Today I want to show you how I finally got to balance my housework in way lesser time than before with my unique stay at home mom weekly schedule.*
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And I have been able to complete all essential work despite going through a tough season of my life AND having to look after a little boy and a blog, both of which always want MORE attention!
Now, what got a type B like me to become good with time management during a very unproductive stage of my life?
—> The Batch Blocking Method. (Yeah, like time blocking, but better!)
*Note: This post was originally written right around this time last year when I was recovering from a debilitating miscarriage. Somehow I never published it then but here it is now. Keep in mind, I was using this weekly schedule back then and now I have moved to a daily schedule.
And in this post, I’ll show you exactly how I did it step by step.
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Important: This guide is not for everyone. It’s ONLY for those who, like me, are in a season of their life where they can’t seem to find the motivation, energy or mindfulness to make the traditional time blocking method and short 25 min Pomodoros work for them.
How I Use Batch Blocking Method To Get My Important Stuff Done As A SAHM
I started creating serious weekly schedules when I couldn’t keep up with daily routines.
I was too distracted and tired to bounce from one task to the next and the next, each day, every day. Because I was recovering, plus had terrible depression, brain fog and a myriad of other things that followed a miscarriage.
But after executing the ‘Batch Blocking Method’:
- the number of tasks that got crossed off on my list by the end of each week rose significantly high!
- More importantly, my stress level overall decreased instantly.
- And as a nice bonus, this method gave me more of the much needed ‘me’ time.
The best part, if daily schedules with specific time blocks for each task are not working for you right now, then you can try BB for your own mom schedule too…you can use it even if you are NOT a type A personality or even if you’ve been a serial procrastinator before.
The 3 Steps To Using “The Batch Blocking Method” For Balancing My Important Stuff At Home
Here are the 3 powerful steps for using the Batch Blocking Method:
1st Step: Prepare your list of batch-ables
2nd Step: Make a smart schedule
3rd Step: Execute with a technique
I’ll break down each of these steps for you, so stay with me.
But before we dive in, let me show you how BB (i.e. Batch blocking) has worked better than the time blocking method (or Pomodoro Method) for me.
- Your complete batch of work for the week has a fixed appointment on one day compared to a stifling specific hour of the day, so it gets done with enough breathing time and you can absolutely forget about worrying over this chore for the remaining of your week. Saves time and a lot of energy too.
- You have more uninterrupted time to complete your batch work than what the short pomodoros offer.
Because ‘I’ give you permission to use as many minutes as you need instead of the traditional 25 min. block. =P
Yes, life is fast. But doesn’t mean I am too.
You see, I could hardly finish anything in one 25 minutes session with the time blocking method given my condition, and if I did take a break after 25 min, life with a little one never lets me come back to start my next Pomodoro session so I could actually finish the work…
The next task or my kiddo (or a squirrel) immediately caught my attention.
Also, the act of juggling exhausted me more than the work itself.
- You will leave a backup of at least some empty gap in your schedule to fall back on, in case any obstacles came your way.
Step 1: Prepare your list of batch-ables
Okay, just before I sat down to write this section, I faced a situation which offered me two choices. My husband was taking my son out.
I could use this time to fix a huge mess… (details censored!)
Or I could sit down to complete writing what you’re reading right now since blogging is an important part of my stay at home tasks.
I chose the latter.
This is how you’ll pick one important-er task over another important task. Just set your priorities.
Justification: It’s the weekend right now as I write this and no matter how many times I clean the mess behind me, it’ll end up like this again and again (and again!).
But the blog work I complete… stays.
This is how I want you to pick only a few big/important/indispensable tasks that matter more than all the other (seemingly) important ones.
You don’t need to do everything when you are just starting out being organized or going through a rough patch in life.
If you can only nail the big few tasks, you’ll already be out of the scrambling mode and way ahead of your previous condition.
Look, just close your eyes for a sec. and imagine if nothing in your house gets done this week except that:
– your laundry is washed
– your meals are ready
– and the grocery is bought
How much more peaceful and less pressured would your life be already? So…
Batch what is batch-able! Save the limited time and energy that goes wasted in restarting the same tasks after breaks repeatedly in what experts call ‘context switching‘.
Which House Chores Can You Batch?
Here are some suggestions:
- Laundry (for small families)
- Meal planning
- Freezer cooking
- Grocery Shopping
- Blog writing
There are many other tasks you can batch depending on your own circumstances, family size and needs.
What about the un-batchable but important tasks?
I’ll tell you what I do these days about most of the things that I can’t batch.
