A routine refresh
With plenty of summer ahead, the doors feel wide open for projects, bucket lists, and making things happen. At the top of the kiddos’ and my list: daily reading time.
In my opinion, a love of books comes far above reading level. Still, with an end-of-year report card on the counter and second grade fast approaching, I realize Shadyn and I have got some serious ground to cover.
Thankfully, reading is already a staple around here. After breakfast it’s straight to the couch for scripture stories. Naps rarely begin without books, and these days, a page or two of I Spy. Bedtime looks the same. Library books come in and out of our home like clockwork with Shadyn and Naomi greeting their dada and a full library bag as if he were Santa with a bagful of toys. Whether sprawled out on the living room floor or snuggled in blankets on our mattress-turned-couch in the loft, the kids pouring over books is a sight that never gets old.
What I'm hoping for this summer is to add to that sight an eager boy compiling sounds and sight words, page after page.
It’s a worthwhile idea, for sure, but even the best of intentions aren’t much more than that without a plan.
So it’s time for a routine revamp. And in case you’re feeling the need for a refresh like I am, here’s how I design a new rhythm around what matters most.
Delete the non-essentials
This sounds impossible, being that your list of things to do, skills to learn, relationships to cultivate and habits to form is an endless one. But I’ve found that the most effective way to get anywhere—in life, personal achievement... anything, really—is take deliberate steps forward in a single direction. Sporadic and unfocused efforts lead to sporadic and unfocused results.
Sometimes the best way to take a meaningful step forward is to first decide what not to do.
Hand pick your priorities
There are lots of good things to do. Lots of good ways to spend our days. Lots of good ambitions and dreams to shoot for. But if we want a life that's better than good, it starts by being picky.
A meaningful routine is centered around a few chosen goals you want to make happen more than anything else.
Translate your priorities to a habit
Reaching for more patience and empathy? Try for three calming breaths when the tantrums erupt. Want to finally finish that heart and soul project? Schedule in 10 minutes of progress every afternoon. Ready to get healthier? Plan on a walk every evening. Hoping to get your almost-second-grader reading on his own? Sit together patiently with a book every day. (It might not hurt to print out this reading calendar, either. Our poster-size copy hangs in our living room and is getting more colorful by the day.)
One small step taken consistently day after day turns a priority into a reality. The best part: It doesn’t have to be big to be enough.
Give your habits a home
Now plant your new small habits where they’ll be most likely to thrive. The trick is to place them next to something already established and strong. My most successful attempts to date: Stretching happens when I’m on the phone. A full glass of water goes down before breakfast. Books come before bed. Email gets checked once during nap time. Smiles accompany hellos and goodbyes. Writing time follows getting ready for the day.
Find a good spot for your habits and they just might stick. The more predictable, the better.
Allow grace, always
The best laid plans are bound to fall through from time to time. The kids will get sick. Time will run out. You will forget or simply run out of steam. Yes, expect good things—out of yourself and out of life. Keep refining, keep adapting. Keep questioning. Keep aiming high. A life revolves around what matters most because you’ve built it that way.
But perhaps what we need planted into our routines more than anything else is space to shrug off disappointment and perfectionism and to drape grace and compassion on our worn out selves.
What our day actually looks like is not necessarily always important. What is important is the effort to get clear on what matters most, and what that clarity does to reset our perspective, and what that new perspective does to change the way we live out our days.
The summer, after all, will be a success whether the reading chart gets filled or not.