We are over half a year through a global pandemic that has altered several things about our day-to-day lives. Our family has been blessed to have remained safe, healthy, and employed, so most changes have been minor inconveniences. But the pandemic has interrupted our family's routine enough that we've had more occasion to focus on some long-neglected personal issues.
I'm sure you know what I mean. We all have areas that we know need to improve, but we can never seem to get around to it. Eventually something causes that shortcoming to grab our attention, and we try to change. Quite often, we soon fail, and the cycle begins again.
One of my challenges has been maintaining our daily schedule. I am perpetually terrible at managing my time. Growing up, I and most of my family members were night owls, slept in late, and frequently had trouble getting places on time. In my mind, it is a trait associated with my easygoing personality. It makes me more flexible, more spontaneous. Sure, it embarrasses me at times, but overall, it's not really that big of a deal.
Not everyone sees it this way, however . . . including my husband. His family planned everything months in advance, was up at the crack of dawn, and would show up early to every event. To do otherwise would be rude and disrespectful of other people's time, he'd say.
You can guess what issue caused the first arguments in our marriage.
Over the years we've managed to moderate each other's extremes, but we've never quite found the happy medium. Children's habits have a big impact on the daily schedule, after all, and I am the chief manager of children. Thus, my husband has been forced to move more in my direction than I have moved toward his.
Then COVID-19 happened. Although our daily schedule didn't change a whole lot at first, our overall schedule certainly changed. With almost everything canceled and my husband temporarily working from home, there was more flexibility and less opportunity for me to make mistakes. There was also more time for my husband and me to connect and communicate as a couple.
As we did so, I began to see that my husband was not well-served by our current household schedule. Not that I didn't already know this—it just didn't seem like a big deal. But I realized that it was a big deal to him, and that adjusting our schedule to suit him needed to be a much higher priority.
The biggest problem was the kids' bedtime. Since we can't go to bed until the kids do, the later the kids go down, the later our bedtime is. We'd been working on a more consistent bedtime for a while, but I was not being very helpful in enforcing it. Also, I kept making things difficult by having dinner very late.
So I set about a plan to make an earlier dinner and an earlier bedtime. I identified my biggest problem with dinner: not sufficiently planning ahead, especially remembering to defrost meat for the meal. Then I determined a simple solution to keep me on track: I set an alarm on my phone to remind me when to pull meat out of the freezer. For bedtime, I didn't set an alarm, but I similarly did my best to be more aware of the time and put more effort into thinking ahead.
Overall, this new plan worked. I tried to develop it into a habit over the summer. When our school break was over, I faced an even bigger long-standing challenge: operating our school day on a regular schedule. I often get up in plenty of time in the mornings, but I am easily distracted by things that seem more important—or perhaps just more interesting or easier—than starting school.
I resolved to do two things:
- Do something easy and fun in the morning so that it's not such a chore to get started. For me, this is reading aloud to my kids.
- Remember that school is a priority and not worth falling prey to the distractions! Again, it sounds silly, but this mindset change has helped me stay much more on target this year.
It can be tempting to think of my poor time management as just a personality weakness. But although I may be predisposed to disorganization and distraction, that doesn't mean I'm incapable of improvement. You can become stronger in an area if you truly care enough to put forth the effort.
Sometimes it's difficult to see the goal. We may feel like the result we desire will cost too much or be too long in coming. But if we really want it, we will figure out a way to make it work. If we “begin with the end in mind,” as Steven Covey's Seven Habits tell us, we will be much more likely to make the changes we want to see.
Our daily schedule is still not perfect. In fact, as I was writing this blog post, my husband and I identified some areas that need further work, and we are just starting to adjust them now. Some days school, dinner, and bedtime are later than planned. But I think we've made more progress in these six months of pandemic than we've made in many years. It's encouraging to feel we're moving in the right direction.
Maybe scheduling is not your area of weakness, but you have some other area that has needed work. Has the pandemic allowed you to make some personal progress? If not, maybe this is the perfect opportunity!