Time Management Tips: Planning An Entire Families Schedule

Use these tips to help coordinate your families busy schedule.

Planning a schedule for a large family is no easy trick. This is especially true if, like me, you have children of different ages who are involved in a number of activities. But with a little organization, you can arrange a schedule to meet everyone's needs, giving everyone equal time, and making sure that you don't get over-booked.

GET A MASTER CALENDER

Personal day planners and calendars are fine for every member of the family to have, but it a busy family, there should be a master calendar. This can be a large calendar for the wall, or an office desk-blotter calendar, so that you can see everyone's activities at a glance.

To avoid confusion, one person should be in charge of organizing, up-keeping, and making changes to this calendar. This person should be able to keep it neat and remember to check and update it regularly. Instruct the other people of the house to write their schedule changes on a post-it note and stick it on the calendar until the person in charge of it can make the changes.

Make sure everyone learns to check the schedule before committing to any appointment or new activity. A good way to start the day is to have everyone take a look at the calendar, so that they will know what is coming for the day.

PRIORITIZE AND ARRANGE ACTIVITIES

Before you begin scribbling activities into their slots, you need to sit down and make a list of everyone's activities. Prioritize all the scheduled activities, listing those of most importance at the top. The least important, or those that can be shifted to different days or times, come last.



Take note of any activities that conflict. Decide which of them are fixed events that cannot be changed. If one can be changed, see if you can reschedule it. If neither can be changed, decide which is most important, then drop the other one. If both are important, figure out if an arrangement can be made. Can one child take the bus? Can you call other parents and get one child a ride? Try to work all of this out before putting anything on the master schedule.

FILL IN YOUR SCHEDULE

Begin filling the activities into the master schedule. Keep in mind traveling time between activities. Decide ahead of time if a particularly busy day will call for some rearranging, or if you can have take-out dinner on that day, or do something to make the schedule easier.

I've found that it helps to color-coordinate the calendar. I have assigned each member of the family a specific color of ink, and use black when referring to the entire household. Alternately, you might want to use a different color ink for different types of activities. For example, one color for sport/club meetings, one color for medical appointments, one color for parties, one color for errands, etc.

STRIKE A FAIR BALANCE

Some children love a vast array of different activities, while others need only a few. Make sure that none of the children dominate the schedule. Even if all of the activities they want to do are worthwhile, it is just not fair to the rest of the family to do a great deal of running back and forth, or to loose a lot of a parent's time so that parent can be a chauffeur. Try to even it out so that everyone gets an equal share of time, while still leaving open time for unexpected events and free time.

If one or a few people seem to be monopolizing large chunks of the calendar, have them decide which activities are most important to them. Then, discuss them dropping others, or finding other arrangements for transportation.

Don't leave parents off the list. Children need and enjoy their activities, but busy parents also must have some time to themselves to pursue their interests and social life. Don't easily sacrifice all your time so that your son can join one more sport team, or your daughter can take one more karate class. Make sure parents are getting their equal time as well.

BE REALISTIC

You can't do everything, or be in two places at once. Teach your children that it is important to balance the schedule so that no one's needs are being neglected. Learn to say no to new activities if time does not allow for it. There should be at least two days or more that you can keep open, in case you have to schedule an emergency errand or appointment.

If disagreements arise, have a family discussion. Try to find a way to meet the most urgent needs, make a fair trade, or discuss any other ways to fit the items in question into the schedule. Also discuss the possibility of dropping less important things for someone who wants to add something new.

Be sure to explain the importance of free time to your children. Tell them that, despite all the wonderful things they might want to do, they need time for homework, free play, chores, rest and relaxation.

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