Learning how to keep your family on schedule is not always easy. Throw in a few kids, pets, a full time job or a two career household and things can get pretty chaotic. From getting the kids to where they need to go, to feeding them, keeping the house a level above condemnation and finding a few minutes of time with your significant other, it can all fall apart quickly without keeping your family on schedule in some fashion.
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My husband and I both work full time in fairly demanding jobs and we have two kids – one preschooler and one teen. Sometimes we work late or have to go in early. Sometimes we have to travel for our jobs. Every day can be a struggle, but we try to have a plan to help reduce the chaos and keep our family organized.
A few years ago, we realized our off-the-cuff approach to our daily lives just wasn’t going to work for the long term. We came up with a few ideas to help make every day a little more organized and a little less crazy. While we have a basic routine, we aren’t able to stick with it 100% of the time. It’s not perfect. It doesn’t always work. But it’s real life for us.
Here are a few of our tips on how to keep your family on schedule:
Set up a shared digital calendar
Having an online shared family calendar is extremely helpful for keeping us all on schedule. We all have the Google calendar app on all of our phones. When a work dinner pops up, I put it in “The Google.” When Ava’s theater director adds a rehearsal day, she puts it in “The Google.” When Chuck has to run space on a weekend, he puts it in “The Google”.
You can set up recurring events, all day events, appointments, vacations, days off, pay days, the list is endless. You can even add notes and URLs and directions to places we need to go. We have all found this much more effective than written calendars because we can synch up everything instantaneously. For now Google shared calendar works for us, but we are looking into others, like Cozi, to better schedule our lives.
Have a weekly family meeting
One of the best ways we keep our family on schedule is through a weekly family meeting. Each Sunday evening, we sit down and run through “The Google” (see paragraph above). Our family meeting focus is on a weekly and monthly lookahead schedule. At the first meeting of each month, we look ahead for the next six months. This helps so much with planning vacations and making sure we use our paid time off from work effectively.
Keep a simple to-do list
There is a vinyl chalkboard on our fridge for us to scribble last minute tasks, events, grocery needs and random reminders. Since our fridge is stainless and magnets won’t stick to it, this is the next best thing. Plus, it keeps wall space uncluttered. Everyone passes through the kitchen multiple times a day and keeping our list on the door of the fridge ensures all eyeballs see it frequently. Of course, that doesn’t mean the items on the list actually get done … But knowing about last minute things that need to be done in a quick and easy location makes staying on schedule so much easier.
Be consistent with who picks up and who drops off
If you can find a way to be consistent with who picks up and who drops off your kids each day, it will help alleviate some stress and keep you all on schedule.
For the longest time, Chuck and I would take turns picking up and dropping off the kids depending on who was available. This led to some minor mishaps from lapses in communication and it just wasn’t working for us. It took several years to find what works, but we have a pretty good method now. Since Chuck likes to go in early and I like to go in late, he takes Evan to daycare and I take Ava to middle school each morning. We are very consistent with that. The only time it changes is when one of us has to work a different schedule or we are on travel.
Pick up is a little bit of a mess still. We often find ourselves frantically texting each other to coordinate picking Evan up from daycare. My meetings run late, his tests don’t go well – there is always something. But Evan is rarely the last kid left at the end of the day so we aren’t failing completely.
Being on schedule is an art, not a science
As a busy family on the go, finding ways to stay on schedule isn’t necessarily easy. Throw in random work travel and late meetings and you will see how important it is to get everyone in synch. We have found that using digital shared calendars, weekly family meetings, simple and accessible to-do lists, and a bit of consistency helps keep us on track.
But we aren’t perfect. We still have work to do to maintain the daily habit of scheduling things, and our family meeting game is way off lately. I’m working on a standard agenda for our meetings that will help us stay focused, but “working on” and “doing” are two different things. Being on schedule as a family really is an art, not a science. As you can see, I’m doing the best that I can. I am an average mom at best, but I’m super at being average.
What have you found that keeps your family on schedule? Do you use any similar tools? I’d love to hear how these tips work for you if you choose to try them out.