Hey Mom Friend, are you struggling to stick to a daily routine with little ones underfoot?
Maybe you LOVE the concept, but you just can’t seem to make it work?
Well, since we’re being honest with each other, I have the same problem.
Every influencer, success book, and productivity blog is telling you how you CAN’T survive without them.
They show you a cinematographic video of their morning and evening routines on Youtube, or walk you through each element of a billionaire CEO’s daily regimen, and some of them even give you some science-y reasons for why you need them.
It’s all very inspirational, but also might leave you feeling like a failure if you just can’t seem to get into a grove like they do.
So do you HAVE to follow consistent routines and schedules in order to be productive and successful?
That’s what we’re talking about in today’s post.
Because I would argue, and I think my own life can reflect, that the answer is NO.
I’m going to reveal a very non-influencery secret… I don’t follow routines or schedules, and I’ll explain why. Then we’ll get on to what I do instead–how I still stay productive, and actually get more done than when I was trying to follow routines.
So if you’re struggling with routines and consistency, hang with me! This is just the post for you!
Just so you know, this post may contain affiliate links, which if clicked, could provide a small commission for me at no extra cost to you.
Why I Stopped Trying to Live By Routines
For so long, I was very determined to nail down specific routines and, at the very least, loose daily schedules.
For one thing, I’m someone who thrives on that kind of structure. I crave organization and consistency, and I love predictability.
Even though I was homeschooled as a kid/teenager, I loved schedules so much, I made my own “class periods” for myself so that I would still have a daily structure to follow.
And my husband can tell you, I am NOT someone who enjoys surprises.
I like to know what’s happening and be prepared!
In college and as an adult in the working world, much of that structure was provided for me.
But then, when I suddenly became a stay at home mom (thanks, surprise baby!), I needed to develop that structure for myself again.
The Reality of Mom-Life
I read productivity books, books on habit, and books about routines. I watched influencers on Youtube share their routines.
Everyone in all directions seemed to be telling me that the only way to be successful was to stick to regimented daily routines, and to schedule as much of my life as possible.
And I wholeheartedly agreed!
It had all worked so well for me in the past, and in the midst of what felt like the timeless void of life with a newborn, it seemed like exactly what I needed.
Now as a quick disclaimer, I am not here to bash routines. I still love the concept and think they’re really healthy. In fact, I even have a printable kit to help new moms create routines with newborns because structure in that season IS very healthy and tricky to come by!
But as time went on, and the needs of my child were routinely evolving (see what I did there?), I just couldn’t seem to find a groove with consistent routines.
Especially once I started working from home to create a grow a blog, I really needed to be more productive during the day, but my days just never looked the same.
Things never fell into place the way I planned them.
Maybe I could do all of my housework really efficiently one morning, but the next, my child was extra needy.
One day, my toddler might take an amazing four hour nap and allow me to get tons of computer work done, and the next three days, refuse to nap altogether.
I felt like such a failure for not being able to stick to a daily routine when so many other people, even moms, seemed to do it effortlessly!
I wondered if I just wasn’t disciplined enough, or if I wasn’t intentional enough. I also felt like a fake, writing a mom blog and not being able get my own days together.
The Myth of Routines and Schedules
Finally, I decided to try something new.
Routines, schedules, time blocking… none of that was working for me.
So I stopped trying to force it.
I didn’t give up; I literally abandoned it.
And something crazy happened.
I became productive like never before.
Suddenly, I found myself able to do most, if not all, of my housework, work from home with a toddler, even when she was AWAKE, and I discovered I actually did have time for me— to do the things I wanted to do, like nap(!), watch a show, read more books, get back to crocheting.
But how!? All of my beloved resources insisted I had to form routines and live by schedules in order to be productive and successful.
What I have finally come to realize, after much struggle and frustration, is that if routines and schedules weren’t working for me, they were never going to make me successful.
The secret no one is telling you is that to be successful, you have to do what works for YOU.
It’s so simple, it’s almost dumb.
The truth is that you will never be successful trying to be someone you’re not!
Even just trying to emulate the high school/college version of myself was not being true to who I am now— a mom.
There is no ONE right way to be productive. There is no ONE right way to be successful.
If you are struggling with both of those things, then stop trying to do what everyone else is telling you. Commit to finding what works FOR YOU.
The idea that you can only succeed and be productive if you live one certain way is a myth.
“Failing” to succeed by someone else’s standards does not make you undisciplined or inadequate. It doesn’t mean you can never get your life together.
What if you decided to become a runner, but bought a pair of shoes that didn’t fit? Your runs would be miserable, you’d constantly be battling to make progress, and you’d experience a lot of pain.
Does that mean you can’t be a runner? No!! It means you have the wrong pair of shoes.
How I Stay Productive WITHOUT Routines
Hopefully by now, you’ve accepted that it’s OKAY to question the status quo!
If the daily structure everyone else is pushing isn’t working for you, then I highly encourage you experiment and explore other options.
Head back to the shoe store and keep trying things on until YOU ARE SATISFIED!
While I can’t tell you what will work for you (that would be a little hypocritical at this point, right?), I can tell you what’s working for me!
I have a few key elements and strategies I apply to my time each day to make sure I stay on track and get things done that don’t require any kind of routine or schedule.
Do I still like to do the same things around roughly the same time every day? Yeah. But… My day is now completely flexible, unlike before, and I get a lot more accomplished by not forcing things into a specific order.
For me, the foundation that keeps me grounded and on track for the day is my daily planning system.
I have two separate planners: one for personal/home related tasks, the other for blogging/work.
At the start of my day, usually before my daughter wakes up, I sit down and think through what needs to happen for my day to be successful.
However, I don’t just make a massive to-do list.
I make sure to note which are my top priorities– the things that must get done THAT day.
If you need to keep track of future to-dos so you don’t forget, I suggest keeping a separate master list to pull from as-needed so you don’t get side tracked day to day.
I check on my list from the day before to see what didn’t get finished to decide if it still needs to be done, and if so, push it to another day.
Instead of having a daily or weekly routine where I do the same things on the same days (which just didn’t work for me), I write things in as I see they need doing.
For example, one of the routines I’ve moved away from over time is my cleaning routine. Instead of scheduling jobs by the day of the week, I do them as needed, balanced with my other priorities for the day.
If you WANT a more consistent cleaning routine, you can grab my free housekeeping printable here. It works great, and I still use it as a framework, but I don’t follow it religiously.
The planners I use are very very simple (which is great because those are the cheapest to buy!).
They’re JUST the blank weekly spreads– no time slots, no fancy extras.
If you want some simple printable planner pages, you can grab the ones I created here:
The daily sections are even color coded for your priorities from most to least important!
The What-You-Can-When-You-Can System
Instead of trying to determine in advance when I’m going to complete each task, I chip away at my list as I’m able.
I even gave it a really fancy name: The What-You-Can-When-You-Can system.
Here’s how it works:
I gauge what I can accomplish based on the natural ebb and flow of my day (which is a little different each day).
In order to stay productive, I rotate continuously between three themes:
- My work tasks
- My home/personal tasks
- Engaging with my toddler.
None of them are scheduled by the clock, and none of them have specific time frames.
So instead of saying, “At 9:00 am, I’m going to sit down at the computer and work for 30 minutes,” if I see my toddler is happy entertaining herself, I snag the opportunity to bang out as much focused computer work as I can for as long as she is content on her own.
When I need to get up and engage with her, I will either do some housework and include her, or be present with just her.
When I need a break, I take a break, and then return to my WYCWYC rotation.
When my lists are done, they’re done! I can feel good about “clocking-out” for the day.
IT’S. SO. SIMPLE.
And it allows me to get SO much more done than I ever thought possible.
The MOModoro Technique
Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique?
It’s basically this:
- You choose a specific task to focus on.
- You work all-in for 25 minutes.
- At exactly 25 minutes, you stop!
- Take a 5 minute break to do something un-work-related.
- Repeat three more times for a total of four 25 + 5 minute segments.
- Take a longer 20-30 minute break.
This method is proven to hugely boost productivity by teaching your brain to focus on the specific task at hand, and boosts creativity by giving the brain needed breaks at just the right time.
I love science-backed productivity techniques. Unfortunately, your child doesn’t really care what productivity methods you’re applying to your day when they’re ready for a snack.
So it can be hard to stick to a regimented structure like the Pomodoro Technique.
Hence, I present to you… The MOModoro Technique.
There’s a lot less empirical support for it…since I came up with it…but from my own personal experience, I can tell you that it works for me and makes me more productive. (Be sure to let me know what you think if you give it a try!)
Here’s my version (that allows you to get things done with babies and small children):
- When the time is right (i.e. kids are sleeping or self-entertained), choose a task that needs your attention.
- Knock out as much as you can while you can, and when a little human needs your attention, stop!
- Break for as long as needed to re-fill emotional buckets (or tummies).
- When possible, resume the previous task, OR choose a task that appropriately fits the mood in the house (as in don’t do focus work if your kid isn’t going to let you focus)
Your time chunks might not break down to exactly 25 and 5, but it’ll work in a similar way.
You might feel like you already do basically this, and you probably do!
The Momodoro Technique will help you to level up the what-you-can-when-you-can system by shifting your mindset.
Approaching this as a legitimate technique and system, rather than seeing it as your child routinely interrupting you, will help to give you a positive attitude and make you more productive. (At least, it has for me!)
Instead of feeling like my day is happening to me, I feel more in control and am able to be more intentional about the way I spend my time.
I’m also more motivated because it’s fulfilling to see just how much I can accomplish during my Momodoro block!
(By the way, when my child is napping, I do try to implement the real Pomodoro Technique if I’m doing blog work.)
**Honorable mentions go to coffee and afternoon naps.
Now I want to hear from you!
How do YOU feel about routines and time structures? Does how you feel about them now, as a mom, differ from pre-parenthood?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out:
- How to Work from Home with a Toddler
- Genius Strategies to Clean Faster
- How to Love Homemaking
- Healthy Habits of Productive Homemakers