swirl-sqSo, I’ve written about why time budgets are important and helpful and also shared the details of my own.

It’s so easy to fill out that spreadsheet or piece of paper with an idealistic frame of mind that does not account for the realities of working out a plan in a house full of people. To keep your time budget in touch with real life, keep in mind these three factors.

Budget Margin

To make your time budget work better, always budget more time than you think the activity will take. If you plot in an activity you have to leave the house for, budget in not only the travel time, but also the getting-shoes-on-everyone time. I don’t know how many times I have been late and scrambling because though I budgeted enough time to get there, I didn’t leave enough time for the toddler meltdown, the child needing to use the bathroom, or the children not being able to find matching shoes. When we don’t leave time for those eventualities, we end up feeling stretched thin and ready to snap.

So rather than think – I’ll create a system that will make sure my children ALWAYS have their shoes and ALWAYS have clean faces and neatly brushed hair – I’ve tried and those systems never last long in real life. Instead, plan on 30 minutes “prep” time before heading out the door, and also keep a list of short tasks you can get done if your prep time was only 10 minutes – or, just arrive early or return the library books on the way or clean out the car for 5-10 minutes if you didn’t need the budgeted time.

Whatever it looks like for you, build margin around your activities as much as possible and allow time for children to be children and for people to be late and for snacks to be required or toys to be picked up. If we expect little setbacks and we have time enough to just roll with them, we won’t feel so worn out and stretched thin.

It's so easy to fill out a weekly time budget with an idealistic mindset that doesn't account for the realities of living with kids. To keep your time budget in touch with real life, keep in mind these three factors: margin, rest, and renewal.

Budget Time for Rest

As we start filling in the overview of our weeks with our commitments and responsibilities, we also need to keep an eye on whether or not we have healthy amounts of rest built into our weeks. We can’t function in go-go-go mode all day, every day.

Sunday is a good day to take off of productivity. Use it as a day to rest, rejuvenate, worship, fellowship, read, walk, create. We don’t have to always be striving to get ahead. If we take one day out of seven off from effort, labor, and working, we’ll find we return to our daily life better equipped and more energetic. We will better use the time we have for taking one day off.

Whatever a day off looks like for you – and I don’t mean solitary confinement, but a day off of trying to do better and to get ahead – breathe deep, take the plunge, and set a day aside.

Budget Time for Renewal

A huge part of being a mother is pouring ourselves out for our family. This is good, if tiring, work. The Bible commends us not to grow weary of doing good – because we are so often tempted to do just that.

But also, if we want to be able to continually pour out without running dry, we have to be continually filling up, also. Time to fill our own inner well is not selfish, but a way to keep ourselves able to be a source of wisdom and love and help to our families. Burning out is not helpful. Remembering that we are persons, too, in need of encouragement, edification, and education is vital.

Encouragement can be found in friends, in online communities, in podcasts. It helps remind us that we are not alone and are doing good and worthwhile work.

Edification comes from reading Scripture, praying, reading solid books, and listening to teaching podcasts or sermons. We need to continually fill up with truth so we can speak with wisdom and knowledge.

Education is living out the cliché we tell our children: be a life-long learner. It isn’t limited to academic subjects, but includes handicrafts, baking, art, exercise, sports, bird-lore, a musical instrument – it is cultivating interests that keep our mind – and maybe even our bodies! – active and growing.

A time budget and a weekly plan is not good for us if it’s entirely about housekeeping, homeschooling, and errands. We as people are more than that, and we must account for it in our view of our week.

How do you make room for margin, rest, and renewal in your week?


  1. Ah Mystie, I could just gush. I needed that reminder about margin, particularly when heading out of the house. I frequently find myself running late, often because I don’t have the time-cushion I need to ensure we arrive on time, all due to the variety of mishaps and last-minute additions that come with four kids in tow. Thanks. I needed to think about that. Up next: create my game plan and work on the follow-through until it becomes habit.

    Re: rest. Just this summer, I broke on through to the other side and became an EARLY early morning riser. I started out at 4:30 AM for a few weeks, then realized that I am satisfied with 5:00-ish AM. I think I needed to decompress a few weeks before things normalized. The early morning quiet is a balm to my soul. I can sit and stare, I can read, I can plan and organize, I can tackle projects that require focus. It is AMAZING. I can’t believe it has taken me “this long” to get here. I have found that I am not more tired, I am less tired. I feel energized, more organized, ready to take on the day, with a considerably deeper well of patience. And instead of feeling like a deer in the headlights during afternoon QT, I can actually work steadily toward my goals and feel like that hour is sufficient.

    I feel like myself again, instead of a haggard hag-of-a-bag, mad at my children for their endless needs. I feel so much more balanced. Happier.

    I refresh myself through our weekly homeschool co-op (extrovert!), monthly mom’s group, connecting online, podcasts, good books, my daybook and commonplace book, time with my husband, email correspondence, talking with my mom on the phone, and FaceTime with my brother. And honestly, I feel refreshed and invigorated seeing “the dots connect” with my brood of boys. Success in my homeschooling plans and base-level ideas and inspiration is HUGE. It feels so good. Like when my 4 year old sang “The Bold Grenadier” with us in Circle Time this morning. Yesssss.

    In terms of margin, for our school year this year, I’ve planned twenty minute breaks between Circle Time, Morning Lessons, and Chore Time each morning. It is the perfect amount of time, as things tend to dissolve into fighting or mania with four boys ages 10, 8, 4, and 2 if it goes much longer than that. (Think stampeding through the house, wrestlemania, little brothers getting hurt and running to me screaming.) (That kind of thing.) It gives a bit of a breather between each activity – time for me to prep or plan and possibly get a small task done – and time for them to get their energy out before buckling down for the next task.

    Mystie, you always hit the spot. Thank you so much for your focus and drive. I really, really, and I mean REALLY appreciate it. It is a huge asset in my life.

  2. Hey! You’re a day early; I’m not writing about rest until tomorrow ;) I like being on the same schedule as you. I am on my second week of remembering the Sabbath with a technology fast–talk about restorative! The day opens before me when I’m not endlessly checking updates.

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