Introducing the Structure in an Unstructured Life Planner!

If you have spent any time over here at this blog, you have figured out I am quite the Type A gal. So it will probably come as no surprise to you that I couldn’t find either a personal planner or a blog planner available anywhere in a store or across the interwebs that was exactly what I was looking for. So, being a paper-and-pencil girl and needing to have a paper-and-pencil planner, I went ahead and made my own. 

I use one three ring binder to combine both my personal and my blog planner, because I like to have everything all in one place. I have mine set up the following way:

Monthly pages. I have a monthly calendar where I keep track of my and the family’s schedule – appointments, plans, days off from school, etc. On the bottom of the page is room for me to write my goals for the month. On the facing page, I have my monthly blog planning calendar,  where I plan my posts and have check boxes for scheduling, crossposting to BlogHer, and promoting on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.  On the back sides of these pages I copied a plain calendar grid and I use one to plan my Facebook posts and the other to plan my Twitter posts. I do a lot of scheduling ahead on social media, so this helps keep me on track and organized. 

Monthly Planner Pages

Weekly pages. Next I have my weekly to-do pages. These include space on each day for a to-do list, a blog section to remind me what I am posting, anywhere I need to link up, social media notes, and a reminder to clean out my comment spam and to write daily. Under the blog section is room to note any schedule items, like sports practices or school events, and check boxes for reading and exercise. The far column has space for me to jot the meals for the week, so I don’t have to flip back in my planner for a quick peek at the week’s meals, a section with a cleaning list, and a small notes box.

Weekly Pages

 Meal Planning pages. Next I have my meal planning pages. The front has dinner plans and the back has lunch plans. I also have a sheet with meal planning ideas, a pantry inventory, and a freezer inventory.

Meal Planning Pages

 Budgeting pages. Next I have my spending plan sheet, that helps me keep track of when bills are due and if I have paid them. 

Misc. pages. Finally I have a section with some miscellaneous pages, such as my list of home improvements we’d like to do, my list of books to read, and my random stuff I want to remember pages where I can jot down ideas or tips I come across and want to remember. 

Budgeting and Misc Pages

Blog pages. Then I have another section with my blog post ideas pages and my monthly stats tracker. I separate my personal planner from my blog planner with a few page protector sheets that contain a blogging checklist I use and some other blogging tips and tricks I have compiled and like to have where I can see them easily and often. I also keep a couple folders that fit into the three ring binder in the back for loose papers such as the school lunch menu that I use when meal planning, or receipts I need to do something with, etc. 

Blog Planner Pages

 This is the system that works for me and keeps me on track. I hardly ever go anywhere without my planner!!

Think this system would work for you? I am offering my planner pages to readers for a special price! You can buy the personal planner pages, which include 12 monthly pages, the weekly planner pages, the meal planning pages, and the budgeting and miscellaneous pages, all for only $2! Want just the blog planner pages, which include 12 monthly blog planner pages, the blog ideas page, and the monthly stats page? The blog planner is also available for only $2! Want them both? Buy both packs and save $1 – you can get the personal planner and the blog planner for only $3!

Purchase the Personal Planner here:

 

Purchase the Blog Planner here:

 

Purchase BOTH the Personal and Blog Planners here:
 

3 Ways to Organize Your Facebook News Feed

Organize Your Facebook News FeedI’ve said before, Facebook and I have a love/hate relationship. There are a ton of things I love about Facebook, but one of my irritations is the cluttered news feed. I often feel like I miss posts from friends, yet see 20 updates from Target. And don’t even get me started on my beef about how many people actually see my Facebook posts from this here blog!

While there are many things I can’t change, there are some simple steps I can take to see more of the posts I want to see (like ones from blogs!), and fewer of the ones I don’t want to see (like those annoying complainers you haven’t seen since middle school but accepted the friend request out of curiosity!). Here’s three simple things you can do to organize your Facebook news feed.

1.    Change the settings on friends. You can do this one of two ways, in your friends list, or as you go through your news feed.

To change the settings from your list of friends, click friends on your profile page.

Facebook News Feed 1

Your list of friends will appear, with a box next to each one with a checkmark and the word Friends. Hover over this box and a list will appear.

Facebook News Feed 2

The first change you can make, is decide whether you want to see updates from this friend in your news feed at all. If there is a check mark next to Show In News Feed, then you will see updates from this person. You can uncheck this line and you will stop seeing any updates from this person in your news feed.

