Monday, June 01, 2009

To Schedule or Not To Schedule?

I’ve had quite a lot of time now to attempt to develop a “Housewife’s Schedule”. (Quite a few readers had asked me about whether I could suggest some sort of schedule for housewives and I wrote about it back in my 10th and 12th May blog entries. ) Well, after much deliberation and many attempts, I have to say that I don’t think it is really possible - certainly not for me anyway. I believe that while you must schedule appointments, having a permanent schedule of household tasks can be pretty difficult.

My reason for this is that I believe that by its very nature, the life of a housewife is totally unpredictable, particularly if you have children. Trying to make a firm schedule of tasks for each day of the week can be soul destroying. More often than not, things come up that make it impossible for you to stick to the plan and then you feel stressed about it. So I think the days of anything resembling “washing on Monday, ironing on Tuesday” are, for most of us, long gone. However there is something you can do if you crave an order to your day - stick with me and I’ll explain.

Now when I say that I don’t believe you can formulate a precise schedule for household tasks, I don’t mean you can manage without a diary or calendar. I’d be lost without my iCal calendar on my MacBook and iPhone, which I use alongside the Mobile Me program from Apple. If I put something into the calendar on my computer, it automatically goes into the one on my iPhone - without me doing one single thing - and vice versa. This is utterly invaluable both for my own appointments and those of my husband and son. You see, I can schedule things in their calendars by sending them appointments, and they can do the same thing with me. As soon as any one of us accepts an appointment, it automatically goes into the calendar on our computer and our iPhones. I think housewives definitely need something like this to help them keep themselves and everyone else organised. If you are not really into computers (although if you are reading this you probably are - it is a webpage after all!), you can always do it the way I used to, holding diary reconciliation meetings every week with your family and making sure you all know exactly what is happening. It’s much more difficult than doing it electronically, but it does work, provided you are disciplined about having the meetings! Whatever method you use though, you must be absolutely religious about keeping a note of everyone’s appointments and knowing who needs to be where and when. You also have to factor in where you are as well, especially if you have to play chauffeur! An up to date calendaring system is integral to the efficient running of a home.

And it is within this framework that I believe a sort of schedule is possible. Although I don’t think you can have a permanent schedule that you can use week after week, I have found that scheduling tasks into the day on a flexible basis works really, really well. What I have been doing is looking at my calendar for the next day every evening and then writing in the things I need to do that day in any gaps that are available. The biggest challenge with this is not to over-schedule yourself; the biggest benefit is that you can actually schedule “me-time” such as visits to the gym or going for a walk, etc. Of course, this is not a foolproof plan as tasks over-run and unexpected things do happen, but I did find it helped me to be very productive in terms of getting things done.

So if you want to have a “Housewife’s Schedule”, this is my recommendation. Have a list of the tasks you need to do on a weekly basis (amending it as necessary as things do change week to week), alongside your calendar and/or diary. On a nightly basis, schedule in a reasonable number of tasks around existing appointments the next day. Be patient with yourself though, if something comes up and you can’t stick to the plan, you can push most household tasks on till tomorrow or later in the week. It’s not a competition, so don’t be hard on yourself.

I really hope this helps the readers who wrote in to ask about this. I have to confess though, that I am unlikely to stick to my own plan. I find my days are too unpredictable to do anything other than slot household tasks in as and when around our appointments. So you’ll find me throwing a load of laundry in here, and doing some ironing there, or vacuuming when I have a spare half hour or so. It’s not the most organised way of doing things, but it works for me!

The key is to remember that just because you are a housewife does not mean that all the household tasks should come down to you. You are allowed to delegate and/or request help. And whether you decide to use my method of scheduling or not, be sure to make time for some fun every day - there’s more to life than housework after all!

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