When I really started to “melt down” as a mom, I lost sight of something important. I forgot that the key to an organized day is a basic routine. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t running amok or something, but with the exception of meals (kids have to eat at regular intervals or they get hangry), we never did anything regularly. We didn’t have any structure. I didn’t have any priorities! As a result, the days felt impossibly long and boring. There was way too much TV watching. I didn’t schedule any play dates, or outings, because I was trying to save money. I felt like the world’s crappiest mother because I had no idea what to do with myself (or the kids!).
I’ve been in therapy for almost 4 years now! My therapist has always stressed to me the importance of mindfulness. I’m not an expert on that subject, but the basic definition of mindfulness, to me, is trying to focus on one thing at a time. If you have multiple kids you are probably rolling your eyes right now. I feel you, I really do. Having more than one kid means you literally can’t ever focus on one thing at a time, because you have at least two things that always need your attention.
However, there are still ways to practice mindfulness, even with a bunch of kids running around. Let me give you the best example I have- making a meal. When I am in the kitchen, if I don’t force myself to slow down, I will try to do all these things at the same time:
- Make food for my kids and myself
- Empty or load the dishwasher
- Clean a sink, countertop or other kitchen item
- Put my coffee in the microwave to warm up (guess how many times I remembered to take it out of the microwave when it was done? I will give you a hint, the answer has a zero in it).
- Etc., etc., etc.
Multi-tasking on top of multi-tasking isn’t helpful to you. It’s probably not even good for you! My mental state, my ability to remember things, and my ability to focus on the task at hand have increased by so much since I stopped trying to do everything at once. There will still be times when you have to do more than one thing at once. But reducing the situations in which you are forcing yourself to multi-task will bring you so much peace and reduce your stress level. I guarantee it.
What are your top priorities?
To put it simply, for right now, your day is going to contain three priorities for each “time phase”. Three priorities in the morning, three priorities in the afternoon, and three priorities in the evening. We are not building a full daily routine yet. That would be too much stress and too big of an undertaking. We’re simply dividing your day into three basic time periods, and picking three things you want to do within those time periods.
How is this different from a 28 day goal?
The three things you choose should not be big goals. They should not be big projects. Ask yourself, “what three things do you want to get done between the hours of 7-noon, noon-5, and 5-bedtime?” I have made you a freebie to build your list!
This is my filled out worksheet, to give you an idea of my three priorities for each time period.
As you can see, I am not doing anything strenuous or trying to shoehorn a big DIY project into my time periods. I am picking three things that I would be doing anyway (well, OK, the yoga is the hardest one for me to fit into my schedule but I try to do it every day because it’s really good for mindfulness). But here is why my days are so much more successful: I have basic priorities. I have the things on my list that are going to keep my household running. I also have a few simple “pick me ups” (I love coffee!) included to make me feel like I am taking time for myself each day.
Stick to the basics
When you are choosing your priorities, stick to the basics. If you have trouble remembering to feed yourself because you’re busy feeding the kids, make it a priority. It doesn’t need to be a gourmet meal. If you’re not great about breakfast, make yourself have a small bowl of cheerios while the kids eat their breakfast.
If you are picking a household or cleaning task for one of your priorities, pick a quick one. Unload the dishwasher, shake out the entryway rug, take out a garbage. We will do a lot more work on creating a household cleaning routine. For now, your priority should be something small that, if you get behind on it, really drags you down. If I don’t bring a load of laundry all the way downstairs to the laundry room each day, it sits in a huge pile at the bottom of one of my staircases. This looks awful!
Do Something for You
Make sure to pick at least one thing that makes you feel better about yourself. It can be anything. I picked washing my face because it’s something that I rarely used to do for myself, which made me feel terrible and lazy. Also, I really love how I feel after I wash my face. It makes me feel like I am taking care of myself. That’s so important for us as moms. We take care of other people all day. We don’t have the time we need to take to really give ourselves the loving self-care we deserve. The only remedy in the short term is to find those small daily “hacks” that give us back little pieces of ourselves. It can be an enormous benefit.
Find Your Time
Now, you have to commit to yourself. You’ve chosen your priorities, now when are you going to do these things? This will be the hardest part, and you may have to continually revise your strategy. I find my best “sneak times” are at the very end of meal times, right away when I wake up in the morning (before I get my littlest out of his crib), and nap time (my oldest is in preschool for a few hours 4 days a week, this is when my younger son naps). But if you already have a million and one things you try to fit into nap time, then don’t try to squeeze in anything more. You will have to find another time. You may have to get a little creative, but find your time.
After day ONE, re-evaluate
How did your first day go? Which tasks did you do easily? Were there any that you had trouble fitting in? Any that you didn’t get to altogether?
Re-strategize for the next day. Did you find an extra “sneak time” that you didn’t know you had? Do you need to find a little extra time somewhere? Wake up five minutes earlier? Do a little bit of problem-solving and try again the next day. If you are really, really having trouble getting three tasks into each time period, then you have a couple choices:
- You could pick a different small priority, if you had trouble choosing between a couple and think something else might fit more easily into your day. OR-
- You could go down to only 2 small priorities each time period. If you have a bunch of kids, they all nap at different times, or you are shuttling kids back and forth to a lot of classes, schools, activities, doctors appointments, etc., then by all means, trim your list.
If you decide to do this, then I highly recommend you do not choose any cleaning tasks for this particular priority list. These things should be things you do for yourself, to give yourself a small bit of extra TLC. Cleaning, while highly important in the daily routine, does not count for self-care.
Give these little gifts to yourself
You’re at a point in your mom journey in which you need to be replenishing your soul, little bit by little bit. If you are having trouble coming up with small things that you can use to really help yourself feel better, I highly recommend searching Pinterest, YouTube or the iTunes store for short meditation routines, or breathing exercises. These are things you can do anywhere, at any time, when you have a spare second. In line at Target, in the car, right before you fall asleep. Give yourself the gift of a little bit of love. You deserve it!
Just the beginning…
This is the first step to a fully built and customized daily routine but you have to start small so you don’t overreach and get overwhelmed. We are still not adding things to the to-do list, that’s why you need to edit and re-evaluate if you didn’t pick the right tasks. You shouldn’t feel like you’ve given yourself more work. You should just feel like you’re slowing your day down and taking a little extra time for yourself. It probably won’t be an overnight transformation, and that’s totally OK. The goal is for you to feel like you are working towards some much-needed inner peace. Any small step that gets you towards that finish line is a step in the right direction!
Don’t forget to download my freebie and then leave a comment or send me a message! Tell me what your priorities are! I want to hear what you’re doing to take back your day! Good luck!