—> I stopped stuffing every hour of my planner with them.
(I just put one batchable/uber important thing (or maybe two) each day on my schedule.)
For all the un-batchable tasks, I’m:
- trying to do them at the same time each day
- trying to do them at the same place each day (things like eating, playing, reading, working on my blog etc)
Sounds dumb? Don’t leave just yet please bear with me I promise this will make sense as you read on…
If you try this, much of your life will fall into order already.
You’re going to say, that’s scheduling too… very obvious.
But what’s not obvious is that this is a trick.
You’re tricking yourself to form a habit. You just have to force yourself to do it for a couple of days. And soon these tasks will become so lightweight, so effortless and so automatic, you won’t even feel they are work.
(Side note: I frequently remind myself to use such external powers more frequently, where I run short on my own power supply. e.g. like the power of habit, the power of accountability, the power of prayer and so on.)
So, here’s what you have to do in this step
- On a Friday, take out 15 – 20 minutes, grab a pen and a paper and sit down in a quiet corner.
- Write down all your daily tasks.
- Once you have brain dumped everything on the paper; you feel it is light because it’s not holding any more to-dos, and everything is out on the paper in front of you, now put a star next to (or highlight) everything that meets the criteria:
- It is a daily to-do
- It can be batched. You can’t batch things like doing the dishes, taking kids outside etc. Make peace with this. (We will put the starred ones into your schedule strategically in the next step.)
- In your mind, or in writing if you like, just fix a time and/or place for as many of the remaining non-batchable tasks from your list as possible.
That wasn’t so difficult, yes? Let’s move to the next step then.
Step 2: Make A Simple Schedule
Now that you know your list of
tasks uber-important-batchable-tasks for the week, next comes filling your schedule in a way that all important stuff has its place and it actually gets done.
This is very simple with batch blocking if you consider the following points:
Choosing the right day
By this I mean you’re going to see what you need day after tomorrow and schedule it for tomorrow before the last minute hassle is created when the time arrives.
So, if on Monday everyone needs clean laundry, this means you’ll make sure on ‘Sunday’ that there are clean clothes ready to be used on Monday for everyone. Batch laundry for Saturday or Sunday.
Start with Friday
Place the most important task one day before your week gets busy. And putting food on the table is the most important one in our home. (Anyone could go without clean clothes but not without food.)
So, on Friday, make your list of meals for the week ahead. This way you’ll know what’s for dinner the coming days, and no energy is wasted trying to think of the easiest recipes at the last minute.
Now that you have your list of meals, check all the grocery items you need for cooking these meals and jot them down. You’ll bring all the grocery items and any other stuff you need from the market for the entire next 7 days on Friday. You’re saving time and fuel by not running to the grocery every single day.
On Saturday you’re going to prepare the meals and freeze them for the week ahead. Make at least one spare. If you can’t batch cook them, prepare or cut as much as possible that can be done beforehand.
Today you’ll do the laundry if it’s one of your batch-ables.
You cannot batch it if you have a very large family. We are only 3 people right now. If you’re a big family then you could choose cleaning. Remember, it’s not a bad thing that everyone’s home on Sunday and you have to do laundry.
Use it in your favor somehow. *Wink*
Dusting/ Vacuum/ Moping/ Sweeping/ Whatever makes your house feel clean
Writing Posts/ Self Care/ Anything else on your batch-ables list
Catch up Day
Choosing the right time
You will choose a large chunk of time, (say morning, evening or night time) at least a time frame of 90 minutes for each day’s batch work.
But here’s the most important thing, this has to be your peak energy time. Don’t make it noon, evenings, or later at night unless you’re dead sure you can do it then. Or you’ll severely risk the chances of it getting done. Be very realistic and honest about yourself. No kind guestimations.
My Stay At Home Mom Morning Routine – The Batch Blocking Version
I aim to finish my batch of work for the day asap so my son has me available for playing with him for the rest of the day and I can complete the less pressing tasks as the smaller empty time slots arise.
Also when I follow a rhythm or sequence of activities, I see that my son becomes more understanding. He knows when I’m available for him and when I’m busy. He is not bitter because he gets accustomed to it over time.
4.00am: I wake up super early because I
like need the quiet when I can concentrate on prayer, exercise and creative stuff like blog writing.
To keep at it, I like to tell myself that these are my office hours. I do my morning thing in this order:
Prayer & scripture
6.30 am: I take a half hour break and just go snuggle my son so when he wakes up in half an hour, he sees me with him, not at my computer. This half-hour also helps my mind slow down and come out of work mode back into home life or otherwise I would snap at everyone I see. (Please read that again. I made a very important point in the last sentence.)
