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Block scheduling? No, it's not a nightmare flashback to high me.

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

I hope everyone had a great holiday! I don’t know about you, but having “down” time gets really hectic in our house, so I’m definitely one of those parents who is glad when school starts back up after Winter Break.

Checking back in on our mom re-balance journey, I wanted to touch on the topic of planners and scheduling/structuring your day.

As we’ve talked about before, it’s pretty common for mom (or whoever is the primary caregiver to the children in your household) to feel like she’s rushing all over the place all of the time to get everything, from dropping the kids at school to grocery shopping to cooking dinner, done. And because she’s so focused on her family, she frequently doesn’t include time to attend to her own needs. As a result, she becomes burnt out and is more irritable, anxious, or depressed and thinks that she’s “not good enough” or is failing at parenthood.

As those moms, we do want to continue to provide the best for our families but we want and NEED to find a way to do it so that it isn’t wearing us down like this. We want to finish all of the responsibility tasks but also fit in time to socialize with our friends, exercise, or just sit alone in silence for a few minutes.

With the start of the new year, I have totally been geeking out on YouTube, watching tons of videos about planning, budgeting, and productivity. I personally feel so much better when the vast majority of my daily activities are organized and scheduled/structured into blocks. I’ve started shifting away from filling every spare minute with responsibilities to establishing blocks of time where I work on similar themed tasks. For example, I have a work block where I will see patients, work on admin-related tasks like billing, returning phone calls, and charting, and I have another sub-category that my business coach calls “ON BIZ” where I will focus on tasks related to marketing and business growth. Another block that I’ve put in is called my “self care” block. In this one, I set aside 2 hours each weekday after work to fit in exercise, meditation, appointments, and journaling. I have another block for home tasks like chores, dinner, and prep for bedtime and the next morning. When I have the tasks blocked out like this, it forces me to focus on the assigned theme instead of using that time prioritizing something unrelated that I feel like I MUST get done. Those things that must get done are assigned to their own blocks, so I am able to reassure myself when that sense of urgency pops up that I already have a plan in place to take care of that “urgent” task.

This is where the planner part comes into play. Your “assignment” this week is to find a planning method that works for you. Don’t worry, if you initially choose one that doesn’t work out, it’s totally okay to switch it up. I will say, unless it’s a total disaster over the course of the first week, try to stick with it for at least a month, but you know you best, so do what is going to work for you. From all of my YouTube watching and what I know about how the brain works with learning and memory, I’m actually going to recommend that the home base for your planning be somewhere where you are physically writing things down. The reason for this is that the act of writing stimulates the brain in a way that it is more likely to retain the information and associate a sense of importance to it. From there, you can totally load things into your electronic calendar, especially since that platform will allow you access if you’ve accidentally forgotten your physical planner or you need to share the information with your spouse or others.

Breaking things down like we’ve been doing, here’s this week’s steps:

Create blocks for your schedule: morning routine, work, self care, evening routine, etc. Stick to blocks of 2-3 hours, in general, so that you can shift gears and keep your brain engaged; when we try pushing for longer periods, our brains become “bored” and start to lose focus and the ability to retain information.

Start filling in your blocks with the tasks you’d like to get done. Go back to those lists that you made of responsibilities that you split up with your spouse and the activities that you want to start including in your life but feel like you haven’t been able to fit in.

Start living your blocks and set alarms. You can take this a step further by setting alarms for each subtask in the blocks as well. Also, remember to take breaks! There’s this fantastic focus technique called The Pomodoro Technique; essentially you work on a task for 25 minutes at a time, then take a 5 minute break where you can basically do anything else but you have to step away from the task for those 5 minutes. It’s generally advised to take a longer, 15 minute break after the fourth Pomodoro (25-minute work period). This technique saved my brain (and sanity) so much during med school.

As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or ideas that come up! Remember, balance is dynamic, so it’s going to take ongoing attention and effort to maintain it, but I’m right here with you!

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