Thursday, March 17, 2016

Routines that work

I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel more on top of things than when I fall into a good routine. It's true for me both at work and at home. If I have a regular plan for how things should go and I execute that plan well, things hum along smoothly. On the other hand, nothing makes me feel more off my game than when I can’t settle into a groove. If my routines are disrupted, I get grumpy fast (you’ve been warned!). 

I don’t think this just applies me. Routines help all of us by letting us put the unimportant parts of life on autopilot. We all have laundry, dishes, cleaning, and a million other things that need to get done. When we have to spend time actively thinking about all of those things, we get dragged down. Honesty check! Have you ever had these laundry room thoughts:
  • “How many more days can I go without doing laundry?”  
  • “I definitely did not buy this many pairs of socks for my kids. Where did they all come from?!”
  • “That business about separating light clothes from dark clothes is probably an urban legend. I'll just dump all the clothes in together!”
Note: These examples have no correlation with my personal experience (No really, I promise.).

Hopefully you get my point. If we have to give mundane but necessary tasks our full mental attention, it keeps us from focusing on what's truly important. I know that I’d rather focus on my relationship with God, my wife, and my kids instead of undone laundry and dirty dishes. Routines can automate the ‘need to get done’ parts of our life so we can spend more time focusing on what matters.

The pitfall of a routine, of course, is that things can become so rote, so run-of-the-mill, that we stop caring. We all need a Parenting Wake Up Call from time to time to make sure we’re not putting all of life on auto-pilot. Our routines need to serve our families, giving us more focused time with them, and not robbing us of meaningful interaction. I recently heard a story of a husband who sent automated emails to his wife if he was working late. Let me go on record and state that I think that is a bad idea.

Here are three Lindell family routines that work wonders for our sanity (and with 5 kids, we’re taking all of the extra sanity we can find!).
  • Laundry Sorting Wednesdays. Every Wednesday evening before we start our bedtime routine, we all get our laundry to the washing machine and sort it into piles. Huge piles, like mountains. We get the first load started right away. Getting that head start allows us to have all of our clean laundry fully put away 24 hours later.  
  • Bedtime Clean Up. Most of our bedtime routine is pretty standard: PJs, brushing teeth, reading stories. However, before we start those things we begin with a whole house clean up. Getting all the toys and general clutter picked up before the kids go to bed makes everything feel so much more peaceful. When we forget this part of the routine even for a night or two, things get messy fast!
  • Grocery Shopping. We go grocery shopping every two weeks. We always go on the same day at the same time. Our shopping routine has two benefits. First, we don’t spend time wondering when we’re going to the store next. Second, we save money. The less we shop the less we spend.
What about you? What routines have you found that work for your family? We’d love to learn from you! Leave a comment and share your wisdom.
 
I wrote this, my friend and co-worker Kyle Hill improved it, and it originally appeared on the COCUSA Blog.  You can find it and more cool posts about parenting at www.cocusa.org/blog

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