7.00 am: My son wakes up, I make sure not to let him sleep later than that because each 15 minutes delay after 7 will keep him away from bed by an hour when the nap time comes.
He plays with me a bit and then goes into his toy room. I quickly prepare breakfast for both of us.
8.30 am: We’re done with breakfast and some fun stuff so I take him to the bathroom for brushing his teeth and washing his face, get dressed etc.
9.00 to 11.00am: He plays with his toys/watches cartoons which is my batch blocking time. If I see he’s being very clingy, I arrange a play-setting for him near where I’m working so we can talk while we both do our thing (and I can keep my helicopter parent eye on him too!). Make sure to rush through the work so YOU can enjoy the rest of the day.
How to keep the kids busy when you’re doing the work?
Here are a few ways to engage your little ones:
- Rosemarie in her ten-hour time block strategy gives a very good remedy, Keep a set of toys which are only available to him during this time. DO NOT by any means use these toys other than your batch working hours or your child will soon lose interest.
- Give him a safe but messy activity to play with, kids never want to leave such activities
- In this post, there is a section on independent activities for kids you can engage him in.
Also, I try to finish my batch work for the day before 11 am because I have always been a morning person and also because that’s when I have maximum energy. This means my mornings are very important and I can not afford to be unintentional about them at least. Let me show you how I structure my morning routine as a stay at home mom to make BB work for me.
Once you’re done with the batch-ables, go back and pick an unstarred (daily) task from the brain dump section and insert each one into an appropriate day.
If you do the math, you’re only focusing each day on one or two big tasks. That is way better than having 10 tasks lingering on your mind every. single. day.
Momma, your simple stay at home weekly schedule is ready!
Step 3: Execute With A Technique
The planning part is mostly fun and easy. That is why I did it with you. =P
Especially if you have cute planners and sticky notes. You can find the ones I love and use here.
We now know our important tasks and we also know when they are to be done but that really doesn’t change the reality that the work still needs to be done.
The Real Challenge:
Something (I don’t know what) will try to prevent you from doing your batch work each day. I know first hand.
With me, it’s mostly because I:
- wasted my peak energy time on something less pressing and now I’m too tired for the batch work
- didn’t play enough with my son that when I get busy with my work, he would handle this independent time well. Now he’s hanging by my elbow.
- talked myself out of doing it right now. I thought I would do it sometime later when the conditions will be more favorable. But now I see favorable isn’t coming anytime this week.
Now, if I shared these problems of MINE with YOU, as my friend, asking for a solution, you might say, just do it!
Why is it easy to recommend, but not easy to do?
One reason: Emotions.
When we guide our friends or anyone who asks us for solutions to their problems, we do it objectively, logically.
But when we have our own problems, we think very emotionally or subjectively.
And this very thing will be our solution.
For every time frame set for your batch work for the day, this is what you’re going to do: you’ll lock, shush, shut, zip, smother your feelings and thoughts and just do it… objectively.
Only till your batchable task is done. You can sink into emotions for the entire rest of your day.
I don’t allow any second thoughts to talk me out of my schedule, I quickly get up at the first reminder because if I sit any longer, I know I won’t do the work.
Just for 90 minutes daily in the peak energy hours of your day, you will rush to complete your batch work so you are light, relaxed and free to do whatever else you want to for the rest of the day.
Now You Try It
Can you see how I am surviving the week with my new schedule?
I only pick a few important batch-able tasks to go into my schedule. I assign one day to each task, keeping in mind what it is that I’ll need most in the coming days.
Doing them as early as possible when my energy is high takes far less time. And then I’m free-er the rest of the day for other less stressful work.
I leave gaps for the unforeseen.
Also, I’m teaching myself not to fret about all the other gazillion things as long as my family is breathing well, with filled tummies and having clean clothes to wear.
This is where you can start with a schedule that helps balance all (that is, all important stuff). It’s not the perfect schedule, but this is where lifelong scramblers or current strugglers can start to give a bit of structure to their days.
You don’t have to fill every hour of your day with tasks, you don’t have to use short Pomodoros if you barely get anything done before being interrupted with time for the next Pomodoro.
With this method, you already know there is a good day and a good time for every important task, and you won’t even have to look back to that task for the remaining of the week either.
Starting with a weekly routine, you can only make progress and then move to an organized stay at home mom daily routine.