Image for article titled The Best Way to Organize a Family Calendar

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There are many things I wish I’d known before becoming a parent. The incredible volume of Band-Aids that would be wasted. How many photos on my camera roll would be out-of-focus selfies of my toddler’s head. Most of all, the amount of time I’d spend performing mind-numbing logistical acrobatics to manage my family’s daily activities.

Between work deadlines, business travel, doctor’s appointments, soccer practice, piano lessons, teeth cleanings, gymnastics class, birthday parties, daycare pickup, and school functions, managing your family’s schedule can feel like running air traffic control at JFK.

The “best way” to organize will depend on your preferences, and those of your partner. You may need a large wall calendar or dry erase board in your line of sight to remember anything; your spouse may thrive in an all-digital environment. But there are a few iron-clad rules that will apply, whatever format your schedule takes.

Decide on one location for the family calendar (and the format)

The first order of business is deciding where the primary family calendar will live: on the wall, or on your devices? Admittedly, paper or dry erase calendars may seem archaic. But for some (me), literally almost walking into their calendars is the only way for them to be adequately reminded of what’s coming next.

However, there are many advantages to keeping it digitally, from all the calendar app choices, to baked-in color-coding options, to auto-syncing between devices, to push notifications before each activity. If you and your partner have previously used different digital calendars, however, you will need to reach consensus on one to use for the family.

In our house we do both: A digital calendar my husband and I both maintain, and a wall calendar that my old-school, paper-reliant self creates as a backup. (Side note: Young kids usually love being able to see what activities are coming up, to mentally prepare and count the days). Kids in middle school and beyond can and should take an active role in maintaining their portion of the family calendar.

Establish a rule that everything (no, everything) must go in the calendar

The first order of business is making sure you and your partner agree that maintaining a joint family calendar is necessary. (You’ll need their buy-in and participation for it to truly succeed, after all.) Once you both accept personal responsibility to keep the household schedule running smoothly, make a rule that each parent must put all their personal appointments, events, work travel, poker nights, after-hours gym trips, and social activities into the joint family calendar—unless you are lucky enough to be with someone who enjoys and excels at being in charge of it all. In which case, bless.

If one child’s entire soccer schedule is housed in TeamSnap, while another child’s baseball season and band practices exist in two additional apps, work out a system with your spouse to input all those practice and games times into the central family calendar. Either have one parent who agrees to do all the inputting all the time, or rotate the responsibility on a weekly or monthly basis.

Use color-coding to your advantage

One way to make easily interpreting your family calendar is to use color-coding. Select either a different color for each child, activity, or parent whose responsibility it is to get said child ready and transported to their activity. Digital apps make this easy; but keeping a stash of highlighters or different colored dry erase markers close to command central works for those who like a tangible calendar.

Have a weekly family “meeting”

Feel free to interpret the word “meeting” loosely. This can either be an all-hands, regularly scheduled sit-down during which all family activities are broadcast to the entire group, or it can be a 10 minute check-in with your spouse every Sunday night to go over the major logistics and any changes from the norm for that week (as well as, of course, who will be responsible for transport and dinner each night).

Practice night-time or morning check-ins

In addition to the weekly meeting, get into a routine of touching base every night before bed, or each morning with not only your partner, but your kids, to remind them of upcoming practices and other events. This will ensure there’s no surprises (like a scrimmage when a child thought they could simply vegetate after school).

And don’t forget, amid all the racing around, to save time for relaxation and joint family activities you can enjoy together. Dare we say, you should put them in the calendar?



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