If you decide you want to see updates, you can further refine this option by clicking on settings underneath Show in News Feed. From this list, you can select to see All Updates, Most Updates, or Only Important Updates.

Facebook News Feed 3

 If you don’t want to take one chunk of time to go through all your friends on your list, you can do this as you go through your news feed, and slowly over time you will weed out the updates you don’t want and retain the ones you do want. To do this through the news feed, simply hover over the name of the friend in their status update. A box will pop up, with a Friends box in the lower right corner.

Facebook News Feed 4

Hover over the box with Friends in it. You can now do the same steps as above, by selecting Show in News Feed or not, and then adjusting Settings if you choose to have the updates show in your news feed.

Facebook News Feed 5

2.    Change the settings for pages you like. This is ideal for pages you have liked at one time or another and now don’t want to see all the time. OR, it is perfect for pages (like the Structure in an Unstructured Life page!), that you don’t see all the updates from, but would like to. Similar to what you did with friends, you can do this one of two ways.

From your profile page, click More, then select Likes.

Facebook News Feed 6

Click more again, and select Other Likes.

Facebook News Feed 7

 Hover over each icon on your list, and a menu will pop up. You once again have the option to select Show in News Feed, or to uncheck and have updates not appear in your news feed.

Facebook News Feed 8

If you select to have updates show in your news feed, you can click on Settings and select All Updates, Most Updates, or Only Important Updates.

Just like with friends, you can also do this from your news feed. When you see an update from a page you like (or one you don’t!), you can hover over the name of the page, and a window will appear. There will be a Liked box in the lower right. Hover over Liked and you now have the Show in News Feed and Settings options.

Facebook News Feed 9

A word about blog Facebook pages – unless you select to Show in News Feed and choose All Updates, Facebook picks and chooses what you see from these pages. They claim to have a formula that takes into account your interaction with the page, but I have found my number of followers Facebook selects to push a post into their news feeds to be rather random. If you really like a page, choose to see all updates to ensure you receive them.

3.    Create Lists in Facebook. Facebook allows you to create lists within your friends, and also interest lists for pages you have liked. By doing this, you can click on the list and get a news feed of just those friends or pages. Kind of like a filter for your news feed.

To put your friends into a list, such as Family, Close Friends, High School Friends, Work Friends, etc. you need to first create the list. Facebook has a few preset lists, such as family and close friends, but anything more detailed or specific you will want to create yourself.

From your news feed screen, find Friends on the left column, and hover in that area. A More will appear. Click that and it takes you to a screen where you have the option to Create List. From there, click on Create List and choose a name for your list. You can add members at that time, or you can go add them later.

Facebook News Feed 10

Next, assign friends to your lists by once again going to your friends list from your profile page. Hover over the Friends box, and below where you selected to Show in News Feed, is a section that lists Close Friends, Add to another list. Choose the list shown or pick Add to another list and select from the menu that appears.

Facebook News Feed 11

You can do the same thing for pages, but these are called Interest Lists. In the left hand column of your news feed page, below apps, click More. Interests will appear. Hover in that area, and click More. You can add an Interest List the same way you added a Friend list. Then again, you can add pages you like the same way you added friends.

For both friends and pages, you can also do this while going through your news feed. Simply hover over the name of the friend or page, then hover over Friends or Liked, and select the List or Interest List from the menu that appears.

What ways do you organize your Facebook reading?

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How to Create a Routine for Kids

How to Create a Routine for Kids - Structure in an Unstructured LifeI’ve written about routines here before. You can check out my post about one of our after school routines here, or about my morning routine here. So for those of you long-time readers, a post about routine and structure is nothing new. But today I am tackling how to create a routine for kids.

It’s not rocket science that kids thrive when a routine is in place. That’s why elementary classrooms and after school activities everywhere have a set schedule and process for doing things. And having a routine in place can make stressful times of the day or challenging tasks much easier to accomplish and far more pleasant.

So you know you want to create a routine with your kids, but are wondering where to start? How do you get from chaos to structure? Don’t worry. I’ve got five steps to help you get on track!

