Planning the Day

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.
Photo Source: Flik

One of the things that has really thrown me for a loop over the last few years is the necessity to implement a daily schedule. You know, an hour by hour schedule. A timetable. A “do-this-at-8-and-do-that-an-hour-later” kind of thing.

I do not like “schedules.” I never put my babies “on a schedule.” Schedules make me nervous. I don’t want to feel like I’m behind.

But in order to be able to do all most some of what I need to do in a day, I’m finding that I need to get on friendly terms with “schedules.” A few weeks into this school year, it became woefully apparent, that I needed to plan the days better. I cried to FishPapa over my Vanilla Coke during an impromptu, after school trip to Sonic.

How will I ever do all this?

He suggested that I map out a routine for us to follow during the day, hour by hour. I have mini “schedules” for each one of the kids and myself. I have done this in the past, and it’s been successful. But the trick is learning how to stick with it. And not to give up when I fail.

So far this year, there have been a handful of days when we’ve actually followed the schedule. But, I’m hopeful that with a little determination, we can make it work. It’s my hope that we will work hard and play hard.

What do you do to make your day run smoothly?

PS. I’m differentiating between schedule and routine/plan. I have tons of plans and routines that I put into effect on a daily and weekly basis. A schedule has a specific timeframe attached to it. Like 8 am, eat breakfast. Sorry for the ambiguity!

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. GOSH, I know what you mean! I like the idea of schedules too, and I’m a list-lover even though sticking to the schedule almost never happens. But over the summer, I realized that when things got particularly ugly, it was because there was a lack of schedule. My kids just function better when expectations are made of them and they know what comes next. The schedule isn’t as much a schedule as it is a documentation of goals for the day. That just seems to allow for a bit of flexibility in the day (and it prevents me from feeling like a failure if it falls apart). Instead, we simply “try” for it.

    We started our homeschooling year a couple weeks ago and it too was really ugly, with one child in particular. Painful in fact. So now I’m working on a schedule for everyone so the expectations are clear. It’s always hard to get back into the groove, but I know that we will at somepoint soon.

    Good luck with your own scheduling endeavours!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Trina, when you say “schedule” are you attaching a timeframe to it? I realized that I didn’t make that clear in the post. I’m all over routines and plans, it’s committing to a specific time to do it that is hard for me, but I know sometimes that helps it get done.

      • @Jessica Fisher,

        Good morning Jessica! In answer to your question, I’ve tried using very specific blocks of time (down to the half hour) but it wasn’t very successful for me, esp. when homeschooling because I really feel strongly about letting one subject run twice as long if the kids are loving it and learning from it.

        The things that are always set times are breakfast, room tidy and getting dressed by 8am, a rotating morning task by 9am, book work from 9 to 12 with a snack/break at 10, and lunch at 12. For the most part, the afternoons are games, music, typing, private reading, outside time and snack/show time at 3:00 if we’re home. I also have been trying ‘alone time’ as Susan Wise Bauer recommends (she calls it nap time) and it’s been very successful here. My kids (thus far) are 10, 8 and 4.

        Good luck! Keep us informed on how it’s going! I’m not alone when I say I get such encouragement from your posts!

  2. I, on the other hand, like a schedule….most of the time. In our house, we have schedules at the right times in the day (a framework) to help our family run smoothly. Our kids attend school all day, so the morning routine helps everyone get out the door on time and more importantly, organized and ready. The routines we use after school and at bedtime also contribute to “calming the mayhem” in our household. As far as me, personally, I love the laundry system that I have developed- everyone has a day during the week to do their laundry….weekends are towels and sheets…and if you’re over age 9, you are taught to do your own laundry!!!!

    • Stephanie says

      @Jill Peterson, We have a similar laundry routine. All 5 of my kids have a day that they do their own, including their bedding, and I take the other 2 days. It is wonderful!

      I have 5 kids, so have found that some sort of routine, if not an actual schedule, is necessary. It makes things run so much smoother if we have a rhythm to our days.
      I have 2 in regular school, and I homeschool the other 3. So, I have 2 different routines. But, we basically follow a “public school” schedule. I don’t want to be worrying about homeschool lessons at 3:30 when I want to be catching up with my “away kids” 🙂

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Jill Peterson, I realized that I didn’t clarify my terms. Sorry! When I said, “schedule,” I was talking about an hour-by-hour list. I am with ya on the framework/routine thing. Absolutely!

      • Stephanie says

        @Jessica Fisher, It is impossible to have an hour by hour list with my household. It’s all pretty fluid. Basically, my day goes like this: 6:45-awake with school kids. Get them out the door at 7:20. 7:30-9=Quiet time with hubby. This is a sacred morning ritual..LOL He’s a full time college student, so he’s out the door at 9:30. Then I get my homeschooled kids up and rolling. We start our lessons around 10:30. I have a 3 hour block dedicated to that. That’s all the time I’m willing to devote to “seat work”..LOL Then we do lunch, chores, any play dates, etc. until 3:30, when everyone gets home from school. Then it’s dinner, family time, baths, bed…usually ending my day around 10 PM, with more quiet time. I have older kids, so they are pretty independent. I don’t have to do much during the day, except “direct” their activities.

