I’m Trying Out a “Block Schedule”

posted by Andrea | 01/12/2012

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Ever since we brought Nora home from the hospital {7 weeks ago today!}, I’ve been diligently trying to figure out the best way to schedule my day around the intense needs of a newborn.

It has been a bumpy road so far, and we most definitely do not have it all worked out yet; but I recently got an email from a reader who sensed my frustration and told me about how she implemented a “block schedule” to help her better manage her time with small children.

She explained that instead of making one long to-do list every day, she would instead have a few smaller to-do lists for the different blocks of time when her children were napping or otherwise occupied.

The idea sounded relatively simple to me, however I was a bit skeptical that it would actually work for me. But as I mentioned before… I was getting pretty frustrated by my new schedule {or lack of} so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

And guess what… it’s working! 

Obviously, we still have a ways to go, and I’m sure once we finally get a schedule down, Nora will go ahead and change things on us again. But for the past week or so, I’ve been using a block schedule and feeling much, much more productive!

Block #1: Before Nora wakes up

This block is one of the hardest ones for me because I’m usually REALLY tired and just want to stay sleeping. However I know that if I don’t get a few things done before she wakes up, the rest of the day won’t go as smoothly.

  • Get dressed/get ready
  • Make the bed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Check emails — respond to anything “urgent”
  • Wipe down the kitchen counters/sink/etc.

This might sound like a long list for a tired new mom, but it usually only takes me about 20-30 minutes to do it all. However, if she goes to bed at 1:30am and wakes up at 6:30am like she did the other day, I definitely don’t get it all done!

Block #2: During her morning nap

Much to my dismay, Nora still isn’t on a great sleeping schedule. However, the one pretty “constant” thing she’s done since she was only about a week old is take a good morning nap. She will usually sleep for at least 3 hours so this is MY TIME to “get stuff done”!

  • Start a load of laundry and/or clean out the dishwasher
  • Make sure I have what I need for dinner and defrost anything that’s frozen
  • Do one household chore {vacuum, sweep, dust, bathrooms, shake rugs, more laundry
  • Finish checking and responding to all emails
  • Make phone calls or schedule meetings {if applicable}
  • Write/edit blog posts
  • Work on Virtual Assistant stuff
  • Eat lunch

Of course every day is different, but this is by far my most productive time of the day.

Block #3: During her afternoon nap:

The afternoon nap is never a “for sure” thing, so I can’t necessarily plan on getting much done in the afternoon — especially if she’s being fussy! So during this time block, I try to schedule things that don’t HAVE to get done, but that I would still like to do.

  • Run errands {if she doesn’t take a nap or after she wakes up}
  • Work ahead on blogging stuff
  • Edit photos and work on digital photo album
  • House projects and other mics. things around the house
  • More emails {I also get email on my phone so I can stay on-top of my email throughout the day}

Nora is getting better at entertaining herself too, so sometimes she will be content to simply sit next to me in her swing or lay on the floor with me sitting next to her. So even if she is awake, I can sometimes get a few things done.

Block #4: When Dave gets home:

Dave and the girls usually get home around 4:00 or 4:30 and then he takes Nora for a while and watches TV or reads the paper. This is the time I usually get dinner started and/or do any baking. Then after dinner and after we clean up the kitchen, Dave and I take turns with Nora so the other person can be productive.

  • Grading and lesson planning {Dave}
  • Virtual Assistant and blogging work {Andrea}
  • Shower and get ready for bed {both}
  • Make to-do lists, pack lunches, and get ready for tomorrow {both}

We do TRY to take some time in the evening to just relax… however, this is also the time when Nora is the most fussy {and hungry} so one of us is almost always needed to hold, rock, feed, change, entertain, etc.

Block #5: After she goes to bed:

When we first brought Nora home, I was so frustrated when she wouldn’t go to bed at 8:00pm {All our friends have toddlers who went bed around 8:00… so we figured an infant would also go to bed early}. I knew she would wake up frequently to eat, but I seriously thought she would go to bed at a reasonable hour, which would then allow Dave and I to get a bunch of stuff done in the evening.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! {yes, you can all join me in laughter!}

Boy was I wrong! I learned very quickly that newborn babies don’t have a bed time. They sleep when they are tired and they don’t sleep when they aren’t tired… and there isn’t really anything we can do about it. So need-less-to-say, by the time we FINALLY get her sleeping at night, we go right to bed!

Sometimes she doesn’t fall asleep until 1:00 or 2:00am, and then Dave goes to bed and I stay up with her. Those are long nights! Fortunately, Dave gives me a break on the weekends and stays up with her while I go to bed early!

