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Time Management 101: Make a Personalized Plan

Up until now, we’ve mostly talked about theories. We’ve discussed streamlining your life, determining your priorities and creating a time budget. It’s now time to turn those theories into real-life applications.

I know. This is the hard part. But I promise that if you’ll stick with it, it will pay off in incredible ways!

You Need a Plan

Just like you’re never going to get control of your finances until you make a detailed budget and stick with it, so you’re never going to be a good manager of your time unless you have a plan and stick with it. Without a plan, you’ll just aimlessly wonder through life, not knowing where you’re going or what your final destination is.

personalize your time plan
A plan allows you to rise above the tyranny of the urgent and focus your efforts and energies on what is truly important. A plan gives you purpose, vision and momentum.

When it comes to our daily plan and homemaking plan, I’ve found that a plan gives me freedom, saves me a great deal of time and brings peace and order into our home. I can focus on the task at hand because I know the other tasks will get taken care of during their designated time in the day.

For instance, I can walk past the pile of laundry on my bed at noon because I know that I have a time slot at 4 p.m. to fold and put away laundry. I don’t have to find myself stressing over “What’s for dinner?” at 5 p.m. because I put together the main dish after breakfast and it’s just waiting in the refrigerator for me to stick in the oven. I can enjoy reading a book or spending time online during the designated time slots for it because I know that my family’s need are met and my house is in order.

What Would a Perfect Day Look Like?

Find a quiet room sometime in the next few days and take a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and jot down a rough draft of what a perfect day would look like for you. This exercise is not meant to discourage you, but to get your creative juices flowing and to help you start to formulate a plan to improve the order and efficiency of your home and life.

Start With a Routine

After you’ve written out what a perfect day would look like, take your list of priorities and your time budget and start mapping out a realistic plan for your day. If you’re new to the whole concept of routines, don’t try to create this massively-regimented schedule.

In fact, I’d discourage you from making a strict schedule to begin with and would instead suggest you create a routine. This way, you’re not setting yourself up for failure from the get-go. Once you become a adept at a routine, then you can get a little more detailed, but don’t bite off more than you can chew when you’re first starting out.

I love many of the concepts from FlyLady and one of the things she encourages is to have a morning routine, an afternoon routine and an evening routine. If you have no structure in your life right now, I’d encourage you to begin by writing down five things you want to do in the same order every morning and commit to getting up and doing these first thing every morning for three weeks.

My current morning routine:

::Get up, read Bible, journal, pray

::Check email, clean out email inbox, blogging work

::Exercise, recovery drink, start a load of laundry

::Get children up (if they aren’t already up!), oversee their before-breakfast chores

::Shower, dressed, make bed, clean up room

I’ve had a morning routine for a number of years, so mine is a little more than five things. But it’s sort of meshed together so that I view each line as one “thing” and lump them together like that!

Don’t try to add anything else new for the next three weeks, just stick with faithfully implementing a morning routine. Once you’ve consistently stuck with your morning routine for three weeks, then add in an afternoon routine for three weeks and then an evening routine for three weeks. At the end of nine weeks, you should start to feel some significant order in your life just by these simple routines!

Be Flexible; Life Happens!

Remember that your routines are not a slavemaster; they are a guideline to help you. If your children or husband need help or something else important comes up, take a detour from them and then come back to the next thing as soon as you are able.

The whole purpose of a routine or schedule is to benefit you and your family, not to be an excuse to bull-doze everyone over! If it isn’t serving your family, it needs to be tweaked or changed.

In the next post, I’ll be sharing more about creating a Daily Plan, as well finding time to plan and what to do when things don’t go according to the plan. Later on in the week, we’ll be talking about creating a plan for homemaking, laundry and other areas of life.

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  • jaime says:

    I love this series! Thanks for all of the great ideas.

  • joanna says:

    thank you so much for sharing this series on time management! i downloaded the book you recommended & would have read it by now except i’m working against a deadline & don’t have time. this seems to be the story of my life esp. since i was married in march & have more responsibilities. i so look forward to implementing your suggestions & having some peace & order in our lives. God bless you for the good that you are doing!

  • Guest says:

    I’ve really enjoyed using the chore planner from that you posted. I was pretty crabby at first trying to get everything done, but it has quickly become a routine for me, and is bringing some much needed order to my home. Thanks!

  • I’m grateful you are sharing so many details! It really helps to see things all laid out. Seriously, I am always wondering when people who workout hard, and have little children at home, get their showers in! I gave up trying to do everything before the kids got up, it is good for me to see that you do some “morning” things after they are awake too.

  • Lorie says:

    I feel like I can’t have a daily plan because no two days are the same & no two weeks are the same. One child is in kindergarten, another goes to Parents’ Day Out twice a week. This week there are lots of appointments (doctor’s, etc.) which messes with my gym time, other weeks there are no appointments. This is why I get frustrated. I can even get a daily or weekly routine schedule going because there’s always something different going on. I did this very well when I had one child but now that I have three it seems to be impossible. However, I do see that I can start with a morning routine.

    • @Lorie, Yes, start with a morning routine. I just created my time budget for Mon-Thurs. Fri, Sat, and Sun will each be different so I’m going to have a different routine for each day. It might work for you to do something similar.

    • Stephanie says:

      @Lorie, Lorie can you make a list of “non negotiable” items and make a new schedule each day that makes sure these get done? Then work those around your other daily commitments? That is what I am doing and it is working for me right now because there are no two days alike in my home either!

  • Lenita says:

    I am thoroughly enjoying this blog. I am just beginning my journey as a stay at home mom and the things I am learning here are helping me become more organized and feel more capable of fulfilling my new role. Thank you and God bless you!

