17 September 2010

iPhone app helps keep household routines in order

HomeRoutines iPhone App

So many parents (and kids, actually) rejoice in Fall's return to structure. The predictable daily and weekly rhythm that comes with the school schedule works for many. Not me. I love the openness of summer. I love waking up whenever I wake up and asking the kids, "what do you want to do today?" I operate best on a loose routine with lots of room for spontaneity.

But now that I'm juggling Parent Hacks, home schooling, parenting, domestic life and my own personal priorities, it has become impossible to wing it. Ironic: without some planning, the little time open for spontaneous adventure gets wasted looking for my keys, or scrambling to make dinner, or stressing over an upcoming deadline. Bottom line: adding routine to my life is no longer an option. It's a necessity.

I've been trying to establish household routines for some time now. I've read Getting Things Done, I've joined and rejoined Flylady. Both offer fantastic advice. But I've got an inner rebel that resists these systems, and I have a hard time sticking with them.

I've been using the to-do app Things for the last six months, and it has been a great help for knocking out the one-off tasks in my life. But where I struggle most is routine...the stuff I need to do every day or week to keep life running smoothly. Sorting the mail. Making sure the kids' taekwondo uniforms are washed before class. Changing the towels. The stuff that one would think would just be rote by now. But it's not. And it's driving me nuts.

Somehow I stumbled upon HomeRoutines, an iPhone app designed specifically for these sorts of tasks. This simple app lets you set up routines for anything -- household chores, times of day, anything -- and then schedule them to appear. When you check off something on your routine, you get a gold star...a lovely legitimation of work that often goes unrecognized. Routines can automatically reset -- or not -- as you like.

It's such a basic concept, but the implementation is great, and it looks to be just what I need. I set up routines for morning, afternoon, and evening, for Parent Hacks writing, and even for my weekly errands. At first, my inner rebel felt hemmed in by what felt like another to-do list. But I'm starting to feel my mind clear...creative thoughts are emerging that had been buried under the clutter of remembering mundane details.

I'm also detecting patterns and places where I can refine my routines. Turns out life is better when I empty the dishwasher before I go to bed (when I'm tired) rather than in the morning, when I'm trying to get kids ready for school and my mind is bustling with ideas for the day.

It's hard. This is no quick fix. I have to remember to look at my iPhone (perhaps set an alarm each morning?). I have to think of these routines as my helpers, not my taskmasters. And I have to be patient with myself...often the biggest challenge. But I'm trying.

If you're a Flylady follower, HomeRoutines fits perfectly with the system's focus on routines and cleaning "zones." The app also contains a simple to-do list and space for a daily message. I'm sticking with Things for my to-dos as my list is long and full of different contexts, but not everyone needs or wants that level of detail. Overall, HomeRoutines is totally worth the price: $4.99 at the iTunes App Store.

Do you have any tricks or tools that help you remember your routines? Does thinking systematically come naturally to you or do you (like me) need help?

Your comments

Thank you for sharing this. I've been letting much of the housework slide since we moved into our new house because the routine has all changed. Hopefully this lovely simple app will get things back in order.

Is there anything similar to this for Android?

I don't know! Anyone? I'll also put it out to the folks on Twitter for input.

A quick scan of the Productivity section on AppBrain.com doesn't reveal anything really like what's described here.

I'm going to look into noodles and MyTasks (free versions to start) and see how close they are.

EDIT Oh, and Astrid

Homeroutines is wonderful; together with the flylady it's revolutionised my life for the better; couldn't agree with yr positive review more!

I use Chore Hero in a similar way. :)

Intuition: Mom's Assistant is a great free app that helps me keep all the things I need to do in one handy app. I really like the grocery list and the ability to search for a store where ever you are. Visiting a friend and need to stop at a particular store? It will check the area for the nearest location. You can view tasks via categories or by date and it will alert you when something is past due. I use it everyday. Visually, it's pretty to look at too : )

I have a similar setup, but being a tightwad, I'm using Simplist Free. I've got my day laid out in AM, afternoon, and evening, as well as my weekly and monthly lists. It helps immensely... when I remember to use it!

I would absolutely love to post some more detailed reviews of these apps, especially by people who are enthusiastic users. If you're interested, email me (asha at parenthacks) with HOME ROUTINE APPS in the subject line.

Are there other groups/programs out there like Flylady? I am, yet again, trying to follow her. I swear that I am selling my soul to her in exchange for a clean house. I also am a huge routine rebel. I clearly need help. Please. Hire me a maid.

Oh, and I don't have a fancy smart phone, so while the aps look lovely, not something that I could ever use.

Maids are good. But the key here, which I am finally getting, is to START SMALL. Seriously. Like with ONE item in your routine. For me, just writing down the routines I already have in place helps. Then I can just do them for a few weeks, not changing anything, just noting how the days goes when I follow vs. when I don't.

With that data in mind, making ONE routine change feels helpful, not oppressive. I'm less likely to rebel. My earlier mistake was to try to follow a complete routine out of the gate. Too hard, not fun, and totally brought out my counterproductive "you're not the boss of me!"

Now every time I hear that voice, I try to counter it (sometimes out loud) by saying these routines are my friends. They are my helpers. They are my little benevolent worker gnomes. The more I can picture friendly, fuzzy creatures the better I do.

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