For years I have avoided using any kind of schedule. As a teenager, I managed to go to high school, take college classes and work by flying by the seat of my pants. I procrastinated, crammed, stayed up late, went to school in my pajamas, got detention for being late to first period almost daily, usually missed breakfast, and spent lunch breaks doing homework for the class immediately after. I also graduated high school, got an associates degree, and was promoted at work (and never late there) before I turned 18. The teacher who frequently gave me detention for being late, also gave me a B in that AP English class. So.... it worked.
Since I have had kids, I have been a "loose routine" sort of mom. We sleep when we are tired and eat when we are hungry, but have had a loose routine based on time-oriented things that are a part of our lives. When I was managing apartments, there was certain work that had to be done on certain days. I had to be up and dressed, ready to be in the office by a reasonable time in the morning. Loose weekly routines have revolved around dance or yoga classes, library story times and home school play days.
I have slowly gotten more structured over the last few years. A few years ago, I started making 5 year plans that detail the things I want to learn/accomplish/do in the next 5 years in my personal development, finances, spirituality, business, and health.. I update it every year. Then I review it monthly and determine what I can do *this* month to work on those goals. Then I plan my week every Saturday night and add in the smaller steps that will help me accomplish that month's goals.
Each individual day, however, has looked different from every other day and as long as I was getting my "to do" list done, I thought I was happy with that (but often I would get a LOT done one day and be cranky about it, and nothing done the next day and be cranky about that). For the kids, I have on occasion used a magnetic picture calendar just so they can see what is coming next. I used it in such a way that they have input on what we were doing that day and it could change if their wishes changed, but it would give them a visual of what the day would look like. I have not used it for the last year, however, and they don't seem to miss it. We talk about our plans for the day and have a loose routine and that seems to be sufficient. I have noticed that they like to have at least one "set-in-stone" preferably out of the house, thing to do each day- park, library, shopping, friend's house.
So, why have I embraced more structure recently? I read a book called It's Just My Nature!, which is an energy profiling system, similar to a personality typing system, but oh so much more! At first I thought I was a type 3, but I soon started waffling between thinking I was a type 3 and a type 4. I have finally decided that I am a type 4, with a strong secondary type 3, and I have lived as a type 3 for most of my life. The more I embraced the calm, still qualities of being a type 4, the more I realized that I feel better when I am moving in a linear direction, with a plan.
I hit upon a phrase that really struck a chord with what I was desiring- Moving through my days with purpose. I have finally found a system that works *for me* and true to my type 4 nature, it could not be a system that anyone else designed. I have a big 18 month binder style calendar. I put my to-do list on the spaces for each day. Every morning I get a fresh piece of notebook paper and make my schedule for the day. Every day starts out the same with breakfast, taking my calcium magnesium, planning my day and spending some time alone in prayer and reading my Bible. Beyond that, each day still looks different from the next and I like that variety, but I have some direction, written down for what I want to accomplish before lunch and then what I want to accomplish before dinner. I don't schedule it down to the hour, but depending on the day in 2-4 hour chunks. I throw the paper away at the end of the day, so all that is left on the semi-permanent record of my calendar is my crossed off to-do list. This works much better for me than writing down every detail on the calendar (a bit of perfectionism in me would cause me to develop a nervous twitch if I wrote down "laundry" on every day and missed it twice a week) and it works better than grabbing a random piece of paper to write down today's to-do list, but not having anywhere set and permanent to write down what I need to do next week and thus forget and/or procrastinate.