Should you try to keep an hourly schedule or just wing it at this point?

As I was watching Kristen Bell’s interview with ET, which I covered yesterday, I was struck by something I have in common with her during this stay-at-home time: the burning need to make plans vs. the fact that my plans are usually futile. I thought I would be getting more done than I am, you know? Plus there’s this phenomenon of our time getting filled up even though we’re home all day. I haven’t seen anyone socially in five weeks and my son has been off school for over three weeks. Now that we’re settled into this routine, I’m spending more time video chatting, doing remote activities like workouts and frankly, cooking and eating. Cooking and cleanup take time, which is why I only did it a couple of times a week before all this. To be fair to myself, my house is also much cleaner than usual and I’m making it a priority to do the laundry. On Sunday I put out the Easter decorations and that was really nice. I’m going to cook good food and dress up nice for Easter!

Here are some of my recommendations for scheduling, having a routine, and setting reasonable goals. It’s basic sh-t framed as advice. I’m type A and I like to get things done, but I can be hard on myself and am trying to ease up on that too. Please keep in mind that my son is mostly self-sufficient. I don’t know what to tell those of you with small kids at home, and those of you who have to homeschool. It must be hard and I’m thinking of you.

Also you may get more insight into your personal style by taking Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz. I’m an upholder, I do things to both keep promises to myself and others. Not everyone finds her categories helpful, but I’ve found them to be accurate for the people I know and for me.

Have a to-do list
My dad always taught me the value of a list. I keep a list every day of things I have to do. On the weekends I just use an index card for that. For weekdays I use a detailed page I print out from a book called Real Life Organizing by Cassandra Aarsen. (The Kindle version is only $4.49 and it comes with the download for the printables. I use page 2 of that every day.) The author has other free printables on her website. You do not have to pay for anything as there are so many free to-do lists online. For daily use I prefer one with categories. Here’s one with room for appointments and tasks and another with groceries and a cooking section. The highly rated Panda Planner has their day planning pages for free here. (Search on the page using control-F for “PDF” and enter your email. The page will update with a link to download the PDF.)

Keep a general routine, but don’t go overboard
I’ve always had the same routine working from home. I wake up early, take a nap in the afternoons and then go to bed early. If I tell myself I’m going to do some specific thing at a specific hour and it’s not an appointment or something needed for my job, I don’t always do it. So for that I use to-do list instead of an hourly schedule. Your results may vary, especially if you have kids at home. For non-work activities, I have a list I’m trying to keep to. This is kind of personal, but here’s my isolation plan. I have it on the kitchen counter and it’s just goals for the week. I made it a couple of weeks ago and for the most part I’ve stuck to it. Honestly I haven’t done the yoga though. I’m lucky if I do yoga once a week. Those of you who are more detail-oriented and who have small children may want a family schedule with times for specific activities.

Take time to recharge whether that’s exercise, a nap, or meditation
If you haven’t tried meditation yet, check out the article I wrote about it last week. It can be as easy as sitting down for ten minutes and listening to a free video. I’m keeping up my exercise now, but I’m trying to be realistic about it and not force myself to work out hard for an hour every day. I love dancing and whenever I play Just Dance or Dance Central (highly underrated game) on the old XBox, I forget my troubles for a while. I wrote an article with my exercise recommendations two weeks ago if you haven’t seen that yet. Ooh and I’ve since been using this great free app (not a plug) called FitOn. It has tons of free workout videos by professionals that you can cast to your TV. Gabrielle Union and Jonathan Van Ness are on it too. (I found it through his Instagram.) I’ve really liked the workouts I’ve done from it so far.

Make time to talk to your friends and family
Honestly I still get so caught up in work and the daily grind that I forget to talk to friends or even call my mom every day. I’ve been talking to my mom on Alexa and doing Zoom chats with my friends from Twitter. I will soon be setting up a group Zoom chat you can sign up for on this site. I have to figure out the email signup form, it’s trickier than I thought it would be, so I can send the invitations. Scheduling those into my week has really helped me feel connected to people in a way that’s somehow deeper than before all this. Maybe that’s because we’re all at home and scared, but I’ve found that time talking to other people is never wasted – especially when I’m gossiping! Add me on Twitter and ask about joining those and we’ll also announce on the site when you can sign up for our Zoom chats. I hope to have them once a week.

