In honor of a Monday holiday from work, I decided to write about scheduling, and what can happen when schedules fall off track. Time off from work (holiday's, vacation, and "Sick" days) is great to recharge yourself, and ease your mind, but it can also be a train wreck if it's not properly planned. We all have a routine. For me, it is working Monday – Friday, with dinner, gym, and family time, and project work mixed in. Saturday is grocery day, and there's usually something planned for the afternoon. Sunday is Hockey day, and usually something in the afternoon. But every once in a while, there's something thrown in there that pushes the schedule to the curb. Without careful and thoughtful planning, this can be catastrophic… or it can be a minor hiccup.
Take today for an example, on a typical Monday, we're both out of the house by 7:30. Mrs. Lwil goes to work, I drop baby off at day care, and either return home to work, or head for the office. We're on a Monday holiday today, which is great, but it's costing us more in planning for the remainder of the week than we would like, and it's possibly even more taxing in terms of stress than is worth it. Mrs. Lwil and I slept in a little, till baby Lwil woke up around 7:15. After waking up, it was more TV time than usual for him, and some baking for her – I slept even later till almost 8! Mrs. Lwil is a very good baker, and make up some wonderful cranberry/orange muffins for us, and her parents. When I see this, I immediately see, a breakfast item that was unplanned, and used up resources (ingredients) that will cost us more this week than a typical Monday. After breakfast, we lazed around, and eventually, there was lunch to be made. Today, we made homemade chicken soup. Unfortunately, as this is not a planned lunch, we used up some chicken and chicken stock that I had planned to use in a recipe later in the week, and will have to be replaced.
These things alone aren't a disaster. We'll get more stock, make the dish with chicken breast that we have instead of chicken thigh, and have to buy more flower sooner than anticipated. At most, this is $10 more than we may have planned on spending. There's also the stress issue. During the entire time of cooking, there was unsolicited running commentary on what she was using, and how it could be done different, other ways to do things, offers to take over. Sometimes, the in-laws can be a little over involved. This is a stress for them as well, as they usually have the house and kitchen to themselves on a Monday, but today, we were occupying rooms upstairs that they might have been using otherwise. There was some tension in the room, because she wanted to cook, dad wanted to be cooking, and I was chiming in about all of the items that were used that were already allocated to later meals. It was frustrating for all, and shows that deviations from the normal routine can have a ripple effect.
We write a weekly menu, after which we plan out the grocery shopping, and pick up the ingredients. This allows us to easily know how much time on a given day needs to be scheduled for food. We know if something needs to come out of the freezer the night before. We also know if there are any additional ingredients that we need. As part of planning our menu, we try to also keep a reasonably healthy and varied diet. Changes to this schedule happen a lot. As I retold above, it can result in minor changes, such as needing to restock ingredients when that wasn't planned. It can also lead to major changes, if say, a dinner for 2 unexpectedly turns into dinner for 4, or 6, or 8. There are subtle nuances to menu and food planning too. I Often plan breakfast and lunch around what's on the menu for dinner. If we're having Chicken pot pie for dinner, I wouldn't get chicken soup at lunch (on the rare occasion I buy). More likely, if we're having a lot of dinners with chicken, my deli purchase that week would probably be for something other than chicken breast. There can also be meals that you really look forward to. I recall a time when I really wanted a baked ravioli dish, only to come home and find out that something else had been swapped into that day's dinner. It wasn't as if the change was that big a deal, but the disappointment over a full day's anticipation was.
We operate on quite a well thought out food plan, but there is room for us to improve. We should start building up a reserve of staple items. We use things like broth and stock all the time, and if we kept a minimum level, we'd always have more for an unplanned meal. This goes the same for chicken, ground meats, rice and pasta. We need to re-organize our pantry and freezer before doing this though. That's a project for the future. Overstocking some items will also help to ease the burden for spur of the moment meals that the in-laws sometimes decide to make.