        • AllieZirkle says

          @Stephanie, How many kiddos do you have? Which are home schooled and which attend school? I’m extremely curious!

        • Stephanie says

          @Stephanie, I have 5 kids. My older 2 go to traditional school. My daughter-15-is a sophomore, and my son-13 is an 8th grader. They were both homeschooled up until this year. My other 3 kids are homeschooled–they are 12 yo sone, 11 yo daughter, and 8 yo son. Next year, they will have the option to go to regular school as well.
          The option is always there, but I doubt once they decide to go to public school they will want to come back home 🙂

  3. I’m a freak about To-Do lists. So much that I like to see other people’s to-do lists too. I like to see lists so much I think I’m going to invite all of blogdom over to post their to-do list.

    As for my schedule, I like to have an idea where my days, weeks, and the entire month is going. If we have a party to go to coming up over the weekend, I like enough time to get a gift and card and whatnot. I need time to prepare and not feel so frazzled.

    Awesome post. As usual.

  4. Jennifer B. says

    I have never really been a schedule girl…until we started homeschooling five years ago. I don’t always stick to them, but I can sure tell if we did, by what actually got done. I have four children from the ages of 14 to 7. They each have a daily schedule which includes music practice time. I don’t however, schedule most of our down time…just the school time.BTW, i love following your posts! I think we are a lot a like and enjoy hearing your take on life.~Jennifer B.

  5. My kids and I thrive on schedules. Back when I had just one, I planned my day in 15 minute increments. Now that I’m busy growing #6, it’s a more general thing. I have places on my planner page for early morning, late night (during which I mostly sleep), and hourly spots throughout the school/work day. We have one in public school, one in cyber school, 2 preschoolers and a toddler, plus an insane amount of inside and outside appointments. So keeping it all organized is both a must and a near impossibility!

  6. I am a planner by nature. I have a wonderfully busy life. My mantra is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I always have a schedule, but we do not live and die by the schedule. In fact, aside from actual appointments, my schedule doesn’t even have times on it. It’s usually not even written down. Before I go to bed or right after I get up in the AM, I mentally plan out my day. Run, work, pick up kids, dinner, clean playroom, bath time, freelance work, time with hubby, bed, etc. Sometimes if I have an especially hectic week, I’ll roughly plan out the whole week in advance. I do well with the chill mantra and move stuff around pretty well …. unless we are late for an official appointment and then I’m on the phone freaking out to my husband because my son doesn’t have shoes and we’re about to go to pick berries with the mom’s group for crying out loud. 😉

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @jesser, I’m realizing that I wasn’t as clear in my post as I could have been. When I said “Schedule” I was meaning with times. Totally with you on the times and routines. I just don’t love a timetable. 😉

  7. That’s exactly what I do with my schedule and it really works! By setting out the standard things, I can see gaps of time to take care of the unstandard things:-)

  8. As distasteful as it is, a schedule is, for us, a huge blessing. It gives a wonderful rhythm and discipline to our day that allows us to accomplish a great deal. I hesitate here, because our schedule for school is actually quite rigorous. But we are in a season where it provides the perfect framework for our homeschool. I must also preface with this background: Our four youngest are 10, 12, 12, 13, with two of them being young men we adopted from Russia. These two sons are very, very far behind academically and the first few years of their now six years with us were spent mostly on character training. Now, we are needing to make serious progress toward bringing them to levels appropriate for their abilities. Thus, our schedule. (

    • You brought up a great point in your comment on my link:
      When you have several different ages doing several different things, it is really hard. I am basically past this stage, but I remember it well!! I’m sure you can improve on my results, but a few things I learned are included in this reply I am copying here:

      I understand. Ours range now from 23 to 10. When we had babies with older ones, our schedule had to be structured with the “heavy subjects” during nap times. Also, we focused on having quiet, fun activities for the little ones to do while they were awake. Regardless of the best planning, flexibility is the only way to stay sane.

      We focused on the “big kids” assuming appropriate responsibility for completing their tasks, even in the face of interruption. That would, in part, help guide curriculum choices.

      We had lots of exercises in “concentration skills.” During that season, it was more important to focus on making sure the subjects that were really necessary were accomplished each day, even if everything else went out the window.

      Also, the only way it worked was if I maintained a calm attitude. If I got all uptight about the disruptions, everything imploded. Treated, instead, with a sense of humor, everyone could handle it.

