How to Plan an Effective Schedule to Make Your Week Run Smoothly

How to plan an effective schedule to make time for your real priorities.

If you’re anything like me, the way you feel at the end of the week is often determined by how smoothly the week flowed. Did you feel anxious and frazzled? Or did you feel accomplished and organized? Did something slip through the cracks or were you prepared ahead of time?

Though our success in life isn’t based on how much we do in a week, life certainly feels a lot more peaceful when we aren’t constantly racing against the clock. The best way to ensure that we feel organized is to plan an effective schedule for our time.

Whether you have children or not, whether you work outside the home or not, whether your kids are in school full time or not, we all have one thing in common: we only have 168 hours each week.

Those hours may look vastly different depending on your circumstances, but the key to feeling calm over chaotic is in how you use your time. In her book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think, journalist Laura Vanderkam explains that when we don’t think about how we spend our time, we tend to spend it doing things that don’t really align with our priorities.

“We don’t think about how we want to spend our time, and so we spend massive amounts of time on things – television, Web surfing, housework, errands – that give a slight amount of pleasure or feeling of accomplishment, but do little for our careers, our families, or our personal lives.” – Laura Vanderkam

So how do we plan effectively? How do we set up our schedule so that we’re running our lives and not the other way around?

Here are a few things to consider when planning your week.

Pick a time to map out your week in advance

By looking ahead at what the week holds in terms of time commitments, you’re jogging your own memory. Seeing that it’s your aunt’s birthday on the calendar gets that in your brain and reminds you of any associated tasks, such as sending a card or remembering to call.

You’re also forming a picture of whether the coming week will be busy or slow-paced. You can allocate important tasks to days that have fewer time commitments. Rather than feeling like you have to squeeze things in, you’re giving time to what needs to be done.

Sunday evening is an ideal time to look ahead at the week. You’ll wake up Monday with a clear picture of how the week will go. Obviously life isn’t entirely predictable, but at least you’ve got a fighting chance when you know what to expect outside of the fluke events that throw a wrench in our plans.

Batch your tasks

Studies show that when our brain has to switch between activities frequently, we accomplish less. We get in the flow of one activity, and then disrupt this flow when we start doing something else.

For example, if I’m writing blog posts and decide to stop and clean the kitchen, it takes my brain more energy to get back into the flow of writing than if I hadn’t stopped. The solution to this problem is batching your tasks.

Some people like to batch by days, while others prefer a time blocking method each day. Either way, your goal is to focus on one type of task at a time before switching to a new activity.

For me, this means that instead of cleaning up after breakfast, then spending time writing, and then vacuuming, I do the bulk of my housecleaning chores in one sitting. I’ll empty the dishwasher, load breakfast dishes, do a quick tidy-up and vacuum. Then I sit down to work on blog posts.

Routines help us to be more productive and efficient because we know what to expect and how to balance our schedule accordingly.

Incorporate Routines

We often have routines that are so ingrained in our daily life that we don’t even think about them. For instance, every time I shower, I follow roughly the same steps in the same order out of habit.

Routines minimize the brain power needed for a specific task. I don’t need to remember to put shampoo in my hair in the shower so my brain is freed up to focus on other things. By incorporating routines in other areas, you’re allowing your brain to spend less energy on the mundane so that you can focus on higher priority tasks.

For example, if you empty the dishwasher every morning before breakfast, not only do you not have to remember to do this task, but you also know that it’s ready for loading breakfast dishes. You’re saving mental energy AND crossing two jobs off your list: emptying and loading the dishwasher.

My typical daily Schedule

Since it can be helpful to see how other people manage their schedule, here’s a peek at my day.

6:00 Wake up, have coffee & quiet time
7:00 Get breakfast for the kids & get ready for school
8:00 Drop off at school, walk with the dog
9:00 Pick up the kitchen & do any other house cleaning tasks
10:00 Shower
10:30 Work on writing/blogging
12:00 Take a break for lunch
12:45 Errands, household chores, or work
2:20 Pick up kids at school, afternoon activities
6:00 Dinner, family time
7:00 Kids shower & get ready for bed
7:30 Read with the kids & put them to bed (usually by 8:30)
8:30 Time w/ my husband, read, watch tv
9:30/10 Bedtime

Not every day flows like this. Sometimes I have appointments or commitments at school. Other days are more laid-back and involve brunch with friends or a pedicure. The general flow is what helps me to predict my day though. I’m allocating time to my family, to work, and to myself.

