How to run your family like a business

"Fortune favors the prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur

It probably has something to do with my overly anal-retentive disposition, but this quote resonates with me. In my little upside-down-right-side-up brain, laying groundwork for everything makes life easier. I know this because I remember life before I had a prep day.

I used to fly by the seat of my pants while living on the edge of my seat. It might sound mysterious and exciting, but (truthfully) it was the furthest thing from being either of those two adjectives. The only way I can describe my life pre-prep day would be to call it "organized chaos." I couldn't keep anything together, I had no sense of organization and I was lucky to remember what kid had what project or extracurricular due on what day -- and I'm not Octomom, I only have three of the little buggers. Eventually, I wised up, got on the to-do list train and derailed my bad habits using three simple strategies.

Pick a day, any day

I pinned down Sundays as my dedicated prep day because that is what works for me.

Every Sunday, like clockwork, I set aside 15 - 30 minutes to review and adjust the family calendar. I input all recurring events, one-time meetings and doctor's appointments and then send official appointment requests to each member of my family using Outlook, so that the appointment and confirmation is automatically added to their smart phones, online calendars and email boxes.

Pretty clever, huh?

Nowadays, I miss nothing and nothing escapes the clutches of the little electronic appointment book. I leveraged my (and my family's) love of technology to my organizational advantage.

I made a 'pending' folder

The next item on my Sunday to-do list is an item I aptly named, "Clean out the pending folder." The pending folder is exactly what it sounds like. It is an ordinary, garden-variety folder stuffed with bills, lists, receipts, t-shirt order forms, high school graduation fundraiser information and school notices relevant to the following week. It's a catchall folder, but it isn't as anarchic as it might sound.

The trick was getting my family to adopt the pending folder. They had to be trained. (I used cookies.) The concept works like this: If anyone in my house wants or needs something, they put that request in mom's inbox, i.e. pending folder. Then, for 20 minutes on my Sunday, I sit down and tackle one thing at a time. I pay bills, write letters, write checks for the kids' stuff and I stay as organized as a German bakery in the process. When I'm done, the pending folder is empty and ready to be re-stuffed with things for next week.

Meal planning

Once I map out my weekly budget and appointments, it's easy for me to make a meal list that compliments my brood's busy lifestyle.

For instance, when my daughter has a National Honor Society event on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., I decide that is a perfect day for crock-pot chili. I put the vittles on in the morning and we come home to a ready-to-devour dinner after her event, no muss and no fuss. On a day where there's not a lot going on, I can take some extra time to make fare that is a touch more complicated. This helps me avoid the weighty calories that go with eating out on the fly and slashed my food expenses in the process.

Are you starting to see the benefits of a prep day?

If you ask me, fortune favors the prepared, and the prepared can (also) save a lot of dough on anti-anxiety drugs to boot. My prep day saved my sanity, and I'm pretty sure it can save yours, too.

Do you prep? How do you do it?

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