      The key to it all was lots of little baby steps toward our goal. When added up at the end of several months, those baby steps had brought us quite a way down the road! Hope that helps. I’m sure it’s all stuff you already know.

      Maybe the biggest help I can offer is just to say, the specific intensity of this season will pass and the blessing of the intentionality of moving toward self discipline in your children will bear much fruit. It will make your later seasons much more efficient because of the groundwork laid in this season.

      • Jessica Fisher says

        @I Live in an Antbed, thank you! Those are great suggestions and reminders. We are currently in the “herding cats” phase and I love to be reminded that it’s not forever. 🙂 (And, yes, I will miss it someday.)

  9. I just implemented a half hour schedule this year and I am loving it so much. It took a while to get it all on paper and I had to tweek it around activities that are different each day of the week. I made a chart….each of our names running across the top, and the half hour time blocks running down the left hand side. I started plugging things in the boxes, “like brush teeth, make bed, get dressed, eat breakfast”….that were the same for everyone. Then, I added things like “piano lessons” at the right time for each of them. Then, I went through our school subjects and listed them in the blocks of time i wanted them done…matching ones that could be done independently for one with one that someone needs my help with. I also put a half hour block in the afternoon where the big kids are paired up with the younger ones to work on flash cards, AWANA verses etc. (kind of like the buddy reading in school). I also have times in the morning, during a snack break, where they play with baby outside to keep him busy! Even their free time options are in the afternoon blocks. However, I don’t follow it very tightly after school is done….but I have the option if I need a more structured day. Finally, I put dividers in a notebook with the days of the week. I put each 4 page schedule behind each divider, in page protectors and I leave it opened on the kitchen counter. The kids run to the schedule to see what to do and “x” it off with a dry-erase marker once it is done. I am finding they are loving the direction. I feel much less exhausted at the end of the day becasue I have avoided all of the “what do i do now” questions. So far…it works for us. I’m ok as long as I keep a felxible mindset…if the time ets off, it’s ok, we just plug along in order.

  10. It’s ironic that you would post this right now. I just commented that I’ve got to get myself on an hour-by-hour schedule starting tomorrow. With working three days a week, homeschooling a kindergartener (in partnership with my husband), blogging, and running a couple of small home-based businesses, I find myself gravitating toward the things I most enjoy. Unfortunately, that means that some important tasks fall by the wayside.

    My plan is to take a look at the big picture to-do list and to prioritize the items that need to be done. Then I’ll plug those into a master schedule for myself. I think that this is the only way that everything that’s important will get done.

    Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder that I’m not alone in needing this kind of structure!

  11. I am also allergic to schedules, but being a mother of many does require orderly days. One book that helped the change the way I view my days was Holly Pierlot’s A mother’s rule of life. The author uses Rule of life n the same way a monastic order would apply a rule of life to order their days and grow spiritually. Our days now have an order to them, though not necessarily a timed schedule. The author’s ordered life was too strict for me, but it helped me to develop a frame of reference for managing my family.

  12. I don’t have a schedule yet, but we do follow a routine. The time is probably coming soon for a schedule, but since my oldest is just four years old, I think we can wait…a little while. However, this is the second post I’ve seen about schedules recently, so maybe the Lord is trying to tell me something. Hmmm.

  13. I tried setting a hour by hour schedule for our day and it only set me up for failure. I found that putting time limits on our activities does not work for us. One day we might like to sleep in and not eat breakfast at exactly 7:30am, or perhaps Phonics work took more then 30minutes to complete, what then? Is our whole “schedule” ruined for the day or do we rush through Phonics to make our “schedule” work.

    I guess I am more of an all or nothing kind of gal. To me sticking to a rigid time schedule is something that I would want to do ALL the time, other wise what is the point? And since that isn’t possible for us, then I don’t want to do it at all because then I don’t feel like we failed at it.

    So, for us, having a game plan of what each day looks like and what we need to accomplish is far more effective. We know what school subjects we need to finish, chores need to be done and appointments that need to be kept.

  14. I still have young children. But I realized that our day had too much “free play” in it which was leading to bickering and arguing all the time between my 4 and 2 year old sons.

    After reading some of your posts about getting back into home school mode I devised a new “rhythm” to every day. I did include times and while I will agree, I get discouraged when I run behind or get off track somewhere along the way, on the whole my family is better off having this schedule in our lives. I am finding I am able to get the things I want to accomplished and even have time for activites with my children. I am enjoying it!

  15. Oh I so get it! Although I don’t Homeschool and I only have two kids, I am starting to see where a schedule might be helpful. My oldest just started going to pre-school this year and its only been 5 weeks (he only goes for one afternoon a week) but the difference I have seen in him is amazing.

    He is someone who does better understand whats going to come next and whats expected. But I have finally come to the realization that we don’t do that.

