Fine-tuning Your Family's Schedule and Planner System : Creating a Schedule Everyone Enjoys

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Adjusting for Body Clocks

You're probably familiar with the fact that some people are “night people,” whereas others are “morning people.” Actually, about 10 percent of the population are morning types, and 20 percent are nighttime types; the other 70 percent don't tend to either extreme. You may already have a good idea of whether you have someone in your family who's a night or morning person, but if you're not sure, you can use the self-assessment questionnaire in Table 1 to help you decide. Although a person can adapt somewhat if circumstances require, these tendencies seem to be genetic in nature, which means that, in general, they can't be changed. And, of course, it makes sense that people will feel and function better if they synchronize their required activities to their natural rhythms.

Table 1. Self-Assessment Questionnaire: What's Your Best Time of Day?
 Enter the number of your response.
 a. What is your favorite meal of the day?
  1. Breakfast

  2. Lunch

  3. Dinner

 b. When do you most often get up in the morning?
  1. Before the alarm clock rings

  2. When the alarm clock rings

  3. After using the alarm clock's snooze feature

 c. When you wake up in the morning, how do you usually feel?
  1. Comfortably warm

  2. Uncomfortably cool

If Your Score IsThen You're Probably 
3 or 4A morning person (lark) 
5 or 6Neither extreme (hummingbird) 
7 or 8A night person (owl) 

What might this synchronization mean in terms of your family's schedule? Night owls, who like to stay in bed until the last possible second in the morning, may prefer to take showers in the evening. Because they have a hard time getting energized if they must get up early in the morning, they'll take a lot longer in the morning shower—without even realizing it—and may throw off the entire family's schedule. Particularly if your family has a tight morning schedule, or if everyone showering in succession exhausts your hot water supply, you should consider adjusting your schedule to accommodate anyone's nighttime showering preference.

You may also find using water in the kitchen or elsewhere in the house when someone is showering may throw off the pressure or temperature of the water enough to cause a delay in the bathroom schedule. This detail may seem insignificant, but correcting the disturbance can make your family's mornings much more pleasant. Consider, too, that some people just like to take long showers. What everyone needs to recognize here is that the person does not require more personal care time, but instead he has extended a personal care activity into a leisure activity. The long shower should be shifted to a time in the day when it doesn't disrupt the rest of the family's schedule.

Other activities affected by a person's body clock include exercising and chatting. In general, morning activities go more smoothly for night owls if they follow a routine that entails as much rote behavior as possible. In contrast, morning larks are quick in the morning and can tackle tasks that require alert thinking. You'll want to keep these tendencies in mind when assigning the morning chores.

Considering the Environment

Some people love doing anything outdoors, and other people are more selective about their outdoor activities. The self-assessment questionnaire in Table 2 may help you separate these two personalities. By now, it should be obvious to you that if you have an indoor task and an outdoor task that need to be done, and you have one person who likes the outdoors and one person who prefers the indoors, then your schedule will work better if you pair the task with the person who would prefer to do it.

Table 2.  Self-Assessment Questionnaire: Are You an Outdoor or Indoor Person?
 1. Where would you prefer to eat?
  1. Out-of-doors whenever possible

  2. Indoors if there are bugs outside

 2. Which activity would you prefer?
  1. Sledding

  2. Sipping hot chocolate in front of the fireplace

 3. Where would you rather spend the night?
  1. In a tent

  2. In a hotel room


Even if honoring these types of preferences results in a slightly unbalanced allocation of duties, it may be that the perception of imbalance is less than if the duties are mismatched to the personalities. Plus, assigning tasks that are well suited to the person will cut down on procrastination.

If you answered more a's than b's, you're probably an outdoor type. If you answered more b's than a's, you're probably an indoor type.

Similar factors for you to keep in mind are

  • Allergies— Whether indoor or outdoor, no one is in a hurry to do something that will make him sneeze or itch.

  • Phobias— People who don't like spiders, heights, or anything else in particular should not be responsible for tasks that involve them. Having these people perform such tasks is neither efficient nor safe.

  • Sensitivities— Similar to allergies, some people are sensitive to things such as the sun or certain soaps. If they have to put on sunscreen or protective clothing or gloves to do their work, they'll be less happy about it; plus, completing the tasks will take them longer because of the extra steps.

Working with Other People

Some of your family members may be more people-oriented, either in terms of collaborating with other people or doing things for other people. The self-assessment questionnaire in Table 3 will provide you with a quick gauge of this personality trait. People-oriented family members will prefer activities in which other people are working with them or near them. They'll also enjoy doing tasks that they feel help others. Asking them to do things as a favor to you and always saying “thank you” even for tasks they're required to do will keep them in a more cooperative frame of mind.

Table 3.  Self-Assessment Questionnaire: Are You a People Person?
 1. Which method of preparing a report do you prefer?
  1. Working with a team to produce a group report

  2. Preparing a research report by yourself

 2. If the compensation were the same, which job would you rather do?
  1. Babysit

  2. Wash windows

 3. If you were attending an out-of-town convention, which accommodations would you prefer?
  1. Sharing a hotel room

  2. Having a private room


If you answered more a's than b's, you're probably a more people-oriented person. If you answered more b's than a's, you probably need more time to yourself.

Family members who need more time to themselves will enjoy tasks they can work at by themselves, even if others benefit from the results. You can apply this knowledge to your family schedule in some creative ways. For example, if you have two children who are both people-oriented, you may find that they'll get their rooms cleaned with less hassle if you have them work as a team to clean both rooms together. Or they may enjoy cleaning each other's rooms instead of their own. On the other hand, two children who like to work alone may be more motivated by a competition to see who will finish cleaning his own room faster. The point here is that you shouldn't hesitate to tinker with the way you've allocated tasks in your family's schedule until you hit upon the most effective motivators to get things done in the least time with the greatest sense of satisfaction.

Modifying Your Routine

With your newly acquired scheduling skills, you should be able to incorporate most new activities into your schedule without too much trouble. Sometimes, though, new events are of a magnitude that demands a disruption of the normal flow:

  • Some of these events are self-contained projects that will require you to suspend your normal routine until they are completed. For example, if your family is buying and moving to a new home, the amount of time you'll need for selling your old house (if you own it); finding, buying, and financing your new house; packing and moving; arranging for changes in utility and mail service; meeting your new neighbors; and so on will probably be enough to keep you from washing the car and attending your book club for a few weeks.

  • Other events are life-altering and will require you to revamp your family's schedule. For example, having a baby will add a whole list of new tasks to your daily, weekly, and monthly schedules.

  • Still other events are temporary, but yet significant enough to require a retooling of the family's schedule in the short run. These events tend to be unexpected, such as someone in the family breaking a leg or being selected to participate in a four-week foreign exchange program.

Even if you're totally satisfied with your family's current schedule, you must be open to the reality that the schedule is as dynamic as your family and you'll need to modify it regularly.

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