Ever feel like you just launch from one manic day to the next - rushed appointments, rushed mealtimes, stressed mum, stressed kids and then you collapse in bed to do the exact same thing the next day? Yes me too! With 4 kids, both parents working full time, a dog and the usual household chores to keep on top of, we definitely have it busy and chaotic in our house - but there are ways i've found of making thing just a tad more manageable and organised. I share 3 of my top tips here.
1. Add an hour to your day.
How you may ask? It may make you groan, but set your alarm a little earlier. If there are never enough hours in the day, then add one. I've done this and it helps me sooo much - I just feel better if my mornings are more organised and I have a little time to myself before the kids wake up. My morning routine goes like this:
6am alarm goes off. I can't get straight out of bed no matter how hard i try, so i give myself 15 mins to come round, browse facebook etc.
6.15am - time to shift my ass outta bed, throw my dog walking clothes on and get out the door.
6.25am-7am - walk the dog. A little exercise, some fresh air and great views (we live right on the beach) help to lift my mood and wake me up.
7am - kids start getting up. I make cooked breakfasts, pack up their lunches, check they have pe kits, empty dishwasher etc while hubby gets up and dressed.
7.30am - Hubby takes over with kids, I get a quick shower/dressed/makeup for work.
8am - leave for the day job.
I USED to set my alarm for 7 - but then i still needed that 15 mins to come round, so i was then rushing through doing breakfasts, chores didn't get finished, the dog didn't get walked and I went to work feeling guilty that I had been sharp with the kids trying to rush them whilst knowing as the dishwasher hadn't been emptied, I was coming home to a pile of mucky cups and breakfast dishes still sat on the side. Yes i LOVE my sleep, but you know what, that extra hour to start my day right is actually worth it and after 3 weeks, you are in that new routine and your body doesn't even miss that sleep any longer. If you are really struggling, then just set your alarm ten mins earlier the first week and move it forwards another ten mins the 2nd week etc until you are as early as you need to be to feel organised. Hey, you've dealt with real sleep deprevation when you had a newborn, you can handle this!
2. Plan meals
I've talked before about meal planning, but mainly from a budgetting point of view here (yes this can help save the pennies too). However it also helps massively from a saving time perspective to know what you are having each day of the week. Our house is fussy when it comes to food. A vegan, a vegetarian, a toddler with limited diet and a child with sensory testure/taste issues who hates anything remotely spicy (and that's just the kids!) means I usually end up cooking 2 meals most dinner times. Add in having to shop every day for missing ingredients and it quickly becomes a nightmare.
So plan, plan, plan. Make use of leftovers where you can - today's chilli can be reheated in the microwave and used as a topping on jacket potatoes tomorrow. Use a slow cooker so the meal cooks away all day with no intervention. Keep your recipes simple, and shop once so you have everything readily available for the whole week without needing to nip back to the shops. If you have a few minutes spare in your morning's extra hour (you know, the one you created after reading the first tip above), get your veg prepped so it is ready to just bang in the steamer when you walk in later. Your future self, feeling harrassed after playing taxi to after school footie club, will thank your morning self, I can assure you.
3. Get an organiser or diary and USE IT!
How often do you forget appointments? Or double book yourself? I used to do it all the time. It was mentally exhausting trying to think in my head all the time what i was supposed to be doing when. I would run back and forwards checking the calendar, or make an appointment for the dentist only to get home and see I already have a kid booked in on an optician appointment that afternoon. Then I started using my pocket organiser to keep everything in. MY WHOLE LIFE is pretty much now in that little book and it makes things so much easier to plan and prepare for.
This is an example basic week of my diary - I have my meal planning along the top, my hubby's shifts and my work times written in, and then, as my diary has the time blocking for each day, I can write in appointments and block out how long those are going to take. I also write myself little lists of things I need to remember in there. I can check when birthdays are and schedule in when i need to buy a card for. This photo is of a week early on in my 'scheduling career' as once I got used to the basics of scheduling, I went further and I now break down my work time into specific jobs I have to get done each day (helps me immensely in feeling I have achieved things when I can cross them off as they are completed) as well as write my hubbys schedule in, in another colour pen. You can go as simple or complex as you feel you need to stay on top of everything.
My diary goes everywhere with me in my hand bag so I can get it out and write meetings whilst at work or check suitable play dates whilst at the school gates. It also stays on the side in the kitchen when i'm home - open at the relevant week - so everyone else in the family can also see what is on the plan quickly.
If you don't like having a physical diary, you could use an online calendar plan instead and connect it up to your phone so you have everything there with you electronically. You can even alarms and reminders up to it so your phone lets you know when you need to set off for that appointment if you are likely to get engrossed in a task and forget!
So these are just my 3 top tips for getting your life organised - let me know if you try them out for yourself and it helps you! Look out for other posts about organising as a busy parent and more top tips in future blog posts.