With a little bit of elbow grease, some fun-coloured pens, and a can-do attitude, managing your home and work lives don’t have to feel like insurmountable tasks. So how do you manage your sanity and that of your family’s to keep yourself and everyone sane and organized especially with the new year already well underway?
It’s all about time management, being organized and sticking to a plan. Here are some sure-fire ways to help keep everything in order whether you are planning for just you or your whole family.
Set aside time on weekends or days off to sit down and work out a weekly menu and then create a grocery list based on the ingredients you need for the meals on that menu. If you have a family, you can make it fun and include everyone and make it something that you bond over. Shop, cook and package as a family. Try adding a new recipe or cuisine each week, or every other week, to keep things interesting. There are so many sources for inspiration at the touch of your fingertips. There are whole communities on TikTok, and Instagram that create content on meal-planning and innovative ways to organize your weekly menus. Pinterest is also a bottomless pit of all the recipes, grocery lists and tips you could possibly want.
Everyone has days where the thought of making lunch is just too much, or you’re running out of time to get yourself from A to B or to make sure the kids make their playdate/appointment/sports practice. Using the above meal plan, make extras so you can pack leftovers for lunch on days when time seems to get a little away from you. Bulk meals, like chili and pasta dishes, are easy to assemble and can keep for months in the freezer. Whenever there’s a day when it just isn’t feasible to make a whole meal from scratch, just pull one of your prepped meals out of the freezer for an easy, filling dinner that you and everyone will be happy about. Bonus points if you’ve got an Instant Pot or crock pot.
If you have it in your budget, Chef’s Plate, Hello Fresh, and Good Food are excellent options to invest in. They’re zero waste, you don’t have to think about what to cook or buy and everything gets delivered right to your front door! Most of the time they even come with coupons for money off your next order. Some say the extra cost is balanced when you consider how very convenient it is.
Making a list of daily or weekly chores can help alleviate the pressure of leaving everything until you need to do a giant deep cleanse. If you have children, assigning them regular tasks will help instill a sense of pride in them for a job well done and give them essential life skills. Prepare a list of routine chores that can be done periodically during the day (sweeping, mopping) or at set times (garbage, recycling, emptying, and loading the dishwasher). There are fantastic printable templates online that can help you make chore lists and check lists to plan what needs to be done daily, weekly, and monthly to stay on top of everything. If you have the means, hiring a cleaner once a week to tackle the big stuff will definitely make things easier for you and free some time up for you to concentrate
Make Time for the Good Stuff
When you’re working on your meal plan, work on your weekly or monthly schedules as well. Figure out who is doing what and when, who needs adult supervision, what you’re doing as a family or as single units. It is a great way to look at the coming weeks and months to ensure you’ve made time for the things that are most important: time spent doing hobbies that “spark joy”, family get togethers, visits with grandparents and extended family even if only by phone or Zoom right now.
Family Wall Calendar
Have a little space on your fridge or an empty wall where everyone can see it? Good. Create yourself a big family calendar. (Amazon and Indigo/Chapters always have great options). Have everyone write out the who, what, where and when of each event they’re planning to attend, either alone or as a family. Make good use of stickers and different coloured pens to keep everyone’s schedules extra organized. Work on it as a family and talk to each other to make sure there’s no overlap or double bookings.
Most of us have almost constant access to our phones and other electronic devices at any given time so having a family Google document or calendar within arm’s-reach will also keep you together and organized when you’re apart. There are also plenty of apps you can download for free such as Family Wall, Happy Organization, and Time Tree.
Now that we have your home life sorted out, let’s talk about work. Office life tends to need a little more structure than home. To help yourself get on track, finding out how you are currently spending your time will ensure you’re making the most of your hours on the clock. Take a week to track your days then use some of the hints below to help fill the gaps or inefficiencies that you have discovered.
It seems self-explanatory but sometimes we forget that we have the simplest tools at our disposal at work. Plan out your day by the hour and stick to it, making sure to schedule breaks and downtime as well. Block yourself uninterrupted time where your team knows you will not be checking email, taking calls, answering group chat messages. Carve out some time on Friday before you leave for the day to do your work planning for the following week so you can start fresh Monday morning and not get bogged down with planning. It’s easier to hit the ground running if you know what you’re running toward.
On a daily and weekly basis, what needs to be completed and when? Who can do what and how long will it take? Delegating specific tasks and having a communal to do list with a consistent check in will ensure everyone is getting everything done. Having everything mapped out right in front of you will help you schedule your day accordingly.
What’s the most important task or tasks that need to be completed each day? Those go to the top of the list. Completing the harder or more time-consuming tasks first will make everything else feel easy.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Post-it walls are an excellent way to delegate small tasks that won’t take very much time. From organizing the supply cupboard to dusting off the computer monitors, these are simple things that take just a few minutes to do but will build up over time if not dealt with. Designate an area or wall where you can hang a whiteboard or corkboard and build your post-it wall on it. Use different colours for different level of importance, have a completed and to be completed side of the board to keep things in order, or a sign off sheet when things are done. And most importantly, make sure to show gratitude to your colleagues and staff if they’re going above and beyond their typical job description.
Learn to Say No
Sometimes, there just isn’t going to be time to get everything completed, no matter how organized you are. Unforeseen circumstances are unavoidable no matter how prepared you feel you are. There will be times where you are unable to take on anything else, and you’ll have to decline, as nicely as possible. “I’m sorry, I have no space in my schedule this week for that task, but I do have time for it next Wednesday if that works for you?” is a kind but straightforward way to decline with a clear solution. Being clear and finding alternatives will go a long way with employees and supervisors alike.
A comfortable work life balance is paramount to a healthy mind and soul. While schedules and calendars are excellent tools in keeping your family and work life organized, be sure to give yourself a little down time as well. Meeting your best friend for coffee, planning a date with your spouse, and having a weekly family game or movie night are all just as important for a well-rounded schedule, especially these days.