If I could have just one dream job, it would be to make schedules all day for people, organizations, schools. My brother recounted recently my endless charts I would work on as a child against which the whole rest of my family would rebel. In my personal life, I feel like I've created many failures with them in the past. It's from those that I've learned what I'm about to share with you. Hope this helps someone. :)
1- Set goals/priorities before you set times.
Write down what you want to accomplish with your day. Then realize it will be more than you are able. Once you start plugging that list into time slots, you'll realize it won't all fit. That's OK! Rotate things, or just cross it off your list for a different season of life. God gave you 24 hours. He doesn't expect you to do more than what will fit into those! If you expect that of yourself, throw that expectation out! It's just not happening. Later, when your kids are older, when you're in a different season of life, you may have time for it. Make sure you have room for your FEW biggest non-negotiables.
2- Keep what's working.
Don't change your whole routine around every time one little thing isn't working. The parts of your day that run smoothly you want to keep like that! If it ain't broke, don't fix it. ;)
3- Margin, margin, margin!
There are many ways to include margin into your day. Here's how I do it. We have 3 30 min blocks in our morning school time. 2 of those take only 20 min to complete, usually, but I keep them in a 30 min slot. I schedule breaks throughout the day. Lunch break is 1 hour. It takes us 15-20 min to eat. Since my kids are still young (4 & 7), they need that extra time. We have other breaks scheduled throughout the day. Another thing I do is have large of blocks of time with a list to complete. 5-6 chores within a 3 hour slot. I don't schedule each one individually. Some weeks some of those chores don't need doing. Other weeks I don't even have time to get to them all. Most of the time, when I stay on top of things, they take an hour, and I get the rest of the time to work on projects I want to do, read, etc. The reason you need margin is so you don't stress when unexpected things (a.k.a. small children, or humans in general) come up.
4- Keep adjusting
For some reason, once my schedule was set, I thought it was admitting failure to change it (and I'd change the WHOLE thing, see #2 above.) It's really not; it's life. Something in your schedule won't work out right. Expect it. Sit down every few weeks for a few minutes & tweak it. This is why I write mine in pencil instead of typing it out on pretty paper & posting it up like I used to. (3 weeks in, it would be a mirror of my failure, staring me in the face, haha!)
5- Get up in time to feel on top of your day, instead of vice versa!
This is something I just started, and I am hesitant to even write about it yet. From the time my oldest was born until very recently, I never woke up before my kids. Ever. They were my alarm clock. Giving myself just 15 extra minutes is life changing. And I don't even know that I should have been doing it all along (definitely not when they were still waking throughout the night!). Maybe this is just the time in my life where God wanted me to start. It is a game changer for me and the rest of my day. The exact time will be different for everyone. This is helping me stay motivated.
On the other end of this, have a bed time. I go to bed to read about an hour before I want to be asleep.
6- Flex time
Flex time is time set aside to make up for what's been missed because of unforeseen things that come up. Think of inclement weather days at school. If there's inclement weather, that day is set aside to make it up. If there isn't, it's a day off! Flex time added to each day, each week, and to days of school if you homeschool can help to add more margin. Another way to use it is to designate less important lessons or times as Flex Times. When I taught, I would set aside 2 weeks in each subject as flex time. Those lessons were the least important things I was teaching that year, so it was no big deal if we didn't get to them. I would move more important things into that spot as needed. That was so helpful the year Hurricane Ike swept through Houston & left us out of school for 2 weeks! I have 2 Flex Weeks at the end of each home school year for sicknesses, and we get those weeks off if we don't need them!