Polish your week to live by your priorities, and thrive.
By Christine Emming
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
Thresholds. Doorways. Call it what you want, certain times of year signal to me: plan ahead! My Januarys look similar with tidy wish lists, the letters tall with hope. Come March, I’m crafting garden plans in my notebook, gleeful at each perennial bud. I crave new recipes in September, and often add a cold-weather skill to my repertoire.
It’s soul deep, this serial longing for renewal, for a life that breathes with the seasons. There’s a natural rhythm to our days, and I used to let it flow around me, rather than purposefully utilize it. But life with young children makes one scrutinize the details.
A few years ago I realized I didn’t need to adjust my schedule for my kids’ monthly development. I’d been in such a state of flux – and so sleep deprived – that I hadn’t noticed. Finally! I thought, I can match our week to what we like to do together.
Excited, I began by introducing kids’ cooking night – it didn’t last, don’t worry, because I am not better than you. They were 3 and 5, and the mess was staggering. But this evolved into our baking day. I’ll admit it’s still a mess, but now we’re all older and everyone can help tidy.
Our weekly rhythm calms the water around here. We know what we’re doing, and only things we love top the list. Many people have a daily rhythm, a simple sequence of events that starts the day, or preps us for bed. Using that same idea, a weekly rhythm keeps our days grounding, but not monotonous, and helps us fit it all in reliably.
In winter, chilly weather helps us prioritize time at home, and I enjoy this rest. We do more crafting, drink hot chocolate, make Friday night pizza. I keep our weekly rhythm easy and light. Until the snow is gone, a long view of our winter week looks like this:
Sundays: Cleaning day, including deep cleaning tasks or yard work, then family play! In good weather, we head to the soccer field or play HORSE on our basketball hoop. In snow, we might sled or play video games together.
Mondays: Art mess + projects day – everyone has something to make, always, but this is the day I set aside to help them bring big ideas to life.
Tuesdays: Grocery shop, then meet our homeschool pod to play
Wednesdays: Adventure day (museum or exploring away from home)
Thursdays: Baking day – we make bread and pizza dough, then something sweet. Wilder is working through technical challenges from the Great British Baking Show.
Fridays: Hiking day – either with friends or just our family; Movie night with pizza
Saturdays: Home day AM for the kids (I hike with friends, weather permitting), then PM cousin play time and family dinner with my sisters.
This all evolves seasonally. By summer, our hot chocolate magics into ice cream. Our art mess paints the yard, the garden fences a swirl of color that slowly fades with rain. Evenings expand and we wander the neighborhood after dinner. We grill tacos instead of pizza, and some of our movie nights morph into game nights on the deck.
How do I build a rhythm?
Start by thinking of a single thing you’d like to do each day, just one. It can be as easy as Sunday morning pancakes. This activity anchors your day. Begin adding your chosen activity, and the next one, on a repeating schedule through a few weeks.
After a month, reshape.
How’s it going? Is your morning less hectic? Do Wednesdays require bursts of energy? Jot a loose order of the day’s events based on what usually happens. After Tuesday’s social event, will you need recovery time or a brisk walk? Add it! Adjustments are necessary to mold your rhythm into a useful shape.
Aligning daily life with our goals simplifies and creates space to do the things we want. The rhythm has room for progression and change, but I also look forward to recurring events, measure my days by baking and hiking. It shapes our week, our month.
When does the rhythm change?
Whenever you need it. If we move or someone changed jobs, we’d need a total rewrite. Otherwise, make adjustments as they come up. Our weekly rhythm flows with the seasons. Potlucks turn into picnics and schedules adjust by sundowns.
Don’t forget about friendship
Prioritize bonding time by scheduling a weekly gathering. Pre-COVID, we hosted a monthly potluck that I really miss! I’m hoping it will morph into a group picnic by late spring, and we can resume our regular hang outs. However you make it happen, friends are worth the effort. Face time with a regular group deepens friendships quickly, which cannot be over-prioritized in our lonely, pandemic reality.
No matter the season and its pressures, I guide my heart toward respite and cultivate a rhythm level with my priorities. Build a rhythm around your own precious goals and feel restored, week by week.
© 2021 Christine Emming. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. An iteration of this work has been printed in Vibrant Life magazine, January/February issue, 2019.