Those of us with little kids face a very big challenge -- staying organized. With little time and varying schedules (no two seem to be alike) it's essential to stay on top of the must-dos. It's also important to be realistic about what can actually be accomplished and try to find some time to relax, mellow out, or do something just for the fun of it..or do nothing at all. (Sounds strange but yes, sometimes you have to set aside time to do nothing.)
But how to even start sorting through the madness and deciding what's what before you have to run off to soccer class or ballet practice or, heaven forbid, the grocery? Well, rather than trying to keep it all in your head, or assuming your spouse or kids know what they are supposed to be doing, why not put it all down in one place, in writing, where everyone can consult it? You know what we're talking about: a family calendar.
Yes, they seem a little micro-managerial, and yes, they are often the type of thing you see at an office, but why not in your kitchen, too? Calendars -- specifically the dry erase kind -- are a great way of looking at a whole month so you can all see the big picture and not just the tiny details of how to get through a day. But, there are better ways than others to put together a calendar, ways that ensure your family will continue to use it. Putting together a useful and effective family calendar doesn't have to be a daunting task when you break it down into five easy steps. And all of this begins with step one: the family powwow.
This means everyone brings their stuff and their ideas to the dinner table the week before the new month is set to begin to have a discussion about needs and desires. If there's a business trip scheduled or a class project due, now is the time to bring it up to make sure it can be recorded on the calendar and thought can be given to how much prep time will be required to manage it. Need to call in a relative to help out with the kids while the spouse is out? Need to research the Big Bang Theory? Talk it out step-by-step, together, and mark down all the necessaries on the calendar.
Most schools give out a monthly calendar (or perhaps they do it at the beginning of the semester), so knowing what your kids and therefore you are responsible for should be relatively easy. Looking at things ahead of time and discussing them with the whole family can bring to light any questions about a project or class trip that can be addressed with the administration so you're not scrambling at the last minute.
Adults (and many teens) keep their calendars electronically. This is wonderful and a great step toward being organized and independent, especially for a young adult, but it doesn't take into account what's going on with the rest of the family. Yes, it can seem redundant to keep a written calendar in addition to the one on your teen's Droid, but it will be worth it when the phone gets misplaced or she just totally forgets about that seriously mega-important thing because of all the myriad other things going on in her life.
OK, so now everyone has presented what has to happen. Step two, assign everyone a color and stick with it, each person adding his or her requirements for the month to the calendar. Keep a key handy in case everyone can't remember what his or her color is. And, yes, while it's important for each person to record his or her needs in order to assign it importance and accept responsibility for it, the littlest kids can have mom or dad write everything in for them. After all, it's going to be you shuttling everyone to hockey practice, right?
Step three is to then talk about what other things might be accomplished during the month. Are there any chores or around-the-house projects that any one family member or the group might want (or need) to undertake? Is it reasonable to expect they'll be accomplished within the month? Or is the project ongoing, in which case what steps would be included in the current month (e.g., pricing and purchasing material). This step is especially important for those of us working with a budget!
Step four is to plan fun stuff. Yes, we mean it. You and your family should, even on a budget, try to have as much fun together as possible each month and should make it a priority to search out and make time for something non-work or school-related each month. Are there any seasonal or holiday activities coming up? Free stuff at the library or science center? Maybe you just want to have a picnic in the park or a camp out in your living room or make a special meal. Give everyone who is capable the task of researching and suggesting one fun family activity, present it at the meeting and then mark it down on the calendar.
From here you should be able to see where there are gaps, if any, for quiet time, nothing at all, or to perhaps move something from one date to another. And the nice thing about a calendar is that it's not just a list of to-dos; instead you'll have designated days and plenty of time to work everything in.
Now, for step five: DO IT. The only way to see if your calendar and methodology is going to work is to execute the plan, and then adjust accordingly. Sometimes a project takes two weeks instead of one. Sometimes things needs to be rescheduled.that's life, right? If you purchased a dry-erase calendar no problem! And, if you're like some families we know, you'll enjoy marking things off the calendar as they are accomplished (even if it's taking a bubble bath!).
Everyone, regardless of age, likes to feel that he or she has the time to do things that are required but also just fun, and everyone needs time to him or herself. By using a family calendar each month, everyone should feel fully and equally important. Plus, you'll get all your stuff done. Then it's on to the next month, which is as easy as a swipe of a paper towel. Which is to bring up a possible sixth step. Sometimes the only thing better than accomplishing everything you set out to do in a month is to wipe the slate clean.
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