  • Heather says:

    Ha ha – If I didn’t know better, I’d think that “recovery drink” was a hit of booze.

  • Leah says:

    How do you get everything done before your kids get up??? My little one gets up at 5am, there is no way I could be productive before then! I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t get home til 11ish most nights.

    • @Leah, My daughter is an early riser too, but I’ve trained mine to play quietly in their rooms while I shower and have some devotional time. It depends on the age of your child, but it might work for you.

    • Rachel says:

      I am in the same boat. I have a one and three year old both up by 6:00. Trying to get anything done in the morning is almost impossible. My washer does have a timer so I put a load in at night and it starts at 5:00 and so does my dishwasher. It makes me feel a little better getting those two things done. But as far as working out and quiet time it has not happened.

    • Jen says:

      @Leah, I was also amazed by how much she gets done before “get children up”. After the article on how important it is to get enough sleep, there’s absolutely no way I would be able to do all that before my kids get up. I do go to bed at a reasonable hour, but my kids are extremely early risers. I really can’t go to bed any earlier by the time we eat dinner after my husband gets home and we get the kids in bed and I do a few chores around the house after that since I never have time before they get up in the morning.

      • brooke says:

        I am also shocked at how much you can get done before your kids wake up! Mine are also early risers and it makes a morning routine really hard, at least one that involves anything but breakfast and getting kids dressed.

        • Crystal says:

          I don’t always get it all done before they get up, but it is my aim! And one of the reasons I go to bed soon after they do at night is because I’ve found that I’m much more productive in the mornings than in the evenings.

          If they do get up, I just include them in it or have them play close by until our regular morning chores start around 8 a.m.

        • Abbie says:

          @brooke, My children are “up with the sun”. I decided that I need to give God my time first so I am praying/reading my bible at 5:30 a.m. If my 2 year old is up, I don’t go get him until I am done. He sings, plays in his bed until I open the door. My older two can’t come down until at least 6:00. When they do come down, they play while I get my early morning routine done. I think the more you do a routine, the more normal it is for your children. They get used to it and know it is going to happen.

      • Crystal says:

        Please know that, as I mentioned to another commentor and will be re-iterating in another post, this is what I *aim* to get done before my children get up. But it doesn’t always work out that way! They often just join in the morning routine (exercising, etc.) if they get up earlier. And I often will just condense the blogging or exercising time (or even skip one or both things!) if everyone gets up early and needs my attention.

        It’s all about being flexible and giving yourself grace! But a plan at least allows you to get a lot more done than you’d ever get done if you didn’t have a plan!

  • Elizabeth Kamm says:

    My question is this, what do you if say a little one wakes up while you are exercising and you arent’ done yet? This happens to me, I will get up before Avery (or try to 🙂 and the girl will hop out of bed ready to go at 5;30am!

    • Crystal says:

      Let them exercise beside you or play nearby or watch a DVD. Or, if that’s not working, just stop exercising and move on to the next thing. Give yourself grace. 🙂

  • April says:

    Okay… as grateful as I am for what you are trying to help us with… but I’m kind of discouraged by your post. Specifically, I don’t see how you are getting your morning routine done before the kids climb out of bed??? I’m assuming 30 mins for your “Bible Time” and then, aren’t you working out for 90 minutes? How on earth are you also grabbing time on the computer to clear out your inbox and blog a little?

    • Crystal says:

      Don’t be discouraged, okay? I’m sharing this to inspire, not discourage. And if it’s discouraging, than just skip these posts, please. Because I really, really, really don’t want to burden anyone!

      I’ll be posting our complete schedule in the next two days which will explain it more. But the gist of it is that I’m blessed in that at least two of my children don’t get up until around 8 a.m. So I can get a lot done in the 2-3 hours before they wake up! I’m usually only working out for 45-70 minutes tops because I can now skip through the P90X DVDs. 🙂

      And please know that it never works out perfectly and some days I just scrap the whole schedule altogether and we have a jammie day. I’ll be talking more about that in later posts!

      By the way, I can usually clear out my inbox in five minutes and put up around 3-4 posts in 20-30 minutes. I’m really fast and ruthless when I’m on the computer. 🙂 I’ll be sharing more “secrets” to efficiency on the computer in an upcoming post in this series.

      • Kacie says:

        @Crystal, I’d definitely like to hear more about how to be efficient with computer time! I think this is the area where I need the most help.

      • April says:

        @Crystal, I’m not giving up on this series… and I do appreciate the extra encouragement. Me. I am a 5:00 a.m. riser — mostly to beat the kids up and get in some Jesus and a run before they get up a little before 7:00. Running is my exercise of choice and it CANNOT be done with 3 little ones along side… a major plus for the DVD workout. I’ve also got to get it in before my husband leaves the house for work — another downside. But I really think it’s the computer that is my problem. Since I’ve been couponing and strategic shopping… way more time than I ever wanted is being eaten up on this thing. I REALLY need to hear those computer tips! Thanks again for all your help on so many levels Crystal!

      • The Frugal Free Gal says:

        @Crystal, as a fellow blogger, I know what you mean to throw up many posts! 🙂 It does get easier! But it is also too easy to stay on the computer and not realize a few hours have passed!

  • Kayla H says:

    LOVE THIS! Thank you so much for this series. I, too, am a big fan of Flylady, but I find that the morning routine order she suggests is not working out for my family where we are right now (duties, responsibilities, daughter’s age and sleeping habits, etc.). Lately I have been trying to change my morning routine to fit my needs, and I think that the order you have mentioned is similar to what I have been doing lately, and might be a great fit for us right now. I also love Flylady’s idea of a weekly plan, assigning certain tasks to certain days (I do my menu planning on Wed, shopping on Thurs, freezer cooking on Friday, etc). Implementing that has been a huge help.

