Monday, August 19, 2013

Managing the Entire Family's Schedules

One of the bigger challenges in having multiple children is keeping everyone's schedules straight. Even just having two children involved in one activity each creates a situation that requires some organization.

There are a lot of ways to go about organizing everyone's schedules. Here are some ideas for you.

Get to Know Yourself
The first thing to do is to get to know yourself and your organization style. You might think, "I am a 30 year old woman! Of course I know myself!" and that might be true. But I know my personal self is ever changing. My self five years ago never would have forgotten about piano lessons, but myself a year ago totally missed a lesson and from that day forward has had an alarm in her phone weekly to remind herself piano lessons were coming up in 15 minutes. As you add children to your family, you will likely need to tweak your methods.

So what do you need to stay organized? How do you function best? Do you like things in your phone? Online calendar? Dayplanner type? Wall calendar? 

Do you not know what works best for you? Or you have a method but it isn't working so hot for you? Let's talk ideas. 

SmartPhone Help
The smart phone really, really helps maintain some organization in the management of the family. You can set reminders in your phone so an alarm goes off when you have something coming up. 

You can also use apps to stay organized. I recently wrote on my favorite apps, including the ones I use to organize us. See that post for full details.

Day Planner
I don't limit myself to the smart phone. As much as I enjoy it, I still have that "old-fashioned" gal in me who likes to have things written down in front of me. Each year, I get a simple one-year calendar from the Dollar Tree. It has each month of the year in a book about the size of a notebook (they also sell some smaller and some larger). I can write everything down in that book and look at the month all at once. There is something about writing things down that helps my brain remember things. This goes back to knowing yourself. My brain remembers better when I physically write things down.

Wall Calendar
This is similar to the day planner idea. I have also used a large desk calendar, which I initially liked, but then it just felt like clutter on my desk so I don't do that anymore.

Something Cutesy
There is no end to the cute ideas on Pinterest. If you search "Family Command Center" you will find hundreds of ideas already pinned. You can check my "organizing" board for ideas: http://pinterest.com/valplowman/organizing/ Here are some of my favorites:

I actually have made one of these--I happened to have this exact frame that I have been hanging on to but not using. It pays to save! lol Here is a link to instructions: http://craftingandquilting.blogspot.com/2012/01/dry-erase-weekly-calendar.html

Pretty self-explanatory. You put scrapbook paper in each frame. You use a dry erase or wet erase to write things on there.

I used a wet erase to write out the day of the week and things that happen every day. I am using a dry erase to add things that are unique to that week. Dry erase erases more easily so I can easily change those out. 

Instead of a "to-do"  rectangle, I have a date rectangle. We track which parent is with which child for our monthly date

Now, don't get stuck on this exact frame if you like this concept. Any collage picture frame would work great. You could also get a bunch of cheap ones at the dollar store and arrange them on the wall (though I bet the money would be close if you bought a collage--even Hobby Lobby seems to have the frames on sale most of the time). You could have one with more picture holders and do days of the week plus one for each member of the family. I really like being able to just look up and see at once what the week holds. 

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Just a few ideas. I have a lot on my organizing board. I have also used the item pictured at the top of this post--it is just a frame with fabric in it instead of a picture.

Plan Ahead
As you are signing up for sports, lessons, and activities, really think through how these things will look in practice. You don't want to need to have one child in one town at 4:00 and another 20 minutes away at 4:10--major conflict! Be sure as you are signing up that you don't double book yourself. 

Team up with other moms with kids the ages of yours and work together. This coming year, I have McKenna signed up to be in a dance class with two of her friends. The other two moms and I are carpooling, so for the entire dance year, I drive only once a month most months, sometimes twice. That significantly cuts down on my time spent and she is still able to go have her fun thing.

Another thing to consider is location of activities. We chose a gymnastics place that is literally right next door to my husband's work. We can sign up for classes at times so he can pick them up on his way home from work. 

Another idea is to double up where you can. Any time your children can be in the same class, on the same sports team, or take lessons together will make your juggling act easier because it turns two balls into one. Brayden and Kaitlyn take piano lessons back to back on the same day. While one has a lesson, the other reads or draws quietly. This means I drive once and pick up once for two lessons.  (and this is a major plug for having children who can sit quietly and entertain themselves).

Any time you can allow yourself to be more flexible with everyone's schedules, you will make the act of managing all of them easier. So carpool, double up, and choose locations wisely so you can make coordinating everyone's schedule as easy as possible.

For more ideas in this frame of mind, see: Managing Baby Plus Older Kids' Activities

Have a Weekly Family Meeting
Each Monday, we do Family Home Evening. During this time, we sing a church song and learn a gospel lesson. We also have our family meeting. During this time, we talk about anything the family needs to discuss, including what is on the schedule for the week. It really helps to verbalize what is going on. It also lets the kids know what is coming up. Kids remember everything (everything convenient). If you say on Monday night that piano lessons are on Wednesday, that is one more person whose brain is on the job of remembering to get to piano lessons on Wednesday.

Conclusion
These are all of the tactics I use to manage all of our schedules. I treat myself like an important computer server--I have back-ups, redundancy, and repeaters. I don't rely on one method to keep information safe. 

What do you do to keep things straight? 

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