One of the upsides of speaking and writing about time management is that I have a valid professional reason for thinking through my own systems. My weekend planning process has become more formalized in the last few years as my family has grown, and as I’ve studied other people’s processes and seen what works and what doesn’t.
Now, if you broke out in hives reading that last sentence…well, I get it. I know that to some people, the idea of planning a weekend seems to be missing the point. But I have found that really thinking through the schedule and logistics means that everyone — including the adults! — gets to do things they want over the weekend. My leisure time is too precious to be totally leisurely about leisure. I’ve decided that I’m much happier and more relaxed if I embrace this. (Side note: this is true even in this era of cancelations. Cancelations call for contingency plans. If this doesn’t happen, then we will do this.)
This past weekend was an example of how planning allowed for adult activities. My choir was presenting a concert of rather complicated French music on Sunday afternoon (another side note: big sanctuary, lots of room for social distancing). We had our dress rehearsal on Saturday morning, plus we sang for Sunday services as usual. I wanted to do at least one run. My husband is running a half-marathon in early April, and needed to do a 10-mile run. We wanted to do a date night dinner. Some of the kids wanted to go snow tubing at a ski resort in the area before the weather changes. The 10-year-old had a baseball clinic. The big boys (and my husband) needed their hair cut. The baby needed passport photos taken (there are no international travel plans until later in the year — thank goodness — but there’s never going to be a good time to do this task so we thought we’d tackle it now…while there’s less demand…). The kids also wanted downtime — playing video games, riding bikes around the driveway, etc.
Clearly this was not all going to happen by random chance. We also need to give our Saturday sitter a heads up about what’s on the schedule and optimize the time we have childcare too.
So I usually take some time mid-week to think through the weekend. On Wednesday I asked my husband about the snow tubing possibility, and confirmed his running desires (coupled with the weather forecast). I looked at what was on the calendar for the kids and thought about what should probably happen (e.g. those hair cuts). The goal is to email the schedule to my husband and the sitter on Thursday.
Why am I the one sending the email? In our case, it’s because one of us writes about time management and just thinks more this way (my husband is a “P” on the Myers-Briggs tests…) We have had some discussions on making this division of labor workable; the general agreement is that input on the schedule needs to happen before Thursday unless there is a change that will clearly make it better. For instance, given the moving parts of 5 kids, it’s not fair to say on Saturday morning “hey, we should do this today!” and pout when it can’t happen. If I’m making the schedule, my husband has to be game for whatever is on it, and the good news is that he almost always is. I’m not completely inflexible, though. I’d assigned my husband the task of getting the infant passport photos taken, and suggested Saturday morning, which is also when the haircuts needed to happen. He realized he had a window on Friday night to do this, so he did it then rather than add it to the list of things that had to happen on Saturday morning. Also, we have come to an agreement that if he asks me “so what are we doing this weekend?” after I have sent the email, I will not react well.
But despite his “P” nature, I think he’s found the schedule helpful for managing expectations. For instance, since he knew there was a designated time on Sunday for him to do his long run, he wasn’t worrying about not getting it done on Saturday. Since he knew we were going out for a quick dinner on Saturday night he started looking at potential restaurants. We chose one last minute — it is possible to be spontaneous on some things!
As I get the hang of planning weekends with five kids including an infant, I’m also learning to keep an eye on each individual kid’s activity level. The family as a whole can seem quite busy even if certain kids are doing almost nothing. The 10-year-old was complaining about having to accompany his sister somewhere on Saturday afternoon, but I could remind him that he was not even going to have to leave the house on Sunday. And he didn’t. (I did force everyone outside for a little while)
All is not perfect. Stuff can go wrong. People can decide they all don’t want to do the activity in question after saying they did (we had this happen a few weekends with skiing). Some kids are too busy while others spend too much time on screens. I end the weekend with stuff undone — like the dining room table I have yet to construct (I did get to the chairs!) And of course there is the massive uncertainty about all gatherings. I had an intricately constructed schedule for Tuesday evening that allowed for my husband and me to attend the kid-led parent-teacher conferences at the elementary school and get to our 7th grader’s choir concert, and then all of this was canceled when school was canceled yesterday. But just because life is ultimately unknowable doesn’t mean that planning is useless. When, much of the time, we do get to do things we want to do, it’s OK when sometimes we don’t.
In other news: The Kindle version of 168 Hours, my first time management book, is currently on sale for $1.99. If you’ve never read it and thought you might like to, now could be the time!
Photo: Cherry blossoms last spring. They’re supposed to peak in Washington D.C. by the weekend of March 21-22!