What’s your key to an effective schedule?

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Easy tips to help you plan an effective schedule to make time for your priorities.
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How to Pack for a Family Vacation

Packing for a vacation can be a challenge, especially if you're packing for young children. Read my tips for easily getting your family packed for a trip.

Welcome to my 14 Days of Organization series where I’m sharing tips, tools, and strategies to help you organize your home, your family, and your personal life!

Yesterday I offered some helpful tips for prepping your house before a trip. Today I’m talking about ways to simplify the process when you pack for a family vacation. Packing for yourself can be enough of a hassle, but it’s a whole new world when you’re packing for kids as well.

*I originally published this post when my kids were much younger. I’ve added some new tips, but I’m focusing on packing with young children because it does require a different mindset. I’d also like to encourage all you mamas of little ones that this process gets a lot easier as they get older so hang in there!

I’m a classic over-packer. I hate the feeling of not having something I need on a trip so I tend to overcompensate a little bit. Fortunately, I’ve tamed it down since having kids so we can actually fit it all in one car.

I’m a big believer in learning from prior experiences so I’ve started taking some extra steps to ease the stress. Packing us up in an orderly way will help to keep things running smoothly during the packing process, as well as the trip itself.

Use a “Don’t Forget” List

As I’m packing for my family, I keep a running list of things I definitely don’t want to leave behind. Travel bed anyone?! As I pack things, I cross them off, but I also do a double check during our final walkthrough.

Pack Ziploc Bags

Having plastic bags on hand can save your butt when you have wet or messy items. Wet swim suits, sandy shoes, or extra dirty clothes from an accident can all be packed in a Ziploc bag for the trip home.

I also use gallon-sized bags to keep things organized. Having a separate baggy for snacks or sunscreen makes it easy to toss in a backpack or beach bag. All the bottle or sippy cup parts can go in another bag. By keeping things separate, they’re less likely to get lost.

Pack basics instead of outfits

By packing mix-and-match basics, you ensure that you have multiple options. For kids, I recommend having a top and a bottom for each day of travel, plus one extra. While you probably won’t wear all the clothes, at least you won’t run out.

Bring special Activities

Grab a few cheap activities and/or books as a special treat for times when the kiddos are bored. Exploring new places is fun, but sometimes kids need a break. Having a few new (but inexpensive) things to do will keep boredom at bay.

This is also really helpful in case of unexpected delays at the airport or to keep kiddos quiet on the plane.

One last tip: remember that unless you’re going to be in the middle of nowhere, you can probably buy anything you forget (except for a favorite lovey – don’t forget that!)

What do you do to make packing easier?

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5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Home When You Travel

Follow these 5 tips to protect your home when you travel.

Welcome to my 14 Days of Organization series where I’m sharing tips, tools, and strategies to help you organize your home, your family, and your personal life! 

This might not seem like it has much to do with organization, but there’s so much to do when you go out of town that things can easily slip through the cracks. Just a few simple steps can help keep your house safe while you’re enjoying your trip.

1 | Hold the mail or ask someone to pick it up

Don’t let your mail pile up when you go out of town. A full mailbox is a sign to unwanted visitors that no one is home.

A neighbor might be willing to grab your mail each day. If not, it’s really easy to have the post office hold your mail. You can do it online at usps.com.

Your mail will be delivered in bulk on the first business day after your scheduled return. You should do the same for the newspaper if you have a daily delivery.

2 | Plan for pet and plant care

Arranging pet care is a given if you have cats or dogs. Don’t forget about the small pets like fish or hamsters! If you plan to be gone for more than a few days, it’s a good idea to have someone water your plants.

