5 Ways to get a busy family organised
5 Ways to get a busy family organised By Jen Robinson at Life Wrangling
Sometimes getting everyone ready and organised for the various events in our lives can be such a battle that we wish there was a better way of doing it. Have you ever found yourself wondering why it is that something that normally takes the children 10 minutes to do can take them 45 minutes when you are in a hurry? This used to frustrate me terribly. It seemed to me that the more I tried to hurry them up, the slower they would go. My efforts only resulted in upsetting them and frustrating myself and I didn’t see any significant improvements in our situation. Over time however, I have learned some useful strategies that have streamlined our routines and reduced my stress so that getting things done is not such a difficult task.
1. Use a calendar
A calendar is such a useful tool, it would be impossible for my house to function without one. I am such a fan that I actually use a number of different calendars for different purposes. The calendar in the kitchen is primarily for menu planning and reminds me which meat I need to get out of the freezer in the morning so that it is ready to cook that night. This calendar also records school events such as sport lessons and library days so I am able to remind the children to pack the equipment required for any given day. I also have a digital calendar on my phone on which I record all of my personal appointments, bill payment dates, special events and anything else I need an alert for. I set some of my alerts to notify me a day in advance and some just an hour early depending upon what it is I need to remember to do or where it is I need to be. My husband and I can also share items on this calendar which helps reduce the chance of becoming double booked and agreeing to something which clashes with another event we already have. This has saved our bacon on a number of occasions.
2. Pack bags the night before
There is nothing worse than finally getting everyone into the car and then, when you are backing out of the driveway, one of the children suddenly remembers they have forgotten to pack their library book. What was going to be a smooth ride to school is now likely to be a mad rush to get there on time. We now avoid these problems by checking the calendar and packing everyone’s bags the night before. This allows me to make sure that I have seen and responded to any notes that have been brought home and gives us time to hunt down that elusive library book if necessary. We also pack the next day’s lunches in the evening and put them in the fridge ready to go. I like to have the children assist with this because I find that they are more likely to eat food that they have packed themselves and then they don’t then come home hungry carrying an untouched lunchbox. It’s not only the children’s bags that are packed early. I like to make sure that I have all of my things ready to go for exactly the same reasons: more time to get the job done properly so that nothing is forgotten and there is less last minute stress.
3. Give a verbal warning
By this I don’t mean telling the children off, it’s about letting them know in advance when things are going to happen. This is a strategy that can prevent a number of disasters and has worked for many parents and teachers I know. Just like adults, children do not respond well to being told to leave an interesting activity ‘right now’ and to go and do something else. If they are in the middle of a game with their friends, are watching a funny cartoon on television or working on a drawing and we try to get them to do something else immediately, we are likely to run into trouble. Perhaps they throw a massive tantrum, maybe they stubbornly refuse, perhaps they just move slower than a wet week. Whatever it is, in my experience, children will rarely do what we need them to do in the time that we need them do it unless we prepare them properly in advance. For example, if you need to leave the park at 4pm to go home and begin cooking dinner, let them know at 10 minutes to four. Tell them they have 10 minutes playtime left and after that they will need to pick up their shoes and get in the car. Give another warning at five minutes to go. You can give a one minute warning if you like and then at 4pm, tell them it’s time and remind them what you want them to do. This simple strategy allows them time to finish up their game and mentally prepares them to do what you have asked, making it so much easier for you to leave on time without any fuss.
4. Use a timer
The benefit of using a timer should not be underestimated. This could be on your phone, on the oven or even a simple kitchen timer. Similar to giving the children a verbal warning to prepare them, we are setting a limit on how long we believe it should take to complete a task. I know for myself that the time it takes me to do something expands to fill up all of the time that is available and my children are certainly the same. If we want to get moving and out the door in a reasonable time it helps to set time limits for tasks as we go along and the children certainly respond well to this type of structure. There are many situations in which a timer will be useful. For example, if I have a child who is slow to get dressed, I can get the timer and tell them I expect to see them dressed and ready to go in 10 minutes and those with older children will certainly appreciate the need to set a timer for their use of the bathroom. You may only have to do this for a short period but it will certainly help to get things moving.
5. Establish a morning routine
A routine will make the task of getting everyone ready and out the door in the morning a much simpler experience. If things are done in roughly the same way every day, then the children know what to expect and we all know that there will be enough time to get our tasks completed before we need to be out the door. Depending upon the age of the children, it can help to write up a step-by-step task sheet for each child to follow. Getting the children to tick off each item as they do it helps to teach them the importance of completing tasks in the correct order and can reduce the number of instructions we as parents need to give. To give you an idea of where to start, I have created a free morning routine checklist especially for Love from Mim readers. You can download your copy here.
Putting these strategies in place will ensure that everyone knows what is happening and when, making organising a busy family a much easier task. For some more tips on time management and balancing health, relationships and work, check out Jen’s blog at www.lifewrangling.com.