Mom Hack: Block Scheduling

As the stay-at-home parent for our family, some days can seem like a slog if I’m not proactive about planning out our time. There was a period in early September when Emilia wasn’t feeling well, so she was unexpectedly home from school for most of the week. It turned out to be very bad allergies (ragweed for fall hit us hard – ugh!) and a bit of disillusionment with the whole “school” routine (hah!) but, paired with the cold, rainy weather, it kept us house-bound for a lot of the week. And we got a little stir crazy!

I’m constantly proactively searching for ways to improve myself and better manage my time, just for my own personal development, and especially at home. It’s a difficult task when you don’t have any true “parameters” for your time — no 9 AM meetings of 2 PM conference calls the way you might at a 9-5. I don’t often feel any urgency during my day.

I’ve been testing out “block scheduling,” similar to what a lot of people will remember from their middle and high school years. In my high school for example, we had a set number of periods that were say, an hour; then we had long period, which was 90-minutes, and then lunch.

Before I implemented a block schedule system, my days looked like this:

7-7:30 -9:30 AM: Wake with the kids + consume as much coffee over two hours as it requires to feel awake.

Possibly head to the gym, but usually I chose to keep naptime (SACRED!) instead of risking a skipped nap if we were out too late into the morning.

9:30-11:30: Caroline would nap, so we’d be stuck at home for the morning

Lunch – could fall anywhere between 11:30 and 2

Often, this is the time when I’d try to get out of the house with both kids — to run errands, grocery shop, or just go out for a walk with the stroller.

2-4 PM: Nap #2 for Caroline, and the solo nap of the day for E

This is our old schedule, like I mentioned. In mid-August, Caroline transitioned to ONE nap and Emilia kissed her nap goodbye. Waaaa. We’ve all been a little cranky since.

4 PM – on: This is usually a mad rush to get whatever else we need to get done wrapped up. The kids were usually slow to wake and get moving so we usually read, clean up around the house, and I prep for dinner or whatever is planned for the evening.

With block scheduling, here’s what our days look like now:

Working backwards from bedtime, I set alarms for 3-hour blocks of time on my phone. Since I have E’s time in school and C’s nap to account for (and you don’t ever mess with nap time, for everyone’s sanity):

7:30 AM -10:30 AM: Morning Block

During this block I try to make sure we fully complete the following tasks: breakfast, getting everyone and myself dressed and ready for the day, I get my “Pages” done in my Bullet Journal, I make sure the kids spend some reading, and playing, and then we clean up as a family before Caroline naps (usually going down to sleep between 9:30 and 10). If Emilia has school, we do drop off and then head home. I also try to start a load of laundry during this block. This is also the block I’d go to the gym or try to sneak in an early morning walk, pre-naptime.

10:30 AM – 1:30 PM: Early Afternoon Block

This is our lunch + “Out of the House” block. Caroline is usually up from her nap by this time, we all have lunch, and then I get any errands outside of the house accomplished. This could mean grocery shopping, a trip to the library to pick up new books, running to Target (a weekly ritual), or going out for coffee just to get out and have a change of scenery. Since I’m usually already out of the house to pickup Emilia from preschool, it makes sense to just continue on in the car to whatever we have planned for the day.

1:30 PM – 4:30 PM: Late Afternoon Block

During this block, we’re usually are a little worn out and ready for a little time at home to relax. The girls might watch a favorite movie, like Sing or Beauty and the Beast or a few episodes of Daniel Tiger. I’ll wrap up any laundry that needs to be finished, prepare some snacks to tide the kids over until dinner, prep for dinner, and do a spin through the house to clean-up any really bad toy explosions and other messes while encouraging the girls to work together with me. If they’re self-entertaining well, this is also when I might try to get through some daily or weekly cleaning tasks, like cleaning the bathroom, sweeping, vacuuming or doing a quick sort through the volumes of art Emilia produces. At some point in this block, we might start a walk, for a bit more fresh air before the next block, which is chaos. If they’re not self-entertaining and seem like they need more one-on-one time with me, we’ll do something together, like play on the Gonge mountaintops, set-up an obstacle course in the house or the yard, or play “picnic” together.

4:30 – 7:30 PM: Bedtime Block

This is definitely the toughest block of the day. The kids are usually really overtired and starting to get crabby by about 4:00, so it’s usually just a waiting game until Dad gets home and can lend a hand. We might still be out for a walk during the start of this block, then spend the pre-“dad’s home” time straightening up, preparing for the next day of school, and the kid’s will join me in the kitchen to get the dishwasher loaded and the kitchen cleaned up so dinner prep will go smoothly. Once dad’s home, it’s a bit of playtime, dinner, bath (every other night) — usually we do a “sister tub,” which the girls love), and then PJs, brush teeth, reading, and bed. If all goes well, we might both be out of the room by 7:30 or 8.

7:30 – 10:30 PM: Relax + Life Catch-up

I tend to get a surge of energy around the time we start to put the kids to bed, until about 10 PM, so I try not to crash on the couch with a glass of wine until I’ve accomplished at least a few “Must Do” items from my weekly task list. This usually means finishing some straightening up, finally opening mail, cleaning something in our house, and getting through more laundry or clothing sorting in my on-going effort to minimize and simplify our lives. (I dream of capsule wardrobes for all of us.) Usually, there is prep for the following day, some TV, showering, working in my Bullet Journal, or if I can settle myself down enough to focus instead of flitting from room to room getting things put away and organized, maybe some time to check email, respond to texts, edit photos taken on the “real” camera, and possibly spend some time writing — my favorite part of the evening.

10:30 – Midnight: Bedtime

Definitely the area we most need to work on. We go to sleep FAR too late. But… this is life with young kids and I remind myself that it won’t be like this forever — both the good, and the exhausting! I squeeze so much in when they’re asleep so I can be fully present for them when they’re awake.

Anyways, during this pre-bed time, I might have a cup of tea, read, or listen to a podcast while I (still) sort through more clothes, put stuff away like the mess of makeup all over my bureau or whatever clothes I’ve changes in and out of during the day, and get into bed and catch up on Instagram. I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, but if anything cute happened during the day with the kids, I’ll share it to Facebook straight from my iPhone camera roll after a bit of editing right from my phone using the Photoshop Express app. I’m not great about staying on top of sharing things in real time, as I’ve mentioned before (because I hate staring at my phone and missing moments with my family), but I’m really particular about not falling too far behind with my Instagram feed which I’ll explain in another post.

I hope this recap of how our days used to be organized, versus how they’re organized now was useful. I know it has totally changed how I tackle all the things I try to accomplish in my family, home, personal and professional life. It’s a very careful balancing act to be sure, and some days, our blocks meld together a bit, but simply having the parameter there as a goal (plus an alarm set on my phone) really helps kick my butt into gear.

I’d love to hear how you motivate and manage your time if you’re home, whether it’s full-time, part-time, or some other combination.


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