A trust-worthy teenager is perfect for tasks like getting the mail, newspaper, and watering the plants or caring for a low-maintenance pet.

3 | Notify your neighbors

Let a neighbor or two know you’ll be traveling and for how long. They can keep an eye out for any problems or suspicious activity. At least one person should have a spare key in case of emergencies.

Make sure to provide a contact number so they can reach you if anything comes up. A few years ago our neighbor noticed water pooling near our garage when we were out of town. It turned out there was a problem with the sprinkler system. We were able to have the water turned off and prevented major flooding, all thanks to our kind neighbor!

4 | SET AUTOMATIC TIMERS FOR LIGHTS IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE HOUSE

This one is pretty self explanatory, but having a couple different lights turn on at different times makes it look more like someone is at home and keeps shady characters away. Who else remembers the scene from Home Alone when the two crooks are watching all the automatic lights turn on?!

5 | DO A FINAL WALK-THROUGH BEFORE LEAVING

It’s common sense to lock up when you go out of town, but I’ve often found a bathroom window left open when we do a final check. By walking through the house quickly before you leave, you can be sure that windows and doors are secure and that valuables are hidden from view.

You should also turn off unused lights and turn down the thermostat. No sense wasting energy when you aren’t even there.

None of these tasks are too time-consuming, but they all help to protect your home and ensure it will be safe while you’re away so you can enjoy your trip. 

Check out all 14 Days of Organization here!

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Use Your Phone to Stay Organized

Here are several ways you can use your phone to stay organized and tackle your to-do list.

Welcome to my 14 Days of Organization series where I’m sharing tips, tools, and strategies to help you organize your home, your family, and your personal life!

Modern technology can handle a huge workload. Smart phones can assist with everything from managing your schedule to finding restaurant reviews to paying bills.

Technology is also portable in a way that wasn’t possible until fairly recently. The trick is to make our gadgets work for us in a way that actually helps us, rather than creating distractions. So how can you use your phone to stay organized??

Here are 5 ways I use my phone to keep my family organized.

1 | Reminders/Alarms

Personally, I prefer an old school planner for managing my schedule. I think more clearly when I write things out on paper. However, I also enter appointments into the calendar on my phone and set an alert.

I use the alarm feature to remind myself about important tasks, like giving one of my kids medicine. It’s a simple way to jog my memory so that if the day gets busy, things don’t slip through the cracks.

2 | mobile banking & money exchange apps

Gone are the days when you have to make a trip to the ATM or write a check to pitch in for a group gift.

With mobile banking and money exchange apps like Venmo, the process has been simplified tremendously. If you need to deposit a check, most major banking apps can handle this too.

3 | Coupon  & Store Apps

Who likes saving money?! I’m not a big coupon-user in general, and I am notoriously bad at remembering to bring coupons to the store.

Having an app that I can quickly search for deals while I’m at the store, is much more convenient. I also love the apps for stores like Michael’s that display current coupons and sales.

Instead of having to carry coupons around in case I happen to stop at Michael’s, I just check their app to see if there’s a coupon available.

4 | camera app

The camera on your phone can be used for a lot more than just snapping pix of your vacation. I use mine all the time to help me remember things when I’m out and about.

When we were renovating our kitchen, I’d snap a quick photo of the price and model number of a particular appliance or fixture that I liked. Back at home, I could take the info right from my picture to compare prices, look at reviews, and check dimensions.

5 | Shared Calendars

One tool that has been super helpful in our family is a shared calendar. My husband and I use a Google calendar, and I added the app on my phone.

Whenever we have an event or appointment that we both need to know about, we add it to our joint calendar. It’s much easier to make plans when I can quickly check the family calendar for any conflicts.

These are all simple ways to use your phone to make life easier. You don’t have to be super tech-savvy to find an app on your phone or set a reminder. Each of these tools will help cut down on paper clutter and make it easier to stay organized and tackle your to-do list.

Go HERE for a full list of posts from the 14 Days of Organization series.

How do you use your phone to simplify your life??

