Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Back to School: The Importance of Schedules and Routines

For many, back to school means back to old, familiar routines. You know, the ones parents love and the ones  children dread:  wake up time, homework time, limited TV time and bed time. 

In attempt to get back to the grind, some of my friends have pulled the plug on summer fun two weeks before the first day of school, insisting that their kids go to bed at 8:30 every night and wake up at 7:00 every morning. Another mom I know has turned off the TV and is requiring her kids to read and do practice math problems all the live long day. Those poor kids.

At our house, we take the easy breezy approach. In fact, just this morning as I was fretting about our back to school strategy, my husband said, "We've been here before. We know exactly what to do. I don't understand why you are so worried."

I hate it when he is right.

The obsessive compulsive part of me loves schedules, routines and an overall sense of order. I suppose that's why back to school isn't such a big deal, because each member of my family knows what to expect when the time comes.

But what about those people that don't understand the importance of routines? What about the mom I met this week that was too busy texting to notice that her newborn has missed a feeding?  Well, this post is just for you! 

No matter what your circumstances, I hope to convince you that schedules and routines are both helpful and necessary for people of all ages. 

Schedules, routines and babies

A baby has two important jobs:  to sleep and to eat. Establishing predictable routines takes work, and babies needs help developing consistency from the very beginning.  

A sleeping schedule helps babies establish healthy sleep cycles and prevents them from being overtired. Schedules  can eliminate  confusion and solidify a sleep-wake cycle so that days and nights are not confused.

Schedules provide time frames for feedings so that they are not missed or provided unnecessarily. Predictable schedules for eating also allow parents to eliminate some of the guess work when asking, "Why is my baby crying?" If it's been 3 hours since the last feeding, then a baby is likely to be hungry. If the baby took a bottle just 30 minutes ago, better check the diaper.

Routines prevent melt down, help baby to cope during difficult times and promote the development of strong bonds with parents and caregivers. Schedules promote good habits that can last a life time.

I started my son Jay on a three hour schedule before we even left the hospital. Using the book On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo, I helped him establish a routine cycle of sleep, eat, and play. The schedule I set for my baby not only made our first year together easy and predictable, it made me feel like the smartest mom in all of the land.

Schedules, routines and children

Regular schedules provide the day with a framework that orders a young child's world. Although predictability can be tedious for adults, children thrive on sameness and repetition. Routines help kids understand the importance of following  rules. Schedules provide security by reducing the fear of the unknown. 

Children learn cooperation and independence by following established routines. Parents  enable their kids to learn self control and self discipline when there is a predictable schedule to follow. Routines built around fun or spending time together strengthen relationships between parent and children. What's more, researchers have shown children following routines are happier and more confident than those that don't. 

The schedule I set for Jay continued into his second year. It was good for him but it was really great for me. The routines of the day were so well ingrained, by the time he was a toddler, things were set in stone and that little guy was on automatic pilot. When other parents were running around, chasing kids or working frantically to make a case for bedtime, Jay would come to me and ask, "Can I go to bed now?" 

Our routine made me feel like a parenting super star!

Schedules at home

One of a family's greatest challenges is to establish comfortable, effective schedules and routines that result in a happy compromise between disorder and rigidity, confusion and boredom.

While the goal is not regimentation, experts agree that some routine at home is helpful. Families can use schedules to organize and get through the things that need to be done each day, including breakfast, homework, dinner and bed time.  While every family has its own daily habits, schedules and routines help family members know who should do what, when, in what order and how often.

At our house, even our dog Ozzy follows a schedule.  He knows when it's time for breakfast because the boys have been feeding him routinely since he was a puppy. They wake up at 7:00 am, get dressed, make their beds, comb their hair and come downstairs for breakfast. If Ozzy's "corn flakes" and fresh water are not out for him by 7:30 am, he's barking like crazy. (Unfortunately, that includes Saturdays and Sundays much for sleeping late.) Because of our daily routines, that dog never has and never will miss a meal.

Ultimately, a good routine caters to the needs of all family members (even the pets), teaches responsibility and builds strong family bonds. 

Routines at work

Routines at work provide a sense of structure that enable you to focus your time and energy during the work day. When you are focused, you are more thorough and more productive which saves you time and enables  you to accomplish more. Schedules can also greatly simplify your work day so it doesn't become overly chaotic or complicated. 

One of the most convenient reasons why structure at work is important is because it negates the need to regularly schedule your days ahead of time. You already know what you are doing each and every day. How convenient!
Most importantly, routines at work put you in control of your day, instead of putting you at the mercy of incoming requests. When you have a working routine, you have a great way for saying "no" to  tasks, to websites or to the people that want your time.

Routines and you

Personal routines allow you to organize your life so that it makes sense to you. You can actually wake up with a sense of ownership, order and organization. The predictability of a routine can help you feel much calmer and in control of your life. In fact, it's been proven that routines help you  manage your time, decrease interruptions, improve your health, increase your willpower and even reduce stress. 

Because a routine is something you do over and over again, it eventually becomes a habit. At that point, you don't need to think to act. The automation  increases your efficiency and enables you to do things without consciously thinking about it. You can automatically get things down without having to remind yourself to get things done. How cool is that?

Understanding that the first 60 minutes of the day can set the course for your mood, your energy, your focus and your entire day, I decided to begin a new morning routine this year. After all, if you want the day to be amazing and extraordinary, you have to focus on how the day begins. 

I heard about Hal Elrod's book The Miracle Morning and immediately started implementing his routine. Of course, you will want to read the entire book, but his basic six minute morning routine (silence, affirmation, visualization, exercise, read, scribe) has been an excellent way for me to start my days.  Check it out and see for may be just what you need.

This week, as you go about your work, think about how schedules and routines impact your daily life. Do you need to make any adjustments? Do you know someone who does? Be sure to share this information with family members and caregivers that can benefit... there may be a hungry baby out there who will be glad you did. Good luck!

Thanks for reading...have a great week!  

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.
John C. Maxwell