Write out schedules on paper or online calendars Who's picking up Susie from soccer practice? How are you going to be at gymnastics and piano lessons at the same time? Everyday scheduling conundrums like these beg the question: How does the serene (working) mom do it? Probably with some of these time-saving strategies! Learn how mothers cope with overloaded calendars and endless to-do lists with tips from Lorie Marrero, professional organizer and creator of ClutterDiet.com.
1. Choose the Right Calendar Yes, you can manage multiple schedules - with the proper tool. Paper planners, such as WhoMi, allow busy moms to organize their work, home, and travel schedules, as well as their spouse's and children's activities, all on one page. Free electronic calendars that consolidate multiple schedules, such as Google and Cozi, are ideal for sharing information between family members. Better yet, these calendars sync with your computer and smartphone. Take advantage of the reminder features to keep you on track on the go.
2. Use Your Calendar Wisely As you enter appointments into your calendar, think about the "to-dos" that come with each. For instance, leave yourself a note if you have to RSVP to a party or register for an event. If you need to buy a gift, purchase a ticket, or book travel arrangements, jot down reminders in your calendar so that all the logistics of an event are in one place. Use the abbreviation "TBD" (to be determined) to reserve a date for which you don't yet have details about the time or place.
Related: 8 Ways to Simplify Your Morning
3. Practice Weekly Planning Sessions Taking even half an hour to plan each week will pay incredible dividends of your time. Brian Tracy, author of How to Master Your Time, says that for every minute you spend planning, you save 10! Sundays are the perfect day to concentrate on planning the five C's: calendar (seeing what events are happening this week), carpool (figuring out who needs to be where and when), cooking (choosing what's for dinner and what groceries to buy), chores (assigning household tasks to a specific person), and children (assessing sitter needs and deciding who is helping with bath time, bedtime, and homework).
Consider limiting your children's activities to one or two for a less hectic schedule …4. Be Choosy About Children's Activities Consider limiting children's activities to only one or two per kid per school year. Imagine how relaxing life could be with only one practice schedule, one weekend game, and one victory party. If your family could use more downtime, consider what type of strategy could help you achieve that goal and share the new activity policy with your kids (and explain the reason behind your decision) before next season starts. Let your children have a say regarding which extracurricular is most important to them. If older kids insist on committing to multiple hobbies, ask them to help pay for a portion of the fees or equipment - it's a surefire strategy for getting them to rethink the importance of each activity.
5. Trade Errand Time with a Friend Carpooling with other families to sports practice or music lessons can cut the time you spend driving and waiting in half. Consider trading afternoons with a friend to run errands. She can watch all the children while you enjoy four hours of much needed alone time. You'll probably have a more productive day than you would with the kids in tow, while they have fun with their friends. (This strategy is a wonderful idea for holiday shopping, too.)
6. Outsource and Delegate Tired of trying to do it all? Don't. Look at your to-do list and consider who else might be able to handle each task. Perhaps your husband could walk the dog and your child could put away the laundry. Or, examine your finances and decide if you can afford to hire extra help. The teenager next door may be a terrific (and inexpensive) resource for mowing the lawn, chauffeuring your kids, or running to the post office.
Establish emergency contacts with friends or family 7. Establish an Emergency Buddy System Ask your babysitter and a friend or relative to be your "in case of emergency" contacts (it's smart to have a back-up for your back-up). Call on them if your child needs a ride and you're stuck in a meeting or at the doctor's office. Designate this person before you are caught in a jam, and agree to trade favors when either of you needs to be bailed out.
8. Set Your Limits Ahead of Time It's easier to say no if you already have a policy in place for yourself. For instance, you could make a plan to abstain from volunteering for a semester (or two). You could agree to be the team mom every other year or decide to chair committees in elementary school, but not middle school. Decide what commitment you're willing to make before you're put on the spot. And, remember, you never have to answer someone immediately. You can say no, strategically, after saying "Let me think about it."
Related: How to Beat Procrastination
9. Get an Earlier Start If you're in love with the snooze button, try resetting your internal clock by going to bed slightly earlier and waking as soon as the alarm sounds. Harmonious mornings start with you; your early rise will give you a stronger sense of being in control of your time. Not convinced? See what a difference just 30 extra minutes can make in the morning. In half an hour, you can eat a peaceful breakfast and start prepping dinner in a slow cooker. You could also shower and get dressed before the kids wake up or read a magazine while exercising on a treadmill.
Start your day earlier to give yourself more time in the morning 10. Develop a Regular Routine Healthy habits are the foundation of good time management, and steady morning and evening routines are no exception. Each morning, decide what you're having for dinner (if you haven't already), move the laundry to the next stage, and empty the dishwasher. Every evening, tidy up the house, run the dishwasher, and set out everything you'll need to get the kids out the door such as backpacks and lunch boxes for a streamlined exit in the morning.
11. Assemble a "While-You-Wait" Bag Even a master planner will inevitably find herself in a situation during which all she can do is wait. Owning a smartphone is conducive to being productive away from home, as you reply to emails, update your calendar, and make a to-do list. But if you don't own a smartphone, make use of downtime by catching up on other tasks. Toss into your purse a good book, thank you notes and birthday cards, or a knitting project. You can also sign permission slips, organize coupons, or play cards with one of your kids while you're stuck at a dance lesson or baseball practice.
What are your best time-saving strategies to help organize your busy schedule? Let me know in the comments!
-by Lorie Marrero
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