  • Cathy says:

    Thanks for this great series! I have another question about the morning routine. This is the most difficult for me because I’ve always disliked getting up early – especially when it’s dark. However, I am starting a routine of Bible and prayer in the morning, so I know it must happen, for my well-being and my family’s. I was wondering how much earlier you get up before your kids get up. Just wondering how long it takes to do everything you mentioned, exercise and such. I’m not going to start that big (Bible first), but I’d like some goals to shoot for, too. 🙂 Thanks again!

    • Crystal says:

      I usually get up between 4 and 5 — though occasionally it’s 6 or 7 if I was up in the night with a child or stayed up too late! If I get up late, than I just cut the blogging and exercise times down to around 30 minutes each and it usually works.

      • lyss says:

        Wow! I thought 4 am was the middle of the night- only to be seen if a baby is screaming! lol!
        I’ve learned alot from you over the years, and am really in need of this time management help. Getting up a few hours before the kids sounds like heaven, as I currently rarely get up minutes before them(usually my 1 yr. old’s crying wakes me. I also have a 2 yr. old).
        I would love to have time alone in the morning, but there’s no way I could get up at 4 0r 5, or even 6 or 7 most days! Apparently you go to bed incredibly early. I think that’s my problem- our family stays up too late. Sigh.
        And it also seems that my kids don’t need much more sleep than me, so I feel like I never have time without them for God, my hubby, much less myself! Not trying to complain, but eagerly looking forward to more tips on the topic! 🙂 Anybody else been in my shoes before?

        • Jill says:

          I think letting your kids entertain themselves is the greatest thing you can teach them for both themselves and yourself. My kids (2 yr old twins and a 4 yr old) wake up the same time as me but I leave them in their cribs/room until I am done with my morning routine. They are used to having breakfast at a certain time so they are fine hanging out til then. Also, I put them to bed early to make sure I have some me/husband time at night and I have them do quiet time, where they play in their rooms by themselves for an hour during the day. It give me time alone at different points throughout the day to get my stuff done.

      • Cathy says:

        @Crystal, Thank you for your response – and I see your other response to a similar question above. That helps a lot, and I look forward to your schedule. I’m having a baby in March, so any schedule I start now likely will be back up in the air in a few months, lol. Right now my daughter gets up at 7, but she’s good about playing quietly so I’d be able to do some things, if I didn’t finish before she got up. Thanks again for the series and for one of my favorite sites!

        • Lissa says:

          I applaud you for teaching your kids to entertain themselves. That is becoming lost in our culture I believe. It will help them out throughout their lives!

      • Connie Wallace says:


        When you get up at 4 or 5, or 6…how do you manage to actually WAKE up, and not fall asleep during Jesus time? I’ve learned to pray in the shower in the mornings because I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow at night. Jesus time, or Bible reading time, is too important to give less time to, or none at all, but I’m really struggling. How do you wake up and stay alert?

  • Erin says:

    My main problem is how to get a shower in after the kids are up. I have a 19 month old and am about to have a newborn and I can’t even get a shower in now after my son is awake. I can’t think of what I would do with him while I was in the shower. At the moment I fit in my shower before he wakes up.

    • Rachel says:

      @Erin, my 3 y/o can play by himself while I shower, but when he was younger he would play in the bathroom. This would not work if your child(ren) get in to cabinets, etc.

    • Allyson says:

      @Erin, My children (ages 3 1/2, 2, and 8 months) usually play in the bathroom if I’m showering when my husband is not at home. Often my husband and I will each claim a shower and then take the same gender child into the shower with us. The baby is content to sit on the bathroom floor with some toys (she is not crawling yet).

      I also don’t think it’s wrong to put a good quality DVD in the laptop so that you can get a shower. Just not at the other end of the house. Sometimes our watch a quick movie (they like the 20-30 minute Berenstain Bears) in our master bedroom while I take a shower in the master bath.

      • @Allison..that is a great Idea. You need to have a shower, it just makes the day go much better.

        We love, love, love Max Lucado’s Hermie and friends.

        God Bless!

      • Crystal says:

        I definitely second the playing in the bathroom or DVD trick if you’re having trouble getting a shower in. 🙂

        • Pamela says:

          I have a 23-month old, and starting around 9 months or so, we trained her to play (and stay) on a blanket. She knows she’s not allowed to leave it, so when Mama needs to shower (or make an important phone call, or whatever), it’s “blanket time”. She’s good for 30 minutes or so, and she’s safe and happy playing with her favorite toys, puzzles, and books. This “blanket time” is an absolute life-saver for me. The training does take time, but the pay-off is SO worth it. I wouldn’t recommend starting it with an older child, but if you have the opportunity use it from the crawling stage onward — then the child never knows any different and “blanket time” is just a normal part of their day. (It’s not ever used as punishment, BTW; it’s simply part of the day’s routine.)

      • Nikki says:

        @Allyson, When mine were really small, I would just put on a cartoon in the master bedroom while I was in the shower and lock the bedroom door. They weren’t big enough to figure out how to get out of there and I made sure there was nothing they could get into.

    • Heather says:

      @Erin, A good old-fashioned playpen near the bathroom. Leave the door open and you can hear what’s going on.

      • Maggie says:

        @Heather, Good suggestions! I’ve been fitting in a shower during the morning nap, but it feels like such a slow start to my day when I don’t get dressed till 9:30!

      • Deanne says:


        I’d second that. I have a 5 month old and that’s what I do–when she was a newborn, I’d roll her bassinette into the bathroom.

