- Hold a meeting. Companies do it, sports teams do it and so should your family. A weekly, face-to-face meeting is one of the best ways to improve family communication. Provide a favourite breakfast or a great dessert as an incentive for attendance. If someone can’t make it, let them know that there is no guarantee that they will have the car, a ride to practice or their plans accommodated that week. Then, use the meeting to review the week’s activities and discuss solutions to any time conflicts.
- Post a calendar or message board. A highly visible calendar or message board makes it easy for parents and kids to double check appointments or note schedule changes. While a paper calendar works for some people, other families have tried painting a wall with chalkboard paint or hanging a large white-board (dry-erase board) where notes can be written. You could even get a pack of window markers and designate one window as the message board. Just make sure messages are in a high-traffic area so everyone can see them.
- Use the technology you have. Don’t overlook the scheduling features found in some items we use everyday. Many cell phones come with built-in calendars and alarms to remind you of upcoming appointments. Your computer almost certainly has a calendar program that probably includes an option to have a reminder pop-up on the screen a few hours or even minutes before you need to leave for an event.
- Use the web to your advantage. An online calendar can be a great way to keep everyone in the loop: just fill in your events and then everyone with computer access can check what it is happening on a particular day. Google (www.google.ca) offers a free calendar program, complete with colour-coding. You get control over who can access each calendar, and how much they can see and change. You can also set up mobile alerts so you receive a text message when you have an appointment coming up with all the details handy on your phone. Include addresses in the appointments you make and you’ll save yourself the hassle of trying to find where you’re going. Google Calendar is available through a Blackberry and the iPhone so you can access your schedule anytime.
By organizing your daily schedule, you will eliminate fights over conflicting family appointments and you won’t have to deal with anymore headaches due to forgotten meetings. Do you keep losing your to-do lists? Keep them current and retrievable with Google Docs (docs.google.com) and give your family members access to view or even edit them. You can assign chores — or let them fight over them —and they can insert comments to remind you if you’ve left something out (such as grocery store items). Of course, if they have viewing access only, you still have all the control over the list. Also, check out the family-organizing software called Cozi (www.cozi.com), which can also be accessed via smart phones. On this website, families can create calendars, make to-do lists, send reminders and even keep an online family journal.
- Schedule household chores. When filling out your calendar, put aside a fixed time for household chores like vacuuming the living room, writing thank you notes and folding laundry. If you plug household chores and regular events into the family schedule, there’s a better chance that everything will get done and family life will be just a little less chaotic.