Updated: Sep 5
As busy moms, having a schedule can help us manager our time better, and get more done during the day. Organizing life with kids can feel like a daunting task, but if you create a predictable schedule, it really helps the whole family!
We all know how messy it can be to juggle kids activities, appointments, work, and a seemingly endless To Do list! Being able to prioritize tasks effectively instead of wasting time staring at a mountain of things that needs to be done can help us get started more quickly, without being demoralized by the sheer amount of things that need to be done in the day.
Here are some tips that have worked out well for our family. In a house with two working parents, a toddler, and teens, there is always a ton going on in our lives.
1. Sharing a Calendar.
One of the things that has helped our family to organize our time better is by using a shared calendar. There are a lot of ways you can do this now, from having a paper calendar in an easy to see place, to using technology to assist in scheduling.
What has worked well for us, is to share our Outlook calendars. We sync all of our calendars, and upload to our Smart Refrigerator, so the calendar is easily visible. It also sends text reminders of important events, and tracks my daughter's work schedule.
Typically, Outlook is what I use for work already, so I have all of my meetings and tasks calendared. If you use Apple or Google, you are able to sync calendars with those as well.
Before we started sharing a calendar, I was forever texting my teen daughter to find out what time she got off of work, or when she would be back from her dad's house, so that we could plan dinners for the week.
Sometimes things would slip through the cracks, like remembering to schedule a dentist appointment, the school play, or a friend's birthday party.
2. Personal Schedule.
For my personal calendar, I block out all of my meetings and appointments in Outlook. I also set aside time in my calendar for tasks that I need to accomplish. I can set reminders for due dates for my work tasks, when reports need to be submitted, and use a task list feature. Outlook is great because it has a web app, and you can sync multiple email accounts to view in one place.
If you are a Gmail or Apple user, there is similar functionality for those as well, as long as everyone is using the same app. Both Outlook mail and Google mail are free as well, so that makes them both budget friendly options. You may want to check what each of your family members is already using, to streamline the process.
Additional To-Do list items, such as my blog post topics, I write in a planner. This can also be helpful for writing down reminders of the big chores that need to be done around the house, like winterizing, changing air filters, or remembering to blow out the sprinklers. I keep a planner book on my desk for work items, and we have a note pad on the refrigerator for the grocery list and shared reminders.
3. Daily Routine.
With kids especially, having some kind of predictable routine helps to ease their transitions between activities, and reduces melt downs when it is time to stop a fun activity and get other things done. For kids, having a routine can reduce anxiety and help them to feel safe and secure.
A daily routine is just as important for us as moms, because when we automate some of the steps we have to do in the day, it can reduce stress for us as well, and help us to be more productive.
I have already written about having a morning routine here: Morning Routine for Busy Moms (millenialmom.net)
Typically, I will start the day with spending an hour getting myself ready, then another hour to get my toddler ready for daycare, before I begin work for the day.
Then, I sit down with my laptop to check my emails, and calendar for what meetings I have. After that, I will start on my daily task list.
4. What Task to Tackle First?
It has been shown in many research studies that it is best to start with the most difficult task on your list first thing in the morning.
"The harder a task is, the more energy and focus we need to complete it. It therefore makes sense to do the hardest and most important tasks early because starting them when you are tired is more difficult and often results in putting them off for another day." (5 Reasons to do that Hard Task Early (innerdrive.co.uk))
Completing your most difficult task first thing in the morning can also help reduce your overall anxiety level, because you aren't dreading all day that you will have to complete that task.
When I was working in an office environment, I would always return my phone messages first thing in the morning. For some reason I irrationally hate returning phone messages, because I don't really know how time consuming it will be, and many times callers didn't leave the reason for their call, which would be highly anxiety producing for me.
Also, there are always things that come up that I like to call "putting out fires" which is basically things that come up as an emergency that have to be prioritized before everything else on your list. Because of this, I usually block off the first half of Monday for putting out fires.
Conversely, by Friday afternoons, we are usually out of energy to get anything difficult done. So, I usually use Friday afternoons for tying up loose ends. I organize my calendar and to-do list for the following week, and sync up my calendar to the family calendar.
5. Evening Routine.
Having an evening routine may be less important than your morning routine, since you are less strapped for time. However I have found that even if you keep some things a bit more flexible, an overall structure does help, especially when it comes to bedtime for little ones!
After work, I go pick my toddler up from daycare. I ask her about her day, and listen to the fun stories about what she did on the way home. Then, I let her pick out what she wants to do, and spend about an hour doing something fun with her.
Sometimes, we play outside, or make a craft or recipe, other times we relax on the couch and watch cartoons. I make this a time that is about her, without my devices on.
Then, we will make something for dinner, to have ready when her dad and sister get home from work. We try to eat dinner as a family most days, so that we can catch up with each other after a busy day of going in different directions. It helps us to reconnect too, since this is a time we can talk together while relaxing and enjoying a meal.
After dinner, we usually pick out a movie to watch together, and relax and unwind on the couch.
Finally, we start our nighttime routine. For me and my partner, that consists of cleaning the kitchen, putting food away, and making coffee for the next day.
While one of us does the cleaning, the other gets our toddler ready for bed. We have her put her pajamas on, take her vitamins, feed her fish, and giver her sister a good night hug.
Then we read a bedtime story snuggled up in bed, and turn in.
6. What about the weekend?
This will probably depend on two factors:
Do your kids participate in sports or weekend extra curriculars?
Do you have errands that have to be done on the weekend?
In our house, we usually start out Saturday morning with cleaning up around the house so that we have a "clean slate" for the weekend. Then, my partner and I talk through what needs to be done that weekend over some coffee on the patio.
If your kids participate in any kind of structured, team sports, you know that your weekend will probably be structured around their practice and game schedule.
Both of my kids have taken gymnastics and swimming lessons over the years, and as a more seasoned mama, I learned that even though the 8am class makes it seem like you will get more done, it is better to do 10am or later.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I like to have my "me time" in the morning. It helps me feel more in control of my day, not like I am rolling out of bed to get the kids ready and shove them out the door.
Second, is for the kids themselves. Kids these days are always on the go, so being able to sleep in a little bit on Saturday morning, or watch cartoons in their pajamas, helps them not to feel rushed either. Childhood is supposed to be fun, and when we leave room for a little bit of spontaneity, it helps kids to relax too.
If you have errands to run on the weekend, that can monopolize a lot of time too. Especially if you have to bring the kids with you, it can be pretty tiring.
We try to usually limit to just a couple of errands each day on the weekend, so that we do still have a little time to relax! Sometimes it is the grocery store, or Home Depot to pick something up for house and yard work. Then, comes the work itself.
These days, I try to have things delivered if possible. I don't really need to look at light bulbs or a bag of dirt to figure out which is the right one. Also, I don't have to drag bored kids through the store. Which greatly reduces my stress level.
Have fun routines too!
Whether it is Friday night drinks with the neighbors around the grill, or Sunday morning brunch, having routines to look forward to helps you get through the week too!
I always try to pick one day out of the weekend to take my kids to do something fun for them. Whether it is the park, a museum, the zoo or a trampoline park, having a couple hours to do something new can help kids learn about the world and to relax a bit.
You can also try setting aside one weeknight for a game night, movie night, or pizza night. We do take out on Friday nights to get a break from cooking, and let our toddler pick what she wants to go get when we pick her up from daycare.
For more tips on scheduling and time management, check out this video!
What scheduling and time management strategies do you use to keep yourself organized? Let me know in the comments what you think! If there are topics you would like me to talk about more in a future post, let me know that too!
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