Calendaring for Stay-at-Home Parents: Part 1

Part of the Calendaring for Stay-at-Home Parents Series. Find Part 2, Part 3 (the actual calendaring part), or Part 4

Part 1: Before you Begin

Hold on tight because this is a long one. In fact, after a lot of consideration, and a whole lot of words, I decided to break this down into multiple posts. 

This series is for parents – especially those at home with their kids all day, whether they do paid work from home or not – who find that time seems to just evaporate on them without any warning all day long. It’s not just that there’s not enough hours in the day. It’s that we don’t even notice the hours that we do have, and at the end of the day we feel bad about not only our homes but also ourselves. 

Calendaring for Stay-at-Home Parents Part 1: Before you Begin

Calendaring for Stay-at-Home Parents 

I listen to this podcast called Unf*ck Your Brain. It’s all about life coaching and it’s amazing and has tons of great advice about how to get your life in order by getting your mind in order. 

If the concept of thought work is brand new to you, I absolutely recommend going and listening to that podcast. Like go back to the first episode and listen to it all in order. (There’s just over 100 episodes at the time of writing, it isn’t that long.) 

I recommend this because if you struggle with getting things done in the first place, it’s a safe bet that you fall victim to some of the same mental traps that I do: self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, paralyzing indecision, etc… The kind of cognitive coaching she focuses on is designed to directly question those thoughts that aren’t serving you. And all the productivity tips in the world probably won’t help if you still don’t believe you are the kind of person who can succeed. 

In some ways it’s similar to some of the things I’ve worked on in therapy in the past, but way cheaper (because it’s free) and also more results-oriented. Which I’m into. 

Why Stay-at-Home Parents?

This whole series is inspired by a free seminar that Kara from UFYB hosted recently. She has a paid group coaching kind of thing but she’s always doing free stuff for her podcast listeners because she’s amazing. 

She has addressed productivity in the past, and this seminar went over her system in depth. The system is largely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method (if you buy through this link I’ll get a small commission, but this book is almost certainly available at your library), which I’ll assume you have heard of before because it’s everywhere. The most notable exception is that where David suggests working from your list based on priority, Kara insists that you need to put every single task onto your calendar so you know exactly when to work on it. 

I think this is brilliant.

Except… I needed to do a lot of brainstorming to figure out how it could work for me in my life. I get interrupted about a hundred times a day so just putting things onto a calendar and expecting them to get done on my desired timeline is a joke. 

This leads to a set of struggles that is entirely different than what most people in an office setting see. Not better or worse or harder or easier. Just different.

This series is all about what I’ve come up with for how to make calendaring work as a stay-at-home parent. 

Before You Begin

I’m focusing only on the calendaring aspect here, so if you need some guidance on how to capture all your tasks and ideas and break them down into action items, then listen to episode #6 of the UFYB podcast titled “How to Get Sh*t Done,” read any article about the GTD method, or go actually read David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

Write everything down

Make a giant, exhaustive “to-do list,” for lack of a better word. I call it my Master List and it’s best to keep a digital copy so you can update it daily. 

Anything you want to get done, but are struggling to find time for, write it down on your list. Including housework, parenting tasks, self-care, and anything else you need. Also one-time tasks like getting an oil change or cleaning the garage. And repeating tasks that you want to become habits. 

It’s not just appointments and projects with deadlines. Here’s a sample of some of the things on my list:

  • Read to the kids
  • Meditate
  • Manage my email 
  • Prepare my schedule (that’s right, managing your schedule needs to be on your schedule)
  • Gaming
  • Buy Homeowners insurance 
  • Pack up my office
  • Get to sleep by midnight/no screens after 11

Some people may just want to type all this out. For me, I find that writing things down on paper helps me organize my thoughts better than typing. Then I transfer over to the computer. 

Or I use one of my Rocketbook notebooks (Another affiliate link. Sign up for their mailing list for 15% off and support NerdishMom in the process!) which allow me to write by hand and then beam my notes to Google Drive.

Make your ideal schedule

This is basically a daily agenda that is what your day would look like if you had plenty of energy and your kids were robots you could program! Put all those things from the above list on there. 

Be realistic about how long things take – be wary of transitions

Adults with executive dysfunction are likely to have a hard time working through transitions anyway, but throw kids into the mix and you can guarantee that moving from one task to another will take two to four times as long as it might take a neurotypical person without kids. 

This schedule is not your calendar. That’s important to remember. This is a dream. A #lifegoals schedule. 

But it’s also important to make sure it’s not actually impossible. Like don’t schedule yourself for twenty-six hours in a day. Don’t plan on two hours of sleep. Make it something that you could realistically hope to strive for in the very long run.

If only…

Pick your battles

You may well not have time for everything, so prioritize!

Maybe you want to sweep the floors in the whole house every day, but you don’t have time for that. Plan to do the kitchen and bathrooms one day, the living spaces the next, then alternate.

Separate needs from shoulds

Who is it that thinks the floors need sweeping every day anyway – you or society? Maybe you really only need to do each room once a week. No one is going to be doing a white glove test. 

The app Tody is really useful for helping you set your priorities when it comes to housekeeping. It keeps track of how long it’s been since you last performed a task and also suggests when to do it next, based on how neat you actually tend to keep your home. Full disclosure: I picked the most slovenly setting.

Schedule retroactively

This is going to sound like cheating, but it’s helped me immensely when I’ve done it. 

Make a note of when the kids need something specific from you so you know how much time you can get away with focusing on a single task before being interrupted. 

As you get started, log everything that you do. A time tracking app (like Toggl, but there are other options too) could be a big help for this, or Siri/Alexa if you have access to a voice assistant to keep track of your time for you. 

To change how you’re managing your time, you need to know how you’re spending time right now. 

I color code tasks so I can see at a glance how much time I spent on Family activities versus Work or Cleaning. At the end of the day I have a calendar that shows what I actually did, not what I meant to do, but didn’t get to. This is so helpful for me.

This helps you see:

  • When you’re most productive. 
  • When you have the most available time. 
  • How much time tasks actually take. 
  • That despite how it may feel, you actually did do some things.

If possible, also make a note of when the kids need something specific from you (ie something that requires you to stop what you’re doing and switch to helping them) so you know how much time you can get away with focusing on a single task before being interrupted. 

Maybe it’s an hour, but maybe it’s only 15 minutes. Or maybe it’s 15 minutes before nap time but an hour afterwards. Look for patterns because that will be crucial information once you actually start your calendar. 

That post coming soon!

Your thoughts?

Let me know if you have ever tried calendaring. How does it work for you? Any tips that you think are particularly helpful for stay at home parents? Hit me up in the comments or on Discord!

All that Nerdish

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