By Guest Blogger Dianne Barker
After leaving a successful journalism career to be a stay-at-home mom, I continued writing and speaking at women’s events while giving my hubby and two children priority. Trying to balance simultaneous roles—wife, mother, mentor to young wives, writer, and conference speaker—I found myself being swept along by life, grasping for a rope to survive the swirling current.
Our children grew, adding music lessons and other after-school activities. Desperate to keep up, I found three simple tools that organized my life—Calendar, List, and Meal Plan.
On a desk-sized calendar hanging on the fridge, I record family appointments and activities—even favorite TV programs. Here are some tips to manage yours:
- Using a marker in a color designated for each person, note appointments, school events, birthdays and other reminders. Schedule everything else around these commitments.
- Schedule appointments (doctor, dentist, hairdresser) at your convenience. Their office hours offer great flexibility. Noting the phone number saves time if you need to cancel or reschedule.
- Pray and prioritize. You can’t do everything. Decide what’s important. Less is often better.
- Schedule family time, a night to play games, read, or rent a movie. Treasure this time before your kids reach high school, when peer activities and part-time jobs steal family time. If you have trouble turning down invitations, putting family time on the calendar eliminates guilt. You can truthfully respond, “Sorry. We already have plans.”
- Schedule me time. Spending a couple hours with a book and a cup of tea occasionally provides time to rest and refresh. Putting me time on the calendar isn’t selfish…it’s meltdown prevention.
Keeping a to-do list organizes my daily routine. My list includes:
- A weekly overview. Although they’re on the family calendar, listing the week’s appointments alongside my daily plan helps organize my thinking, reminding me that whatever I don’t finish today must be added to another day’s full schedule. That’s motivating.
- A daily plan. Appointments, tasks, phone calls, etc.
- A future list. These projects aren’t urgent; work into daily plan as time allows.
A monthly schedule for meals eliminates anxiety. Hubby doesn’t love spicy foods on a normal day, and he couldn’t tolerate them on night shift. No lasagna or pizza on those nights. Planning around his schedule and likes/dislikes of little picky eaters proved challenging, but I developed a chart. With minor adjustments, the chart and cooking ideas will work for you.
- Using a blank calendar page, plan meals for weeks one and two, then repeat the schedule for weeks three and four, making changes as needed. Keeping a master list of ingredients simplifies shopping.
- Doubling recipes and freezing the extra gives a selection of home-cooked meals on busy days. Choose a day when you have time to cook. Here are some of my go-to recipes. Buy five pounds of ground chuck on special. Cook, drain and divide: two pounds in the pot; two pounds in a dish, and one pound in another dish. Add two 24-ounce cans of prepared spaghetti sauce to meat in the pot, simmer 10 minutes, and empty into a bowl to cool. Return two pounds of ground chuck to the same pot and add two packets of taco seasoning plus one-and-a-half cups water. Simmer 10 minutes, empty into a dish, and cool. Divide spaghetti and taco sauce into meal-sized portions to freeze. In the same pot, use the remaining pound of meat and add vegetables and broth or tomato sauce—homemade soup for today’s dinner. And there’s only one pot to wash.
- If you don’t have time for a big cooking project, buy three pounds of ground chuck—enough for four patties (freeze and grill later) and a double batch of taco sauce (one for dinner and one for the freezer). Emergency meals in the freezer save the day. While spaghetti sauce thaws in the microwave, cook the noodles and prepare a salad. Or while the taco sauce thaws, prepare a side dish (rice), chop tomato, shred lettuce and cheese, and heat tortillas.
- Keep fresh vegetables in the fridge, washed and cut for salad, and a bag in the freezer for stir fry.
- Freeze single servings of chili, spaghetti, and taco sauce to satisfy a starving teenager in snack mode.
- When baking a cake, measure an extra set of dry ingredients and store in an airtight container—a homemade cake mix for a busy day.
These simple tools—Calendar, List, and Meal Plan—tamed the chaos in our home. I think they’ll help organize your life too!
About Dianne Barker
Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and secretary of Christian Authors Network. (Article adapted from I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life.)