The difference between having a schedule and a routine is often discussed between  mums.  I personally prefer a routine, in fact we have many mini routines throughout our day.  We have a before 8.00am routine where we work on our personal responsibilities.  Then we have our focus routine where we study and work on various projects, that generally goes from 8.00ish to 3.00ish, though it also includes lunch and a quick chore time.  From 3.00-5.00 is our productive free time and then we move into dealing with our personal responsibilities again before dinner at 6.00pm.  Dinner time goes from 6.00-7.30 which includes clean up and then it is going to bed routines and lights off at 8.00pm.

The number one difference that people make between schedules and routines is the time and yet here I’ve just shared our routines with you and each block is connected to a time!  So do I have a routine or a schedule?

This is how I see it:

  • My day is – Time.  For me to use my time wisely I have to be aware of time slipping away, and the activity happening during that time.  I cannot just do my activities unaware of the time.
  • My activities are more important than the time on the clock, only if I am doing the right activity.
  • My children’s hearts are more important than either the time on the clock or our activities.

The trick of time management is to balance these three thoughts.

My days are built by large blocks of time which I set aside for a specific focus, or purpose.  These time blocks vary in length throughout the day.  Responsibilities.  Focus time.  Productive time.  Responsibilities.  Family time.  These blocks are repeated in the same order most days.  This creates our routine – our habits of focus.  Within each block I have a to-do list.  For example:

  • Responsibilities:  Make bed, exercise, breakfast, chores, quiet time
  • Focus:  Math, Writing, History, Science, Typing, Art etc or other projects we are working on
  • Productive time:  Office time, Ironing, Housework, phone calls, craft time, reading, being with friends, cooking, etc
  • Family time:  meals together, games, DVD, talking, relaxing, visiting etc

I also know roughly how much time each one of those items on my to-do list needs in order to be completed or done well.  I work this out to help me with my expectations and to know that I am being realistic.  But they are only a guide – we work until we are done or it is a good time to stop, which means sometimes we don’t get through the whole list.  To be honest, keeping on track with my blocks of time is more important to me than doing everything on the to-do list.

Now why is my phone in my pocket (you may not have noticed but that is the title of this blog post!).  The phone is in my pocket because I have reminders set on my calendar to beep at me at significant times throughout the day.  I don’t do this because I need to keep up with the clock but rather because I am establishing some new habits (or regaining some old ones lost along the way) and for the moment my eyes are on the clock.  My phone beeping at me helps me keep track of my day.  It doesn’t beep every 1/2 hour, but rather beeps at significant times, times when I really want to be reminded of my plan for the day.

If we are to consider that a  routine is a habit we need time to establish it in our lives and in our children’s lives.  We may need a tool – such as a timer, or a phone that beeps, to help us stay on track.

In my mind a schedule is set like a bus or train schedule – it is regular, like clockwork, and regardless whether you are ready or not it comes and goes according to the schedule.  A routine though is a sequence we follow through our day, may be guided by the clock but certainly not dictated to by the clock.  We move from one activity to the next, maybe tweaking our expectations along the way – allowing ourselves to focus on what is important for that day.

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