How I Make My Schedule

As I mentioned, I’m spending this summer in a highly scheduled routine, trying to learn about rhythm and effective use of my time.  With God’s mercy, hopefully I won’t have to do this forever, and I’ll learn enough to make it part of my life naturally.  For now, it’s been an eye opener.

Here’s how I’m making my schedule for each day…

Every night before bed, I make the schedule for the next day.  I have a computer-generated sheet that is marked out in half hour increments.  I also have a list of questions that I wrote to prompt me as I determine what needs to be scheduled when.

I should preface all this by explaining a few things regarding my physical health.  I have chronic cardiac problems that have led to chronic lung problems.  The short story is that I started with several arrhythmias (from childhood or adolescence).  I began having surgeries and procedures to deal with those a little over ten years ago.  Complications from those procedures left me 100% dependent on a pacemaker.  I also received damage to the veins leading from my heart to my lungs.  I have two stents in those veins and have had angioplasty five times in the last three and a half years.  I anticipate having more angioplasties…probably every year or so, as there is no cure for that condition.  Those damaged veins give me severe shortness of breath and pain from chronic pleurisy (lung inflammation).  Meanwhile, I had open heart surgery three years ago to repair a valve.  I have another valve that leaks and may or may not need attention down the road.  I take handfuls of medications that have challenging side effects and am always trying to find the balance between what I need to do and what I want to do.

So, that’s where I’m coming from.  I just mention it so you know the background.  Someday I’ll write about the immeasurable blessing of all the above.  For it is simply that…a blessing.

* My list of questions starts out with the category of Spiritual.

1)  Is it a fast/feast?

2)  Is there church?

3)  Is there something/someone that needs extra prayer?

If it’s a fast, I need to schedule extra prayer time.  If it’s a feast, I need to make sure we’re celebrating.  If someone is having surgery or is struggling, I can jot down their names at different intervals throughout the day’s schedule to make sure they are remembered.  I schedule prayer first, before anything else.  It is the anchor of the day.

* The next heading is Events/Activities.

1)  Are there any special events?

2)  Are there any recurring activities?

Here’s where I need to check the master calendar for doctor’s appointments and meetings.  I also have to look to see whether there’s a recurring class for one of the kids or a sporting practice.  (Just because there’s always soccer practice on a certain day doesn’t always mean I’ll remember that when it’s time!  Trust me…you do not want to forget the five year old’s soccer practice.  She will not be happy!  So, I schedule it all, even if it seems routine.)

* After that is School.

This one is very short now, because tomorrow is Lonna’s last day at public school.  Jared still has a little bit longer to wrap things up in homeschool, but it will not be at a specific time each day.  He’ll probably have about an hour a day for a few more weeks.

1)  Does Jared need to work on anything?

2)  What can I do with Hilary?

This is my reminder to fill my eager little preschooler’s need for educational stimulation.  I’ll write about her quite a bit in the future, I’m sure.  I’ve never had a sponge of a child like her before.  She loves to learn, and I need to remember to give her all the opportunities and resources she craves.

* Next comes Household.

1)  What cleaning needs to be done?

I can’t do marathon cleaning sessions, so I clean one room a day.  Small house, so that works!  Monday is bedrooms.  Tuesday is living room.  Wednesday is kitchen/dining room.  Thursday is bathrooms.  Friday is porches and cars.

We pick up, do dishes, and wipe down bathrooms every day, but during evening chore time, we do the major cleaning of whatever room it is on the schedule.  The dusting, vacuuming, etc.  That way, it all gets done each week, but there’s not too much at one time.

2)  What laundry needs to be done?

Ah, laundry!  My arch nemesis!  We meet again!  I admit that I despise laundry.  It reminds me of all the things I can’t do.  It’s hard to lift it or carry it or bend over and sort it.  My husband actually likes doing laundry, so he does the lion’s share of it when he’s able.  He’s been working so much lately, though, that I hate to leave him with that burden.  I’m trying to schedule at least a little laundry every day.

3)  What are we going to eat?

I make a weekly menu plan every Friday.  For dinner, I follow the guideline of Monday: Chicken, Tuesday: Seafood, Wednesday: Italian, Thursday: Mexican, Friday: Asian, Saturday: Pizza, Sunday: Chef’s Choice.  During fasting periods, Monday changes to Beans/Grains.