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27 Responses to “Should you try to keep an hourly schedule or just wing it at this point?”

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    I was feeling extremely guilty for having the most unproductive work weeks I’ve had since I started at a new company in December. My little sister sent me a tweet — “You are not working from home; you are at home during a crisis trying to work. I’ve heard this twice today. I think it’s an important distinction worth emphasizing.” — Neil Webb.

    This resonated with me so much. I can’t just pretend that a change of scenery is the only thing that’s different, and I am so grateful I still have my job. We all need to be a little more compassionate with ourselves.

    • Erinn says:

      YES. I was about to post that quote – I think it is SO important for people to see. I too have been less productive, largely due to the anxiety surrounding everything. But this made me be a lot kinder towards myself, which we could all use right about now.

    • lucy2 says:

      Absolutely. I only got about 75% of my usual work time in the past 2 weeks, but that’s ok. I had a lot of anxiety too, and found myself reading and watching too much stuff on the news. I’ve backed off that a bit and this week has been better so far. My boss is thankfully being flexible, and we’re all just doing what we can do. I’m grateful to still be working!

      I think going easy on ourselves right now is the way to go. If lists help, do them! If they don’t, don’t! I made a big list for around the house and have only done a few things, and that’s fine.

  2. nicegirl says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal notes

  3. emmy says:

    I don’t keep lists, ever. They stress me out and I don’t need them but the rest I can get on board with.

    Because I’m an assistant, I work when my bosses work so I keep my regular hours, including my bread (which has been weirdly difficult, the laptop is RIGHT THERE), I put on work clothes, do my hair and makeup. Mostly because I need to still be able to feel like it’s the weekend, when it’s actually the weekend. Other than that, there are a few new rules like always do dishes immediately, have a grocery shopping schedule and do meal planning (to avoid surprise trips to the grocery store). It’s working well. But I’m an introvert so I’m having an easier time with this.

    I read that even in the office, you only spend 60% of your day being really productive on average. So I’m not being too hard on myself when I get distracted here and there.

    When I log off, I go for my daily 1-hour walk. I should stress that I have no kids.

    Also spend a few minutes every day listing the good things in my life because I don’t like myself when I start whining. People are suffering and really, I should have NO complaints.

    • Celebitchy says:

      This is really helpful Emmy. I’m actually going to do a “gratitude vs. being rightfully pissed off” post for Thursday, I started it already.

      • emmy says:

        Looking forward to it!

        I think being angry is natural and we all have days when it’s not going great. My rule is to never whine to people like my bff who works in a hospital. Basically my mantra is “You’re fine, don’t be ungrateful.” Trash TV helps, I’m mainlining Botched right now.

        Meant to write *break not bread btw.

      • SomeChick says:

        Love the idea of the gratitude and being righteously pissed off in the same post. I look forward to reading it! I have friends who make gratitude lists and share them. I need to get back into that habit. It does seem to help. Even tho mine would be like, “cats. food. TV. cat food delivery. living indoors.”

        Lists stress me out too. But they can be helpful (especially the older I get, haha). One thing I learned is that if you are making a list, item #1 should always be “Make list.” Because then when you’ve completed the list, there is always one thing you can check off immediately!

        Every now and then I find an old list in a notebook. They always seem to say the same damn thing!

        These are weird times. “You’re fine, don’t be ungrateful” seems like a perfect mantra.

        I also want to say how much I appreciate this site and the fun, funny, occasionally snarky or contentious commentariat here. It’s one of the best on the ‘net.

        I came here when Katie Holmes made her great escape from scientology and Tom Cruise. I was already following scientology, but not really following gossip. Finding this place changed that. Thank you. Heaven knows we could all use a little bit (or a lot) of escapism right now. I appreciate that it can be smart!

