Declutter Your Way to Productivity
January 18, 2011 ~
The winter months may seem like a busy time to declutter and organize your life, but there are different kinds of clutter and many ways to overcome it. When most of us think of clutter, we imagine stacks of paper, toys lying around or dishes in the sink and a sense that nothing is in the right place. There are also more subtle forms of clutter that may be getting in the way of productivity. Perhaps your child is overscheduled? Or your family has a variety of special events landing on the same day, at the same time? As you think about cleaning up after day-to-day activities, consider adding to your regimen some additional decluttering tasks that are sure to help your child meet his or her goals.
Re-evaluate Activities Children have the option of participating in countless after-school activities, including band practice, swimming lessons, sports teams, debate club, Kumon and a thousand other options. In today’s world, it is often recommended that children develop a wide range of skill sets, as these are often included as part of the evaluation criteria set by higher education systems. Though extracurricular activities are important, it is also important to look at how much each activity is benefiting your child. You want your child to be able to develop skills in different areas and try new things, but overscheduling your child can have an adverse effect. Are the added responsibilities causing your child to rush through his or her homework in order to make it to practice every week? It may be that your child is spread too thin and that the clutter in his or her life may very well be activities rather than a disorganized desk at home or in the classroom.
Decluttering your children’s schedule is as important to their success as decluttering their work space. Discuss with your child how he or she feels about each after-school activity and set priorities. Listen closely for subtle clues that indicate he or she may feel too much pressure from a hectic schedule. If your child complains about not having enough time to do school work and study because a special-interest club or activity runs late every night, it may be time to re-evaluate what is truly more important in the long run. You can always return to an activity if you and your child feel up to the challenge. Starting with a schedule everyone can manage offers your child a greater chance at succeeding. If having one too many activities in your child’s schedule is leading to a less-than-stellar result in other areas, it’s time to start slowing down. After all, the extracurricular activity is an enhancement to your child’s education and should inspire young minds, not overextend them.
Optimize the Family Schedule Moms and dads often feel like they need to be in three different places at the same time. Though we can’t help you be here, there and everywhere, we can offer some simple tips on how best to optimize the family routine so that there is time each week to get everything done. One way to do this is to become better acquainted with your child’s calendar. Jot down important events each week, such as spelling tests, math quizzes and reading reports. Keeping track of these days on a calendar in a place where everyone can see it, such as the refrigerator, will keep everyone on the same schedule, with the same priorities. Doing this will prepare and inform everyone who helps, such as the baby sitter. Keep a list of important phone numbers that can help the people who watch your child when you aren’t there. Phone numbers of physicians, neighbors and 911 should be clearly marked and within reach. Also, while you are starting some new things this year, consider a family organizational binder. That’s right, though you may not be toting a binder to school like your child, you too can benefit from storing and recording all of your children’s important activities, dates, school assignments and even meal information in one place. This way when you aren’t around, anyone can pick up and keep things running as smoothly as you do.
After the holidays there are always things to be done, gifts to be returned and other tasks such as tailoring those pants that were just a little too long or using your gift cards to purchase the remaining items on your list. Another way to take advantage of your child’s busy schedule is to use it to your advantage. Use the time when your child is occupied by an after-school activity to get some of those to-do’s done. As you cross off some of the items on your list each week while your child is engaged in extracurricular activities, you will feel more productive and less stressed about pending to-do’s.
Prioritize Family Time A simple calendar system can save you time and aggravation, and there are many new technologies available to make customizing your calendar a breeze. If you have a computer or smart phone, consider managing a digital calendar system that not only records what is happening on each day, but also prioritizes events with color-coding. If you don’t have access to either device, try color-coding your calendar with stickers or markers. Most importantly, use one calendar. Often parents believe they must have two different calendars: one for work and one for their personal lives, but you’re bound to overlap or overbook. You’re a multifaceted person, but you have one life and to help stay organized, keep one calendar.
Coordination Invest time to plan together with your family. At the beginning of the month, sit down and map out the important days of the month. Block off time to do the really important stuff first, such as meeting with your child’s teacher or going to PTA meetings. Be sure to mark down any business trips you may be taking as well. If special plans need to be arranged, seeing these on the calendar will keep them top-of-mind so that their arrival isn’t a huge or disruptive surprise. Next, mark your child’s after-school activities each week and any days off he or she may have. Once again, if you are using a digital calendar, you can even set your calendar to remind you with an e-mail or alarm if your child has a day off from school in the middle of the week, so that you can be sure to plan for that. Last, but certainly not least, block out some time for yourself. Set little reminders for downtime as well. If you have a little special time for yourself coming up while someone else watches the children, set an alarm or e-mail reminder to make sure you don’t miss it. Little reminders are extremely helpful at minimizing the stress of a hectic schedule. Having a system in place will help your child feel more comfortable too. Your schedule and ability to stay ahead of deadlines and important dates will free your child up to focus on the important things such as his or her homework or practicing for the school play.
Evaluating what is best for your child academically and socially while managing his or her extracurricular studies throughout the year is an ongoing responsibility. Setting systems in place that declutter the social calendar and keep dates, events and assigned work organized will keep you on schedule and help your child succeed. A well-organized schedule combined with reducing the fluff in the calendar can minimize stress, set a positive example and increase your child’s ability to perform with focus and ease.