Thursday, 16 June 2016

Routines vs Schedules

Once upon a time I bought a book. There wasn't anything unusual about this, as I am a book lover. I buy books constantly, usually at book sales, yard sales and thrift stores. (Don't get me started about buying new!) I like books. I buy bookshelves for my books, and I've often loaned out books as apparently I have better collections of certain kinds of books than some libraries.

This particular book is well-known among veteran homeschooler and large-family circles. Entitled "Managers of their Home" (also in the series Managers of their Chores, and Managers of their School), and written by a homeschooling mother of many, the book focuses on creating a schedule for everyone in the home. The idea is that if you schedule every minute of their day, no one has a chance to get into mischief, and everyone (ideally) should know what they need to be doing at any given
time, and so does mom.

Schedules are by their very nature, tied to a clock. When is key. A schedule tells you exactly when something is to occur and for how long it should take. The dictionary definition is "a plan for carrying out a process and/or procedure". It's a time table, where the relationship between time and the event is fixed.

Everyone needs a schedule of some sort. After all, doctors' appointments, work deadlines, soccer games and dance classes all happen at certain regular times, and if you miss it, you can't really make it up later. Schedules help large groups of people meet at certain times to accomplish specific things. Time-sensitive needs work better with strict schedules.

Schedules mean that there are not supposed to be any surprises. There's clarity. A person with a schedule knows exactly when certain things happen, and when other types of events can happen. For example, when you have a schedule for your day, you know when meals happen, when children need naps or have baseball practice, and you know that Sunday dinner with Grandma will work this week but not next week. Schedules are reliable: your family and coworkers get to know when you are free to join them and when you might not be so available. Schedules create clear definitions between activities too.

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But schedules can create almost as many problems as they solve. Fixed schedules don't leave room for interruptions or spontaneity. There is a distinct lack of flexibility. And that can create feelings of rushing around or being "late", which can then lead to more frustration and conflicts with others. They require a lot of planning to create, and can also lead to wasted time!

"Managers of their Home" is all about creating a schedule. And I soon grew very frustrated with the whole process. Maybe it was a lack of detail about remembering to include preparation time (for meals for example), or maybe it was that at the time I had the book, I also had 4 children under 10, and 3 under 5, including a special needs child, or maybe it was just me. I soon sold the book and turned to other ways to manage (see post By Request). I thought, schedules just aren't for me.

There is another way to "schedule" things, that I am now just learning about. Setting up a series of routines is a way to take advantage of the pros of a schedule, while trying to keep the cons to a minimum. A routine is simply a series of events following a set, regular procedure. It's a fixed program, a constant, unvarying, repeated formula. But, and this is key, it's not tied to a clock. 

A routine is simply a way of tying habits together. This follows that follows this follows that, in regular order, so that you don't have to even think about what you're doing. We naturally do this. We follow the same streets to the store, to work, to church every time.  We have a specific order for how we shower, how we get ready for the day, how we leave the house, or even how we eat a meal. And most of the time, you're hardly aware of what you need to do next. Good routines become automatic. It's not when that counts, as in a schedule, but in what order that matters most.

Routines reduce forgetfulness, are much more flexible and easier to interrupt (and then return to where you left off), and they are without the "rushing" or "early/late" feelings that strict scheduling can create. They are however, harder to create and plan -- there are a lot of unknowns that don't get accounted for. And they don't carry the same sense of reliability and predictability that a stricter schedule does.

The best thing about a routine (over a schedule) is that a dynamic system is easier to adapt to routines. What more dynamic a system is there than a house full of young children?? Children have got to be some of the most unpredictable creatures out there, yet they thrive on predictable schedules and structures. So creating routines for them (and their mother) is a very good way to put structure in place.

I'm beginning with a morning routine. I'm not a morning person, particularly, so I thought this would be a good place to start. If I can get a routine down, my children may be less prone to mischief and annoyances, while I'm still waking up and adjusting to my day. I'm using Money-Saving-Mom's "Makeover your Morning" e-course to help.

We have a loose bedtime routine, but I'd like to make it tighter, and more predictable, so I'll also be
working on that (with the Makeover your Evening e-course, sister to the Makeover your Morning one). I'm looking at the other routines we have -- for going out, for school, for chores, for meals -- to see where we can tweak and make changes. I'm sure there are lots of things we can do better.

I'm not a schedule person. I don't have good time-awareness, and I can get easily lost on a rabbit trail. But a routine is a natural part of how human beings work, and I think if I put some deliberate thought into it, I can craft routines for my family that will take the guesswork out of the day and create the stability I crave.

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