Back to School.
Regardless of whether that phrase sends shivers of delight or terror down your spine, it’s here.
Whatever happened to going back to school after Labor Day? You know, spending your last day of freedom lamenting that summer was over and that the Jerry Lewis Telethon was taking the place of all of your favorite regularly scheduled programs? The ones you wouldn’t see again until December.
And that means your routine IS going to change. For some people, the laid back easiness of summer is all coming to an end. In its place will be tight schedules, missed buses, forgotten lunches. For others, the chaos of the summer will finally be reined in. Structure will replace the frenetic free-for-all brought about by the warmer months.
Along with this change in routine, it’s time for you to make a change in how you think about your day, too. Instead of simply thinking of it in three chunks:
Before Work/Before School
After Work/After School
I need you to shift into thinking of it in four chunks:
Prep for the Day
Prep for Tomorrow
If you’re not 100% sure about why that shift is so important, you should check out this blog post. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s also a great intro for what you’re about to read!
Before we get to the habits that you should incorporate into each one of those four chunks, let’s talk a little bit about what you’ve probably experienced in the past when you just thought about your day in three chunks. Mainly we’ll look at those before and after chunks! (Could I say the word “chunks” ANY more?!)
Before Work/Before School Hours
Using the term “hours” is a little misleading. We all know it’s more like minutes!
Here are some examples of what may have gone down in your home:
- Scrambling to find homework/important paperwork as you walk out the door
- Rushing to complete homework/ important paperwork as you walk out the door
- Doing a last minute outfit change because someone jostled someone else as they raced through the door while scarfing down breakfast in an attempt to make it to the bus on time
- Grumpiness all around because no one got enough sleep the night before
- Explosive arguments because everyone is on edge and no one knows where their shoes/coat/backpack/purse/keys are
- The cat going crazy knocking over filled-to-the-brim coffee mugs because no one fed him yet
- Fighting with your seven-year-old because she wants to wear the same outfit she wore yesterday
- Digging through piles of laundry trying to find two non-stinky socks (You don’t even let yourself dream about matching ones anymore!)
During Work/School Hours
- Stressed out phone calls because someone forgot some important lunch, gym clothes, permission slip, etc
- Constant anxiety wondering how you’ll get it all done
- Inattention to details because of said anxiety that leads to mistakes in the workplace or school room
- Grumpiness because life at home sucks
After Work/School Hours
- No meaningful conversation about anyone’s day because you’re too busy trying to squeeze in homework/dinner/laundry/soccer practice
- Grumpiness because everyone is tired and cranky from their long day
- Hangry outbursts because dinner is way later than it should be and no one has eaten since at least noon
- An explosion of messiness because everyone just walks in the house and collapses--leaving backpacks, clothes, shoes, etc strewn about wherever they happened to land
- Arguing about getting homework/paperwork completed on time
- Fighting because no one has clean clothes and the laundry pile is teetering dangerously above your six-year old's head
- Screaming matches with your teenagers because they WON’T. PUT. DOWN. THE. PHONE.
I could go on and on, but I think you get where I’m going with all this, right? If any of this sounds familiar, you know better than anyone that it isn’t fun, and it’s definitely NOT the way you want to live.
So what do you do?
First of all, you make the shift to thinking of your day in terms of FOUR chunks instead of three. Second, you start to implement the following regular tasks into each chunk. And the most important chunk in which to start is Decompression.
Decompression is a designated amount of time that EVERYONE in your household gets when he or she arrives home. It’s a set amount of time to take a mental break from the bulk of your day in order to get ready for a non-crappy evening.
Depending on what time you and your kids arrive home, Decompression activities could involve the following activities:
A little bit of quiet time
A chance to go to the bathroom
A chance to change into comfy clothes
A chance to just sit for a few minutes to catch your breath
Maybe a little bit of mindless TV or screen time
Go for a short walk/run/workout
Conversation about your day
Decompression should last anywhere from ten minutes to a half hour. Be warned! Decompression likes to sneak its way into the rest of your evening! Be vigilant or you’ll quickly realize it’s bedtime, and all you’ve accomplished is Decompression.