      • Faith says:

        A playpen has been working for my 13 month old–my mom said, “Well, I just used to put you guys in the playpen when I took a shower, etc.” and I thought, “duh, of course!” 🙂 He cried a lot the first day, but I just kept reminding myself that he had toys, could see me, and was just fine. The crying diminished every day and I think it’s been good training for him.

    • Monica says:

      @Erin, We do something called blanket time. I trained my son around 1 year old to sit on a blanket play with one toy and not get off. It works wonders! He’s three now and its like a portable play pen wherever I need to go. He really liked it once he got the hang of it and now even asks for it!

    • Amanda says:

      @Erin, I have always taken my kids in the shower with me. Makes for a less efficient and longer shower, but not only do I get a shower, my children are washed and ready to go too; kills two birds with one stone, so to speak. I worry about them being cold, so I direct the nozzle towards the kiddo and just pop my head under it when I need to rinse. My personal preference is to shower in the morning; I feel disgusting if I don’t, so evening showers never worked for me. Plus, I am NOT one of those people who think that babies/young children don’t get dirty; quite the opposite in fact. My kids are always in the dirt, so they definitely take lots of showers!!! Plus, since they all go to school/pre-school, the shower is my best effort at “waking” them up in the morning. Otherwise, they are groggy and icky.

      • Crystal says:


        Lucky! I’ve tried the whole bringing the kiddo into the shower thing too since he screams the whole time I’m in the bathroom otherwise (boy hates his playpen! lol) be the water falling on him freaks out. So I tried taking a bath with him, thinking that was better than nothing. But that freaks him out too! Maybe seeing mommy naked gives him the heebie jeebies? LOL (he’s one and a half). So now I’m trying to train my skin and hair to only shower every other day … kind of gross at first, but I’m finding that they do seem to adapt after awhile.

        • Amanda says:

          @Crystal, Oh no!!! That is hilarious, but I’m sure it’s not you! I’ve never had one that freaks out in the water, so I have no “from experience” suggestions. I hope I am not suggesting something you may have already tried (I find that people who are at the end of their rope have usually already tried it all), but how about those bath tub crayons or fizzy bombs, etc.?

        • Crystal L. says:


          He’s not afraid of bathtime when it’s just him in the tub, in fact he loves it then …. I’ve only tried this twice, so maybe it’s just so foreign to him he thinks I’m trying to pull a fast one. 😉

  • Amy says:

    I’m so loving this series! I’m looking forward to making a plan on homemaking and laundry! Working 45 hours a week outside the home and trying to keep up with the home cooking, cleaning, organizing, laundry, family time, time with God, all there is to be done is so overwhelming it’s so easy to feel like a constant failure. I’m really enjoying all the information you are sharing to make things easier and simpler! Thank you!!

  • The Frugal Free Gal says:

    I really need to add my Bible reading at the beginning of the day–I know it would help me reflect more on the day ahead of me. I instead, fill it with blogging (which is fun, but takes a considerable amount of time.) I do most of my work in the morning and then exercise in the evening (since some of the cycle classes I sub for tend to be the evening classes) and then after my daughter goes down, I feel like Im trying to finish household tasks. When the hubby gets back from fighting for our freedom, I assume that most of these tasks will get easier. 🙂

    The Frugal Free Gal

  • Erica says:

    One thing that has helped me is having a couple “Types” of routines. One routine that you can stay home and one where we may have outings that day. That way when appointments come up or special playdates happen I still have a plan even though it may not be ideal. For example if I know if I’m trying to make it to an early gym class, morning chores and breakfast around the table are not going to happen so my schedule for that day will be chores after lunch and grab muffins from the freezer to take with us. I still feel organized and on a schedule that way 🙂

    Also creating Errand Days has been awesome too! Keep a tally in your car of errands that you need to run and every couple weeks make a fun afternoon/morning of getting them all done! We try to do a special lunch or something to keep everyone going 🙂 Like tonight for example: We are headed out to drop off a house warming gift to some friends and on the way there we are stopping by the library, returning some things and Bath & Body Works and picking up some odds and ends at the market.

    • Crystal says:

      I love this idea and think it would work especially well for people who have different schedules on different days. Our Monday through Thursday schedules looks very, very similar and then we have Fridays as our errand/field trip/get-together with friends day so we have an abbreviated morning schedule.

  • Rachael says:

    My almost-three-year-old daughter also tends to be an early riser, so it’s interesting here to read how other moms get their showers in. I take her in the shower with me and she is more than happy to play with toys and splash in the water while I get clean.

    • Michelle says:

      @Rachael, I had to forget showers for awhile and resorted to taking baths with baby! I found it was a special time for us to enjoy as well as getting 2 things done at once and freed up a little time. Now my baby (youngest) is 6 and I really do miss this ‘fun in the tub’ time! If ever I wanted a time to shower alone, I waited for daddy to be home or waited for the weekend. But I really did enjoy our tub time and it seemed much quicker and easier this way. I have 5 children and I did this with everyone of them.

  • Rachael says:

    I would love to hear suggestions for getting early morning chores done (and getting ready) from other moms whose children wake up really early (like 5 or 6). My day goes so much better when I get up before them, but it hard to get up before 5 🙂 Because I’m up so early, I am really pooped by the time they go to bed, so it’s hard to make this time productive.

    • Jenn says:

      Hey Rachael,
      I’m not sure how old your kids are so this might not work. Mine are 7, 6, 2, and one on the way. I bought clothing holders that hang in their closets and are labeled with the days of the week. When my kids get up (usually by 6 at the latest!) they know they have to make their bed, pull up their shades and get dressed (the 2 yr old still needs a little help). I make sure they do this before anyone eats (hunger keeps them motivated!:) I teach at a gym in the mornings so I have my bag packed and clothes ready to go too the night before.
      Also, I make sure to run my dishwasher every night even if its only half full. So when I wake up everything in the kitchen is clean. Then right before I leave the house, I empty it and throw in the morning dishes. If your kids are old enough, give them some morning chores – my 7 yr old makes her lunch every day. And I LOVE my roomba vacuum – its set to go off while we are out. The kids move the chairs out of the way and empty the vacuum each morning.
      Working at a gym is great too – I get paid to work out and I can get a shower in while I’m there too!

