Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Establishing A Restoring Rhythm

"Because how we spend our days is, of course,  how we spend our lives."


During the years when we were homeschooling, keeping a routine was pretty simple. I had every hour and minute of our day mapped out and carefully planned, including quiet time for myself every morning and for everyone in the afternoon. Meals were prepared, the house got cleaned and the laundry was washed, dried and put away. Looking back I'm not even sure how I managed, but oddly enough during the busiest years of my life, I was the most organized.

But since Kate finished school, my days have lacked structure.  At first, it didn't bother me that much, in fact, it seemed silly to think that they should. After all, I really don't have that much to keep up with anymore. I've continued on, doing all the things I'd always done, albeit haphazardly, but in the end its left me feeling overwhelmed. I've written on this topic a couple of times now, as I've been struggling with this for awhile. And yet for all of my efforts I still haven't come up with a plan that sticks. I bought a planner but ended up not liking the layout. So then I did what I always did when we homeschooled and made my own, but as I said, with so little to manage it seemed silly to devote an entire planner to the two or three things that need to be completed each day. I could accomplish that with post it notes!, I thought, and for awhile I did resort to 3x5 cards, but that didn't work, either. And yet, without a system in place those 2-3 things that seemed so easy to manage quickly becomes four or five which leads to two or three of them not getting done. Can you see my dilemma? Clearly something has to give!

Even as we are downsizing and transitioning to taking our life out on the road, I know that I am going  to need some semblance of structure in order for things to run smoothly. It really doesn't matter "where" I live, the important thing for me is to be intentional with my time, rather than reactive. We've downsized several times on this journey already from a large house, to a smaller house and now to an even smaller apartment. And if there's one thing I've learned its the smaller the space, the easier it is to quickly become cluttered. Every thing needs a place, and to maintain that, every task must be planned and completed. Clean sheets, laundry, meals, they are all important, as is taking time for doing things that I enjoy such as writing and crafting, and none of this is changed by the size of the space in we live. In fact, living on the road and traveling all over this beautiful country, I am sure that I'm going to want to allow for even more spontaneity, and that is why establishing routines is so important. Routines are a way of organizing your time so that you can be more spontaneous, the more organized you are, the more spontaneous you can be. It sounds backwards, but I'm discovering that its really not.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that it be rigid, either. We're talking structure here, a scaffolding that allows for plenty of room to breathe, not metal bars that restrain and hinder. Simply put, I need a sense of knowing what needs to be done in a given day, and then to do it, which will then make room for the things that I truly enjoy. I think that by having a routine in place and certain tasks assigned to certain days I will be less likely to procrastinate, and I do tend to procrastinate at times. Even at my age, I'm like a child that wants to eat my dessert first! By following an established routine, hopefully I won't try to negotiate with myself and waste precious time trying to decide whether to do it now or do it later. If I have a routine and I know it's important then it gets done, end of argument.

Something else that I've discovered, or perhaps I'm now willing to admit is that its becoming harder for me to keep up with things. In addition to everything else, I'm also writing a book, so my mind is filled with a LOT of information! But with a routine and having things mapped out I can eliminate some of that brain clutter because the work will already be done for me, simply open my planner, turn to the day, move from one thing to the next and check it off. I did this for years when we homeschooled, and as I said at the beginning of this post, my days were smoother and more productive because I knew exactly what we were dedicating our time to. Of course, this doesn't mean that everything will be perfect or that there will never be interruptions, but at least by thinking through my days it will be easier to see where I can re-arrange things when the unexpected crops up. Routine restores rhythm!
So where to begin? Well, as you might imagine I've been doing a lot of reading and research on the subject and I've come across some really good questions to help me get started.

1. Know Yourself
Simply put, its important to know if you're a morning person or a night person, and I am definitely a morning person! So much so that I typically rise two to three hours before anyone else, but with that it also means that whatever I choose to do in that time, needs to be pretty self contained and on the quieter side. I'm usually pretty energetic until around noon to 2:00 p.m., but after that my energy starts to fade quickly.

★ 2. Set the Day Up The Night Before
Even though I've tried before with little success, my goal is to put together a simple planner with specific tasks assigned to each day. (I'll be sharing pictures soon!). But I know that inevitably other things are going to creep in, and that's why I think taking a few minutes to review my planner either at the end of the day or maybe an hour before bed will help. In the past I've made plans for each day, but then once everything was checked off I forgot about it. Ok, lets be honest, sometimes I even forgot about and never checked a thing off! A tool is only good if you use it, right?  So first, using and then reviewing the plan at the end of the day sounds good. So often what happens is Bill might need my help with something the next day, I am obviously willing, but give little thought to the tasks that were scheduled or how and when they will get done. Once I got a phone call while I was out running errands to reschedule an appointment for the next and because I didn't write it down, I missed it and ended up having to wait several more weeks for another. Yes, it's high time I established the habit of writing things down.

I am also prone to jumping on my phone or computer first thing every morning, initially to check the time, or because my devotional is on my bible app, but then a notification comes through and I get distracted. So that has me re-thinking my quiet time, or sacred start, as I prefer to call it, and eliminating the need for electronics. I'm thinking if I set up a pretty spot  the night before it will be more eliminate the need for my phone!

★ 3. Be Flexible!
I'll admit, I struggle in this area, primarily because I honestly think I have adult onset ADD, but then don't we all in this day and age? What I do know is that flexibility often leads to distraction and things not getting done. But I **think** that's because without a system in place, I've been relying solely on my brain to keep up with everything. If I have things written down and something comes up then hopefully it will be easier to manage by just moving them to a different day or time. This is another example of how structure allows for flexibility.

★ 4. Don't Beat Yourself Up
And I really need to heed this! Establishing new habits, routines and rhythms takes time, and in the beginning, especially, it's not going to be easy.That very thought is often what trips me up because my goal IS to make things easier, but I need to remember that it's all trial and error. I should know this after all my 20+ years of homeschooling as there was seldom a day that went EXACTLY as I had planned it on paper. Some days everything got derailed, and that will happen again and it's ok. It will take time while to figure out how well things translate from paper to real life, and it might mean thatt some things will need to be revised. In fact, I'm sure of it. But hopefully by sticking close to the sequence, routine will eventually flow into rhythm and become second nature. That's the goal, anyway!

This week I'm going to be working on setting up a simple planner. I've decided against spending hours creating forms and printing things that may not function as I thought they would and wasting all of that time, not to mention the paper and ink! My initial idea is just pencil and paper, though I will have dividers and I'll probably make a little effort to make a pretty cover with some scrapbook paper. Once I find a plan that works (**fingers crossed**), then I'll think towards being more creative. I'm also going to be working through what I want my morning and evening routines to look like, and I'll be sharing them as well.

If you struggle with routines and rhythms as I do, then I hope you'll be encouraged and feel free to offer you ideas, suggestions and what have worked for you!

Until then,

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