Prep for Tomorrow
The second chunk you want to overhaul is the time after Decompression and before bedtime. This is your Prep for Tomorrow chunk and possibly the most important chunk of your day. The amount of prep that you’re able to accomplish the night before will directly impact the ease of your morning.
Prep for Tomorrow activities should include the following:
Figure out what to wear.
You don’t have to necessarily lay it out the night before but having a general idea at least helps in the whole “Do I have any clean underwear?” struggle.
Complete any homework/paperwork needed for the next day.
I know sometimes things spill over in the morning, and that’s okay as long as the morning isn’t your ONLY designated time to get it done. The goal is that the majority of homework/paperwork is finished, so you’re not trying to fill out emergency contact forms at stop lights.
Get your backpack/purse/work bag/gym bag packed and ready.
This means that you have everything you need for the day ready to go. Even if you know you’ll need access to something in the morning from those bags, go ahead and pack them up. Everything will be contained and ready for you in the morning. You won’t be sprinting from the moving car back in the house to retrieve your kid’s math book that somehow ended up under the bed. It’ll be packed and ready.
Take a look at your calendar/ agenda for the next day.
This just gives you a quick heads up about what to expect the next day, so you aren’t blindsided. You can also take care of any small things that you may have forgotten about--pay a bill, reply to a quick email, etc.
Prepping packed lunches
Again, you don’t necessarily have to pack lunches the night before (Sandwiches DO get gross in the fridge after a while!) but do as much as you can to make your life easier the next day.
Prep for the Day
The third chunk where you need to implement a structured routine is during the Prep for the Day chunk. This is the time between when you wake up and when you leave for work/school.
I’m gonna be really honest for a second. I HATE MORNINGS. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m super thankful to wake up and all, but I just struggle something fierce to get up and running. If I don’t have a plan laid out in advance, I have little hope of doing anything other than the bare minimum--like putting on a bra and brushing my teeth--before I get out the door. And doing the bare minimum in the morning means my day starts out on a less than stellar note. That’s NEVER good.
Prep for the Day activities should include the following:
Depending on the age of your kids, this could be the bulk of your morning. Brushing teeth, brushing hair, getting dressed, etc.
This can last anywhere from five to thirty minutes. During admin time, you look at your calendar, update your calendar, Bible study, make a grocery list, make a to-do list for the day, send a few emails/texts, etc. Admin time gives you a few minutes to get your head in the game before you run out the door.
The double check
Before you walk out the door, look at your backpack/purse/ gym bag and make sure you have everything you need.
Do you notice how much shorter the list is for Prep for the Day versus Prep for Tomorrow? You really want to set yourself up the night before as much as possible. Mornings tend to be rushed in most households. We also want to plan for some craziness to ensue. The dog gets out. A kid ties his shoe strings together. A water bottle explodes and everyone has to change clothes.
The final chunk you need to worry about is the Work/School chunk. And honestly, your only goal here is to be as completely focused on the contents of your day as possible. The point is to make life run more smoothly before and after Work/School, so you’re able to be as productive as possible during that time.
We’ve already established that just getting by isn’t good enough anymore. Making deadlines and getting stuff done by the skin of your teeth is no way to live. For you or your kids.
The best way to combat all that is to implement intentional activities like the ones listed above that add up to successful routines for you and your family. Different routines are necessary for each of the different chunks of your day, so you can have the least amount of C.R.A.P. (chaos, resentment, anxiety, and panic) in your life possible!
Want a little bit of structure to help you set up those routines? Click the link below to grab a super helpful planning sheet!
Get the Back to School Daily Habit Worksheet
Sign up to get the Printable worksheet and stay in the loop of organizational goodies.