How to Create a Routine for Kids

  1. Identify problematic or stressful times in the day. For most moms, they find morning time, after school, or bedtime to be those points in the day where some structure would help. But it can be different for everyone. Maybe for you, it is the after lunch hour or two that is stressful. Another approach is to identify tasks that are slipping through the cracks. Maybe homework is not getting done or chores are left unfinished. Identify the times or areas that give you the most stress, and use that as your starting point.
  2. Identify the “set in stone” items first. Are there tasks that are non-negotiable, like completing homework, reading time, or certain chores? Start by identifying those things. Or are there time frames that you want to stick to, like the time you eat dinner, when you want the kids in bed, or the time you need to be out the door in the morning. Figure these tasks and/or times out first and write them down.
  3. Build the routine around the “set in stone” items. If dinner time is your non-negotiable, start with eating at 5:30 pm and work backwards from there for your after school routine or forwards from there for your evening and bedtime routine. If getting homework done is your non-negotiable, then plug that into your routine where you think it will be best accomplished, and fill in the other tasks around completing homework.
  4. Consider how the routine can be flexible. A routine is the ideal to strive for, but it will need to be flexible at times. One-time events at school, church programs, unexpected guests, and other such events will happen. Think about how your routine can be flexible when these things happen. Can you build in a “flex day” where you have a free day from homework or chores that can float to whatever day of the week it is needed? Can you have a couple meals that are easy to prepare and your pantry is stocked for to make on days when dinner time has to be shifted for activities? Figure out the flexibility when you can calmly do so, to avoid the panic when these spontaneous routine-disrupters happen.
  5. Start slowly. Begin by working on the “set in stone” parts of your routine first. Focus on and reinforce those areas right away. Once you have that task or activity running smoothly, shift your focus to another part of the routine. Slowly master each part, to avoid becoming overwhelmed – either you or the kiddos!

So what does this look like in real life? This past weekend I realized we were failing miserably at getting the 10 minutes a day of reading homework completed with my oldest. Knowing that he does better and has more focus right after school, rather than in the evening, I knew this needed to be done after school.

So once I realized homework was slipping through the cracks, and identified it as a “set in stone,” I began to build my after school routine around it. I know a few housekeeping tasks need to be done when we walk in the door – backpacks unpacked and clothes changed for me and for my little one who has to wear a uniform. So those came first, then my non-negotiable – homework. After that I filled in play time and dinner.

I know days like today, I have an ice cream social at school from 5 – 7 pm and football practice from 6 – 7:30 pm. Days like today, I figure can be homework break days, and dinner shifts to earlier to fit everything. If the kids aren’t too hyped up about the ice cream social, I might try to have them read to each other, but I’ll go with the flow on that.

Finally, I’m really hitting the homework part of the routine hard this week, and until we get into the habit of doing it. Then I’ll get more particular about other areas, like maybe having the kids do some chores while I make dinner, or giving them a little more responsibility with the unpacking their backpacks.

Here’s how I envision the routine looking after a while. I’m starting out posting this so we can work toward the end goal.

Afternoon Routine from Structure in an Unstructured Life

Do you have routines that work? How did you create them?   

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How Do You Prioritize the Priorities?

photo credit: H is for Home via photopin cc

photo credit: H is for Home via photopin cc

How many times have you read the advice to sneak tasks into those “spare” minutes in the day? The five minutes while waiting in the car pool line, the seven minutes while the kids play in the bathtub, the four minutes while you wait for the water to boil or the oven to preheat. We’re told that these are golden opportunities to sneak in those things we say we don’t have time for.

We are told we can fill these stolen moments with:

  • reading for pleasure
  • taking care of ourselves
  • cleaning
  • organizing
  • connecting with your kids
  • teaching your kids

These are just a few of the tasks we are told we can fill up those “extra” minutes in our day with. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that many unaccounted for minutes in my day. Certainly not enough to squeeze in all the suggested activities I could squeeze in if I were maximizing those seconds in my day.

For example, take bath time. After the hair is washed and the wriggly bodies are scrubbed, my kids like to splash and play for five or ten minutes (or until after the water gets cold if I would let them). So according to all the suggestions I read, I could be using these minutes read a magazine. Or to give myself a five minute facial or remove my nail polish. Or to clean my sink, toilet, etc. Or to organize my linen closet or cupboard under my sink. Or to talk to my kids about their day, their hopes, their dreams. Or to practice skills like counting, spelling, or patterning with my children. I don’t know how you do the math, but that’s at least 40 minutes worth of “stuff” right there. Talk about cold water and prune-like fingers.

