• Priorities

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    To my new friend H,

    I am thrilled you wrote me this morning with your questions, kindly join in on this constant discussion of managing home life with littles! I have been talking with so many mothers on this very topic. Grab a coffee and settle in…this is a long post!

    When I was young I saw a ‘Priorities’ example. I am a very visual person and this example has stuck with me through out life.

    The teacher had three rocks (I will use lemons) and thousands of grains of rice (sesame seeds) and an empty glass jar. She said that the rocks represented your life’s priorities, the rice, millions of little time consumers, the jar your life. She first poured the rice into the jar and tried to cram the three main priorities around the millions of distraction, those three did not fit on top of all the others. She then removed the rice, and first added priorities after allowing the rice to settle and shift around the three mains. Amazingly it all fit! Later in life I read Steven Covers 7Habits and came across this teaching again. I will never forget that visual teaching. I have adapted that principle to almost every planning I do in my life.

    I now use this system daily. I know for my self (and most other Mothers of young children) three projects in three hours. I make my day’s list, with only three things per section. Knowing that if I put my most importance at the top all the other little things will settle into place.

    While my baby is awake my older (4 - 7) girls are playing with something the baby can be part of. Or they colour – paint something they can do with out the baby interfering. I try to accomplish light tasks around the home while all three kids are awake. When my youngest naps in the morning we do home-school. When he naps in the afternoon the girls are also in bed for an hour of that nap time, after an hour they can come out of their room and can accomplish something that is more difficult to do while the baby is awake. In the one kid free hour of my day I accomplish things I can not do while the kids are awake. The girls do stay well occupied in the afternoon while the baby is sleeping because they want to play while they can. So I can still manage to get a lot of things done.

    I would suggest that you write out a schedule for you and your kids on the days you are home. First write all the things you need to accomplish on one blank sheet of paper, then write the things you would like to be doing, like going to the park or library with the kids, maybe a weekly craft time with your little guys.

    On another paper list all the toys and activities your children have and can play with. List them under ‘lots’, ‘little’ or ‘no’ supervision needed.

    Now make a rough schedule of the ‘block’ of time your life affords. Such as pre-breakfast, 8 a.m – 12.noon lunch hour, 1 – 4, 5-8, 9 –10.

    I have found that I can only fit three things into each block of time. My morning block might read: House clean up (dishes, beds, floors) school (that is all for me)

    Afternoon block gets three priorities. Maybe: make dinner, mop floors and wash bathrooms, do a craft with kids.

    Now if I get the three priorities done in my allotted time with some to spare I can look at my master list and add a few more things.

    At least I am steadily accomplished my highest priorities.

    If you have more then three things planned for these times you will always feel overwhelmed.

    A mother can not expect to have a morning work out, play group, make cookies with the kids and wash all the windows in three hours. It is unrealistic.

    I struggled for a while because on paper it seemed I would never get everything on my ‘master list’ done in a week. Thankfully it has helped me prioritise and lets me feel on top of things. If by the end of the day I have accomplished twelve projects then I have done well. It allows my kids to enjoy their day and rarely do we scramble to find things for children to do.

    It has also encouraged me to say no! Some things sound like an amazing opportunity, once brought to the schedule you can see that to add one more thing makes you have to remove another, you can weigh what is of more value to you and your families life.
    An example would be ~ karate has opened up down the road and you think it would be amazing for the boys to get some energy out on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Being realistic with the time frame and the effort it takes to gather snacks, sippy cups, coats and shoes, your commute, lesson time and your return commute might take up a fair bit of your afternoon’s block. So in organising you will see that washing the house and making dinner has to be dropped. Weigh what is most important. It might be karate, knowing that on Tuesdays and Thursdays you will have leftovers or take out, rescheduling your evening block to cleaning the house. Or you might say, well I have something that I do not want to drop on those nights so I can not switch my three things around and against my other priorities karate does not rank high enough the investment of those time blocks.

    You might find that most days have similar priorities. My day always gets –exercise, devotion, home-school, dinner, out door time, and devotions. These are always my priorities, on my list every day! But then there are some rotations. If on Monday I realise a friend is coming over and I will need to make a snack for serving I will reassign my Monday afternoon ‘window washing’ for making a snack and my Tuesday ‘closet cleaning’ time to visit with my friend.

    For your kids play times schedule three to six activities a block.

    Morning might look like:

    Tomas the Train 30minutes
    Playdough 30minutes
    Activity with Mom (washing windows, baking or anything allowing them to join you in your work.) 45 minutes
    Snack 15minutes
    Wooden Blocks 30minutes
    Colouring Books 30minute



    Nap 1 ½ hour
    Snack and cuddle 30minutes
    Books 30minutes
    Activity with Mom (painting, crafts anything your child would fancy you playing with them.)

    Late Afternoon: 5-8

    Out-Door activity 1hour
    Free time 20 minutes
    Dinner 1 hour
    Bath 15 minutes
    Devotions 15 minutes

    I highly advise you to teach your children to clean up after them selves. Make this easy with buckets and baskets. Just give a bit of encouragement at the toy changes, “please clean up you trains while Mommy puts out your playdough”.

    As you can see it is rather simple, simple enough for me! I have never done well under-pressure, and need to have a system that allows me to feel that I am on top of things while having flexibility to change my priorities. Easily saying No or Yes when new things arise.

    I pray this will help. May you be blessed in your Mothering of your two boys! If you have any more questions please fire away!

    Here are a few links that may help with time/home management

    This is a wonderful family ministry built to help organise the family. Look through this web site for other families schedules.

    Tsh from Simply Organized. I highly recomend her book and website www.simplemom.net