      • April says:

        @Jenn, wow. you really seem to have it rock’n. congrats!

      • karen says:

        @Jenn, Wow! Very impressive how your children are young but get themselves ready in the morning. I too used to run my dishwasher every night, but it was costing us a fortune on our water bill and also really made our electric bill go

    • Catherine says:

      @Rachael, I don’t know if it will help you, but I’ll tell you what works for me.
      In the evenings after the kiddos are in bed I shower (every second day), and clean up anything that didn’t cleaned up yet(dishes, toys, etc). I make sure the floor is swept/swiffer wet jet-ed, and the dishwasher is started before I go to bed.
      My 1 year old gets up between 5 and 6:30 am. If it’s before 6, my husband puts her in the bed with me (he’s already up getting ready for work) and I try and get her to sleep/nurse until 6. Around 6am everyone is up and we all go to the living room and watch Sesame Street. If I’m exhausted (usually) I just do a quick check of the baby gates and then nap on the couch while they watch tv and play.
      When that’s over at 7, we have breakfast. I try to have breakfast cleaned up, everyone dressed (including me), the beds made, laundry started, my make-up on, and the dishwasher unloaded by 8:30am. (It’s a stop and go sort of thing, not continuously working that whole time.)
      I have absolutely no idea how to fit in exercise 😀

      • Catherine says:

        @Catherine, I just realized that I am a SAHM and I homeschool, so I probably have a lot more leeway in the mornings than most people. So I probably wasn’t very helpful. 🙁

        • Rachael says:

          Yes, that was helpful! Yesterday was a particularly early morning (they are not used to Daylight Savings Time yet). I have a two year old and a baby (7 months). I usually let the two year old watch some t.v. in the morning so I can get ready. I usually shower at night, and then just do a super quick rinse off shower in the morning. It sort of works, but I miss a few minutes of solitude before they wake up. Thanks for the tips!

  • Katie says:

    You are obviously a “morning person” which is something so alien to me – a night owl. Love nor money wouldn’t make me rise at 5.00 am. I get up, wash, dress, make breakfast at around 7.30.

    I don’t find I’m too busy – quite the opposite actually. Sometimes I’m desperate to full my days hence why I’m studying and working! Next year I’m up for studying more.

    Actually, I know this is not politically correct but the hardest part of being a stay-at-home mum for me is the loneliness and boredom. It has taken me a long, long time to adapt from working full-time – having structure, aims, objectives and appraisals to being faced with no plans or structure. I think this is a real issue for new SAHMs. I was never taught how to run a home just how to pass exams! It has been a very steep learning curve and I’m only getting the gist of it now.

    • Crystal says:


      I totally feel for ya. I am cursed with the night owl gene as well – nothing I have tried can change me into a morning person, not even Ambien. lol

      I know how you feel about feeling bored and lonely. I have a part-time job at least, otherwise I don’t think I could handle it. Unfortunately, I think I am just one of those mothers who are better mothers if they can work outside the home too. I want so desperately to be that perfect SAHM who’s content and has a beautiful home. It’s really been a struggle for me and one of the reasons I think I’m struggling to beat my postpartum depression.

      • Crystal says:

        My best advice is to make a plan for your days and fill them (with margin, of course!) with things that matter. Look for ways to help and bless others, learn new skills, sharpen your mind, find delight in the simple things and you’ll likely find that you completely have forgotten about boredom and loneliness!

        You might enjoy this article that I wrote:

      • Katie says:


        I completely understand about feeling depressed – I think a lot of depression is caused by the complete life-style change that happens when you have a child. I spent days crying out of frustration and loneliness. Also I hate to admit this but I was jealous of my husband because when my child was born his life didn’t change that much whereas mine completely changed. I felt that I was at the beck and call of a 24 hour demanding baby with no relief or anyone to talk to.
        I had no family support because they all lived miles away.

        My mother was not a stay-at-home mum so I had no role model to follow. In fact we had people into do the cleaning, housework and gardening. When I got married I couldn’t even cook. I’ve only just got the hang of that recently (after 10 years). Budgeting was a completely new concept for me which I have only started to address in the last few years thanks to Crystal.

        Housework is still an up hill battle not one I’m motivated to achieve because I hate doing it! The reason I felt that I had to say something was I felt certain that there are others like me who really want to feel fulfilled by motherhood and being a home-maker but unfortunately don’t. Like all women we blame ourselves.

        I have started to divide my days into cooking, cleaning, shopping etc so that my days have structure. I have taken up a book challenge which has helped considerably and written down yearly aims.

        Crystal – I really hope you are able to get through your depression; it is a terrible illness to experience. My heart goes out to you.

        Cystal – (wow confusing as there is two of you!) Thank you so much yet again. I love all you topics – how about one “Home-making for Dummies”!

  • I really need this series. I feel like I have adult onset ADD and can’t get anything accomplished through the day. But yet I’m so busy!

