As a mother of 5 beautiful kids, blogger, gym goer, school helper, the most frequently asked question to me is how do I manage to fit it all in. The simplified answer is PLANNING!
Whilst my life is far from perfect and I constantly have to prioritise my activities, deciding on what I can let go and what I must do, through planning I manage to achieve the key activities that mean the most to me.
I can foresee a time in my life when I will not need to plan quite so much as I do now, but with a baby and little ones to enjoy, planning is an integral part of family life.
Here are the key ways that planning works for me:
1. Saves Time
There is always so much going on in our family life, that I find by allocating regular blocks of time to plan the key events, it saves significant time in the longer term. For example, I am now menu planning on a monthly basis. Although this may sound like an overwhelming task, once you are in the menu planning mind set, it is a task that can be done very quickly. I can now plan our family meals for the month in 35 minutes. I then use the shopping lists generated to do a bulk monthly grocery shop (we do fruit and veg weekly at the market). As I have been shopping online for a while know, I have a list of over 350 items that I have purchased. I can quickly run through this list, then add new items and I can have the shopping completed in 30 minutes, to be delivered at a time that suits me.
Having the plan done saves so much time, because instead of it getting to 4pm each afternoon and starting to look through the cupboards to find inspiration for dinner, deciding what to cook and ensuring the ingredients are on hand has already been taken care of.
2. Reduces Stress
The peak times at my house are the mornings before school and the dinner/bed time hours. Menu planning significantly reduces the stress of the early evening rush and some night time planning and preparation helps to reduce the stress levels in the morning. By having the table set for breakfast the night before, dishwasher unstacked and lunch boxes prepared, the workload and therefore the stress levels of the morning have been significantly reduced.
3. Routine For Kids
Experience with my kids has shown me that kids love and work well with routine. Educational consultant Kathy Walker has routines as one of her steps in Setting Your Child up for “Success”.
My planning can help the kids to work within a routine. I use a visual Children’s Timetable to allow the children to be aware of their morning and weekly requirements. Having a weekly plan for them to follow encourages them to be responsible for themselves and also reduces my work load!
It may sound counter intuitive but one of my favourite aspects of planning is that it actually gives me flexibility! Naturally as I set the plans, I can amend, add or disregard as needed to fit in with what will suit the family best. Also as I have the core activities of family life under control (meals, shopping, lunch boxes, etc) tit means hat I can better handle the unplanned and spontaneous events that come along.
5. Auto Pilot
With our beautiful baby boy enjoying 5am starts at the moment, towards the end of the day, I am beginning to become a little weary. As the kids know their routine, I have the meals planned and a night time process to follow, I can pretty much do this on auto pilot and there is not the demands of thinking what is I should be doing!
6. Sets Expectations
Planning also makes the expectations and goals clear to the family. I have my scheduled gym sessions, dad has his bike rides, the kids have their activities and we all have our allocated tasks to contribute to the up keep of the household.
As the children are aware of these expectations, it is easier for them to deal with the known and there is much less protest and argument about what they are required to do.
7. Balance Combined Needs
When putting together the weekly timetables for the children, they can clearly see the number of activities that we need to fit into our week and that it is not only their needs that have to be met. By taking the time to plan out what we do, you can make an assessment on the balance that is being achieved and work towards adjusting it if necessary.
8. Keeps Me Sane
I can cope with organised chaos, but straight chaos stresses me out and make me feel out of control. If I am like this, then I find that my stress, agitation, etc also filters through to the children and there is far more nagging, arguing and tantrums. This is not pretty and it makes me crazy! Planning eliminates (some of) this and creates a more ordered chaos which helps keep me sane.
9. Focus On Important Goals
There are always so many things that I would like to be doing, seeing, achieving. When you have limited time, it can be difficult to now what to work on and how to spend your time when you actually get some by yourself. My monthly planning and review sessions allow me to put down in writing what it is that I would like to achieve for the month. I have it printed as a reference guide, to remind me of where my focus should be and makes it easier for me to work out how I should spend my time.
10. Involves The Children In Decision Making
By considering issues before they are immediately upon us, it also allows a greater opportunity for the kids to have input into the way our family life goes. Meal planning is a classic example of this. Obtaining their input into what we eat makes a significant difference to how enjoyable our meal times are. In our family meetings, a few weeks before school holidays, we discuss what activities they might like to do when they arrive. With finite time, energy and cash this is the best way to ensure that we balance the desires of all of the kids.
So tell me are you a planner or does even the thought of planning bore you to tears?