  4. OriginalLala says:

    I’ve been loosely keeping to a routine and to my general working hours, but I am not pressuring myself to be productive because some days I just need to watch the news and be informed, and then other days I just want to bury myself in work and not think about the pandemic. I’m trying to be nice to myself because these are hard times.

    Hugs to my fellow celebitches!

  5. Meghan says:

    I have a 3.5 year old and I am furloughed so I’m just always hanging out with my little buddy. Our schedule is basically 4 things I want to do that day. Yesterday was ABCmouse time, a craft, a walking (as he calls it) and then making cupcakes. He’s been playing in our backyard a lot and then I put him down for a “resting” from 2-4pm because last week he decided to not take his usual 3 hour naps.

    My only wish is that he would do more solitary playtime. I’ve been taking Criminal Justice classes so I still have homework and a paper to work on, which he doesn’t understand.

    Right now he has a little fever and really deep, adult-like sneezes so he is extra cranky and whiny today, yay.

  6. Wilma says:

    I’m teaching all my classes from home and I’m the digital support person for my school, so I have been transitioning teachers and students to working online and am helping with problems they encounter and there’s my daughter who needs me too. I have never worked this hard or had workdays this long. I don’t do social media at the moment as I feel this huge disconnect at the moment between my daily life and the life of friends and family. I don’t begrudge people having the time to explore hobbies and living at a slower pace, it just feels foreign to me and makes me feel anxious about still not doing enough. So in my spare time I now garden in small amounts of time and read physical books.

    • Ae says:

      Thanks for what your doing for your school, Wilma. Our teachers have been having to transition to online very quickly and it’s been a steep learning curve.

      • Wilma says:

        I love doing this, it’s clear from student response that they love interacting with their teachers again. I think it brings them some normalcy in abnormal times.

    • Katooooo says:

      Wilma, you are one of those amazing people that is helping to keep education uninterrupted for our students – thank you so much for your long hours! I transitioned to online teaching last year and it took awhile to get a handle on the tech and the teaching side of things; I can’t imagine the stress of needing to do it urgently and having to provide support to others with varying degrees of tech knowledge!
      One resource that may be helpful is wideopenschool it’s a .org site common sense media has set up for K-12 teachers, parents and students. If you’ve not already checked it out, it’s well worth a visit.

      • Wilma says:

        As a professional, I have to say that I am enjoying myself. We are learning and developing things now that are going to be really helpful in the future. When I think about students who can’t come to class for various reasons, it’s going to be a lot easier to help them from now on. But it is a lot right now and I’m happy to get a bit more balance between work and home in the next few weeks.

  7. Becks1 says:

    I have a 5 year old and a 7 year old and we have been doing a schedule and it helps a lot. Its hard bc my husband and I are still working FT, so the schedule helps bc they know loosely what to do and when. And when I say “schedule” I mean it says things like “10-11 – walk, outside play.” So the school work is scheduled on it (right now my 7 year old is doing a block of math from 11-1130 and the younger one gets his block of computer time) but there is downtime too. And it ends at 3 pm. It mostly serves to keep the kids separated so there is minimal fighting. Well that’s the goal anyway.

    Its been harder for me to stay focused, I work from home 3 days a week normally so its weird to blend that in with the current situation because work expectations have not changed. I’m wondering how much longer this will go on, right now there are three weeks left of schools being closed and if that’s all it is I can wing it, but if it goes longer (which I think it will) I’m going to need more goals for myself. (I love to-do lists but haven’t been doing them recently, I should start again though.)

    • Wamamax3 says:

      I commend you for working FT with kids at home! My kids are 4, 6, and 8, husband is WFH full time, I have lost my childcare job due to the quarantine. 3 weeks down and still trying to work out a schedule for the “school” day. My biggest obstacle now is the kids all have Google Meets with their classes on different days, at different times, multiple times a week (even my 4 yo in Pre-k!). My 2nd grader meets 3x week at 9am, while my kindergartener meets at 2pm. So it’s making it hard for me to do a “CHUNK” of school time. And I simply don’t have it in me to actually structure school activities from 9-3.
      The school board has made it clear that kids won’t be graded, or penalized if they miss anything, but I’m trying to keep things as close to normal as I can right now.