  • Kristin says:

    Like Amy who posted above, I work outside the home also. God blessed me with the opportunity to cut my hours to 4 days a week about a year ago but I still feel like I am constantly disappointed in myself when I can’t get everything I want done in that one extra day. I struggle with squeezing my meal planning, grocery shopping, extended house cleaning, errands, coupon organizing, laundry catch-up, time with friends, etc… into one day. I don’t like taking up our weekend time because that is our family time, fellowship with other families, church/ church activities, etc. I feel I am in the place God wants me right now with my job and don’t feel He’s leading me to quit and stay at home full time right now. Despite that, I find that I compare myself to my friends (many of whom are SAHM or work from home) and feeling like I am failing. I greatly appreciate Crystal for doing this series and I have already gotten some good ideas but I would also love to hear from some other moms that work outside the home and how they manage their time.
    P.S. @ Erica, great idea about the errand list in the car! 🙂

  • Bridget says:

    How does this work when you have very small children/an infant in the picture? The thought of getting up before my children seems impossible right now as my 6 month is still waking up in the night and I feel like I never get enough sleep. He has a feeding around 5am and then my 2 year old is up and ready between 6:30-7am… and I constantly feel like I’m run over by a train. I would love to be more organized but it’s just hard when you never get a set amount of sleep. Any tips would be appreciated!

    • Kacie says:

      @Bridget, I think when your children aren’t sleeping through the night ( and many aren’t at that age!) it’s just survival mode. Don’t worry about getting up early. Just get enough rest and take a nap if you can. Put your baby in a sling or on an activity mat while you do housework nearby. But remember, life won’t always be this nuts! You will get a good nights sleep again. And then you can add to your load. Hang in there!

    • Crystal says:

      I’m going to answer this as a post because I have way more to say than can fit in the comments section. Thanks so much for asking a great question!

      • Amanda says:

        @Crystal, This is the post that I am really looking forward to! I have a 1 yr old and a 3 month old. Plus my husband doesn’t get home from work until midnight, so I have to stay up if I want to see him at all. I feel like I’m constantly tired and I’ve totally forgotten what its like to sleep until I’m not tired anymore.

  • Amanda says:

    I would love to hear how other momma’s get showers, make-up and hair done quickly in the morning… is it possible? I hear that a five-minute shower is possible, but haven’t mastered it myself… how do you wash hair, condition hair (yes, washing and conditioning are necessary for my oily, fine hair), wash face with a cleanser made for faces, wash private areas with a soap made for those specific areas (to prevent burning), shave (I hate stubble, so I hate NOT shaving), and wash the body with a separate body wash, in FIVE minutes??? Plus, when I am tired (and cold these days), the warm water is so appealing that I have a hard time turning it off! Thanks for suggestions…

    • Crystal says:

      I only wash my hair every three days, so that helps cut down on time (I know that some people have more oily hair so this wouldn’t work, but I’ve heard that the less you wash your hair, the less you have to wash it — to a point!) And I pretty much use the same soap for everything else — including shaving.

      For the record, when I’m washing my hair, it takes around 12 minutes. On non-washing hair days, I can do it in 6-7. 🙂 I could probably do it in less, but showers are sorta a luxury for me, so I take a wee bit of time to just enjoy them! 😉

      Make-up, dress and hair fixing takes me another 10 minutes or so. So from start to finish, I’m dressed and ready in about 25 minutes, except on days when I wash my hair. I’d love to know how people do it in five minutes; I think I’d look like a train-wreck!

      (And wait, did I just announce all those details on a public blog?!)

      • Crystal says:


        I have really thick hair that gets dirty very easily, but lately I’ve been trying to get by only washing it every other day to save some time and as Crystal says, your hair does adjust. It’s just getting used to that icky feeling for the first week or so.

        As for shaving, I do that maybe once a week when I can fit in a nice, long, warm luxurious bath … thankfully I live in a cold climate so others don’t have to know about my dirty little secret… 😉

      • Deanne says:

        @Crystal, I totally didn’t need to know that your hair looks that good in less than 10 minutes! It takes me at least 30 minutes to do mine or I look like I’ve been electrocuted. 🙂

        • Crystal says:

          Um, I didn’t necessarily say it looked good, just maybe that it doesn’t look like a train-wreck! I stick with the ponytail look most days to save time! 🙂

  • Love this series! You are doing a great job making time management doable!!
    For me, it has been a several year process. Now that my youngest (twins) are a little older, I can plan my day a little better (as in, I’m not bleary eyed from being up all night, there aren’t nursings all night long).

    I admire you for doing P90X, my hubby does it too, but I’m not tough enough!!

  • Melinda says:

    I love this series. It has been really inspiring for me! When do you fit in your homeschooling? Also, do you do devotions with your kids? Do you have any book recommendations for kids devotions?
    I found one that I loved but we just finished it called ABC Bible verses for kids by Susan Hunt. I made up little songs to go with each verse so my kids memorized the scripture.

  • charity crawford says:

    I SO SO LOVE THESE POST! I am so there and going thru and trying to experience alot of what crystal is trying to get across and my main point on this would be is that it is only by GOD’S help and GRACE that any of this can be made possible and a strong prayer life as well…SO TO GOD BE THE GLORY! AMEN!

  • Priscilla says:

    Do you spend any time on Facebook or is that not a priority whenever you are online?


  • Kristina says:

    Thank you for your encouraging post! Today I was having a day where I just felt overwhelmed. I have three kids four and under and I am so bad at organization. I’ve been getting rid of more and more stuff each week but our apartment still looks chaotic. The kids scream and run around in circles well the youngest is crawling up on couches constantly and I’m running to get him down before he falls (he can barely walk) I felt hopeless tonight, as if I was drowning and then I opened your blog and saw your title “Time Management 101” and it just felt like it was there for me. I need to get a plan and am going to really sit down and try to do that this week. I need to get up and get stuff done while the kids are asleep. I’ve been thinking about it, I just need to do it. Thanks for writing this article today!

  • Amanda says:

    I am really loving this series, and I can’t wait until the next part-the daily plan is something I’d really like to hear more about!

