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Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Who Needs to Be Where When?! Time Management for Families

Time Management for FamiliesTrue story: I once showed up a month early for my son’s parent/teacher conference. Yep, a whole month early. Right “day,” right “date number,” wrong “month.” I knew something was wrong when I pulled into the empty parking lot of the school. I was mortified, though I guess I should have been relieved that only the custodial staff saw me. How does stuff like that happen? I put the wrong date on my calendar and never double checked it, even though I wondered why the teacher hadn’t sent any conference reminders. Lesson learned.

Posting my mortification on Facebook (because I’m a glutton for punishment,) I found out I’m not alone. So many of my mom friends had their own stories of missed appointments, forgotten obligations, instances of showing up at the right place at the wrong time, or even with the wrong kid at the wrong activity or missing the correct gear. And these are wicked smart women too. What is it that’s giving us that “mom brain” where we confuse times, places, even which kid is going to which activity?

What is it that’s giving us that “mom brain” where we confuse times, places, even which kid is going to which activity? Click To Tweet

Why do we do this to ourselves?

We all want to be able to organize our schedules and have the discipline to maintain them on a daily basis, but how? It can be especially frustrating when you have multiple children who each have their own activities that need your participation (most often in the form of a chauffeur). Add in a job, a spouse, maybe even a hobby or side gig, and it’s a recipe for calendar disgrace. Creating a workable schedule can be time-consuming and often results in a frustrating battle with your calendar.

But you need to do it. With the new school year fast approaching, this is the time to get your calendar in order, before the invitations and school events lists start pouring in, demanding even more time. And if your kids are involved in sports, my condolences. Soccer for two boys nearly killed me, so I was relieved when they dropped out. Now I just deal with tons of Scouting events.

Create a calendar system. Use the system. That is why we have systems. Think of it as 'if you build it, they will come.' Or at least, they probably won't be late. Click To Tweet

Tips for setting the calendar

  • Put together a shared calendar. I highly recommend Google calendars. I have a personal calendar, my husband has one, we each have a work calendar and we have a shared family calendar. Even our kids’ schools have Google calendars we can subscribe to. The beauty of Google calendars is that they all show up on one calendar view, color coded according to “whose” calendar it is, even on a mobile device. We even have a Cub Scouts calendar and a Boy Scouts calendar on Google to keep each boy’s activities straight. If you want to keep your activity private, you can set it to show just a colored block marking off your time as unavailable. The key here is that all these calendars can be shared with the appropriate people but seen TOGETHER on one calendar view.
  • Now make your family use it. This may be a little tricky, and it may take some persuasion, but keep at it. My husband will tell me about some event, and I still have to ask him if he put in on the shared calendar. I will not remember. Use the system. That is why we have it. It will remember for you. Include relevant data such as address or phone number for appointments so you don’t have to look that info up again later.
  • Start with your own activities first. The non-negotiable stuff. Your work hours, your spouse’s work hours. Meetings. Business trips. Medical appointments. Get them all on the calendar, not just random sticky notes and business cards lying around with hard-to-decipher dates.
  • Add in your routine kids’ activities, such as music lessons, speech therapy, Scout meetings, sports, swim lessons, whatever you’ve got.
  • As you receive school calendars, event notices, practice schedules, anything, add all relevant information to the shared calendar, including school vacation days, photo day, field trips, band concerts. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, until you put that stuff on the calendar. Double check your work too, to make sure you don’t wind up at an appointment a month early. Like, you know, me.
  • Whenever possible, put like activities together. I have two kids. They always go to the dentist together, on the same day, same time, so I only have to deal with it once. Doctor appointments are always scheduled one right after the other. If I have to drive an hour to Tulsa for a specialist’s appointment, I’ll purposefully schedule anything else that needs to happen in Tulsa for that day, so I can save the drive back and forth. Think of it as batching tasks.
  • Before you add an event, ask yourself if you really want or need to even go. Don’t fill your calendar with stuff you hate just for the sake of doing things. It’s OK to say no and create margin in your days.
  • Keep it current. As events change, get canceled, or new ones are added, update the calendar immediately. If you wait, you may forget.
  • Use it. Please don’t go through all that effort and then never look at it. I check our calendar every night before bed so I know for sure if anything special is needed the next day, any appointments, whether my kid needs his trumpet, if it’s picture day and you don’t want him wearing that shirt, that kind of thing. I also do a weekly review every Sunday, noting activities for the week ahead. Knowing what’s coming is a great way to keep you focused.
  • Adjust as needed. This is my system, and it works for us. Adjust to fit your family’s habits. The key is to set up a system and consistently use it.

Who Needs to Be Where When?! Time Management for Families

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