If you look at my blog Planning With Kids, you might have the impression that I have always been organised and planned, but that is far from the truth. While planning comes naturally to me now, it has taken years of application to make it feel that way.
My teenage years
As a teenager I think I almost drove my family crazy with my lateness, disorganisation and forgetfulness. Uni life saw me work solely on the just in time principle – causing me many late nights to meet my deadlines and cram in study. An approach that we all know is less than stellar. I lived pay to pay and didn’t give a minutes thought to planning in advance about anything, I tended to just roll with what happened.
Meeting my husband
Meeting my now husband was a turning point for me, he was much more organised than I was and he really had a positive impact on my life in this way (and many others). He never made me plan, but I just saw how much easier his life was – he never seemed stressed or rushed. He wasn’t freaking out over late payment fees or double booking himself. Life really did seem more enjoyable his way!
I didn’t instantly become organised though. It was very much a gradual process. With our first child, I started doing some small things to make my own life easier by planning ahead and being a bit more organised, especially when I headed back to work. I realised that while it was a little boring to spend weekends, prepping food for the baby and getting clothes ready for work, it meant I could get out the door with much less stress in the mornings. And most importantly it meant my stress didn’t impact the time I did have with our baby before and after work.
It wasn’t really until our second child was born that I really embraced planning as a tool to make my life and family life easier. My turning point was standing, once again in front of an open pantry, feeling frazzled and wondering what to make for dinner with a crying baby on my hip and a whiny toddler on my leg. I was going to have to make another dreaded trip to the supermarket with the kids to be able to put something together for us to eat.
It hit me that I knew dinner was coming every night at about the same time. Why hadn’t I planned for it? Dinner wasn’t a surprise, not like sick babies and wakeful nights, I knew it was coming and should be able to factor it into my days.
It hit me that if I sorted that stuff out in advance, it would make my life so much easier. I didn’t need to feel like I was constantly rushing from one thing to the next to get everything done in time. I knew things wouldn’t take me as long either, as I could do some of this stuff when the kids were sleeping and I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about doing tasks when the kids were awake instead of spending time with them.
How I started with planning and being more organised
Knowing I couldn’t organise everything at once and that the kids had pretty good sleep routines (well at least at night, the baby didn’t sleep that much during the day at that stage!), I decided to take on the project of making feeding the family easier. I started to menu plan. I would plan for a week at a time, deciding what main meals we would have each night and create a shopping list for everything I would need to cook these meals. And the best thing was that I could delegate this shopping list to my husband and I didn’t feel like I was doing everything by myself. This was an easy and practical way he could do more of the household tasks.
Once I had firmly established the habit of menu planning, I tackled another spot fire – a solid night time routine for my husband and I so we could start the mornings off with a clean slate. (Hopefully you will have read my guide on stress free mornings and will have started working on your own night time routine – if not you can out more about it here.)
A solid night time routine was another way that I could get distribute some of the household work load, allowing me to spend more time playing and hanging out with the kids. And this really was the start of my planned and present journey.
From that point, I have continued to take this approach to family life – organise and plan for what I can, so we can all cope better for the unpredictable elements that family life throws at us.
Naturally it wasn’t a perfect course I followed. I tried some things and they were disastrous. I tried other things that sort of worked, but with some patience, and some tweaks worked brilliantly. There were times when I was floundering as it took me time to catch up with new stages and new babies in family life, but I would create new plans or tweak old ones until we found something that worked for us.
I wasn’t born a naturally organised person. It is skill that I have worked on and developed over the last 20 years. Planning now does feel more natural to me and the reason for this is I am constantly benefiting from the positive impact planning has on my and my family’s life. The results I get from planning are huge and they encourage me to keep going even if I don’t really feel like it!
How YOU can start planning and getting more organised
So if even thinking about menu planning or routines scares or baffles you, know that embracing a more planned approach to family life can be learnt – you don’ have to be naturally organised to create plans for your family. Especially when you can learn from my testing and tweaking over the last 19 years!
Choose one area of family life that is an issue for you at the moment and plan how you will tackle it. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:
- Do you have chaotic meal times? – check out my simple menu planning process with free templates for you to use.
- Struggling with the after school activities? – check out this post and this post to see how we manage with five kids.
- Trouble getting things done? – check out how this post to see the simple pen and paper system I use to keep me on track and ticking things off
You don’t have to tackle everything at once – many small changes over time creates a big impact. Choose one area and make a start today!