Time Management & Weekly Routines

A few weeks ago I shared some ways that I was learning to manage my time better. Rather than prepare a schedule that I would inevitably fail, I created a time budget, alloting a certain amount of each day to the tasks I need to do in order to keep my life ship-shape.

But as you know, real life doesn’t run as orderly as a ship — ever.

Tweaking the budget

It goes without saying, that some of these things are getting tweaked as life happens and as new tasks raise their heads.

Take bill paying and tax preparation, for example. I hadn’t really considered either of those things while I working out my time budget. But after spending several hours this week on both, hubs and I decided that we need to address those tasks on a regular basis, instead of monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

I hate dealing with bills and taxes. And I need a quiet, preferably child-free zone to pull it off. But since the bills and taxes are certainly not going away, I need to meet them head on and not feel intimidated by them. So they are working their way into the time budget so that I don’t feel stressed or behind when I have to do them.

Creating weekly routines

We already have a few regular weekly activities that are in stone on the calendar.

  • date night – my brother babysits while FishPapa and I go out for dinner and coffee
  • cookbook night – hubs takes charge of the kids while I sequester myself in the office to work on The Cookbook
  • pizza/family movie night – we make homemade pizza and watch a movie together
  • grocery shopping – I take the Minions, age 6 and 8, with me to get groceries, usually taking about 2 hours

We enjoy doing other things on a regular basis, like outings (ie hikes or trips to the beach) as well as this afore-mentioned bill paying.

Striving for balance

The point of the time budget is to help me be realistic about what I can do. There are only 24 hours in the day. I don’t get extra. So, I have to think about how I spend the ones that I have. Just like in a financial budget, if I want to spend more on one thing, I need to spend less on another.

Since I want to allot for weekly events, like date night, it’s clear that I can’t strictly adhere to my time budget on those days. By creatively thinking through each day, I can move some time blocks around to fit a certain scenario, ie date night.

I’ve included 2 hours of “margin” as well as 3 hours of meal prep/eating time in my budget, so I can easily work around that by concentrating on my other tasks during the day and prepping quick and simple meals for breakfast and lunch. That frees up a good 4 hours to enjoy with my husband.

We don’t do school on the weekends, so that frees up a good 5 hours on Saturday and Sunday for outings, church, and other family activities. And truth be told, I don’t exercise every day, so that frees up another 30 minutes at least, 3 days a week.

I go grocery shopping about once a week, taking 2 hours. I’ve allotted 1 hour a day for coupon clipping, meal planning, and shopping. Obviously, on the day I go shopping, I’ll borrow the time from a different day to get the shopping done.

I do not have this all figured out — not by a long shot. I’m clearly a work in progress. But, you know me, worksheets help me process. I made a graph to think about how I spend my days during the week and to see if I really can do the great extra-curricular things I want to do. This is how a sample week might look:

Certainly, it’s not “in stone” since I don’t like schedules, but it gives you picture and charts people an idea of what I’m talking about. I’ve shuffled my time around a little, but each day still adds up to 24. If you’re a picture and chart person, here’s a blank time budget form for you to use.

Adjusting with the seasons

Looking over the last few months, I see that we were in a season of hubs working extreme overtime and so that dictated how I spent my time. In a few months, that may not be the case, and our routines may change.

That’s the beauty of a budget — whether it’s money or time — you’re free to adjust it all you want. As long as you don’t go over your resources at hand. As seasons of life change, so will your priorities and how you spend your time.

Rachel from Small Notebook had a great post last week, musing on how to protect your time from too many good ideas. I love her rationale,

Just because I could do something, doesn’t mean I should. I have to protect my time from all of my good ideas.

If the homemade sprinkles fit into the plan (maybe as an activity for quality time with someone), then great. Otherwise I’ll just enjoy looking at the photos while I’m on a break before I close the computer and return to my day.

24 hours. That’s all you got. You simply cannot do everything. Think about the hours at your disposal.

How will you spend them?

How do you balance your time? How do you fit in good things? How do you determine when to say, “No?” See ya in the comments.

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  1. I like this idea. It’s fresh and different from the usual calendar (2pm-3pm) way of doing things. It sure allows for flexibility!! And we all know that being flexible is MAJOR when you have kids!

  2. I like this idea too. But when do you fit in time for your blog? I don’t see that anywhere, unless I missed it. And how much time do you commit to running your 2 sites per week? Have you ever elaborated on that in another post? I have wondered how you manage to run two successful blogs and run your busy, successful household.

