Contributed by Nathan McVeigh
Understanding how to plan your day is typically easier said than done. It’s especially true for those whose concern extends to other people besides themselves. Caregivers must pay close attention to the way they monitor their schedules, often because they are responsible for their own needs, their families’ needs, and/or the needs of those to whom they’ve been clinically assigned.
While I spend time caregiving for my grandmother, I often feel like whatever I do is reactive instead of proactive. It seems like knowing how to plan your day, in cases like these, is virtually impossible. It’s not uncommon for my wife and me to spend the entire morning accomplishing caregiving tasks. For example, the morning process – waking up, eating breakfast, getting dressed, showering, etc. – can take up four hours by the time everything is done.
So, is it really possible to plan your day around caregiving? Or, are you doomed to let caregiving control you?
While I can’t say that knowing how to plan your day will solve all your time management and productivity problems, there are some steps you can take that will make it easier to still have time to do the things that are necessary, and maybe even some things you want to do as well.
Make a Proper Schedule
A “proper” schedule is one that meets two important needs. One is that it must incorporate the essentials, and the other is that there must be adequate “white space.”
The essentials include anything that must be done every day. For example, you need to write down the times in the day that medications must be given. Also, if those you care for are totally dependent, consider when they need to use the restroom, as well as the schedule their diets dictate, etc. For now, this list doesn’t include items like sporadic doctors appointments or other schedule invaders.
“White space” means you must not fill every minute of each day with something to do. Knowing how to plan your day means knowing the difference between what is urgent and what might be able to wait. If you only put in the essentials, you eliminate what could weigh you down by default.
Form a Workable Routine
Once you have your general schedule laid out, it’ll be easier to create habits. Humans are creatures of habit, which can work to your advantage. If you repeat the same schedule on a daily basis, two things will happen. First, you save time by not having to explain what’s next. More importantly, you are prepared to give everyone a framework that can adjust freely to the events that aren’t consistent.
Make Adjustments Before Tomorrow
Speaking of the things that aren’t consistent, you have to take each day at a time. You can schedule doctors appointments on a calendar while you can’t foresee relatives “popping in for a visit.” Either way, you can control them to a certain degree when you make adjustments to the day’s schedule and routines that are already in place. In other words, you can fit expected, while not scheduled, items into a time that fits well in the routine you already have.
Make Adjustments When Needed
Giving yourself time to relax is one of several ways you can be a better caregiver. Thus, understanding how to plan your day around caregiving tasks involves setting aside time to refresh yourself frequently.
While it’s not always possible to rest for 30 minutes, there are some ways you can take advantage of 30 minutes you didn’t have before. For example, if someone does “pop in for a visit,” let them tend to your loved one while you make yourself a cup of chamomile tea. Feel free to use the extra time to check a task off your list, but remember to keep in mind you are saving 30 minutes for respite later in the day.
When you are open with the people you care for, you’ll have an easier time taking time for yourself. Keep them informed and tell them what you are doing or what needs to be accomplished. That way, they don’t think you’re wasting your time if you’re not always with them.
By using these tips and remembering how to ask for help when you need it, you can begin to control your days better. While it’s not always easy, time doesn’t have to control you.