 

So even though Nora is kind of a stinker about going to bed at night, the block schedule thing has most definitely helped me to get more done and feel SO much more productive each day.

Oh, and I know I’m bias… but isn’t she just so cute when she’s sleeping :)

Do you have more tips for being productive with a newborn?

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58 comments

  1. Katie

    01/12/2012

    It looks like you are figuring it out win a newborn! My favorite trick for productivity as well as getting a newborn to sleep is to wear them. Use an unpadded ring sling or wrap and wear the baby. When i was ready for my baby to go to bed, I would change him or her and nurse one last time and if baby was still awake I put him or her jn the sling or wrap and walked around the house or vacuumed until baby was sound asleep then I transferred him or her to the crib.

    I love The Baby Book by Dr. Sears for those newborn months/year. I would just caution you to be careful when it comes to Babywise and the schedule it encourages. If you desire to nurse long term (or even past 4 months) the scheduling can have a very detrimental impact on your milk supply.

    [Reply]

    Heidi Reply:

    I actually used the schedule presented in Babywise (with minor changes) with all 3 of my kids (now 6, 4, & 2) and never had a problem with milk supply. All of them were nursed past their 1st birthdays. It obviously can change from woman to woman, but the schedule in the book does not necessarily mean you will struggle with milk production.
    I do agree that slings are great & the Sears book is a great resource!

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    Jen Reply:

    I have to disagree with this too. I nursed all four of our children until 18 months of age and I never had an issue with milk supply either. My Babywise babies are 19, 16, 14, and 12 and they all seem to have turned out just fine! :-)

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    Melissa Reply:

    I disagree as well. If done the right way Babywise will actually help long term breastfeeding! Once I got the schedule down my milk supply was improved and it was less demanding and more predictable. That has always helped me to keep breastfeeding longer! My daughter is 5 months old, she still gets up once a night but goes to bed at 7pm which is awesome! I hope you can get a routine soon! It helps SO much!

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    Katie Reply:

    I am so happy that it worked well for you guys. I am just cautioning because if you do the research there is a lot of documentation on cases of various breast feeding and failure to thrive issues as a result of using the Babywise scheduled feeding. I am sure there are exceptions to this, but it is something to be aware of and consider.

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    Stacy Reply:

    I’m with Katie! I get so very much more done when I wear the baby, and the baby gets to sleep much more quickly! When our third baby was 1.5 and he got tired, he would bring me our Beco to tell me he wanted to nap. There are lots of great carriers out there! My favorites are our Beco, an unpadded ring sling, and a mei tai. The long “wraps” that you tie around yourself are also very good for having two hands free with a newborn.

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  2. Janelle

    01/12/2012

    I also used Babywise and the Baby Whisperer to help put my kids on a schedule. I really liked the Baby Whisperer because of the charts that are in that book that tell you what to look for. I also wanted to add that I nursed both of my boys for over one year (started solids around 6 months, but continued nursing) and my milk supply never diminished. When they needed a larger supply – those were “growing days” and their schedule would probably include an extra feeding – that brought in more milk for them. Just figured I would add that in for you!

    Night was definitely a little tricky. I would make either an 8 or 9pm be their “bedtime” and when I would change them first (and hope that they would not poop during the nursing time), then when I nursed them, I would have the lights out (door cracked – or a night light on), and when I was done nursing them, I would burp them and lay them down for the night (no wake time). Then, when they woke up the next time, I would change them, nurse them (without the lights on), burp them and then lay them back down – teaching them that this is night time. I don’t know if you do this already, but I figured that I would share what worked for me. It may take a few days for Nora to get used to this, but it might be worth a try!

    And btw, you are getting SO much done! I am amazed by all that you are getting done! :)

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  3. Jessica

    01/12/2012

    Wow, what I wouldn’t have given for a three hour nap! My babe would sleep that long…in my lap. :) We are just now (8 months today) getting some longer nap stretches–1.5 hours or so. But it’s getting there.

    Bedtime will come around soon…both of my kids started to need a super-early bedtime between 2 & 3 months. Now, she’s in the bath at 6, I’m nursing by 6:30 and out of the room by 7. Of course, their needs are always changing!

    I used to do something much like this with my son (now 5). Now, with his needs intermixed, I don’t get nearly as much done…but I’m working on developing a new routine, again. :)

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  4. debbi

    01/13/2012

    My baby is now thirty so i don’t know if they still make these or not but i had a baby carrier that would go around me and him and let him lay on my chest while he was awake. I could still get things done because it frees your arms and hands up but the baby is still close so you can cuddle and hold them.

