How Routines Can Keep You Happy (and sane)

I don’t like making decisions. The fewer decisions I need to make in a day, the more energy I have to focus on people and productive work.

Routines are part of my answer to this conundrum.

In the midst of our busy lives, simple routines and systems make life so much easier.

Simple Routines/Systems

These are a few of the routines/systems I’ve created (or recreated) in the past week:

1 | Two-week rotating menu with a master grocery list

Dinner happens every single day, so why does it feel so hard to manage? It’s not that I hate cooking, it’s just that it keeps happening – you know what I mean? I generally follow a menu, but I get bored, or fall out of routine, or the season changes. With the start of the school year, football and swim season, along with extra work in my schedule, I decided to simplify even more than usual.

I made a two-week menu, which means every other Monday we’ll eat the same thing for dinner. Honestly, my family won’t even notice. By only choosing 14 dinners, I hit the highlights of their basic favorites. I also made a list of substitutes I can switch in when I feel inspired.

Once I figured out the menu, I made a master grocery list with every ingredient necessary for those 14 dinners. I can glance through the list and add the needed items to my weekly list without much thought or time required.

That’s the way I like it.

Of course, we have birthdays, special events, and (thank the Lord) leftovers on occasion. I also like to cook double recipes and freeze the second meal giving me a night off here and there. But overall, if I check my menu the night before, or even that morning, and simply obey myself, we manage to have a good dinner each night.

2| Chore charts

I have two chore charts – one with daily chores and one with Saturday chores. The daily chores are simple done-in-five-minute chores the kids do before they leave for school. Chores like emptying the dishwasher, laundry (they throw in their laundry before they leave in the morning), vacuuming the family and living room, etc. are on this chart.

I shared it above, complete in its unfancy handwritten pencil glory. I write it in pencil so I can tweak it in the first few weeks. It’s not much to look at, but that’s kind of my point. It doesn’t have to look amazing to make your life easier. Sometimes we put so much effort into creating a perfect routine/system that we end up with nothing at all.

The Saturday chore chart has a short list for each child and includes things like mopping floors, thoroughly cleaning the bathroom, and cleaning their own room.

Annarose and Beza both moved out this fall, so I needed to rewrite the chore charts to reflect the four kids still at home – four, that is so strange to even write! It’s quite a change from the days when we had 11, or even seven.

3 | Planner

I have a new planner I’m using to organize my work and my life. I’m a planner person and have always used one, even alongside my online calendar. Well known author and blogger, Michael Hyatt, recently developed a planner that combining concepts I learned from reading Stephen Covey’s books years ago with his own research on productivity to create the Full Focus Planner. It’s expensive, but using my time well and accomplishing my goals is worth a lot to me. If you’re interested and you purchase it using this referral link, you’ll get 15% off your order.

In addition to daily tasks, the planner helps me set weekly and quarterly goals. I’m also taking a good look at my morning routines, work routines, end of day routines and more. Michael Hyatt leaves no stone unturned when it comes to productivity.

4 | Google Calendar

I’ve devoted serious time since school started adding events to my Google Calendar. Each family member has their own color, which helps me see what is happening at a glance, especially after school and in the evenings. Teens are very busy. Foster care adds another whole layer of busy with multiple family visits each week and other appointments.

Add driving to sports practices and other activities and I have a hard time staying on top of everything that happens between 3:00 and 7:00. Having the calendar in my phone saves me. I also set multiple alarms as reminders of the next event.

One last tip, I use the free Tiny Calendar app on my phone which makes Google Calendar even easier to use.

January may be the start of the new year, and it is the time I do a lot of self-reflection, but fall is when I evaluate and reorganize my family routines and systems.

How about you? Are you creating new routines for your family? What works for you? What doesn’t?

I would love to hear from you. Thank you for letting me share a little bit of your life and for sharing mine.

If you would like to receive a more personal note from me in your inbox every other week or so, sign up for my friends-letter. It’s short and sweet, I promise, and includes links to recent posts, so they’re easy for you to find.

Encourage one another,


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Emily
    September 14, 2017

    Love this! Working on this with our new life phase. Struggling some with the discipline to get daily chores (for myself haha) done though… oh third trimester fatigue. But I do see the value in it.

    I LOVE a good planner. That one looks awesome too! I am obsessed with the inkWELL press ones: So good.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 14, 2017

      Simple routines for a new mamma may be good for you too. Your daily priorities will be: feed the baby, sleep, eat, drink lots of water, repeat. In between, you can squeeze in a few other things. Eventually, you’ll have time for a bit more.

  2. Rebecca
    September 14, 2017

    I need to do your 2-week dinner rotation. Dinner is my nemesis. And you’re right. It needs to happen every day whether I’m organized or not.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 14, 2017

      I know! It just keeps coming around whether we’re ready or not! A little pre-planning goes a long way.

  3. Emily
    September 15, 2017

    We have started a new routine for Saturday chores that my kids are enjoying. The kids had gotten a little burned out on the “same old assignments” on Saturdays, so we’ve been switching it up the last several weeks with good success. Each Saturday, I make a list of all the chores that need to be done. This starts with a basic, recurring list, and then I can “add-on” whatever special chores need to be done that week. (The trick to this system is making chores of approximately equivalent levels of difficulty, which sometimes involves combining a few related tasks into one line-item.) I count up the line-item chores (single or clusters) and round down a few to divide evenly among my kids at home. Then, I assign each kid a first task to do well. (This gives me the opportunity to give tasks I need done extra well, or ones that are especially challenging, to my older kids.) Then, when that first task is completed, it has to be checked by me before the child is eligible to choose his/her next task. Somehow, the opportunity to self-determine the next cleaning task has really motivated them to do each job well so they can get the “good ones.” I usually list a few more tasks than will be assigned (based on the number each kid is required to do). Then, I take the last 1-2 tasks myself, or my husband helps with them. That way, no one is “stuck” without a choice, and the kids can see us modeling cheerful work at the tasks no one wanted. (Interestingly, these are rarely the same from one week to the next!) This has really worked well for my kids, especially for those with trauma backgrounds, since they like to have choices/options. What I didn’t expect is how much my neuro-typical kids would like it, too. We’ve had less complaining generally, and I call that a win.

  4. Meaghan
    September 20, 2017

    Yes please share your 2 week dinner rotation! Love the ideas. We are a fellow foster family too 😊

    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 20, 2017

      I shared it on my One Thankful Mom FB page in the comments of this post. If you aren’t able to find it there, let me know and I’ll see if I can post it here.

  5. Melissa | The Cork Board Blog
    September 20, 2017

    We’re doing that 2 week meal plan too. It’s so freeing!

    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 21, 2017

      Keeping it simple! And so far, nobody has complained.


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