Streamline as much as you can to free up brain power.

An A-Z Guide: S is for Streamline

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Are you overloading your brain by making tons of little decisions throughout the day? You might want to streamline parts of your life if you’re overwhelmed with those decisions like I used to be. I spent too much time answering questions like:

  • Mom, what’s for dinner?
  • Why do I have to unload the dishwasher today? I did it yesterday!
  • Can I pick the bedtime story?
  • I’m hungry, what’s for lunch?
  • What chores need done now? Can’t I just go play?
  • I’m hungry, what can I eat for a snack?

And on and on. The questions were constant, and so repetitive. Many involved food.

Every single time I got asked a question, I had to stop and think. I made decisions on the fly. Consistency wasn’t possible, because it took too much brain power.

It took so much time to get back on track after answering a question, and my productivity was down.

Something had to change!

Brain Research

As I was brainstorming tactics, I remembered something important I learned during a class in college. Research has shown the brain can only focus on so many things at one time.

That’s why a child who struggles to decode words while reading typically doesn’t do as well at comprehension. Their brain is so focused on what the words say it can’t also focus on what the words mean. Give the struggling child an easier book, and the struggle to comprehend goes down. The brain can shift its focus.

I needed a way to make decisions easier for my overworked brain.  It was time to streamline parts of my life.

What to Streamline?

Before I could make changes, I needed a list of candidates for streamlining. I took notes throughout a day on questions my kids asked, and tasks I wasted time in doing. I took time to ask my kids what they thought were areas we could do better. My questions to them included:

  • What is your favorite part of the day?
  • What’s your least favorite part?
  • Why?
  • How could we make it better?
  • Are there any other areas we can improve?

Using information from my brainstorm and notes, and the data from the kids, I made a list of areas to streamline. I picked two to start with, because of the amount of impact they’d have.

But, after talking to my husband, I also gave each of my kids a day. On their day, they get extra responsibilities along with extra perks. These include:

  • Special time with me during sibling play time
  • Picking the bedtime story
  • Helping me cook
  • Preparing the snack
  • Licking the spoon when I make something yummy
  • Picking the meals for the day (as part of our meal planning)
  • Selecting the activity for family play time
  • Getting 1/2 hour of Wii during quiet time

This simple process of assigning a day to my kids allowed me to streamline many decisions. If I need extra help with something, I call the person of the day. When it’s time to pick something, I don’t have to try to remember who did it last time. The person of the day picks.

So simple!

Streamline the Meals

Once we had a day in place, it was time to move on with my streamlining efforts.

I spent way too much time figuring out what we were going to eat. This led to spending way too much money on groceries and last-minute eating out plans. Not good.

So our meals needed some streamlining. I’m not a meal planner by nature. I didn’t do it for many years, because I hated sitting down each week and figuring it out. That method didn’t work for me.

An annual meal plan, on the other hand, works beautifully. I let the kids each pick what we’d eat for breakfast, lunch, and snack on their day. Then they each picked a theme for dinner.

It’s helped so much! Everyone knows what to expect. I know to pull meat out of the freezer or take care of other meal prep during the day because I know what we’re eating. No more last-minute frantic searches through the cupboard.

Streamline the Cleaning

My cleaning schedule prior to streamlining didn’t exist. Things would just sort of go along until I realized we could no longer see the floor or the table. Then I’d yell for everyone to come help and we’d get that mess taken care of.

We went along again until another mess took over an area. It was a vicious cycle.

I knew cleaning had to become a habit, so I wasn’t only dealing with a big mess. So we started brainstorming. Inspired by the book Large Family Logistics (<= aff. link), I set up a basic cleaning schedule for each day of the week. It’s been tweaked many times over the years, but basically we focus on one major area of our house each day.

This maintenance cleaning really limits the number of huge messes we see. Each of us has a task for cleaning in every area, and as long as we stay on top of our chores, the house stays fairly livable.

Chore Blocks

Another change I made was to create chore blocks. Remember the flexible blocks of time I mentioned in this post? Here’s a more information on them.

We have a couple of chore blocks in our house. During the summer, I help each child learn their chores for the upcoming school year. Then, they keep their chores until the next summer.

By only changing chores once a year, my kids are able to master a task. They take responsibility for their chores, and if it isn’t done correctly, they know it’s something they need to do better.

So each summer we assign tasks for:

  • Morning chores
  • Table chores
  • Farm chores
  • Afternoon chores

The afternoon chores piece is where we each do a task in our area of the day.

Streamlining chores has helped so much in keeping our house maintained. So has decluttering. But that’s a different subject altogether!

When you streamline, you free up brain power and time. It's been a game changer as I work from home with kids. Benefits to Streamlining

It took some time for us all to get on board with the changes. But, after about two weeks, here’s what I noticed:

  • My kids asked fewer repetitive questions.
  • When a question about food/cleaning/activities popped up, I had an immediate answer.
  • Because I knew the answer and didn’t have to stop to think, my focus remained on the task at hand.
  • When a question that really needed me to stop and think was asked, I instantly recognized it as one and could stop and give it my attention.
  • The house was staying cleaner.
  • There was less arguing.
  • My kids knew what to expect.
  • I had the energy to be consistent.

These benefits have been long-lasting, and taking the time to streamline made such a positive difference in our household!

Streamlining also occurs in my business, in the form of processes. But, I saw the most benefit in streamlining household tasks.

What Do You Streamline?

I just covered a couple of ways streamlining has helped free up my brain. I know there are other areas I need to work on still.

What are you streamlining to get more time?

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Mompreneur - Freelance Writer & VA, Blogger at Lisa Tanner Writing

Lisa Tanner loves helping busy moms find time to grow their own business. As a homeschooling mom to nine, she knows a thing or two about balancing diapers and deadlines.