generally have a specific order for how they shower, how they get ready for the day, how they leave the house, or even how they eat a meal. And most of the time, you’re hardly aware of what you need to do next. Good routines become automatic. It’s not when that counts, as in a schedule, but in what order that matters most.

Pros and Cons of Routines

Routines reduce forgetfulness, are much more flexible and easier to interrupt (and then return to where you left off), and they are without the “rushing” or “early/late” feelings that strict scheduling can create. They are however, harder to create and plan — there are a lot of unknowns that don’t always get accounted for. And they don’t carry the same sense of reliability and predictability that a stricter schedule does.

The best thing about a routine (over a schedule) is that a dynamic system is easier to adapt to routines. What more dynamic a system is there than a house full of young children?? Children have got to be some of the most unpredictable creatures out there, yet they thrive on predictable schedules and structures. So creating routines for them (and their mother) is a very good way to put structure in place.

Start at the Beginning

I began with a morning routine. I’m not a morning person, particularly, so for me, this was a good place to start. When I can maintain a good morning routine, my children are less prone to mischief and annoyances, while I’m still waking up and adjusting to my day. I used (and loved!)  Money-Saving-Mom’s “Makeover your Morning” e-course to help.

We have a loose bedtime routine, but I’d like to make it tighter, and more predictable, so I’ll also be working on that (with the Makeover your Evening e-course, sister to the Makeover your Morning one). I’m looking at the other routines we have — for going out, for school, for chores, for meals — to see where we can tweak and make changes. There are probably lots of areas we can do better. Routines are always being adapted as our family changes and grows.

I’m not a schedule person. I don’t have good time-awareness, and I can get easily lost on a rabbit trail. But a routine is a natural part of how human beings work, and I know that when I put some deliberate thought into it, I craft routines for my family that take the guesswork out of the day and create the stability we crave.

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