I coach a JV volleyball team and one of the things you learn in volleyball is to return to base. When the ball is in play, there’s a specific spot you are supposed to be on the court. If you aren’t there it throws off everyone else and can cause you to lose the game. I’ve discovered in life that routines and rhythms are the same way. They remind you what you are supposed to be doing and what everyone else is supposed to be doing as well.
We are expecting our fourth little boy this summer and occasionally things get a little crazy over here. We’re all here together because we homeschool and I do all my work from here but we keep mostly sane by a collection of routines. Routines that shift with the seasons to be sure but we settle back down after a few weeks when that happens.
- Keep the laundry running. The boys laundry gets washed almost every day, mostly because someone’s sheets need washed. Then there are our clothes, towels, the occasional load of whites, and in ball season our ball clothes. If I plan on doing two loads of day, we usually stay caught up.
- Teach the kids to only destroy one room at a time and then pick it up. When the boys finish playing in the living room and we are done with school in there we pick it all up before we head to the kitchen for snacks or to their room to play. Then when it’s time to eat lunch, we only have their room to pick up instead of half the house.
- Have a set nap/meal/sleep routine. We eat lunch at roughly the same time every day. Then after lunch, we take naps/ do quiet time. We have the same evening routine that we do every night. It’s not a surprise to the kids and I can work many of my chores into that routine so that I don’t have to think about them. And thinking about them is half the trouble of having them, after all.
- Know your base for what part of the day it is. I actually divide my day up into different parts and have different work for each one. The early morning (pre-breakfast) routine looks a lot like making myself presentable, reading my Bible, showering any boys that need it (or letting them play in the tub), starting on breakfast, unloading the dishwasher, and running a load of laundry. I don’t ever have to stop and think “What am I supposed to be doing now?” I already know.
- Be flexible. If I have an early appointment, I can skip half the morning routine and I know exactly what I have to catch up on later. You can design these routines around different days in your schedule. And if you have to throw it all out the door for a few hours or days, do that. You will all survive and then you can go back to doing what you need to.
- Set limits for yourself. The beautiful thing about having these routines is that it’s easy to see when your life is full. If you can’t find a time in your schedule to do the thing (whatever the thing is), then you can’t do it. Sometimes you just have to say, “No, this isn’t the season,” no matter how exciting a project or opportunity is. Don’t crowd life so full you don’t have time to fully live it.
Routines shouldn’t control you but they can really help you manage your life.