Do you consistently find yourself with more to-do’s than time? If you’ve tried routines and schedules and planners and you’re still not organized, you’ll want to try time boxing. I love it!
How I’ve Organized Time in My Homeschool
FLYLady wasn’t a homeschooler, but in my early homeschooling years she introduced me to the idea that I needed routines. My plan was putting out fires. I handled whichever baby screamed the loudest. I learned that I needed to do the same things in the same order every day. Sure, there were interruptions, but the basic pattern created peace in my home.
I still use routines and talked with FLYLady about the power of routines in homeschooling in an episode of The Homeschool Sanity Show. But when I added more children and more students to my homeschool, I decided I needed more than just routines; I needed a schedule. Managers of Their Homes showed me how mothers of many could homeschool and parent and have a life, too. Time had to be allotted for it. I created the perfect schedule. But I forgot that my family is far from perfect. The schedule never really worked. It felt too constraining. So I started using what I called anchor points along with my routines. There was the noon anchor point by which the majority of my teaching should be done. There was the 5:00 p.m. anchor point at which time I needed to start dinner. Then there was the 8:00 p.m. anchor time which was when I wanted to have the kids in bed. I was usually disappointed in that one.
Today I have more scheduling in my day than I did years ago. Scheduling can be very effective if you don’t resist it. But I find that the more I schedule, the more resistance I feel. I like freedom and I suspect many homeschoolers are the same. Fortunately, routines and schedules aren’t the only options when it comes to organizing your homeschool day. Time boxing is another option and it’s flexible and effective.
What Time Boxing Is
Time boxing is a list of tasks you’d like to complete in a day, together with the amount of time you plan to spend on each. Unlike a routine, a time boxing list will be different every day. The list can be arranged in order of how you would like to complete tasks, but unlike a schedule, can be easily changed as you go through your day. A list for a homeschooler may look something like this:
Bible time – 30 mins.
History – 15 mins.
Read Aloud – 15 mins.
Raking leaves – 30 mins.
Tutoring Time – 60 mins.
Break – 30 mins.
Organizing – 15 mins.
You decide to do one of these tasks first and set a timer. When time is up, you can either wait to start another task or move on to the next one of your choice. When you’ve finished the list, you’re done for the day.
Tips for Using Time Boxing to Organize Your Homeschool
Use an app. The Sloth (iOS) and Do Now (Android) apps make it easy and motivating to keep track of your tasks for the day. You can easily rearrange the task order, start and stop the timer, and mark tasks complete. I love having my task list with me on my phone. I’m easily distracted!
Don’t include routines. If you already have morning time in which you do the same things in the same order, don’t put them on your time boxing list. Instead, make a list of the other things you’d like to spend time on that day.
Use generous time estimates. Most people underestimate how long things will take. The more time you anticipate, the more likely you will finish with time to spare. You’ll also be less frustrated by the day’s accomplishments.
Use it to add balance to your day. What is it that you never seem to have time for? Add things like sewing, reading, or Bible journaling to your list. Even 15 minutes of these activities matters. The more time we spend doing things that rejuvenate us, the more likely we will get less enjoyable tasks done.
Use it to create habits. Until exercise is a habit, try adding it to your time boxing list. If there is something you always forget to do, add it to your list.
Use it to organize your homeschooling life. The Organized Homeschool Life provides you with 15-minute missions that will help you get organized all year. Add a 15-minute organizing task to your time boxing list and you’ll be on your way to experiencing more peace and joy in your homeschooling and life.
Use it to organize your distracted child. I have a child with ADD who flourishes with time boxing. He learns to plan work for the day, estimate how long tasks will take, and to work quickly when timed. If you use the app on your phone, rather than your child’s, you can help remind your child to stay on track.
Don’t time box your whole day. If you have a whole day’s time allotted to tasks, you are scheduling and not time boxing. The beauty of time boxing is it allows for response to distractions, new tasks, and our need for margin. Keeping the list short is more motivating, too.
If you give time boxing a try, let me know how you like it. If you’d like even more homeschool organizing tips, check out 10 Days of Homeschool Organization Ideas at They Call Me Blessed.