Creating a Routine and Schedule That Work for You in 10 Simple Steps

Posted: August 19, 2020 | Updated: August 19, 2020
Created by: Ms. Sylvia

You already know that you want to intentionally build or rethink your family’s schedule and routines. But where to begin?

There are many ways to build a schedule and to imbue it with meaningful routines. The most important consideration is making sure that your (re)design meets your needs and, if possible, fulfills your wants. This is a topic to continually reflect upon and revise, so be patient with yourself! Consistency is key, but nothing needs to be set in stone.

As you begin to reflect on your current and ideal routines, start with the following 10 steps to transform your schedule and routines into a rhythm that aligns with your values, needs, and goals.

Printable Reflection Worksheet (PDF)

1. What do you need? What do you want?

Here are questions to consider before you plan the details. Complete these in a journal or using this attached pdf.

  • What do I absolutely need to do each day?
  • What do others in my household or in my care need to do each day?
  • What kinds of activities do I want to include in each day?
  • What do others in my household or in my care want to include each day?

As you consider these questions, focus more on broad goals rather than specific activities. For example, you might be tempted to write that you want to do some gardening, go for a run, or watch your favorite show. Those might all be important elements of your final schedule, but I recommend looking for the foundation of what you want from those activities, so that you can be flexible as you build your calendar. If those example wants are on your list, then maybe the root of those desires is time to connect with nature, time to exercise, or time to unwind. Reframing the activities in this way opens up your thinking to build a schedule that is flexible on the details and rooted in your fundamental wants and needs.

2. List your current habits.

List the components of your current schedule and routine. I’ve provided a guide for some of the main tasks of the day, but I encourage you to customize it! Here are the parts of the day I recommend thinking about:

  • Waking up and starting the day
  • Meals
  • Work & School
  • Exercise & Movement
  • Hygiene (showers, handwashing, etc.)
  • Chores
  • Self-Care
  • Unscheduled time
  • Sharing gratitude and appreciations
  • Transitions throughout the day
  • Ending the day and going to bed

As you reflect on how these events are already ritualized in your life, begin to think about what you love about your current routines and what you would hope to change.

3. Dream up your ideal schedule and routines.

If you could plan the absolutely perfect, completely normal day for your family, what would it look like? Remember to include your obligations, as well as your needs and wants. Still, dream big! Leave nothing out and hold nothing back!

Does this version align with the needs and wants you originally listed? If not, reflect on why. Were those really your deepest needs and wants? If so, keep going!

4. Evaluate your current & ideal schedules and routines.

When you look at your reflections on your current and ideal schedules, ask yourself these questions:

  • What works well in my current routine?
  • What do I hope to shift by reviewing my routines?
  • Which changes are most important to me?
  • Which changes seem like a strong starting place?
  • Have I accounted for transition time, down time, and play in my schedule? If not, how can I adjust for it?

The most successful schedule will not be one that has every minute planned and accounted for, but one that meets your work and personal needs, while still allowing for flexibility. A routine and a schedule can only be consistent if they leave room for mistakes, transitions, and down time. A consistent routine is one of the best ways to create family harmony, but an overly-ambitious schedule cannot be consistent and often results in widespread misery. Give yourself some leeway, while still making sure that your plans reflect your needs, wants, and values.

5. Share your thoughts with any adults who share your daily life.

When you are clear about what you want and need, as well as the changes you plan to make, it’s time to get buy-in from others. If there is another adult in your household (a partner, a co-parent, a grandparent -- anyone who would be involved in the changes you envision and/or is involved in your children’s lives), see how their needs and wants align with the schedule you’ve envisioned and what changes they are most enthusiastic about supporting.

6. Decide your non-negotiables and introduce some level of choice.

When you’ve found common ground, decide your non-negotiables together. You’ll only make three changes this week, but which changes are the priority? Which are an absolute must? Which parts of a new routine do you need to decide as an adult team and how can you integrate some level of choice for the children you’re supporting?

Choice builds independence and, maybe more importantly, gets you buy-in. Decide in advance what is a must (Example: you must brush your teeth before bed), but within the requirements find something exciting, which offers a choice you are willing to consistently follow-through on (Example: would you rather brush teeth by candlelight or while listening to music?). The more involved children feel, the more motivated they are to follow the agreements you make. The more involved they are in the chores and regular tasks, the more positive responsibility and independence they feel. Win-win!

7. Present the changes and choices to the children.

You might choose to walk them through your whole process, beginning with reflecting on what they want and need from their day. If you are clear on your needs, wants, and non-negotiables, this is a great time to recreate your journey and let them feel fully involved. If you are short on time, I’d recommend sharing what you have already planned and presenting limited options, so that everyone in the family are still involved in the process.

8. Choose three changes to make this week and agree to support each other in making those changes.

Start small. I recommend just three changes or, if you’re planning to make a dramatic change, choose only one this week! Being consistent with a small change can lead to longer-term success.

Commit to 40 days of trying each change before reevaluating it, since research shows it takes 40 days to create a habit!

9. Create a visual element that reminds everyone of your goals and agreements (for example a shared family calendar).

For young children, try to include pictures to make it “readable” for them that way it is even more empowering.

As for the details, every family is different! Some of us love a checklist, while others just want a written reminder. Some of us would like to see a stamp or sticker next to a completed task, and some of us just need to know it’s been done. See what works best for your family!

10. Reflect on the changes

Plan to check in at the end of the week to talk about how those changes went.

Printable Reflection Worksheet (PDF)

Since I prefer to reflect on Fridays, check back with us then for additional resources in supporting family reflection! Each week, I’ll be adding more strategies that have worked for me personally to make transitions easier, infuse gratitude into every day, promote independence, and more! I hope they will help you and your family in working towards developing a productive, joy-filled daily rhythm.