Keeping your family on track can be a full-time job. Whether you’ve got young tykes or older tweens, managing schedules is a constant, evolving process. The key to successful organization is communication. Whether you’re the low-tech, kitchen calendar type or in the high-tech smartphone group, setting up the right system will ensure that everyone knows the main events of the day.
To help you get organized, here are our top seven tips for staying on track.
And for more helpful tips, check out Care.com’s Guide to Managing Stress.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Alicia Clark is a big fan of the shared calendar. “The number one recommendation I make to families struggling to keep all the moving parts harnessed,” she says, “is to set up a ‘family calendar.'”
With a shared calendar, everyone can update the information in ‘real-time.’ Use settings to color-code activities, like school events, work or doctor’s appointments, and make easy to-do list creators.
“No longer do I get the calls, Mom, when are you picking me up today?“ adds Dr. Clark. “Instead, my kids are looking ahead and noticing conflicts early enough to forge their own solutions.”
A lower-tech but tried-and-true method of coordination is the dry erase board. Families love it because they can hang it in high-traffic areas like the kitchen and add or delete activities as necessary.
“We rely on our kitchen dry erase,” says Los Angeles-based chiropractor and father Dale Fernandez. “From the school lunch menu to notable events during the week, everyone sees it, and it can be changed on the fly.”
The wall calendar is just as good. Whether weekly or monthly, visual display helps families keep ahead of the schedule and prioritize planned activities. Nanny *Tammy Sanders adds that the boys she cares for have gotten more involved in the family schedule since they started their wall calendar. “I find them looking at the calendar at least once a day, sometimes just to get a grip on the week or look forward to a family vacation,” she says. “It’s exciting to have them involved, knowing they can count on our schedule.”
Calendar Pop-Ups/Email Alerts
A great feature of digital calendars is the pop-up reminder. You can set calendar alerts to notify you of a coming event 5, 10 or 15 minutes in advance, so you stay on schedule. Likewise, digital calendars have an option to email you when an activity is coming up. For those of you who already get too many emails, you may want to use this function sparingly.
One way Fernandez has figured out how to cut through the clutter is to setting up a filtering system for all of his family’s emails. Whenever a family member sends an email to the group, it’s tagged by the family filter so that everyone automatically knows to look out for it. Fernandez also has a “PRIORITY” tag for all emails that require immediate attention.
Since iPhones and Androids are pretty common these days, many families use the automatic syncing system to update family calendars. Smartphones take the work out of ensuring that all calendars are up-to-date. Once you’ve set up a shared family calendar, all phones and computers that are networked to the calendar will automatically refresh whenever you or your family members update the schedule.
Michele Howe, author of “Burden Lifters,” recommends one last review before bed each night to prep for the following day. She touches base with each child to see if anything new has come up that she needs to be aware of. “These steps,” she says, “make a world of difference between frantic scrambling and a morning of peace.”
The key to staying on schedule is figuring out what works best for your family. Some may prefer seeing a hanging schedule that they can update during the day, while others may feel more comfortable with a digital calendar that automatically updates for them. Talk to your family about what makes the most sense for your lifestyle, then customize your system to keep your family on track.
And check out these 5 tips for how to raise an organized child.
*Names have been changed
Tiffany Smith is the director of content and publicity at William Woods University. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And, as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies — that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite.