Working Mom Schedule Management.


I need to be where? When? Uh-oh…


With agendas overflowing the way they are today in most families, it’s essential that you keep track of everybody’s schedule in one master location. The most effective way to ensure you and your family members are where they need to be, when they need to be there is to create a family calendar. Schedules may seem chaotic, but with a central calendar at least it’s easier to keep things somewhat organized. You can use a personal calendar to keep track of the family yourself or create a large one to go up on the refrigerator or kitchen wall that everybody can interact with. Here are some thought starters for creating an effective system.


• Two critical components. We find that it’s most effective to post both a weekly routine or schedule and a monthly calendar to keep track of variances to that routine. That way you eliminate the inefficiency of inputting recurring appointments multiple times. The family schedule should have eight columns (Name, Monday, Tuesday… Sunday) and a row for each family member. Every person over the age of ten should be responsible for filling in their weekly schedule. Ideally use different colors for different family members. Then keep track of irregular appointments and events on the calendar. We find that the combination of these two tools makes for a family calendar that is relatively easy to maintain and yet fairly detailed on where everyone needs to be and when.


• Schedule ‘calendar time.’ A calendar does nobody good if it’s not up-to-date. Schedule a regular time each week to sit down with your family (after dinner on Sunday?) to discuss people’s plans for the week. Use that time to identify scheduling conflicts, coordinate rides for your children and schedule dinners. Don’t forget to plan ahead for some fun too - make a movie date or plan a fun family outing!


I love Google calendar (Yahoo and 30 boxes also have what I have heard are good calendars, I just found Google to work better for me). I recently discovered it and my life is transformed. Each person can create their own calendar and then give others 'view only' or 'edit functions'. This makes it really easy to coordinate schedules with others (as long as they have internet). You can also email invites to others straight from the calendar. You can create an infinite number of calendars with different colors. For example, my son has school, cub scouts, and soccer calendars that are all blue so I know at a glance who the main person is. I can also share the soccer schedule with the grandparents who can then see it in their own Google calendar. You can select which calendars you want to see if it gets too busy (I have 14 calendars in my Google).
If you are lucky, you can also sync to public calendars for some events and organizations. For example, my son's school has a calendar in Google friendly format so I just link to it and bam I can see my son's school calendar without having to type it in by hand. AND if they make a change to the calendar, it automatically changes in mine. This works really well for the soccer team my husband coaches because of the rainouts. Now I know his game was cancelled before he does (and that he can now pick up the kids and go to cub scouts that night!). I am trying to convince all the organizers of all our activities to do the calendar like this.
My husband actually uses this calendar. He never wrote anything on the paper one. He would tell me some of his stuff and I would remember to write some of it down, nightmare. After I set it up initially with what I had on paper and what I could link, he actually kept up with it. It made sense because when he was at work and found out about something he could put it in super fast instead of trying to remember to put in on the calendar when he got home. He is also stepping up more and helping since he now sees everything more clearly.
I use Outlook at work so I just type my stuff in Outlook and then it syncs to Google. (I haven’t gotten it to work at home because the sync program freezes Outlook at home). I heard on NPR this week that some companies are moving away from Outlook type calendars and toward Google type calendars. For those with internet cell phones, the calendar can go anywhere and you don’t need a blackberry or iphone.
At home, my laptop lives in the kitchen so the calendar is easy to check and add to. When someone brings home a calendar or schedule I sit down and put it in right away and then save all the paper schedules for reference. I haven’t let my kids put their own stuff in yet because they are too young but someday they can do that. The calendar easily shifts from day to week to month and can be printed a variety of ways. I originally envisioned printing it and posting it where the old (color-coded overstuffed) calendar lived but find that the laptop works better. You can have reminders pop up, emailed, or sent to your cell phone. I like to have unusual things emailed to me so they really stand out.
My family’s life does not have a regular weekly routine so I found that I was getting cramps trying to keep everything current and up to date on the written calendar. Here I type it once and then if it gets moved, canceled, or changed I just click a few times and am up to date. The other thing I like is that we can now see the few empty blocks of time and plan for time as a family or couple. OR I can get my hair done ;-) In the past, these moments seemed to sneak up on us and then we squandered them. Now we have family bike rides, trips to the park, and sleep in and be lazy times that would never have happened spur of the moment.
The best thing is that since I started using this I have not had any of those worst mommy moments where I forgot the play or that this is the week my husband is out of town. We used to have many of those moments before Google calendar.


I have used the Boynton family calendar (the author of some great children's books, like But Not the Hippopotamus) for the last 2 years, which has been helpful. The only problem is that when I am out and about, I feel like I need a copy of the same information handy in my purse to refer to or add to. Any suggestions?