I’ve done something along this line for about five years, and I like this version the best.  I used to do it by meat (chicken, pork, ground turkey, etc.), but then during a fast I had to do a complete overhaul.  I also tried soup on one day and casserole on another, but that just seemed to be too narrow.  This works better.  There are so many different options for each category.  Italian, for example, could be anything from soup to salad to pasta to veggies.  Room for variety but enough direction to keep my brain from hurting.

Sunday, as Chef’s Choice, usually becomes something fun like biscuits and gravy, if it’s not a fast, or a chance to use up leftovers.

I also menu plan Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack, but I would say that we only follow it for those about half the time.  Sometimes I cook something special for Lunch, and sometimes everyone is just in the mood to grab a sandwich.  No worries if we don’t follow the menu plan.  Same for breakfast.  I cook oatmeal or waffles or something else several times a week, but most days they just want cereal (low sugar or naturally sweetened).  For Snack, I plan out to bake granola bars or make smoothies a couple times a week, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not a big deal.  It’s dinner I’m most worried about.  All of our food follows the guidelines of natural, minimally processed, and mostly homemade.  Our location and budget makes things complicated, though, so we’re still learning and changing.  We’re kind of Nourishing Traditions with a healthy dose of compromises.

I’ll share some of my favorite recipes as I come across them.

4)  When am I going to cook the meals?  Do I need to thaw/soak anything?

5)  Any errands need done?

6)  Any special projects that need attention?

I’m still making it around the house doing a major overhaul and simplification.  A little every day makes a big difference.

* Next category is Physical.

1)  Was today a busy day?  If yes…schedule extra rest tomorrow.

2)  Is tomorrow going to be a busy day?  If yes…schedule down time.

I try to alternate an active time with a quiet time.  If I try to go, go, go all day, it just doesn’t work.  I have to space things out.  Maybe I’ll clean, and then schedule a reading time with Hilary.  Maybe I’ll go to an appointment, and then schedule to come home and crochet for awhile.  Two active things back to back ends badly, and multiple active days back to back can be a disaster.  Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but I try to be mindful of what I’m asking of my body and be realistic about what I can do.  I schedule a nap time for myself every day.

3)  When will I take my Lasix?

I take the diuretic, Lasix, for congestive heart failure, and it requires…ahem…frequent trips to the bathroom for several hours after I take it.  Like, every ten to fifteen minutes for two hours kind of frequent.  If I don’t put it on the schedule, sometimes I end up just not taking it, because I don’t want to have it kick in right when I leave the house.  Or it’s too late in the evening, and I don’t want to be up all night.  I can skip a day here and there, but two days in a row leaves me swollen like a balloon and having the lovely sensation of drowning when I breathe, so I schedule to take it when I’ll be at the house.

* Last is General.

1)  What’s the weather?

It’s Northeast Ohio.  You have to check the weather every day…or several times a day, depending on the season, if you have outdoor plans.

2)  What worked well today?

3)  What didn’t work well today?

4)  How can tomorrow be better?

One of the reasons I’m doing this scheduling exercise is because I am absolutely horrible at realizing how long it actually takes to accomplish something.  I think I can get five things done before it’s time to leave for art class, and then, I all the sudden realize we should have left the house ten minutes ago, three of the things are only halfway completed, the little one is crying from being hungry, the older one is grumpy because he hates being late, I can’t think straight because I’m running around like a crazy woman, and no one’s heart has any room for prayer in the middle of all the stress.  Not simple, effective living!

So, I look back at the day and think about whether I need to leave more time tomorrow for an activity or be more realistic about what I can fit in a day.

How did things flow?  Was there a simple rhythm or a chaotic jumble?  Were the kids balanced or stressed?  Did I pray enough (can I ever pray enough????)?  How can I improve for tomorrow?

So, I answer all those questions and fill in my schedule.  Sometimes, the plan fails miserably or life happens and things change.  But…there’s a plan!  It’s much better for me to have to alter a schedule than to never have a schedule to begin with.  I don’t have to cloud my brain with a mental to-do list, worries to remember to do this or that, or too many choices about how to fill my time.  I think about all that for fifteen minutes the night before.  Then, the actual day itself can run more smoothly.  I know what needs to be done and what can wait.  I don’t have to decide in the middle of everything else.  My brain is freed from complications and my mind and heart are opened to prayer.  For that is the real purpose of all this.  De-clutter the mind so the heart can cry out to God…not on a schedule, but without ceasing.

Next time, I’ll share an actual schedule and how that day played out…

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