As life with children gets more complicated, when each family member has their own schedule, it helps keep everyone organized with a family calendar.
Choose a simple solution. Don’t opt for the fanciest software. Don’t opt for a day planner unless you really do need to plan whole days. Look at your needs before you try to meet your needs.
What do I track in my calendar?
- Work, when the schedule changes daily or weekly
- School, especially holidays or family events
- Activities, like dance, sports, and lessons
- Travel, both family and work (such as annual conferences)
- Dates, like birthdays and holidays
What is the simplest format for me?
- If you just need to remember 3-4 appointments and activities a week, how about a basic paper calendar in the kitchen?
- If you are tracking chores more than appointments, how about a magnetic calendar in the kitchen?
- If you travel more than you stay home, how about a basic phone calendar?
- If you want access on more than one device, how about Google calendars?
- If more than one person needs access, how about a shared Google calendar?
What works for me?
One system isn’t going to work for all of us. Customize your system to your needs.
Before you make changes, ask what is working for you now and what isn’t working for you now. Can you tweak your current calendar to make it work better? If you are ready for a big change, such as going from all paper to an app, look for an app that is familiar enough that your tracking doesn’t become all about the system.
Who uses the calendar?
If you have babies, you are the sole calendar keeper. That’s easy. As you and your children each add more activities, especially when those activities aren’t all together anymore, you need to track each person’s activities separately. On a paper calendar or with sticky notes, you can use different colors for each person. If you have a lot of people with different activities, you might need swim lanes (separate columns or rows) to show each person’s schedule.
I used to try to get my family to pay attention to a paper calendar, then an online calendar, but they just don’t. They are just chill people who aren’t so concerned about dates and appointments. Me, not so much. I am very concerned about dates, so I am left to be the calendar keeper. That’s fine.
Just understanding who cares about the calendar makes it easier to customize your solution.
Make it BIG!
If you want a physical calendar, and you don’t need it mobile, you could create a big, beautiful Martha Stewart chalkboard calendar. I can see that a big calendar could be a nice solution for a homeschooling family that tends to be home more than away. Though I aspire to such beauty, I tend to go for a quicker, temporary solution.
During our busiest times of the year, November and December, I get out sticky notes and create a calendar on a long wall in our busiest hallway. I do this because the calendar so big and bright that everyone notices it several times a day. I want to everyone to pay attention to dates, so we don’t double book as we schedule gigs, parties, and regular activities. I know from experience that I have to be in everyone’s face to get them to remember dates.
Keep it SMALL
Don’t make tracking activities and events ABOUT the calendar. Let the tool serve you. If you are the only person using the calendar, do whatever works best for you.
About six months ago, I pulled the family calendar and chore lists into the project management system I use for work. I just made family another project, and I gave each person a login (though they don’t login at all). It makes me feel better to give them access. Now, I see doctor’s appointments, family events, and tasks on my master calendar. No more keeping multiple calendars. No more pretending that anyone else is paying attention.
At our weekly family meeting, we talk about what is coming up. My husband writes out chores and events in his notes for family meetings, but I don’t think anyone else looks at his notes, so we’re all left to remember commitments and events on our own. During family meetings, I keep my project app open, and I add events and actions as we go. Since no one else is actually keeping a calendar, they ask me, “What were we doing this week again?” I’m the calendar-keeper. When I’m working at my computer, I keep a tab open with my calendar and task list, including family projects. I created what works for me.
- Start with your need and keep your simple solution focused on that need.
- Set a time each week to review upcoming events and appointments. This practices helps even young children to break out of their eternal now to anticipate change.
- Write it down now! Record events, appointments, and other commitments as soon as you make them. Keep the calendar accurate.
Keep your family organized and on time.