My intent for today’s post is to share with you a practical tip. Something that will help you manage your home better. I believe the current terminology is a life hack. Having eight kids tends to magnify everything. Whether it is laundry, dishes, shoe shopping, coordinating schedules, or buying school supplies, you have to streamline the process. We began with a calendar.
It was a month or two after our marriage, and we were still living in Germany. Jeff expressed how overwhelmed he felt with the army, church responsibilities, graduate school, and being newly married. I tried to help. I drew a diagram of a week, and we filled in all the time slots where he was committed to some activity. We then circled the areas of available time. It was pretty bleak. There were only one or two blank elliptical shapes on the page with nothing scheduled. This was his discretionary time. Jeff called them “goose eggs”, and the term was coined to jokingly represent the free time we would never had.
After seeing the situation on paper, Jeff visibly shut down. He pushed himself away from the table and crossed his arms over his chest, feeling even more discouraged than when we started. Well, that didn’t go quite like I had envisioned. I felt as if I was pouring salt on open wounds.
I don’t recall exactly what happened next. I’m sure the discussion of time management ended, and we changed the conversation to something of a happier tone. We did eventually revisit the issue, since it wasn’t going to go away. The diagram exercise was probably the catalyst for us to work together. No longer did we think separately about his time and my time, but we focused on how we could combine our efforts to accomplish our goals and face whatever life was throwing our way.
Once the concept of being one with our time was understood, then calendars, schedules, and planners became our friends. They are the tools that have enabled us over the years to keep up with our busy family life, or at least the important parts. More importantly, they have shown us when we need to say no and eliminate activities.
Jeff is the innovative one, and takes delight in equipping me with the latest devices and programs. Even though he usually has to drag me along, he knows that once I try the tool, then I will find the value in using it to care for our family or manage my activities and projects. He even sent me to a Franklin Planner Workshop. At the time they weren’t quite sure how to adjust their planner for use by a stay at home mom, but I had plenty of ideas. They should have hired me as a consultant. After the planner came a computer, then a cell phone, upgraded to a smart phone, Excell, and now OneNote. And don’t forget WordPress.
Now for the life hack. We have a large bulletin board, 3×4 feet, that hangs in our central hallway. It is visible from the kitchen and next to the bathroom. You see it on your way to the fitness room, game room, laundry room, upstairs, and garage. Everyone passes it several times a day. It hosts a three month calendar where each family member records their scheduled activities. I use a large desktop calendar with lines on the day so there is plenty of room to write. There’s extra room on the bulletin board for flyers, pictures, notes and more. It should be hung low enough for young children to be able to view the current month. You will probably make yours look prettier than mine. That’s not my skill set. Don’t have a spot for a bulletin board? Put it on your refrigerator. Guaranteed to be seen there.
What a family calendar does for you . . .
- You know what everyone is doing and when.
- Kids become involved in the scheduling process. They can visibly see when there are conflicts. They are learning to plan.
- Kids take a more active role in making sure an event happens; the burden of remembering where everyone needs to be isn’t solely yours.
- Kids can visualize time. You can use stickers or draw pictures for younger ones to understand. Use a marker to cross off a day when it is done.
Having a family calendar only works if activities are recorded on it, and you consistently look at it. Once a week review it as a family. Sundays usually work best for us to coordinate the upcoming week’s activities. I always look at it the night before so I have in mind what I am doing the next day.
Now a days many families have put smart phones in each of their older kids hands. Once everyone has this device, then you can go to a digital family calendar. Jeff has been nudging me in this direction for a few years. I do love my paper calendar, and haven’t succumbed yet. I’m in both worlds with an app on my phone and the calendar still in the hallway. I must admit that it doesn’t work well to have two calendars. I tend to put information on one and not the other. Maybe when this year ends I won’t buy a new paper calendar. I could print photos of our family and display them on the bulletin board in place of the calendar. That would be fun to see each time you passed.