So what do I usually end up doing while my kids are splashing and squirting? I usually feel so overwhelmed by all the activities I should be fitting in right then, that I stare out the window or at the wall and fret about all the things I should be doing right then. Productive and efficient, huh?

I wish this was one of my posts where I then go on to offer five or ten tips for solving this dilemma. However, I don’t have the answer, either. So this is a post where I ask YOU how to solve this dilemma. How do you spend the minutes you can fill with things you never get to? How do you decide what to fill those minutes with?

How do you prioritize the priorities?

Organize Your Group with GroupGel

As a mom who works outside the home, I know how easy the business world has made it to communicate information to groups. Each day at work, I have multiple options available to get information out to coworkers in a quick and efficient manner. I have established email groups, an intranet, and interoffice mail all at my disposal and all easy and fast.

However, when I am in my mom role and outside of work, it gets more difficult to communicate information to other moms, church groups, or sports parents. Most of us with children find that we interact with at least one group, usually more. And sometimes because of the difficulties in organizing these communications, people get left out or times are wrong or needs are misunderstood.

That’s where GroupGel comes in. GroupGel is a new online app made specifically for communicating with groups. It makes sending messages, collecting RSVPs, and getting volunteers so much easier! GroupGel is a cloud-based system, so it is easy to access from anywhere, whether you’re at home, at work, or on the go.

GroupGel is very user-friendly and easy to set up. It is free to sign up and creating your group takes only a few minutes. Even adding group members can be done in a matter of seconds; simply fill in their name and contact info and you’re set! You can also easily create subgroups, so you can send messages or events to only a portion of the group, rather than everyone. Perfect for getting a message to just those attending an event, while not bothering those that can’t make it.

One of my favorite features is the Messages. You can easily send a message to the group via email, text, or phone, or all three. This is perfect for those last minute changes in time or location like rain delays of sports events. It also allows you to send reminders to groups, such as “Don’t forget to bring your dish to pass to the play group holiday party!”

Another great feature is Sign Ups. This makes organizing get togethers and parties so much easier! This GroupGel feature allows you to list all the items needed and group members can go in and sign up for what they are bringing. Having a potluck and don’t want seven trays of cookies and one pasta salad? Make a sign up list and ensure you get a varied and perfect selection of dishes! Similarly, you can use the Volunteers feature to get sign ups for different jobs or tasks needed within the group or for an event.

GroupGel allows you to create Interest Forms which are perfect for easily and quickly gathering information from group members. For example, my group of mom friends and I get together and hold a book exchange with our kids every year at Christmas. How much easier would it be to buy for this party if we all knew more about the types of books the kids in the group are interested in and what reading, or listening, levels are in the group? An Interest Form could gather this info and have it available for the group to see.

The Event feature allows you to invite the group to an event in one quick step. Simply create the event and it gets sent to the entire group. You can also simply click a box to make RSVPs to the event an option. This allows everyone in the group to get the same information without worrying that you forgot to tell someone the details.

I am guilty of having complained (numerous times) about the lack of organization in groups and activities my kids are involved in. The Coach often tells me that maybe I should volunteer to organize it then. But with a full time job, kids, home, and a million other to-dos, I simply haven’t had the time available to do that. However, with GroupGel, the time needed to organize soccer snacks or baseball concession stand duties would be drastically cut, making it a much more manageable task. Uh-oh, did I just volunteer to organize these? :)

This is a sponsored review by GroupGel. All opinions expressed are my own.  

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention (or Maybe It’s Lack of Time)

A page from my new planner

My beloved planner system was no longer working for me. And since I have yet to find a product on the market that is exactly what I’m looking for, I had to resort to making my own.

I’ve written before about being a paper and pencil (or colored pens, actually) kind of girl. I’ve tried electronic planners and they just don’t work for me. Although I may be coming around, because the notes and reminders apps on my iPhone have been getting a lot of use lately. I also have my own quirky way of keeping track and informing my family of what is going on. For awhile, this whole system was working great. For awhile.

I jot down a lot of notes; quotes I like, things I want to remember, great ideas, books I want to read, ideas for Muffin Tin Meals, etc. And while I have loved using my pretty notebooks to keep track of my goals, meal plans, grocery lists, and everything else, I was finding I used up the notebook way before I used all the ideas in it. Which led to me rewriting and rewriting certain things. I don’t have time for that.

