Between school drop offs, daycare pick ups, extra-curricular activities, and your own job and responsibilities, seasons of busyness require a bit of planning for families. Stay ahead of the chaos and make your busy schedule work for you. With these busy family management tips, you'll feel more at ease during the week and more prepared for the unexpected moments that can arise.
Establish & Stick to Firm Routines
One of the most important aspects of your daily life as a busy family is the placement of firm routines in your day.
Determine What Morning and Evening Routines Look Like
Establish what your morning and evening routines look like and do your best to stick to them closely. Set firm wake times, determine who will help children get dressed, and who's in charge of breakfast each morning.
For the evening routine, establish the parent in charge of bath-time for little children or who will be the homework helper for older kids. If you're a solo parent, think about how much time different tasks take and plan your routines accordingly to lower the stress. Set bedtimes that correspond with your morning routine.
Get Kids Involved in Setting Up Their Routines
Make routines fun for younger kids so they are more excited to stick to the plan at the moment. Interactive to-do lists might help them feel more excited about brushing their teeth and getting ready for the day. Turn things into a game or a race to keep them motivated. You could add a reward system with stickers and other prizes that help them build upon their ability to stick to the routine each day.
For older children and teenagers, offer some autonomy in the routine. Give them choices and encourage them to create a routine they feel comfortable with that works well alongside your own. Add responsibilities that empower them like driving younger siblings to school, making a fun breakfast for everyone, and reading their own beloved books to siblings during bedtime.
Include Weekend Routines Too
Don't forget to establish weekend-specific routines so you still have structure. For young children, it's helpful to stick to a similar routine all week long so they can rely on the same morning or bedtime schedule every day. Since weekend events can vary wildly for some families due to travel sports or other activities, just include whatever consistency you can.
Plan Ahead for the Entire Week
Try to prep and plan for everything you are able to before your week officially begins. On Saturday or Sunday, start prepping for your daily routines. Set out clothing choices for the week for yourself and younger children. Plan your meals for the week and determine if there are any days you'll need to grab takeout. Prep dinner items for the week by cutting vegetables for recipes or portioning ingredients so other family members can help with cooking.
Make sure backpacks are ready to go and you've prepared for any wet or inconvenient weather forecasts. Confirm your appointments and meetings so there are no surprises in your schedule. Anything you can do in advance to prepare will go a long way in simplifying life and reducing your family's stress for the week.
Evaluate Your Priorities
If one glance at your weekly schedule makes you feel anxious or overwhelmed, it might be time to evaluate your priorities. Have a conversation with your spouse or other family members and discuss the things that are non-negotiable for you, like work and school schedules.
Then tackle anything that isn't a top priority in your current season. You might find some extracurriculars, activities, or commitments that you can set aside for a time. Make sure you hear from everyone on what they value most in their own schedule so all of your priorities can align as much as possible.
You already schedule meetings, appointments, and sports events. With a busy family life, you might need to schedule even the most basic parts of your life. Add items to your schedule, like time to clean the house, time to make a grocery run, when you will go to the gym, and when you will spend quality time with your family members. Use physical planners or family organizer apps to stay on top of everything.
If you need to schedule in time for reading, leisure, and hobbies, that's okay! The key to managing a busy family life and keeping things balanced is setting aside time for all the things that are most important to you.
Have Weekly Family Meetings
With a large family or a busy schedule, you need to make sure everyone is on the same page. Set up a weekly family meeting to go over the details of your schedule for that week. This can be around the dinner table on a Sunday night or a quick gathering in your living room just to get everyone up to speed.
Discuss everything from appointments and to-do lists to the budget and expectations of the week. Welcome feedback from family members and assign responsibilities according to age.
Simplify Meal Times
If you're facing a full schedule and an abundance of commitments, you may need to simplify your meal times. With family members potentially dining at different times and not much room in your day for a lot of cooking, simple meals will help keep your home life stress-free.
Try to prepare lunches the night before, so mornings run smoothly and keep fresh fruit and snacks on hand for quick meals on the go when you're short on time. Prep as much of your dinner ingredients ahead of time and choose meals that come together quickly, like one-pot meals or no-cook recipes. Do your best to stick to the meal plan so you don't waste ingredients or throw off your week.
Create a Comfy Environment in the Car
If you spend much of your day on the road chauffeuring kids, make sure your car is a comfortable place. Anything that minimizes boredom or tantrums in the backseat will make your life less stressful. Plan meals that are easy to eat in the car if needed; wraps, sandwiches, mason jar salads, and rice bowls will travel easily for nourishment between appointments.
Add a couple of blankets or pillows to the back seat for comfy napping, and try to keep entertaining toys or reading material in the backseat where kids can reach them easily. Maybe put together a playlist of songs or podcasts that your family loves to keep everyone entertained between stops.
Make sure you have phone chargers, baby supplies, first aid kits, and nonperishable food items on hand in the car for emergencies as well.
Set Reminders on Your Phone
You're likely carrying your phone with you at all times anyway, so take advantage of the help it can provide. Set reminders on your phone to help you stay on track throughout the day.
Try a three-alarm method in the morning by setting one reminder for when you need to get ready, another reminder five minutes before you need to leave the house, and one final reminder showing that your window of time is almost closed. You can use this method to stay on top of many tasks and appointments.
Leave Margin in Your Schedule
If you've taken the time to evaluate your priorities and take a hard look at your schedule, you may notice some empty space lingering between commitments. Make sure you leave some of that space intentionally open.
It's important to have margin in your schedule for spontaneous invites, interruptions to your plans, or delays. If you fill every single moment of your day with a task, you are more likely to feel stressed about getting behind or running late.
Have a Mindset of More
Though you certainly want to learn how to say "no" so you can say "yes" to something else down the road, you don't always have to see your schedule or busy life through the lens of elimination. Instead, try cultivating a mindset of more.
Add things to your family's calendar that offer more quality time, more laughter, more joy, and more fun. When a busy schedule also includes things that fill your cup, the busyness is far easier to tolerate.
Create a Family Command Center
Once you establish your routines, schedules, and priorities, it's time to create a tangible way that your family can see the week ahead and make sense of all the busyness. A family command center somewhere in your home helps everyone see the details of the calendar and all the things your family has committed to doing.
Choose a Location
Start by choosing a location that everyone will see multiple times a day. Common areas for a command center are the kitchen, the entry, or a hallway. Hang a dry-erase calendar, pocket-shelves, a corkboard, and anything else on the wall that will help your family stay organized.
Display Schedules and To-Do's
Within your command center, display all the information family members need to help each other stay organized and stick to the plan. Most family command centers have a monthly or weekly schedule, a running to-do list, a section for in-coming and out-going mail, a place for writing grocery lists, a space for quick notes and messages, and items you might need when leaving the house like school IDs, keys, wallets, and device chargers.
Manage Your Busy Family Life Like a Pro
Every family experiences seasons of busyness. Approach yours with all the tools you need for a successful strategy for managing your schedule and commitments. With the right practices in place, you'll find it easier to stay calm amid chaos and find time to spend with the people you love most. Just remember to be kind to yourself and that every family is different - it's ok to do what works for your family, no matter what that looks like.