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  5. Jen

    01/13/2012

    Since you are dedicated to and realize the value of schedules, I wonder if you’ve attempted to get Nora on YOUR schedule rather than working yours around hers. Have you read the book “Babywise” by Gary and Ann Ezzo. You might check a copy out of the library and give it a try. I have four “Babywise” babies who were all sleeping 12 hours a night and napping regularly by 9 weeks old (and that was the latest!). I don’t agree with everything in the book and I know there are some fiery opinions about it–and I don’t want to start any debates–but I thought you might be willing to check into it. It can’t hurt at this point! Although you will probably have to listen to sweet Nora cry a bit since she’s already 7 weeks. Just a suggestion.

    Finally, I would LOVE to have a post on how you organize your bed linens-sheets, blankets, etc. We do not have a dedicated linen closet in our home, unfortunately. So I am always looking for a better way to do these things. Linens for 6 people can get unmanageable! Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Jen Reply:

    Guess I should have read all the comments before I wrote my “treatise”! I apologize for all the repetition!

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  6. emily

    01/13/2012

    You’re an awesome mommy! :) Enjoy that precious girl!!

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  7. Tamara Phillips

    01/13/2012

    Sounds like you are doing amazing! The sleeping will come:) The one thing that helped for me was to feed my little guy every 2-3 hours during the day like clockwork. It was something about him getting full feedings during the day that allowed him to get better sleep at night. I remember it was still a little bit of a struggle and I had to wake him up sometimes to feed him but, pushing the food helped him get enough hind milk that he slept well at night! Worth a shot if you’re not already doing that! The swaddle also helped a LOT! Best of luck. She is a beauty!

    [Reply]

    Kayla Reply:

    I agree with waking them up to eat during the day… definitely helped my babies sleep better at night when they had full tummies and stimulation for their minds during the day. :)

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  8. Peitra

    01/16/2012

    Adjusting to life outside the womb can be hard! Dr Harvey Karp (The baby whisperer) calls the first three months of life “the fourth trimester”. His book/dvd is called “Happiest Baby on the Block”…. It’s going to be “her” schedule until she’s at least four months old! Her body physically can’t do it until then. Good luck- I love your blog!

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  9. Angela Beery

    01/16/2012

    I really recommend Twelve Hours Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano.

    And don’t forget to schedule in some down time. If you don’t schedule it in, as a mom, it won’t happen!

    [Reply]

  10. Kris

    01/17/2012

    I’m new to your site and wanted to say that I’m enjoying exploring around. I am not a very organized person so reading sites like yours gives me a different way of looking at how to attack things. I can tell from your posts that you are enjoying your new baby girl. I’m sure it’s really hard for new Mom’s like yourself who are so used to being ultra productive each day. I laughed out loud at your 8:00 bedtime comment. I really feel all babies are different. My 1st was a great sleeper and my 2nd…not so much. Even at 9 and 6 years old my older son usually needs more sleep than my younger son. Good luck with Nora’s schedule. I hope she starts staying awake more in the evenings so she can go to bed a little earlier.

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  11. Liz C

    01/19/2012

    If your little one is nursing in between those power naps, you may have an evening “calorie loader”… all of my girls have had an evening stretch where they nurse, catnap, nurse, catnap, for a few hours, and then finally go down deeply. Having that time as my dedicated “read what I want to read” time, and also some “watch cop shows on Netflix” time was really nice…. because I re-named the time from “cranky baby I can’t set down” to something I knew I wanted to do. :) I’d have just enough light to comfortably read, put on some headphones, and just settle in for some serious mom-baby contact for a few hours.

    My son was a morning calorie loader–he’d wake up ravenous about 6am, but he just wanted to lay there and nurse and drowse for about two hours, so we learned to nurse laying down, and we were both happy. :)

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  12. Alissia

    01/22/2012

    Just a quick note/comment….try not to worry about “getting stuff done” I know, I know, it is SO hard to do and I certainly couldn’t realx and let things go either……but my youngest “baby” just turned 2 yesterday…..it goes SO SO SO fast…..and you will never care about what you got done or didn’t get done….but you WILL miss those crazy first few months of “unschedules” trust me….(tears running down my face)

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  13. Karly

    01/30/2012

    I have 2 kids. A 2 1/2 yr old and an 8 month old and while i have never been a cleaning organizing guru (to say the least) one of the first things that i learned is that those first few months of the new baby’s life is just to accept that some days, maybe even most days, your life may just look like a mess =) and that’s ok. I had to give myself a couple of months (honestly it was about 3 or 4 months before i got either of my kids on any kind of recognizable schedule) before i knew my life was going to go back to semi normal. Be lenient with with yourself and take a nap when you can! In another month she’s going to start staying awake a lot more during the day and your schedule will change again haha. These times go by WAY to fast! Good luck with your sweet little baby.

    [Reply]

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