My kids are super busy. It is not uncommon for all three of them to have to be somewhere completely different at the exact same time—often when The Maestro and I are not even available to get them there. Despite my efforts to make the schedule more sane, I simply don’t have control over the whole world.
Why don’t I have control over the whole world?
Suffice it to say, I spend a lot of time figuring out how to get my kids to and from their various activities and even more time in the car driving them back and forth. I am essentially a taxi driver, though my children have yet to tip me a single penny.
It used to be enough for me—the mom—to keep track of the girls’ schedules in my own planner. I have a great planner that I love (to see it, click here: Mom on the Go Planner). It keeps me organized, I know where my kids and husband need to be at all times, and I can easily see double-bookings and figure out how to deal with them.
Related: Why Everyone Should Use a Paper Planner
But then my kids started getting busier and busier and I realized that it wasn’t enough for me to know where they needed to be. They needed to know where they needed to be and they needed to be able to have access to that information whenever they needed it.
In order to restore happiness and sanity to our home, I needed to do something. One choice would be to just make them quit all of their extracurricular activities so my afternoons weren’t spent chauffeuring them all over town. They could sit at home staring at electronics, right? Who cares about the exercise they get while doing sports and the talents they are developing in music and dance lessons? But no, I may be overscheduled as the mother/chauffeur/taxi cab driver, but each individual child is not overscheduled, and it is important to me for my children to develop talents and do worthwhile activities, so quitting isn’t really an option.
Related: Should You Let Your Kid Quit Music Lessons?
I tried to convince my children to use their own planners, but Bria protested that it was too difficult because she’d have to open it. Same with a Google Calendar. Heaven forbid that she would have to touch an icon on her phone or open a book to find out what was on her schedule for the day! And even though she opens many books and opens even more apps on a daily basis, I bit my tongue and figured out a better way.
I decided to go totally old-school and get myself a family calendar. I opted for a magnetic whiteboard/corkboard combo (to see the one I purchased, click here: Dry Erase Calendar), so I guess it wasn’t too old-school, after all.
I hung it in the kitchen, which is the hub of activity in our house, and it has since contributed to the happiness of our home in a big way. We’ve been using it now for about 4 months, and I only wish I would have put it up sooner.
In that four months I’ve learned a thing or two about how to use this calendar for good. Believe it or not, it actually has magical powers for keeping things running smoothly in this household when we use it effectively.
4 Tips for Using Your Family Calendar Effectively
1. Become a serial color coder
Oh how I love color coding things! I used to do this in my planner, but then it became too difficult to carry around five different colored pens with me all the time. I find it annoying to have to write the name of the kid who is doing the activity in my planner, though. I still do it because I’m too lazy with the pens. But on the calendar I can color code to my heart’s content because the markers are just in the kitchen drawer.
I’ve assigned each of my daughters a color, and I write their activities in that color. When they sometimes share activities I write the time in one color and the activity in the other (Bria and Chloe both run cross country, for instance, and the middle school and high school sometimes do the same meet). If the whole family is involved in an event, it is written in black.
Easy, peasy. And the kids LOVE this color system—bonus!
2. Put your calendar where people will actually SEE it
While I don’t really love the aesthetic appearance of the whiteboard calendar and would much rather hang it in my office, nobody would ever look at it there. So, I hung it in the kitchen where my children practically live when they aren’t at school. They look at it at breakfast time and know what’s coming that afternoon. They look at it at dinner time, just before bed, and every other time they are in the kitchen. They see it. They edit it themselves if necessary. They are aware of their own schedules.
And I am a happier mom.
3. Have a strategy for the events that aren’t happening this month
The one drawback to this type of calendar is that it holds one month and a few days. That’s it. You can’t pencil in the doctor’s appointment you made that is still two months away, so you are going to have to come up with a system to remember these types of things.
My system is three-fold: I mark calendar items in my email, I write upcoming events in my planner, and I put appointment cards on the cork board under the whiteboard calendar. At the beginning of each month, I go through each source with a fine-toothed comb and make sure I haven’t missed anything.
This doesn’t mean I never miss anything, but I feel like I catch the important stuff, and we are much less frenetic. There’s nothing worse than making a dentist appointment six months in advance, losing the card, and then having to rearrange your schedule entirely when you get the reminder call the day before. Know when those appointments are and have a system for getting them on the family calendar when it’s time.
4. Make the calendar the new household know-it-all
The best thing about the calendar is that I don’t have to dig out my planner (or, worse, memorize the entire schedule) every time my kids want to know when their violin lesson is this week. Now when they ask I simply say, “I don’t know—go look at the magical family calendar in the kitchen!”
And they do.
I may not ever be able to control the entire world, but now I know how to keep the family scheduling crisis in control at the Overstuffed house. It makes me so happy that I guess I can do without controlling the world after all.
This post is part of my 31 Days to a Happier Home series.
To see all the posts in this series, click here: 31 Days to a Happier Home
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