You know those days when you do a little bit of everything but don't finish anything? You know how those days can stretch into weeks and maybe even months? You know when you're feeling so frazzled you can't figure out step one?
I wrote about how I've been living in those days about a month ago and told you all a little about how I'm tackling the chaos. As a work-at-home mom, one of my biggest challenges has been building structure into my life. I love being home with Charlie and I love writing from home—but since no one is expecting me in the office at 8am, my titles of "mom" and "writer" tend to blur together. Too many days, I found myself trying to write while feeding Charlie breakfast and unloading the dishwasher and texting a friend and—multitasking poorly. I did all things at all times and never felt like I was finished.
Enter my new system. Like I admitted to you all last month, I fail at "routines," so I called this one a rhythm. The concept is simple: there are times of the day that I devote to activities or tasks to give myself some structure. As a work-at-home mom, this so-simple-it's-stupid approach just works for me.
Here are a few things I learned while experimenting this month with my new rhythm:
- Rhythms and routines beat time-wasting: If it's morning, I know I should be focusing on the house and Charlie—not work or social media. Instead of wasting time trying to multitask, I'm free to focus on one thing.
- Flexibility is key: Even if my weekly task list tells me to mop the floor on Mondays, if I have a project due or coffee with a friend, you can bet I'm skipping the mopping today (and maybe for the week). For me, these lists are nudges for when I'm feeling lost and overwhelmed, not rules that can't be changed. They say, "Here, start with this to get your day on track," not, "Do this or you're failing."
- I need days off: I adjusted my weekly cleaning list and daily rhythms throughout the month to fit what I naturally do on productive, happy days. One thing I found is I need days off from cleaning—and my weekly task list tapers off toward Friday and the weekend. If I skip Friday, Saturday, and Sunday cleaning tasks and just keep up with dishes, I still feel great about my house and I relate less to Cinderella.
Now that I've tweaked my system, I'm offering my weekly cleaning task list and daily rhythm list to you all as free downloadable printables!
You can take a peek at what I do, but most importantly, you can customize the sheets to what you need and want. It's pretty unlikely that we'll have parallel lives and that my lists will work for you (and if they do, we should probably meet because twinsies). You can customize them with your PDF editor or the old-fashioned way by printing them out. I have mine on my refrigerator so I can reference them daily.
Click here to download or click on the above previews.
A few things about my lists:
- They're guidelines, not rules: Make them work for you, not the other way around.
- They're not very ambitious: True story, I don't wash my sheets every week. Or even every other week. Probably ever three weeks to one a month. Feel free to call Martha Stewart on me, but I'm a busy mom and I'm guessing you are, too. I limit myself to two cleaning tasks a day, and I don't beat myself up if they don't get done. Kids grow up happy and healthy in messy homes, too.
- They're designed to alleviate the guilt, not cause it: If you're feeling frazzled and want to try my little system out, please don't let it stress you more. For me, this system gives my days structure and points me in the right direction.
Enjoy! We're in this together, parents.