  • Aimee says:

    Loving this series! To me the key isn’t to replicate Crystal’s schedule but to take the ideas and figure out what works best for your family. If your kids are early risers, morning is probably not the best time to try to accomplish a lot of chores. I think it’s also important to be realistic about what all you can accomplish and what is truly a priority in your particular season of life.

    My kids are both young and I work full-time in a demanding field. For me, sleep is more important to my mental and physical health than an exercise routine (I do walk a lot with the kids and dogs for some physical activity :-)). For my husband, exercise is his outlet so he’d rather have less sleep and be able to go to the gym.

    I asked my grandmother recently how she kept her sanity with three young kids, baking fresh bread, quilting, etc. She nearly snorted over the phone! “Bread baking and quilting are for when your kids are older!” was her exact response. I don’t think her point was that you can’t do those things with young kids but that you can’t do ALL of the things you want to do. And that’s okay.

  • Jay says:

    I’ve noticed that most of the discussion is from folks with preschoolers – when you can actually have one “ideal day” map. Life is far more complicated when there is soccer one day and choir one day and piano lessons another. I could maybe do an “ideal Monday” and an “ideal Tuesday” – oh, but then I’d have to have an “ideal 1st Tuesday of the month” because that’s women’s ministry board meeting night and an “ideal 3rd Tuesday” because that’s piano workshops… Anyway, when life involves more than living just within your family, whether it’s children’s activities or adult ministry responsibilities, every day is different.

    • Crystal says:

      Well, I’d argue (gently!) that life is as complicated as you choose to make it — in most cases.

      Piano workshops, women’s ministry board meetings, soccer, piano lessons, etc. are all negotiable things that no one has to do. If that’s what is a priority for your family, than by all means, do it. But you don’t *have* to be involved in any of those things. Or, you don’t have to be involved in them all at one time. 🙂

      We’re involved in many people’s lives outside our immediate family, but we choose to limit extracurricular things almost exclusively to Fridays and weekends in order to simplify our lives, spend lots of quality time with our children and have a strong marriage. This might not work for other families, but it is working well for us right now.

      • Jay says:

        I agree 100%. I wasn’t saying that ANY of this is required, or even that we’re feeling overcommitted (because in general, I think we have made good decisions about our time). One thing I have learned from my wise older mentors is that there are DIFFERENT SEASONS of life. With older kids, we are in a much different season than your family and most of the other families represented in these comments. The framework of one ideal schedule just doesn’t work in this season; that’s all I was trying to point out.

        As your kids grow, you will likely discover extracurricular opportunities to develop the individual gifts and talents that God will reveal. And you’ll adjust your time usage accordingly.

        As for my personal time, I find that since I am prone to being a selfish introvert, I need to have a regular commitment for ministering to others with in the church. Church leadership gets so frustrated when the tasks required to run a church of 200 folks always fall to the same 30. I would challenge all believers out there (gently) to make serving in your local church in some way a priority.

        But you would never allow for any of this if you start with one ideal daily schedule. Many of us are in a season where we need to think outside that framework.

        • Crystal says:

          I absolutely agree that there are different seasons of life. And we definitely plan to have our children involved in more extracurricular activities as time goes on (our oldest is getting ready to start horse-riding lessons, in fact and we’re looking into violin lessons for our second). But we want to choose these wisely and carefully and not just “because we have to.”

          I realized that you must have misunderstood the point of writing out what an ideal day would look like. The exercise was not meant so that you could actually *have* an ideal day (no one pretty much ever has anything remotely close to a perfect day!), but to get your creative juices flowing to think what areas of your life you’re especially struggling in and practical ways to change to make things run more smoothly! I’m sorry if I was not clear about that in the original post and I hope that makes you feel a little relieved. 🙂

          Also, we very much believe in serving in the local church and community and making that a priority. See my post on priorities here:

    • Courtney says:

      @Jay, Jay, I understand the point you’re making. When kids are little, it’s easy to stay home all day and limit outside activities. Once they get a bit older, I think it’s important to get them involved in sports, music lessons, etc. The key is balance. I’ve seen parents go to extremes on both ends – either by overscheduling their kids so they are busy busy busy every single day of the week, or by depriving their kids of extracurricular activities because they (the parents) don’t want to do them. My kids all play sports, take music lessons/are in band, and take weekly horseback riding lessons. We do almost everything as a family and aim to have only 2-3 afterschool or evening activities per week. There are weeks when life gets a little more hectic, but during those times I just remind myself that in a dozen years or so, our kids will be up and out and we will be missing all this busyness 🙂

  • Lynn says:

    I’m really appreciating how many moms are joining in and giving each other tips. I also was reminded of how very different each one of us has been created. We are all unique and have different circumstance. I, for one, cannot function on only 7 hours of sleep. If I get less life just doesn’t work as well. The layout of our homes are all different. Some of us have master bedrooms with attached baths, some have just a tiny one down the hall. Each mom has to figure out what will be safe for her children while she showers. Some of us have compliant children. Others, not so compliant, no matter how hard we’ve tried to train them. Some of us have a few of each! I agree with the poster who mentioned the life with a newborn/infant (or even older child who wakes during the night) is a survival time. We had a child who had night terrors for a stretch of time…being sleep deprived put me in survival mode again for a while!
    I think we need to be gracious with ourselves and each other. There is only one Crystal/Money Saving Mom. God made her unique, just like He made each one of us unique. We can learn a lot from Crystal and what works for her, but we can’t expect ourselves to be just like her!
    Thanks, Crystal, for being open and honest about what works for *you*. May we all be open to learning, but also be open to celebrating who God created each one of us to be.

