Time to get organized!
The onset of a new school year brings a whirlwind of extracurricular activities. Between shuttling the kids’ to sports games, dance classes, music lessons and club meetings — not to mention attending school meetings and keeping up with everyday work and household demands, it’s no wonder parents feel overwhelmed. To help you get organized, we’ve rounded up seven great strategies suggested by Circle of Moms members.
1. Digital Calendar Tools
Websites, email applications and smart phone apps can all help you manage a busy schedule. Many moms recommend the Intuition iPhone app or the Cozi Family Organizer website and smart phone app, both of which offer calendars, grocery lists, to-do lists and more. Other moms, including Diana S., opt for color-coded email calendars: “A Google calendar with each person of the family having their own calendar has worked best for me. The appointments are color-coded based on the calendar so I can see at a glance who has what and if anything is going to overlap…Works for me and it's free.” Mybievo.com is another popular calendaring website to consider.
2. Paper Calendars
Not everyone finds digital calendaring to be an improvement over what came before it; in fact many Circle of Moms members swear by their good old fashioned (and detailed) paper calendars. As Tiah H. shares: “I put a big paper calendar up on the wall, it is color coded with highlighters. I use one color for childcare kids, one for sports/activites, one for my husband's stuff, one for school, one for family stuff/ birthdays/ holidays, and another for important bills.”
Theresa J. is another mom who finds a paper calendar helpful: "It has five different spaces under each date to keep track of each individual's events, appointments, etc….It has helped to keep all that stuff together in one spot and easy to read. I just look there and see all that is going on that week, or day."
Chauffeuring kids to and from extracurricular activities is no easy feat, especially when commitments overlap for different family members. Jackie T. recommends organizing carpools: “To make life easier with my 3 kids and all their activities I talk to parents in the same groups as my kids and get rosters happening for driving the kids here and there...These last few months we would not have coped otherwise with just one car and lots of simultaneous stuff going on. Life is so much easier with a bit of cooperation.”
4. Meal Planning
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a chaotic family schedule, start meal planning for the week. As Heather H. relays: "My BIGGEST time saver is planning all meals for the week the Sunday before. I shop for all the groceries and supplies I need for the following week on Sunday." Sarah H. agrees: “I take 20 minutes to go through the refrigerator (also a good time to throw away anything that has gone bad) and pantry to see what I already have on hand. I make my menu accordingly. Don't forget to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day. Then I make my grocery list based on the remaining ingredients…It makes my grocery trip quick and painless, eliminates impulse buys, and saves tons of time.”
5. Establish Routines
“Routine, Routine, Routine,” emphasizes Julie S. “I thrive and my kids thrive when we stick to one.” Tressie S. concurs: “Having a routine for your household chores and career activities (for those who work from home or out of the home) can really help Moms with time management. When you have a good routine, you can do things without thinking, and they always take up less time that way."
6. Rework Your Expectations
The fact is, there is a very real limit to how much you can accomplish in 24 hours. As Candi W. shares: “Sure, it would be nice to have a spotless house, be the president of the PTA, bake homemade bread, volunteer at the local hospital, get a raise and promotion at work, and spend time helping in your child’s classroom. But, of course, it’s not realistic to accomplish all of these things. Decide what’s most important and do that.” Laura A. offers a similar perspective: “Sometimes you have to cut back so you are not exhausted. I had to tell my kids that we could only do two activities per weekday night.”
7. Get Help
What you can’t do, delegate! As Cynthia S. proposed (to a mom with three kids playing on five sports teams), reach out to family and friends to get coverage on extra busy days. "What about another family member to help out in some of the games, maybe a grandma, or an aunt." Or, if you can afford it, consider hiring help. “I cheat,” admits Marcy C. “Not on my husband but on the chores. I hired a cleaning lady. Its $75 every other week and I would marry her if I could...Everyone always says it's too expensive but we eat at home a lot more now and I can pinch pennies here and there to pay for it.”