So I set about to create a solution to my problem. I needed something I could write in, but that I wouldn’t have to rewrite all the time to transfer info. I needed it to be portable enough to fit in my bag. I needed spots for weekly goals and to-do’s, meal planning, budgeting, great general info like books and quotes, and blogging ideas and tips.

I didn’t need a calendar, as I have a calendar system at work I use that fits perfectly with my job. I print out calendar pages and have three months at a time posted by my desk to track meetings and appointments. Then I use a cute weekly to-do list pad from the dollar spot at Target for my weekly work to-do’s. Since I don’t take much work home, I don’t need these items to travel – they stay in their homes at my desk!

What I needed was to organize my life, not my job. So I browsed around online and found a number of bloggers that had created their own printable planning pages. Being the perfectionist, Type A person that I am, none of them were exactly what I wanted. So I created my own! My planning pages are a mix of open space pages to write on and pages with static info typed in and printed. Here are some of the features of my planning pages:

  • Weekly goals page, things to do page, and writing list page – all open space to write in my info for the week
  • Dinner meal plan and lunch meal plan – dates filled in and standing activities, but open space to write in meals
  • Spending plan – arranged by week; filled in are the pay dates and bills to be paid those weeks, and the estimate for each expense, left open are lines for the actual amount and a check box for paid
  • Meal ideas with my favorites filled in and space for more, lunch ideas (same), and Muffin Tin Meal ideas (this I created boxes with six spaces since my muffin tins have six spots, a freezer inventory page with open lines, and an open yummy ideas to remember page
  • Book wish list (filled in with the books I already have on my list and open space to add more!), home projects list (again, some filled in and some space for more), what to do each season list (I’ve been wanting to get this going!), Stuff I want to remember (open space to write anything I want to remember)
  • Great blogging info page (filled in with some lists I like to have handy and space for more ideas and info)

I color coded sections to make it a little more organized and pretty. Then I printed, three hole punched, and put it in a folder with prongs (which I chose because it is much slimmer than a binder). I used my Avery tabs that I love to divide each section.

Sound like something you could use? Click HERE to download a blank pdf version of my planner! My organizing gift to you! :) Interested in the word version you can customize? Email me!

What type of planning system do you use?

Back to School Series: Get in a Groove!

Next installment in the back-to-school series! Today I am tackling the topic of routines. Creating routines and sticking to them is a tough one for me. How about you? So here are some ideas on creating and sticking to routines that will help make the transition to school, and into the school year, much smoother for you and the kiddos!

  • What do you need to include? This sounds like a no brainer, but I know for me it helps to jot down a list of exactly what my routine needs to include. For the kids, the morning routine simply needs to include getting dressed and brushing teeth. They eat breakfast at school/day care, so that is already taken care of. In the afternoon, the routine needs to include activities such as unpacking backpacks and doing chores. Evening routine needs to include preparing for the next day and the usual bedtime activities like brushing teeth and reading stories. Then I have a few activities to figure out where they should fit in, such as homework. Right after school? Right after dinner? This requires some more thought…
  • Consider your children’s independence levels. When it comes to determining if you should be doing something or if your kids should be taking responsibility for it, there are a few questions you can ask. First, CAN they do it? Consider their developmental level, if they are physically and cognitively capable of doing a task. Once you have determined if they can do a task, next consider SHOULD they do it? I’m all for teaching kids responsibility, but I also realize that my kids are in school/day care all day and need a rest and some time to chill out. So while they are capable of a lot of tasks, they shouldn’t necessarily do them all. Basically, I pick my top priorities. Finally, consider WILL IT TAKE LONGER if they do it? While it is important for kids to learn to do certain things on their own, the reality is there are only so many minutes in a day and if you need to be somewhere on time, sometimes you just have to do it for them.
  • Make your routine visible and easy to follow. Once you have figured out what and when activities will occur in the routine, post it where it is easy for you and your kiddos to see it. Make it simple and easy to understand for children. For younger kids, use pictures. For older kids, use simple short phrases. If you want kids to take an interest in it, make it bright, colorful, and fun looking!
  • Practice, practice, practice and reinforce, reinforce, reinforce! As a former elementary school teacher, I know one of the keys to classroom success is spending a huge percentage of your time the first few weeks reviewing, practicing, and reinforcing classroom routines and procedures. The rationale for this is that if you devote the time in the beginning of the school year to this practice, you will spend very little time on it the rest of the school year. And it worked (at least for me). The same is true at home. Review the routine every day. Go through it step by step every day. Stop and correct when it is not followed. And reinforce through positive rewards when kids follow the routine. It can be encouraging words, stickers, small treats, whatever works for your kids. After a few weeks of this level of commitment to learning routines, it will be automatic for you and your kids.