  • soccermom says:

    Does anybody have any ideas for how to create any type of routine when many (ok, most) of your days are unpredictable? I work from home, and my workload varies drastically from one week to the next. It’s nothing that I can adjust or control and neither can the people I work for. I may have 10 hours of work one week and 70 the next. It also sounds like my kids are older than a lot of the people who have commented here, and I’ve found that the older they get the less and less control I have over their school schedules. No longer is it “Tuesdays aren’t a good night for our family” kind of thing so that we can choose not to participate in that particular activity. And their school workload also varies quite a bit from night to night. They have days when they must leave for school at 6:45 a.m. and days when they aren’t finished until 4:30 or 5. One drives (thank goodness!) but she cannot always be expected to wait on the other one when she has her own schedule to manage, and I’m often not sure when the day will be over until I get a phone call saying “mom, pick me up now.” It’s strange looking back that I felt so busy when they were little but I realize now that I had a lot of control over that. I don’t anymore. If there’s anybody who is in this particular time of their life as well with teenagers and an unpredictable work schedule, I’d sure love to hear how you work everything in when one day never looks like the next. Help is much appreciated!

    • Jay says:

      Yes! That’s exactly what I was trying to say above. While you might be able to keep life within the family when the kids are small, I just can’t fathom doing that with older kids. We have some of the LEAST committed children that I know, with each kid doing only piano lessons, choir, and an occasional 4-6 week commitment for youth group or art lessons or such. We even eat dinner together 6 nights every week. But some nights homework means 1/2 hour total and other nights you are editing a major paper for 60 minutes and have a science project due in 2 days.

      I love the idea of budgeting your time, and I’m going to pay more attention to how I’m using mine, BUT I was trying to point out that the idea of one ideal day schedule doesn’t even begin to work for many of us.

    • Mary says:

      @soccermom, I’m there with you! Four kids, ages 5-20, three different schools in 2 different towns with different school schedules, plus I am a substitute teacher, run a school library, ….you know the story! I know that my life is not going to run as smoothly as many other ladies’ lives, but I also know that I enjoy all of the activity and I don’t need as much structure as many other people and luckily, neither does my husband. But I sure wouldn’t mind some help getting stuff done!
      I am starting by paying attention to how I spend my time now, and taking note of things that I can change fairly easily, so I don’t get overwhelmed and discouraged. Right now I am trying to get to bed on time, and I think I can commit a little bit of time each day to picking up around the house. Once I get comfortable with those two goals, I will probably work on getting a very simple morning routine going.

  • Valerie says:

    About the exercising…it appears that you exercise before breakfast. I struggle to get my exercise in but for some reason thought that I need to eat breakfast before I do. But in my schedule this is really tough to do because then I can’t exercise immediately after breakfast or I don’t feel very well. So I am wondering now if my body actually could handle some aerobic exercise before breakfast.

  • Katy says:

    I, too, try and get up before my 18 month old. I understand that this wouldn’t work for all moms, but she typically sleeps until 8 am. I know that I am a better mom for her if I can have some time to myself before we hit the ground running. Thanks for the reminder of structuring my morning. I’ve been slacking lately and need to refocus.

  • Thank you so much for this series. I downloaded Amy’s book, read it, and had a plan in place before I went to bed that night! This has been a busier week than normal, but I’m not giving up! It’s Wednesday and the plan has worked one day so far, I agree, Flexibility (I LOVE Jammie Days)! I have been reading More Than Enough by Dave Ramsey and have been very motivated to just start taking baby steps in EVERY aspect of my life! Between you, Amy Andrews, Motivated Mom, Fly Lady, Dave Ramsey, and (mostly) G0d, I have come up with a plan and a new frame of mind and although no one else can see much progress in just a week, I FEEL completely different and that has made all the difference. As Dave Ramsey says, “We change only when the pain of SAME is is greater than the pain of CHANGE.”

  • Melissa says:

    What chores do your kids do in the morning? I never even thought about morning chores. I love that idea.

    • Crystal says:

      I’ll be sharing this later this week. They are simple, but it’s a big help (especially now that they’ve learned how to do them with little oversight!)

  • Diana says:

    I think it’s important to mention that you don’t necessarily have to START with the morning routine. I’m a single mom with a 2 year old son, and we’ve had a set nighttime routine since he was born (that has been adjusted for age). It’s simple for me to remember that every night at 5:30, I will start cooking dinner. At 6:00, we eat. At 6:30, it’s time for his bath. At 7:00, it’s time to put PJs on, read some stories, and go to bed. He’s used to it, I’m used to it. It’s really the only routine we follow right now.

    If someone finds it easier to start with a night routine, they should start there first. Or have a morning routine, then a night routine, then an afternoon routine. Whatever routine would be easier to implement and stick with should be started first!

    We’ve had our night routine for two years now, and I’m going to start with a morning routine next week to see how that goes. Thanks for this series!

  • Mary says:

    These are some really great tips. Schedules do not come naturally to me, so it is very helpful to know how someone else does it. It gives me an idea of how to get things done. I am currently working on getting to bed on time, and on spending a little time each day on housework, which is a new idea to me! I would always try to get the whole place clean in one day, and then get discouraged when I couldn’t keep it up!
    Lots of good stuff, Miss Crystal!! Thanks, from someone who needs the help!

  • Barbara says:

    Trying to get a life when your children are young can seem like an insurmountable – so why even bother – kind of task. I remember it well. My boys are now 14 and 10, so life is ALOT simpler….still complicated, but different. When they were little, a friend suggest a book called Preparation for Parenting by Gary and Ann Ezzo. We read it, followed it, and slept well. Our boys were both sleeping 6-7 hours in the night time before they were a month old. You can also find another version of this book in many book stores under the name Baby Wise. There are lots of suggestions in there. Take what you like, implement them, and see what works for you.

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