Setting Up a Routine

Though I shared our new routine with you, I also know that a routine never cuts-and-pastes into someone else’s life. My routine will not be yours. So I thought I’d share my process, how I ended up creating our routine, in hopes that it might help someone create her own.

I mentioned at the start of my last post that we have struggled for a few months finding our groove, that I had a few attempted and failed schedule attempts before getting this one together. Here’s how the trial and error process takes shape for me.

1. Examine what I’m already doing.  We all settle into routines naturally; we tend to do the same things the same way and at relatively the same time everyday.  My first step to creating a new routine is to look at what I’m already doing, whether that is an intentional plan or something I’ve haphazardly meandered into. Also, I try to keep in mind the natural rhythms of my children, particularly Littlest. A major change in his sleeping pattern would throw us all off; I would be more prone to succeed if I planned around what he was naturally doing—when did he get sleepy, when was he ready to play, when did he need to eat. My windows of time would have to fit within his patterns.

If I did need to make a major change in his patterns (and I have in the past with my other kids), I would try to do it in increments and phases, inching him into a new routine 15 minutes at a time. (And even our current routine took a little training, a few mornings of fussing before he decided to conform.)

2. Evaluate what I want to see changed. This step is huge. I look at my current routine and try to figure out what it is that I don’t like. What’s not working for us? What is driving me crazy? What is ruining the flow of our day?

For instance, one thing I didn’t like about our old routine was the late start in the mornings. We were starting school at 10 a.m., when Littlest went down for his nap.  I didn’t like that it was that late before I managed a shower. I didn’t like that we didn’t have enough time to finish everything before lunch. I didn’t like that the kids were complaining about starting school because I had to stop them in the middle of what they were playing. The 10 a.m. had to change.

3. Establish a realistic plan. Though I didn’t like starting school at 10 a.m., I also knew that 8 a.m. was unrealistic. So I set our goal for a 9 a.m. start. Then I had to work through what needed to change to make 9 a reality. How early did I need to get up?

Again, I evaluated what would be realistic. Five in the morning was just not going to happen. I tried it a few mornings and utterly failed. But 6 a.m. I could do. I then listed what things I wanted to have accomplished before school and then listed how much time each of those tasks normally takes me. This helped me to make sure that what I was cramming into our morning routine would actually fit within that three hour window between when I woke up and when I wanted school to start.

I went through these same steps for each segment of my day. I examined, evaluated, and then established a routine for our school time. I did the same for my afternoon time and housework.

Also, I kept our new schedule flexible for the first couple of days. I scribbled notes on top of my schedule: what worked well, what was too tight, what would probably work with practice, etc. I adjusted and tried again the next day, tweaking each day and helping the kids understand the expectations.

After about a week of performing a schedule with little to no changes, I knew I had something that would work. And then I worked to make it routine. What’s routine? When we no longer have to consult the schedule to know what’s next. Everything flows.

Because every family is different, a routine really does have to flow from the rhythms of your own life. You will never be able to pull a schedule off the internet and make it your own. There are certain events that are must for every family, and then there are just certain rituals that make your family what it is, certain ways that make you distinctly you. Why change that?

Loving your family is knowing them—knowing what works, knowing what you want to accomplish together, knowing what will stretch them (in a good way) and what will be an exercise in defeat.

How do you find the natural patterns and rhythms of your family and create a routine?