Our friends at the National Association of Professional Organizers asked us to share tips for transitioning back into the school year on their blog. With Labor Day behind us, it's time to get serious about our time management!
“Back to School” season can be overwhelming if you aren’t prepared. The key is the intentionality about where, when and how you track and complete the various tasks that creep back onto the calendar each September. School already started in your area? These tips can help you dig out of the disorganization and bring order to your home and life.
- 1. Establish calendar central.
The rhythms of the school year also influence the kickoff of many other activities--for the kids and for you. Designate a place in your home to serve as calendar central. You need a place where you (and your entire family) can glance at everyone’s commitments at once. Consider color coding by each family member so that you can write shorter entries and easily track who’s doing what.
You might also consider a weekly dry-erase calendar with a column for each day and a dry-erase marker color for each person. Using your monthly calendar, write in each entry along with reminders, “Soccer practice--bring snack,” or “Dance class--black leotard.” You can also note ongoing homework such as “20 minutes of reading” or “Spelling Review.”
- Create a homework space.
Studies show that routine is very important to helping kids feel safe and to create self-discipline. A designated spot in the house for homework should be part of that routine. Whether it’s the kitchen table or a desk in the study, strive to create a routine where homework is completed in the same place at the same time each day.
Fill a desktop caddy or special drawer with the items you use regularly for homework like highlighters, scissors, pencils and index cards. Have a younger child feeling left out? Keep crayons on hand, too, and “assign” some coloring or art projects.
A Time Timer can also help keep homework and other after-school activities on track. The Dry Erase Board is a great way to place reminders such as “20 minutes-Piano,” “Read for 15 minutes,” etc. so that kids know how much time is remaining for each activity.
- Run to the in-zone.
An inbox isn’t enough space for most families. Create an “in-zone” where you can collect and sort invoices, medical receipts, the scouting popcorn/cookie sales sheet, club sign-up forms and more.
Establish a drop zone so that your children know to always hang their backpack and jacket in the same place. Create a bin for each sport or activity for easy access.
Create a filing system for every paper that comes home with an inbox where kids can place their take-home folders each day. A hanging magazine rack helps you sort by each child.
Review each take home folder and sort by Toss, Archive or Action. Toss papers right away. Archive each child’s special drawings, report cards award certificates and anything else you might want to keep, either with a digital filing system or a hanging file for each child. Action papers should be dealt with right away: Sign that form! Send in money for the teacher gift. Action papers can be returned to your child’s take-home folder for the next morning.
- Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it.
Studies show that the blue light from electronics suppresses melatonin, the hormone we need to fall asleep. Experts recommend turning off devices two to three hours before falling asleep to promote rest.
Create a bedtime routine so that you can help your children wind down from the day. Set the Time Timer to let them know how much time before TV is finished for the day. Perform nightly rituals in the same sequence if possible: shower, brush teeth, read a book aloud. The more consistent the routine, the better chance that these activities alone will promote sleep by the body just knowing that shower-brush-read leads to bedtime soon.
- Prep for Tomorrow Tonight
Set aside 30 minutes on the Time Timer to prep for the next day. Make lunches (or supervise your children making them). Lay out clothes for the next morning. Review the upcoming calendar. A little prep time goes a long way toward ensuring you and your kids are ready to tackle morning without moaning.