In our first back-to-school blog post, we talked about several things you can do to help get back in the groove of going to school. One of those was finding good daily routines. Moms and dads, this post is about your daily routines. We’ll talk in a later post about creating your child’s morning and evening routines, but I want to encourage you to find yours too. I’ve been working on routines all year, and I’m discovering that my daily routines are as important as my child’s daily routines.

Maybe you are like me and you never intended to be overscheduled, but you have a busy and complex life. Maybe you have multiple kids in different schools with different dropoff times and several activities to manage. Or you work outside the home and have fewer hours in the day to keep your home life running. Or maybe you just sometimes find yourself pulling everything together at the literal last minute.

Can I just be honest with you? I don’t like the last minute. I don’t function well in the last minute – I need a little breathing room around those must-do transition moments in my day. This is where my routines help – my routines give me a framework for managing the day and help make sure that I’m prepared for the next thing when it comes.

Let me walk you through my thought process – maybe it can help you think about your daily routines. A good daily routine contains the very bare minimum of what’s needed to keep your day moving forward. When establishing your daily routines, here are two questions I suggest you ask yourself:

  1. What are the big pinch points in your day? You know the ones – the moments when you either run low on time or run low on capacity to manage the day’s needs.
  2. What can you do in the morning, during the day, and before bed to help alleviate those pinch points in your day?

And that is how you find your routine. It will be unique to you – there are numerous templates available on the internet, but I’ve found that I most need to tailor my routines to meet the rhythm of my own day.

My pinch points are…

  • right before the school bus in the morning, when I’m scrambling to get us out the door on time, and having dirty dishes in the sink or not being ready to pack lunch slows me down;
  • at dinnertime, when I’m tired already and still have to prepare a meal for the family, and it creates peace in my afternoon if I’ve considered that ahead of time;
  • and before bedtime, when I try to finish the tasks of the day and usually run out of both time and energy before it’s all done.

I’ve established this list of tasks that help move life along so that those moments have a little more margin around them. I don’t manage to do all these things every day. In fact, the very morning I wrote this blog post I had not prepped lunch beforehand, I did not start laundry or make the bed, and we forgot that it was a gym-shoes day. It’s okay – keep grace in your to-do list too.

Some items that have ended up on my daily list include…

Morning: Get up on time; check the weather (but not social media) and make a mental checklist for the day. Make the bed. Set a load of laundry to run on a delay cycle to be done after work. Pack lunches; keep it simple! Do the out-the-door checklist 5 minutes before time to load up: phone, wallet, keys, gym shoes, kid’s band instrument, homework, lunch.

During the day (this is usually right after work for me): Unload and reload the dishwasher. Tidy up something that’s messy somewhere in the house. Pull together ingredients for dinner and set them out. Reboot that laundry.

In the evening: Run the dishwasher and wash the water bottles. Make note of what’s needed for tomorrow’s dinner. Prep items for tomorrow’s lunchboxes. Check up on kids’ homework. Fold that load of laundry and put it away. Collect dirty clothes from the kids’ rooms. Make a checklist for tomorrow: appointments, times, activities, and what you or your kids need to take to work or school. And then… relax a little and get to bed at a good hour.

A few more thoughts on managing your routines…

  • Be aware of the things that suck up a lot of time in the mornings. In my house, that’s looking at stuff on my phone (me) and reading books (my kid). My new rule is that we can do those things only once we are dressed, packed, and ready. This has motivated us both to finish our routine earlier, and many mornings we read together for ten minutes over our morning tea, which is really lovely.
  • Perfection is not the goal here! This is just a way of keeping your day moving forward.
  • If you’re low on time, keep it simple. Lunch can totally be a ham sandwich and some carrot sticks.
  • Prepping a hands-off dinner can create time and space for other things. If dinner is in the crockpot or the oven, then you can take a few minutes to relax, to work on something else, or to play with your kids.
  • Involve your family. They can handle the dishwasher, pack lunches, and place their gym shoes or music equipment by the door.
  • Run your daily checklist before it’s time to leave the house. This will prevent you being late because your child forgot their violin or a project.

I’ve begun to learn that if I reduce the stress at those pinch points in my day, things are easier at home and I’m happier as a parent. I still have a lot of moments where I’m running behind because that’s life – but this also provides some framework for catching back up. It helps me focus on the things that need to get done each day so that we can go to work and school – the rest can fall into place from there.

What routines work well for your family? Have you found your rhythm yet this school year or are you still figuring it out? If you’ve got your routines nailed down or if you’re finding it hard still, share with us!