Jun 192015
Our multitasking swim bag. Ready to homeschool while we are waiting for each child's lessons to finish.

Our multitasking swim bag. Ready to homeschool while we are waiting for each child’s lessons to finish.

Most of us find that summer goes by far too quickly. We get to the end of summer and wonder where our “break” went. We slide into fall grumbling about how we don’t get enough time off or we didn’t do what we wanted to.

This summer I wanted to try being a bit more deliberate with my summer planning. I wanted to keep the children motivated and learning and work on some of the skills that we don’t always have time to work on during the school year. Summer gets quite busy, however, so I began writing out a formal list of routine tasks I wanted to try to get done each day. This actually took quite a bit of time.

Recently, my children also started asking for an allowance. While there are a million allowance strategies, my husband and I felt most comfortable setting the expectation that allowance is earned. Our children earn the paltry wage of $1 a week (50 cents for the youngest) but that small amount is motivating to them and the Dollar Store offers many goodies of interest.

So, we married the two ideas: To Do lists and allowance. Each child has a list of tasks to do each day including simple things like “get dressed” and “brush teeth” as well as homeschool and chores.

We began this experiment June 1 with our three eldest children as the participants.

One child thought this was a dreadful idea and wanted to make sure there would be plenty of downtime to pursue individual projects. She wants to get through the checklist of tasks each day as quickly as possible.

Another child has eyes full of dollar signs and eagerly looks at the checklist trying to figure out how to earn the most money.

The youngest child does not understand the concept of the checklist nor of money and therefore does not worry about it.

How are things going so far?

We have a few successes. We are managing to get some school in every weekday, which is great because standardized testing is coming soon for us. We are also coping well with the change to our routine for weekday swimming lessons.

But there is still a lot of room for improvement.

We have yet to have a single day where any of us have checked off all of the To Do list items.

We are behind on paying allowance.

We are still struggling with the To Do list recordkeeping.

The first lesson the children seem to have learned about To Do lists is that it is OK to let tasks drop off the list each day. While this is true for the real world, and a good lesson, it is a problem for us because many of our tasks are “every single day” activities like brushing teeth that shouldn’t be postponed.

So far, my biggest problem is getting the children to use their time effectively. When they dawdle on their tasks (most of which I have to supervise or assist with), it means I am losing time that I could use on my tasks. However, we don’t want to be too strict about the To Do lists either and make this a miserable experience for all involved. It has become a To Do list bootcamp of sorts for all of us.

If this sounds like a whole lot of stress during a time that should be stress-free, it kind of is, but it is also giving a framework for our summer. If we can set ourselves up with a productive routine, we are going to have a head start taking on fall homeschooling and other activities.

So, our children’s organization experiments continue. For the moment, we are mostly focused on trying anew each day to see what we can get accomplished. This restart mentality is one of the most helpful in any organizing situation.

Do you hold your children to a daily list of chores or other “To Do” tasks? Do you have any lessons to share? Please comment below.

 Posted by on June 19, 2015 General Tagged with: , ,
Jun 162015


Summer is one of those natural “restart” points of the year. The weather is warmer and particularly for those of us with children, the change from school schedule to summer schedule is a chance to rethink our life goals and priorities.

As I sat down thinking about my goals for the summer, I felt overwhelmed. I began creating calendars and checklists but realized that with a major life change (the addition of another child), I needed to upgrade my time management system. In my current system, I put things in my calendar, write project-based tasks down in multiple places and keep a lot of stuff in my head.

So, I am turning to the experts for help.

Recently, I attended Stever Robbins’ excellent webinar

Stever has a great approach to time management, realizing that it is not just about logistics and planning but also your goals, personality and general approach to life. You can listen to the webinar yourself for free at the above link.

In the webinar, Stever emphasizes 3 necessary behavior changes to be an effective user of To Do lists.

1. Create a capture system and carry it with you. You have to have one and only one spot where you “capture” your to do items as they arise. For Stever, this is a hard copy moleskine notebook. It could be an Evernote tab, an Excel spreadsheet a phone app of various kinds or a sheet of paper. Whatever you use, you should have it with you at nearly all times. So, when you think “Oh yeah, I really should get around to doing X,” you write down X in your capture system.

2. Create and maintain a Master To Do List. You should have one and only one master to do list where you organize and prioritize the projects you have captured. Again, this can be paper or electronic but probably electronic is going to work best for most people since this document will be updated continuously.

3. Use your Master List. When you want to know what to do next, you need to get in the habit of referring to your list rather than checking email or addressing whatever “emergency” has just arisen.

I am just in the baby steps of this system. I am still “capturing” tasks in my head and in random places. I am trying to put them all in Evernote. Evernote is currently also serving as my “Master” list but also my Google calendar where I schedule in specific tasks. Over time, I will experiment with different To Do list formats to see what works best.

My broad goals for the summer include:

  • weight loss – losing most or all of my pregnancy weight
  • managing the renovation of the exterior of our home
  • homeschool – finishing testing and this year’s curriculum as well as planning for next year

Any one of these could be a “To Do” for an entire summer. Naturally, I am trying to do all three!

As with all organizing tasks, this one is likely to take a while to adjust to my lifestyle but I am committed to improving my time management skills.

Do you have a capture system and master to do list? What challenges do you face with to do lists? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on June 16, 2015 General Tagged with: , ,