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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

The Glory of Routines

Oct 29, 2019 02:36PM
By Pam Moore

I spent my childhood longing for the sweet freedom of adulthood. Now that I have it, I find I’m actually happier when my choices are limited. And it turns out I’m not alone. According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, less is more when it comes to options, which he explains in his TED Talk, “The Paradox of Choice.” Science shows people tend to be happier when they have fewer choices.

Enter routines. By creating “rules” for what, how, and when we are going to do things, routines limit or even eliminate the pesky choices that drain our time and energy. Here are some strategies you can use to minimize decision-making and maximize time and energy for the important things.

1. Divide and conquer. My husband and I have a deal; until 7 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday I am free to “sleep in” or work out while he gets our kids dressed and fed. Monday and Wednesdays, we switch roles. Kate Darby and Marc Neff, who are parents of two and avid runners, have a unique way of making sure they both get their miles in. On weekends, one parent drives the kids to the park and the other parent runs to meet them. On the way home, whoever ran to the park drives the kids home, while the other parent runs home solo.

Katie and Daniel Westreich, parents of two, take the concept a step further. Every week, they grant each other an entire day off from parental duties of any kind, including even seeing their two children. Katie jokes they have trademarked the arrangement, “Twenty percent divorced.”

2. Schedule all the things… Savvy parents take the time to schedule all the things in advance. Jessica Ziegler, the co-author of Science of Parenthood (She Writes Press, 2015), relies on phone alarms for everything. “One for Get The Kids Up, one for Ten-Minute Warning/Brush Your Teeth, one for GTFO.” What did we ever do before phone alarms with customizable labels?!

3. …and use a shared electronic calendar app to do it. My husband and I started using a shared Google calendar when our first child was born more than five years ago. My husband had been trying to bring me over to the dark (read: electronic) side for years, but as a paper-lover at heart, I wouldn’t budge—until we had a child and I had to make sure someone was watching our kid every time I went to work on a Saturday, worked out, or met a friend. Now, I’m never surprised when my husband “invites” me to happy hours with men I don’t know, and he’s come to expect “invitations” to girls’ night.

Galit Breen, a mother of three and author of Kindness Wins (Gailt Breen, 2016), a guide for teaching your child to be kind online, has had her kids enter their own events on the family’s iCalendar since her two older kids were ten and eight.

4. Simplify your meals. Melissa Proia, a stay-at-home mom of three kids younger than six, has egg frittatas every morning for breakfast. Once a week, she mixes up nine eggs, a pound of ground turkey, and veggies, bakes them in a casserole dish, cuts and wraps them into nine squares. All she has to do is grab one and heat it up each morning. On Sundays, Sam Watts, a busy mom who juggles five part-time jobs, plans her family’s meals for the week, puts all the ingredients on her shopping list, and does her weekly shopping. Amy Muller, a mom and full-time project manager, takes it a step further with a weekly dinner schedule featuring chicken Monday, taco Tuesday, and pizza Friday.

5. Batch process. Stay-at-home mom Meryl Hertz Junick does all her school-lunch prepping at once. This way, she says, “I just need to refresh the containers in the insulated totes each night (or morning).” I make a double batch when I bake or prep a meal in the slow cooker. Elyana Funk saves time by stockpiling birthday presents for the children’s friends.

6. Do it the night before. Although I’m normally a procrastinator, when it comes to my mom game, I do as much as I can the night before. I make my kids’ lunches while I make dinner. Elyana Funk has her coffee pot prepped and ready to go before she goes to sleep. Brittany Bouchard makes getting her two girls dressed a breeze by putting entire outfits together on a hanger. Jess Allen, the fitness blogger at, even preps her kids’ breakfast the night before. 

This article was originally published on Motherly.

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