      We all deserve a little grace right now.

      • Becks1 says:

        Ooh the google meets sound hard! Our school district isn’t doing anything “live” like that, which helps a LOT. I would really hate it if they were. The teachers post the work for the week on Sunday night and we can do it whenever throughout the week but they do break it down (day 1, day 2, etc but its emphasized that we don’t have to follow that.) We have been just because its easier to follow.

        And to be clear we aren’t doing school activities from 9-3. Heck no! Right now they are eating lunch on the porch and then they’ll probably get out the hose and play in the backyard for a while.

        Good luck this week, I just keep reminding myself that it wont be forever.

  8. Katie says:

    My partner and I made a house rule that every day right before dinner we list to each other 3 things we accomplished that day but the rule is the accomplishments can be anything, from getting a work project done to eating lunch at a reasonable time. And taking time to do something we enjoy is always a big accomplishment. It seems silly but it honestly takes the edge off feeling like we’re just sitting here all day.

  9. Lindy says:

    We have tried a couple of different ways to keep to a regular schedule, but both of us had jobs with lots of meetings so every day is a little bit different, and that makes it almost impossible to have a consistent schedule.

    Add in an incredibly busy 2-year-old and a 10-year-old who needs to try to stay somewhat focused on his school work, but who has slightly different assignments and schedules every day, and a routine just seems to be out of reach for us.

    This has been really hard. And we’re a couple of the lucky ones who are able to do our jobs remotely. We do a lot of tag teaming between kids and meetings all day, and then we each try to work for a few hours at night after the kids are in bed.

    I even feel guilty for getting on this site right now, but I’m actually just waiting for someone to join a meeting and they are running a little bit late. 🙂 this may be the only free 5 minutes in my entire day between 6:00 a.m. when the toddler gets up and midnight when I go to bed after getting some work done.

    Trying so hard to stay grateful and focus on the good parts of this. But damn I am so burnt out. I’m longing for regular consistent schedules.

  10. Giddy says:

    We are empty nesters, and our children and grandchildren live in the same town. But we can’t get together, so we were feeling sad at not seeing them. We normally babysit a lot and are generally a relief valve for our sons and daughters in law. I asked what we could do to help, and I now read to our little ones on Zoom and we have been having virtual dance parties a couple of times a week. It’s really fun, I still feel connected, and everyone loves it!

  11. megs283 says:

    I work FT, my husband works FT and is out of the house since he’s in utilities, we have a 2 year old and a 4 year old, and I’m also taking a grad class and doing some freelance on the side. This is not a good time. I am on the edge of a nervous breakdown!

    • Nicole says:

      Hang in there, Megs! This too shall pass. I’ve got a 5 yo and an 11 yo, working FT and attending school FT. It’s been a rough couple of weeks and my kids are older and more self-sufficient! Positive thoughts headed your way!

  12. Nicole says:

    I’m working from home FT, going to school FT, and homeschooling a 5yo and an 11yo. I know I have it a bit easier than some others, but it’s been rough! So far the only schedule I have us on is schooling at 2pm for an hour, Tues & Thur we do yoga, and we try to get outside at least once a day. For myself, I’m keeping my same hours, getting dressed, and ready for work for the same reason emmy stated above, I need to keep my weekends, weekends. For my 5 yo, I’ve set up several stations in our living room that keep him busy when he needs something other than tv and tablet time. He seems to be loving it so far, I’ve got some kinetic sand at one station, legos at another, and I switch out arts and crafts at the third little table. I’m also lucky that my sister has come home from her work, she’s an athletic trainer and all sports have halted. She is our third set of eyes and hands. I’m stressed and anxious, but incredibly lucky.