What does your routine include? What tips do you have for creating and sticking to routines?

4 Step Prep for Vacation

iStockphoto.com

I recently went on vacation (yeah!!!) and was reminded of the tremendous amount of prep work involved in taking a break. I did two relatively easy, but back to back, vacations – camping for a weekend followed by a 9 hour trip to stay with family.

I’m not talking about all the planning work. That was actually done rather easily and some of it for me! The camping trip was almost completely planned by The Coach’s aunt. The trip to visit my family was another relatively easy planning process. We were staying with my aunt so no hotel booking was required and she knew the activities in the area.

The prep work I am talking about is what happens in that day or so before you leave. Plans are made and now you have to go from living your normal life to being on vacation. That is what can be overwhelming! So here are my four steps to prepping for a vacation.

  • Clean the house.  I know – you never have time to do this when you don’t have packing looming in front of you. But this is a good idea for a couple reasons. The first is simply that it feels so nice to come back to a clean house. The next is that if you have clutter laying around and things are not where they belong, it takes 10 times longer to find what you need to pack. Or the clutter laying around by your items to pack will inadvertently make it into your bags. Or worse, the items meant to go in your bags will be mistaken for the clutter next to it. You get the point.
  • Make a list of every item you need to pack and check items off as you gather them. This provides you with a “thinking twice” approach. You go through everything in your head once, then again as you go through the list and mark items off as you get them out. You’re less likely to forget essentials when you think through what you need twice.
  • Have a “staging area.” When I gather all the items on my list, I put them all in one place. Depending how much and what I am packing, I might use my bed, or the dining room. Everything that will need to be packed goes to the staging area. This will first allow you to see at a glance what you have out and what is missing. But even more helpful, you can group items together and get a feel for what size and how many bags you need. I know I like to pack the fewest number of bags possible so there is less to carry in and out. Once everything in your staging area is packed, you can look at how it is going to fit into the car.
  • Load the car smartly. As you look at everything in your staging area, think about if there is anything you will need on the way, such as diapers, or jammies to change kids into before they fall asleep in their car seats. Put those items in an easy to reach spot. Next, think about what you will need first and what you will need last. This gives you an approach for loading things into the car. You don’t want the bag you will need right away packed behind or under everything else. Think about hidden spaces as well when packing the car. We have a minivan with stow-and-go seats, so since the middle seats are up, we use the  compartments meant for the seats to fold into for storage of items like pillows and life jackets.

And now you are ready to roll! What are your vacation prep tips?

Working Moms Need a Morning Routine that Works

I can’t count the number of articles and blog posts I have read about the importance of creating a morning routine and how to do so. The problem with every one of the these routines, is that they are all structured for stay-at-home-moms or work-at-home-moms. I don’t have anything against these moms, but their morning is drastically different from my morning. A routine that works for them, will not work for me. So these articles I read just ended up making me feel crappy and guilty that I couldn’t start my morning right for me or for my children. Uggghhh – Mommy guilt.

I knew a routine would help all of us, but I also knew that my morning routine would never look like the ones I read about. I didn’t have an hour to myself, then time to get ready, then time for the kids in my morning. We had a specific time to leave the house because I needed to do two different drop offs and get myself to work on time. I also knew getting up earlier, as some suggested, was not an option. I already get up at the unGodly hour of 5:30 am. Not easy for a non-morning person like myself.

What did my morning routine need?