Here are several ways you can use your phone to stay organized and tackle your to-do list.
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Purse Essentials: What You Need & How to Stay Organized

My purse can easily become a dumping ground rather than a well-ordered carry-all. Here are my purse essentials for making life easier and a few tools to keep everything organized.

Welcome to my 14 Days of Organization series where I’m sharing tips, tools, and strategies to help you organize your home, your family, and your personal life!

Does this situation sound familiar? You’re at the grocery store, and your phone starts ringing. You reach with one hand into your purse for the phone while keeping the other hand on your toddler who has outsmarted the shopping cart seatbelt. You dig furiously through your purse with your free hand while your toddler laughs hysterically as you hold onto the back of his pants. Normally you’d ignore the phone but you’re waiting for a call from the pediatrician. Finally your fingers grasp the phone just as the pediatrician’s number lights up as a “missed call.”

My purse can easily become a dumping ground rather than a well-ordered carry-all. I want to be able to find the phone when I need it. I want to know exactly where to find a receipt when at the dry-cleaner or returning an item at the store.

So ladies, today we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty about what to keep you in your bag and how to keep it in order.

Purse Essentials that Make Life Easier

I keep some basic items handy for the day-to-day: purse essentials you could call them. Aside from my phone and wallet, these are things that I use most frequently.

1 | Chapstick/Lip Balm

I can’t handle dry lips. So I always have a good chapstick in my bag (with sunscreen because I live in San Diego where we get a lot of sun.) My favorite right now is coconut Sun Bum Sunscreen Lip Balm. It smells like a tropical vacation!

2 | Feminine Products

You don’t want to get caught without these on hand right?! I keep tampons & bandaids in a separate pouch so they stay in their packaging and don’t get dirty. Even though the packaging helps, I find that over time they get gross when they’re loose in my bag. Plus I don’t want to pull out my wallet and have a tampon fly out at the grocery store 😉

3 | Bandaids

Because I have younger children, I like to have bandaids handy in case of the minor scrapes that happen. Keeping them in a separate pouch makes them easy to find and keeps them clean and ready to use.

4 | Headphones

I’m a podcast addict so headphones give me the opportunity to catch up on episodes I’ve missed. I can pop in my headphones and listen to something interesting while watching my kids’ karate class. Check out some of my fave podcasts here.

5 | Hand Sanitizer/Wipes

Kids touch everything. Even now that mine are a little older, they can’t keep their hands off surfaces at the store, the post office, or pretty much anywhere. Especially during flu season, I like to have hand sanitizer available to deal with those dirty hands when we’re out and about.

6 | Sunscreen

Another key item for those of us that live in the land of perpetual sunshine! I like to keep a roll-on stick (like this one) for those times when we didn’t apply sunblock at home. I love to be tan, but I hate to be burned.

7 | Emergency Info Card

I laminated a small card that has our doctors’ names & numbers, our insurance info, and emergency contact numbers all in one place. It’s no big deal to find that info in a normal situation, but having it all in one spot seems like it would be really helpful in the event of an emergency.

2 Tools to Keep Your Purse Organized

Small Pouches/Cases

Have a couple small bags to store your purse essentials serves two purposes. First, it keeps small items corralled in one place so you don’t have to go on a treasure hunt every time you need something.

Second, it makes it easy to switch bags. You just grab the extra pouches and throw them in a different bag, and you’re good to go. No more worrying if you have what you need!

Receipt organizer 

One of the biggest reasons my purse gets disorganized is paper. I put coupons, receipts, and other papers in my bag and then forget to take them out. With a receipt organizer, those papers are all in one place.

One slot is for coupons, one for receipts, another for miscellaneous papers you need, etc. Instead of digging through slips of paper to find your keys, the papers are contained.

Another option is to use a simple envelope as a catch-all for receipts. Clean out the envelope weekly and either file or toss receipts.

One final tip for keeping your purse in order is to take a few minutes each week to go through your bag. Empty out any extra stuff and either toss it or put it where it belongs. With regular maintenance, the dumping ground can be avoided.

How do you prevent your purse from becoming a disaster??

Check out all 14 Days of Organization!

*This post includes affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure here.

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