Turning circles into check marks

This month, my self-improvement project has centered on creating a monthly schedule for myself. Nerdy, indeed. Needed? Absolutely.


Think of it as a work schedule for the self-employed. It’s a seven-day-a-week, four-week plan, which I’ve typed into a word document. It’s detailed in the sense that it tells me what days to vacuum, write my blog, upload photographs and head to the grocery store, but also vague in that it doesn’t actually tell me to take the time to eat lunch, say, or to wash the dishes after dinner.

I created it because it has felt lately as if I’ve been doing too little of things I want and need to do, and too much of, well, I’m not exactly sure. What I do know is that on a daily and weekly basis I’ve been experiencing way too much guilt about what I didn’t get done and not enough satisfaction about what I have done. Too much spinning in circles and too few check marks on my To Do list. This plan is a way to try and address that.

As a stay-at-home mom, I am both blessed and cursed by time. I don’t have to commute and I’m not locked into an office for nine hours every day. Instead, my days are structured around the needs of a two year old. Some days, my little charge is easy-going and pliable, willing to play on his own while his mother does things that don’t directly involve him. Other days — as anyone who has met one of these little creatures before can attest to — he’s demanding and unpredictable. Without a clear plan, it’s just too easy to find myself forgetting about what I meant to get done or just plain ignoring it once I do get a bit of time to myself in the evening.

I’m not talking about creating a rigid minute-by-minute schedule for my days. It’s good to be spontaneous sometimes, especially with a little one at home. But I do think I can benefit from focusing a clearer eye on my activities. I may not have the deadline pressure that my former career as an editor thrived on, but I also haven’t abandoned all my personal and professional aspirations. For the three weeks that I’ve tried out my schedule, it’s been helpful to sit down each Sunday evening and think about the week to come, about when I am going to do my mundane chores and when I will do the more meaningful activities. You know, the ones that challenge, relax and fulfill me. Rather than locking me into tasks, I hope my list frees me to pursue – guilt free – the things that really matter to me.

So what are some of the things I want to spend my time on? I’ve scheduled solid time in for writing tasks – weekly—for my freelance articles and my book project — and monthly — so I can continue this blog. I pencilled in time monthly for editing, uploading, organizing, printing and framing photographs. That includes the thousands – I wish I was exaggerating – of photos from our years in Europe and the ever-growing images of my oh-so-adorable son. I scheduled time in weekly and monthly for cleaning, for vacuuming, dusting and scrubbing, so I don’t always feel like my house is a mess. I put in a couple evenings a month for organizing as well – meaning I have time set aside to tackle my junk drawer or my son’s closet. Exercise got a mention, too: I’m heading to zumba a couple times a month and getting up early a couple mornings a week to do a DVD. There’s time in there, too, for tracking our finances, for grocery shopping, for reading books and magazines, and for, gasp, watching television. (If I schedule it, then it’s an activity and not just a time-waster!) Last, but by no means least, I’ve set aside regular time for family, including weekly library visits and play dates for the wee one and monthly date nights with my hubby.

I feel a little goofy for doing this, but believe I need the solid nudge toward becoming more productive. It’s still early days for this effort, but I hope I can stick to it. This schedule will evolve, I’m sure, as my life evolves, but it seems like a step in the right direction. I’ll let you know how it goes. If any of my readers are also taking steps to get their lives more organized, I’d love to hear about it.