    1. @Kristia@Family Balance Sheet, that falls under “other” on the chart. I didn’t realize it was so hard to read. It says, “includes date night, writing time, family outings, social events.” The time allowance varies with the day, but I’ve found that I need 2 hours a day to keep up with posts, magazine articles, comments, and emails. But, I take a larger block of time every week — thanks to a fantastic husband — and try to work on longterm projects and longer pieces.

  3. When I quickly skimmed over your schedule for the first time, I thought the second thing on the list was “Jumping”, not “Journaling”. I thought, “Wow. She schedules a half an hour of jumping.”

    (Today was my first day with no caffeine. But you can’t tell, right?)

  4. I need to implement something likes this, not because I try to do too much, but because I waste so much time doing things that just do not matter. The things that really need to get done end up being pushed off until “later”, which sometimes doesn’t come for a long time.

    1. @GinnyV, sometimes, if I’m lucky, I am able to ask myself in the middle of my time-wasting, “Is this going to get me toward my goal?” Amazing what an effect it has on me.

      When I think to ask the question!

  5. I completely relate to figuring out time for bills. Included in that for me is budgeting and managing the flow of money, especially time-consuming when the inflow is less than anticipated.

    I really resonate with your approach, becuase it accounts for the unpredictablity of life (a sick child, sick mom, house guests, husbands varying work schedule, car breakdown, beautiful weather).

    A few years ago I said to myself, “how clean do I need/want my house to be?” and the answer was “5 hours worth of time each week clean.” Now that the older kids can participate, I have a choice to either stick to my personal input of 5 hours and get a few more projects done (and a cleaner house!), or count the kids’ time as part of the 5 hours and spend the “found” time on something else!

    Thanks for taking the time to write about this.

  6. I needed to hear this right now. I am THAT person that sees an idea and immediately thinks “well I should be doing that with my children”. Like I am going to be the worst mom ever if we don’t make our own everything and craft on a daily basis. It is all too hard to get caught up in the should be’s and not cutting ourselves a break that we are getting the have to’s or the want to’s done. Thanks for the great idea. I am trying to be on a schedule right now and feeling like a miserable failure since it doesn’t seem to be working out. I think I need to make it a little looser like this budget idea!

  7. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a week or so-writing down everything I do each day and how much time I spend doing it, and see if there’s time to work in some fun things while whittling away the time wasters.
    Something I’ve found helpful is to assign themes to certain days and focus on that theme. That frees me from thinking about certain things all the other days. Obviously there are still things that need to be done daily, but by grouping less frequent items together, I can plan ahead and have the mental peace of knowing it will get done on its day. I’m not perfect with it, and when something crazy happens and that theme is never addressed, it’s either missed that week or has to be made up.
    Monday is kitchen day-anything having to do with food. Shopping, meal planning, make ahead stuff, prepping things, etc.
    Tuesday is my Paperwork Party. I thought maybe if I called it a party I’d look forward to it! Anything requiring desk/quiet time is done here. Bill paying, financial planning, phone calls, those pesky “to do” things that just don’t fit anywhere else.
    Thursday is kid day. I have a 5 year old son and I try to make the day about him. We go to the library, have a play date with friends, stuff like that.
    Friday is housework. I find I can plow thru and get it done if I just set my mind to it.
    None of these things takes the entire day, so I have time for the daily stuff and some interruptions. It’s still lacking for me though, as I don’t feel like I do fun stuff. Need to make that a priority for a while and get out of the doldrums.
    Thanks for this and the daily time budget posts-they make a lot of sense for me!

  8. Hi Jessica. I love this post, but I also have a question: How do you know how much time you’ve spent in a day on each thing?

    So you have 4.5 hours for school in the day. You work with one child for a while, then stop to make lunch, then go back to do more school. It seems like you’d have to have timers all over the place to actually keep track of the duration of different activities.

    I love seeing how mamas make the logistics of life work, so I’d love to hear more. 😉


    1. @steadymom, well, I don’t have it to a fine science yet, but my phone is programmed with lots of alarms. And honestly, lately it’s been hard to stick with this…. sick kids, bad weather, hubs home from work due to illness. Each season is different. Not every day works according to plan, but it’s at least something to shoot for.

      I am finding that it’s much harder to stick to since I quit exercising. I got sick and stopped. Not sure it’s a magic bullet, but wondering what role it plays in all this.