    Setting a schedule makes me want to cry. Because I want to be that get up and go kind of person… and I know that I still can… I just think in order to get a schedule we need to stick with it for a week or two before we start deviating from it… know what I mean.

    Thanks for the great post! OH I wish I had a sonic nearby Cherry Limeades would be my “emergency” drink!

  16. I think an actual schedule is almost impossible with kids, but there is some magic place between routine and schedule that can help you get things done. The only thing we actually have scheduled during the day is whatever lesson our son has that day and then dinner at 5:30pm. Everything else is more routine than schedule, but I do “loosely” schedule other things in, without attaching a specific time to it. For example, I know that I will do my blogging after the kids are in bed, somewhere between 8pm and 10pm, depending on what TV show I might catch.

    Good luck, and maybe the happy “halfway” place is the thing to strive for instead of a strict schedule that would just cause you more stress!


  17. Oh wow.. I’ve never had a schedule, hour-by-hour types. I’ve always had a routine, a flexible structure and I’ll be just as happy as you to learn more about how families with kids can establish and follow a time-bound schedule..

  18. not really…routines is when you follow a schedule to the point you do it by habit and without thought…the key words are habit and without thought…to the point when you don’t do it, you miss it.I am a past time managment manager(what a mouth full LOL)

    When Dad became a diabetic he worked with a personal trainer who made his schedule to reflect eating at certain times and exercising at certain times.That was over 20 yrs ago, ( he is 83 and still walks over 5 miles a day).Now that schedule is a routine, done without thought with in a certain time frame.

    The trainer said that too many people get tied up in the “it must be at 8 or it’s nothing ” thoughts and feel that they can’t follow schedule when they don’t do it exactly at 8.

  19. Candace says

    An actual schedule doesn’t work well with me. I’ve tried in the past making a schedule in half hour increments, and I failed miserably.

    Now I use a sort of hybrid of a schedule and routine. Certain things are scheduled- meal times, bed/nap times, and school. Everything else is “routinized” in between. For example breakfast is at 8am and school starts at 9pm. In between that hour the routine says the kitchen needs to be cleaned, bed made, everyone dressed, and teeth brushed before school starts. (Just an example-that would appear as a schedule since it’s only an hour but the rest of our day is not like that) Now, I only have one kiddo right now (praying for another!) so school time isn’t very structured aside from doing subjects in the same order. More than one in school at at time would definitely call for a SCHOOL schedule- but I need a little more flexibility in the rest of my day. However, this is enough structure to make sure everything gets accomplished (in theory!). It’s a perfect balance for OUR family right NOW!

    • Candace says

      @Candace, Something to add- while the schedule part of our day is the same almost every day, the routine part may vary depending on the day. I use a cleaning schedule, so the cleaning tasks differ each day. Tuesday is my shopping/errand day so the afternoon routine looks different than other days. Wednesday night is AWANA at church, so that evening looks different. The good thing is the routine is the same every Monday, every Tuesday, ect……. so I can put it on paper, which helps 🙂

  20. urgh. i hate schedules too. routines, goals for the day, i can do but NOT schedules. just too rigid for me and yes, stressful, cos i hate being told by the clock tt i’m behind or not making it. sigh.

    but perhaps i need one if i’m to achieve a little more than having the kids (and myself) cleaned and fed most days.

    i’m wohm, so my ‘domestic’ routine/goals are simple. get up and out of bed at 7.30isham, get dinner prep going so we’ll have dinner to eat when we come home, have breakfast, shower n out the door with dh n 2 boys (whom dh has helped to wake, feed n change) by somewhere betw 8.30-9am. in the evening, the goal is to get home together with all the kids at abt 7pm n to be able to sit down to dinner by 7.30pm, finish dinner n washing up (both dishes n ourselves) by somewhere betw 8.30-9pm n then spend 30-40mins on homework stuff n then they’re to go to bed by 9.30pm at latest. baby n i stay up a little more for some quiet reading in bed or on the sofa or late night vegging in front of the tv.

    i say again: i hate schedules. but yes, it keeps my home running, sorta.

  21. I have a loose schedule combined with routines. Actually, I just wrote a post about this:

    I have certain hard stops in my day like school drop off and pickup and naptime. I also have a number of priorities – cleaning, finances, cooking, etc. I put on my Google calendar 30 minute blocks of time to do these priorities and then I use my lists that I’ve developed from the FlyLady to know what to do during the blocks of time.

    I don’t have all day scheduled, just the time during school. In the morning, I use my lists for my routine, and just check it every 10 minutes to make sure I do what needs to be done while making sure the kids do their stuff.

Thanks so much for participating in this conversation about "a mom's life."

This is a place where moms can be themselves. Remember that each mother's path looks a little different. Please keep your comments respectful and kind. Reasonable minds will disagree in a nice way.

So let's talk about it, using "our big girl words."

Share Your Thoughts