Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Front-Loading Your Day

Once upon a time, this post was a guest post on another blog, but because it has disappeared from that site and I still get requests for it, here it is by popular request. My children have aged a few years since I wrote it, but everything else has stayed exactly the same:

Have you ever noticed how some women just tend to get more done than others? It’s probably not that they have discovered the secret of making 24 hours stretch to 30 (but if you happen to know that formula, please let me in on it!).  It’s probably not that they are just naturally more capable than the rest of us.  Instead, these women have found a formula that works for them: a means of getting the most usable time out of any day.  While it would be delightful if this same formula worked for all women, that’s probably just wishful thinking.  For the most part, each of us has to find what works for her.  I am willing, however, to share my formula for getting the most time out of a 24 hour day.  It works for me.

While I am not a fan of front-loading washing machines (another article altogether), I am a huge fan of front-loading everything else in my life.  I front-loaded my dissertation in graduate school, writing the most difficult and lengthiest chapters first.  I front-loaded my children (that is, I had them when I was on the younger side, and all together at that: 4 in 40 months!).  I front-load my week: as a freelance writer, I have numerous assignments going at any time, but I always make sure to work hard and long at the beginning of the week to free up time at the end of the week.  Sometimes that time goes to new assignments, but it often turns into free time for me!

Since I am obviously all about front-loading, it should be no surprise that I front-load my days as well.  I firmly believe that one of the main secrets of women who get a lot done in a day is that they get up early in the morning.  Early is, of course, a relative term.  What is early for me (6:00 a.m.) is not early for my husband, who rises at 4:30 every morning.  By getting up an hour and a half before my children do, I am able to have my day ordered and started before having to deal with breakfast and homeschooling.  We all know that the computer represents a huge time suck in our days.  Designating actual computer time in your schedule can alleviate this problem.  Try doing your necessary computer stuff early in the day.  For me, this means drinking my coffee (the first of many, many cups) while reading my email and checking my must-see websites.  Chief among these are Facebook and Ravelry.  Enjoying the early morning with my virtual friends and knitting compadres puts a nice spin on the rest of the day.  I also attend to any work emails that have come in since I put the computer to bed the previous night (which I do early).

By the time I wake up my children, I have had the quiet time I need to gather my thoughts, I have had my computer time, and I know exactly what the day entails.  I also have breakfast ready.  Because I have been awake for a while and have caffeinated my brain, the kids are fed and ready for school in less than half an hour, which is key as I also front-load our school day!

All four of my children (10, 8, and nearly 7 year-old twins) start their school days with math and language arts, the two classes that require the most of them mentally.  All four of them do different math programs in different grades, but if I spend five minutes conferring with my oldest two, I am free to work more rigorously with my twins.  After doing language with the twins, I stop the big kids where they are in their work so we can do group subjects (science, history, etc.).  My oldest daughter is in 8th grade, so she obviously has her own science and history, but she still listens in while the other three are taught, working on handwriting or something else that doesn’t require her full attention.

By 10 a.m. my twins are done with school.  By 11, my 8 year-old son is.   The 10 year-old is working independently enough that she is not done before lunch.  My work with her, however, is.  I know homeschoolers who let their children sleep in, beginning school whenever they wake up.  That obviously works for them, but the more things I knock off my to-do list early in the day, the more relaxed I am as the day progresses.  By the time my husband comes home, the children have been educated, the house has been cleaned (as much as it ever will be, anyway), and dinner has been cooking for hours (oh, my best front-loading tip of all: the crockpot! Befriend her and she will become your new best friend!).  I am not frantically trying to finish things that have been left undone during the day.

I am one of those moms whom people always ask, “How do you do it all? You’re amazing!” No, I’m not.  What I do have, though, is a plan and a method, and I stick to them.  Hopefully, front-loading may work in your life as well.  If not, try another method, and keep trying until you find the one that unlocks more time in your day, too!

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