Weight loss and physical activity are another area where strict scheduling is needed. To the same effect that we make a menu that is reasonably healthy and varied, I try to stick to the same routine when it comes to meal times. I like to have breakfast before 8, a snack around 10, lunch at noon, and another snack at 3, and dinner around 6. For a gym schedule, I try to plan where I'm going to work based on what I need to do at the gym that day. When I work from home, I like to ride my bike around noon, on the trainer, while I watch TV or play a game. At work, I like to get out around 3:30 and spend a long time at the gym. I'm currently trying to lose some weight for next triathlon season, so gym and eating schedules are very important. But looking at the past week, both have been thrown off. I'm currently dealing with a back injury, something that crops up every so often, and makes it downright impossible for me to work out. I've missed 7 days worth of workouts so far, and have developed a cold, and have just generally been feeling a lack of energy. These are conditions that make me feel depressed, and kill my motivation, and lead me to waiting longer to work out. Today, and this weekend in general, my meals have been thrown off too. I've slept in two days in a row, meaning I didn't eat breakfast till later. I skipped my snack (or what I did eat wasn't as healthy as what I'd usually have), ate too much for lunch because I was still hungry from skipping the snack. Dinners haven't been great this weekend either. A day like today would have been the perfect day for some extra physical activity (and still might be) but, we didn't plan anything, so instead, I'm being very lazy, spending too much time on the computer, and in front of the TV. In the future, I need to take better care to plan out days off, and have a list of items to do.
As a result of having no plan today, I'm not going to have a very productive day. Take my blog for one. I've had a few ideas for posts that I haven't bothered to write down, and subsequently forgotten. Maybe these posts wouldn't have been published, but as a result I find myself scrambling to find ideas, or filler content. A home project of mine, that I have to sit and do, is come up with 100 or so future post concepts that can later be fleshed out into outlines or researched so I can decide if it's worth writing. I find the same to be true in my work life. I like to keep my email inbox uncluttered. Everything gets organized into a folder based on subject material, but not all emails require the same time and thought to reply to. I've taken to flagging emails for follow up, so that I can move time sensitive ones to a more prominent status, and still clear off my inbox. This helps me because I know roughly how much time each will take, and when it's due, but I don't see a glut of emails sitting in my inbox. I have another home project that I want to tackle, which involves cleaning out and rearranging the pantry. The way it's configured right now makes it hard to enter, and find items. The trouble with this is that I didn't set it up this way, and I'm waiting till the in-laws go away this winter so that I can work on it without upsetting them, or being pressured about it.
Proper scheduling can have a huge impact the bottom line. For example, if I don't schedule my work properly, I could miss deadlines, and get fired. That would be a catastrophe. It can also be more minor, as is the case with having to make another grocery trip. There's even more to it though. I'm constantly looking at my budget to make sure that the proper amount of money is where it needs to be to cover bills. If an unexpected event comes up at just the right (or wrong) time, it could throw our finances into a tailspin. I take advantage of online bill pay as much as possible, because I can organize and schedule it. I don't want to come to a point where I'm trying to pay a bill the day it's due, and run into an issue such as the pay system going down, or a power outage. My method for this is pretty simple; we both get paid every two weeks, at that point, I look at all of the bills that will be due before the next paycheck, I total that amount, and I make sure that I have that much in my account, plus a small cushion. From there, as many items as possible are directly deducted (mortgage, condo fee, cable, phone, credit cards) a few days before they are due. I don't have to think about it, and I see them in my upcoming bill pay to make changes if needed.
In all, scheduling, and routines have so many consequences that, when veered off, can have negative impacts, but they can also have positive impacts. What if your routine includes negative behavior? For example, say you love coffee, and can't stand facing the day without it. Let's also say you face a tight budget. If your routine is to wake up, jump into the shower, and rush to get ready, leap out the door to get on the road, and find a drive thru coffee on the way, that could represent a significant cost. Eventually, you might talk yourself into that particular coffee shop as an essential and make stopping there part of your routine. Simply by changing your schedule slightly, you could eliminate that part of the routine, and save money. What does it take? Buy coffee and make it at home? In this case, you would need to get out of bed a few min earlier, and invest in a travel mug, but, at $2 a day, or $10 a work week, you have saved over $500 a year before at home cost. But you have to be willing to change your routine first. In addition to waking earlier, it might involve driving to work a different way, or putting your wallet in your trunk so you don't have a means to pay at the drive thru.
A Schedule isn't good just because it's a schedule. I think we should all take a look at our schedules and routines to see if there are improvements that will make a positive impact. For me, I'm going to keep an eye out for sales on staple canned items that we can keep on hand so we don't run into a problem of needing something for a recipe in the future when we are on a tight grocery budget (as happens to be the case this week) What are some things you can or have changed to make your scheduling and routine better?