First, I had to figure out what I needed in my morning routine, and what I wanted in my morning routine. Here’s my list:

  • Time to get myself ready. I know I could shave time off here, but I have a professional position and need to do things like dry my hair and put makeup on.
  • Get the kids ready. I have it pretty good that Monkey can go to daycare in his jammies with clothes for the day packed in his bag. But Roo, during the school year, goes to abefore school program so he needs to be ready for the day. And they both at least need shoes on and a small amount of time to get themselves together for the day.
  • Quality time with the kiddos. This started the want part of the list. I hated the mornings when it was rush, rush, rush and me yelling at the kids to hurry up because we were running late. It didn’t make me or them feel good as we started our day.
  • Focus on the day. I like a few minutes to think about my day and what I need to accomplish. Some days I can do this when I get to work and sit down at my desk, but some days I go straight into a meeting or presentation and don’t have that luxery.
  • Prayer. I have a lot of issues that trouble me and I often think I need to pray about these things. I just don’t always have the time carved out for this kind of reflection like I should.

So here’s how I created a morning routine that works for this working mama.  Click here to tweet!

I started out by thinking in terms of time blocks, because scheduling seems a little easier to handle than just the general order of things. I started with the “big rocks” or the things that were needs. Then I found a way to add in the wants, one at a time. Here’s what my routine looked like after I took the times out:

  • Wake up; get myself ready for the day.
  • Prayer or read a devotional.
  • Focus on the day.
  • Quality time with the kids – read or just talk to them.
  • Get the kids ready.
  • Out the door!

The tricky part is that this routine needs to be fluid and flexible. If the kids sleep until 6:45 or 7 am – perfect! If not, then the flexibility needs to come in. So my routine needs to include a way to have prayer or devotional time with the kids, if needed, and double up with that being quality time. Time to focus on the day is not a sure thing. If the kids get up early, then I either do that when I get to work, skip it, or try to think in the car as I drive to work.

I do best with routines if I can see them and be reminded of what comes next. So do my kiddos. So I’ve created a printable with my routine, in the style of subway art because I really like that right now!

I’m offering the printable free to all new blog subscribers for this month! Just hop up to the top of the blog, and click the “Click here to follow” button. I’ll email the pdf version of the printable right to your email within 24 hours (WordPress subscribers: WordPress does not allow me access to your email. Please email me your address at bethatstructure@gmail.com and I will get your printable right out! Sorry for the inconvenience!)! Current subscribers, drop me an email at bethatstructure@gmail.com and I’ll send a printable out to you, as well!

5 Reasons Why I Love Google Reader

Since I am a blog writer, I’m sure it will not come as a surprise to you that I am also a big blog reader. And since you are reading this right now, there’s a pretty good chance you read other blogs as well (except the few family members that faithfully read my blog, and only my blog – thanks!). If you like to follow just a few or quite a lot of blogs, Google reader will certainly be a valuable tool for you! Here’s why I love using Google Reader:

  1. It provides “one stop shopping” no matter where I’m at. I can go to one site and read everything I want to keep up on. There is no need to make a long list in my favorites of all the blogs I read. And then replicate that list on every computer and device I use! By using Google reader, I can see my list of blogs from my computer at home, at work, on my phone, on The Coach’s iPad, or any other device I choose to use that I can connect to Google on.
  2. It is simple to add (or delete) blogs to my list. I can either choose to add a subscription while I am in the Google Reader by typing in the name of the blog and searching for it. Or if I am on the blog, and it has an RSS feed button, I can click that and add it to my Goggle Reader list right from the blog.
  3. I can do all my reading right in the Google Reader window if I want to. This is great if I I have limited time, but want to keep up. I don’t need to click out to other sites and wait for anything to load up. I do click out if I want to comment or sign up for a giveaway or “like” a post, but I don’t do that on every single post I read, so it still saves me a considerable amount of time.
  4. I can easily see at a glance how busy the “blogosphere” is at any given time. If there are only three new posts since the last time I checked, then probably a fairly slow day. If there are 24 since I checked, then the blog world is hopping. Maybe this is only interesting to me, but I think it is a perk of the Google Reader!
  5. It makes it easy to find recent, but not new posts. If I know I read something on a blog a couple days ago, I can easily scroll through the Google Reader list of posts until I hit the right date, or until I see the title of the post I was looking for. This wouldn’t be very efficient if I was looking for something from 6 months ago, but very helpful if I know I read it within the last week, but can’t remember what day.

So fellow blog readers, I love Google Reader and wanted to spread the love. Give it a try if you are looking to keep your blog reading a little more efficient and organized (or more structured!).

Do you use a reader? How do you keep track of and catch up on blogs you love (like mine!)? :)