If you use a daily schedule of some sort — whether it is loosely scheduled in your mind, resembles a checklist more than an hourly planner, features blocks of time rather than hourly to-dos, or is digital instead of paper — and have yet to find that silver bullet to making it work, this post may be for you. (Forms and other additional resources follow.)
What if the flaw in the design isn’t the daily plan itself (no matter what form it takes), but the lack of a bigger picture?
First, there is the need for larger priorities to stay in focus. Otherwise the urgent tends to run the show.
Second, each day there is a large list of things that need to be done. The list may change day by day. There may be things that happen on Tuesday that do not happen on Thursday. There may be special tasks or appointments that need to be added on occasion. Then there are the things that are routinely done each and every day. How do these routine and not-so-routine items coexist without the day ending in chaos?
Third, meals tend to have a non-routine urgency of their own. Some days there is pre-prep, others you can pull something out of the freezer. One day it is breakfast that needs attention, the next there is nothing for dinner. And forget it when you find you don’t have what you need in the house to make the meal you have in your head.
Fourth, there are many different areas of responsibilities to schedule. For the homeschool mom they might include checking work, feeding the family, keeping up with the cleaning, helping husband with priorities, appointments, phone calls, and any other ventures outside or inside the home.
Fifth, there are individual needs. The baby has different needs than the toddler, than the grade-schooler, than the teen. And don’t forget there are adults in the family!
Finally, there needs to be flexibility and room to reap the moment — the opportunities, lessons, gifts — the serendipitous, just-for-now things that come up in a day for a reason.
What if we were to schedule meals, appointments, and recurring tasks in a overall planning source? I find Lightning, a Mozilla Thunderbird add-on, perfect for the job. It is a free download and easy to install. (Some will prefer an app like Google Calendar.) I can schedule single or recurring events or tasks. So for any given day, my list of “to-dos” pops right up when I pull up my e-mail client.
Obviously, going digital isn’t for everyone. You may prefer a paper alternative (I used the Inspirational 16-Month Planner from DaySpring for years). But the goal is to have EVERYTHING that needs to be done (cleaning, teaching, calling, writing, cooking, etc.) entered and ready to pop up on the correct day.
Each morning, first thing, fill out a Daily Planner. A couple of us have created our own that suits us personally, but you could use one from the sources listed below. As an aside, I happen to keep mine in Microsoft OneNote rather than on paper since I usually have the computer up and on, and…well…no one can read my handwriting, including me. [Update: OneNote is now free for some operating systems. You may prefer EverNote.]
Start with “The Personal”:
- Inspiration: Things laid on our heart during morning Bible time, inspiring verses, quotations, thought of the day — call it what you will, the motivating, don’t-want-to-forget-today thought.
- Health: Exercise plan, water consumed.
- Focuses: Who or what needs special attention? A bad attitude in one of the children? A special hubby need? A particular prayer request to keep in mind? (Think relationships.)
- Thanks: A place to jot down those special God-given blessings. By doing so, we keep seeing His hand and remember to thank Him for every “good and perfect gift.”
Move on to “The Provender.” The meals should be on the big-picture planner from Step 1, so now all that we need to do is list those meals, and add any preparation that needs to be done. Look at tomorrow’s planned menu (this is where the calendar view in Lightning comes in handy) and add any prep work that needs to take place today.
Next up: “The Plan.” Do you tend to schedule in blocks or by the hour? Either way list those time frames and, using your big-picture planner from Step 1, determine when you will do each thing that needs to be taken care of. Be realistic! I only leave so many lines per block of time, because I know realistically there are only so many things I can get done during that time. Include those meal-prep items from above.
Finally, make a space for “The Ponderings”: things I might want to do tomorrow, or think about doing in the future. At the end of the day, I can add them to the big-picture planner, or carry them over for another day’s thought.
That’s it! Perhaps the 2-step daily schedule plan is a no-brainer for most, but it has been a complete revolution around our home!
Free open source Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail add-on calendar that operates similarly to the old MS Outlook application.
Add-on for Mozilla Thunderbird Lightning. Several enhancements making Lightning more user-friendly (and more MS Outlook-like).
Daily Docket 2.0
Free download at TheArtofSimple.net.
Daily Planner Excel Template
Customizable daily planner form. Read the comments to discover how to easily replace the default quotes with your own inspirational quotations or Bible verses.