Managing the time of everyone in your family can be incredibly challenging. With all of the activities and distractions in the world today, the thought of a balanced life can seem all but impossible. Too much structure can lead to a rigid, over-scheduled day; too much unscheduled time often results in boredom or chaos.
While it may seem overwhelming at first, it is quite possible for you to create a healthy, daily routine for you and your family. Below are seven ways to increase structure and decrease disorder within your home.
1. Talk it out
Whether your family is large or small, you will never succeed in establishing a routine if everyone is on different pages. The first step to establishing peace and order within your household is to get everyone involved in the conversation. Let each person say what they believe is or is not working — and be open to suggestions and feedback. Does dad need to help clean up after breakfast? Should the kids wake up ten minutes earlier each morning to get to school on time? Once the problems are clearly defined, you will all be much closer to fixing them.
2. Write it down
After the family has agreed on problem areas and how to fix them, write it down! Outline the structure and routines you all want to have. Whether it’s a cardboard clock that breaks down your morning by the minute or a large, daily calendar that is color-coded for each person, make your goals permanent (or written down with a permanent marker, at least) and displayed somewhere in the house where everyone can see them. If the goal is to be out the door every morning by 7:50, write it down on sticky notes and place them on bathroom mirrors, cupboards, and the refrigerator — the more the goal is seen, the more it is reinforced.
3. Have patience
It takes about 21 days to form a habit, and each member of your family will likely not have their schedule perfected in the first three weeks. Try as hard as you can to stick to your new structure each day. Whether it’s a specific time the television has to be turned off or a goal of five weekly family dinners, go out of your way to stick to the new routine. If everyone falls behind or misses a day, just keep trying! Every day that you consciously work to create structure is one day closer to the structure becoming second nature for everyone.
4. Plan ahead
This tip goes hand-in-hand with writing your goals down: each day or each week, map out everyone’s schedule along with new routine elements you hope to incorporate. You will be much more able to stick to a schedule if you know what is going to happen ahead of time. Include work, school, sports, medical appointments, grocery shopping, play dates, and church services in your initial assessment — this will allow you to account for large chunks of time and plan around them.
There will always be daily tasks that do not get done, no matter how perfectly you believe you have planned your day. Your family needs routine, yes, but it also needs breathing room and time for fun and relaxation. Prioritize both your time and your to-do list, completing the most important and time-sensitive matters first. Balancing the lives and responsibility of your spouse and your children is never easy, but it will be made much easier by letting go of the things that matter least.
6. Be consistent
One of the easiest ways to establish structure in your home, particularly when dealing with young children, is to be consistent in your daily routine. Try to eat meals, do homework, brush teeth, and go to bed at or around the same time each day. Our bodies become in-sync with our schedules, using their “internal alarm clocks” to wake us up, remind us to eat, or signal that it is time for a break.
7. Revisit and revise
Do not be afraid to make adjustments to your new structure and routine! Things that worked on paper may not translate very well to real life, while things you never would have imagined being possible on paper might become the new keys to your success. Meet together as a family often to discuss schedules and priorities, and always be open to new ways of thinking and trying things—you never know what good can come from it!