August 31, 2021
Organize Your Way Out of Chaos
With school resuming for the year, life is about to get crazy again. Between new classes, a new grade level, new ways of doing school, and more virtual learning, adjusting from summer vacation to days packed with activities can be a bit rough.
Here are a few tips to help you get ahead of the chaos so that you can run your life, not the other way around.
If your children are learning either totally online or in a hybrid classroom model this year, it’s important to organize their workspace to spend less time finding what they need and more time learning.
- Carve out a niche at home such as a reading corner or other isolated space where the kids can be online for school and not distracted by activities around them. If you have more than one kid, this can be difficult but worth the extra time and effort to keep them separated. Consider noise-canceling headphones to cut out distractions, especially for Zoom calls.
- Create virtual folders for all their electronic files – each child should have their own file structure to keep everything straight.
- Store all files on a cloud server such as Dropbox or another service that allows access to files wherever they go and saves important data away from the computer if the hard drive crashes. Some schools have already set up a cloud server for students, so use that, if available.
- Install a robust internet service with a strong Wi-Fi network to support the many devices typical families use at once.
- Remove distractions from learning with apps such as Freedom and ColdTurkey that manage social media and other distracting sites to help students focus.
Homework doesn’t stop with virtual learning. Some students even found they had more homework last school year than in years past, something unlikely to change this fall. So, assume last year’s homework load will continue, which means exercising utmost diligence about completing assignments.
The biggest challenge of homework has always been finding the best time to work on it.
- Schedule homework time and stick to it. One key to organization is consistency. By doing homework at the same time every day, it becomes more manageable. It may be hard at first but will get easier as it becomes more routine.
- Break each assignment down into smaller chunks to make it easier. Large assignments can be overwhelming, making us want to push them off until later, but later might never come as other demands fill that time. Instead, deconstruct large tasks into more manageable, easier to accomplish smaller tasks. Before you know it, you’ve completed the entire assignment one small task at a time.
- Manage homework virtually with online tools such as StudentMinder and VirtualXPro that track assignments and due dates to help students stay on top of their work.
Working from home
The kids don’t get to have all the fun. You might be working from home at least part of the time, too. Much like online learning for kids, working from home presents challenges not usually found at the office. How do you juggle work time and home time in a way that helps everyone work effectively and harmoniously?
- Find your niche to work in. Like the kids, you need a dedicated space to call your home office, even if there are no walls around your desk. Sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s good to set barriers between the two when possible. Physical barriers, such as a home office with a door, are best, but at least setting up a separate desk in an open area helps focus on work tasks.
- Avoid the living room. As tempting as it may be to plant yourself on the couch with your coffee and laptop to work, guess what else occupies the same room: the television. This is a distraction rabbit hole waiting to happen at the push of a button. The living room is often the center of activity, too, offering many other distractions and making it a poor choice when you need to work.
- Use the same virtual filing methods the kids use to manage their school files so effectively. Tempting as it may be to save files on your desktop, you're really only saving a few seconds, and you’ll have to transfer them to the safer off-site server later anyway, so go ahead and store them to the cloud now and save yourself some time while also averting a potential disaster. Often, part of the virtual work environment includes a VPN to access company servers. This is ideal, as all files are saved offsite and managed by your company’s IT department. But, of course, this requires an excellent internet connection to work at maximum efficiency.
- Work when you’re working. Even though it may be difficult to separate work from home life when you’re physically at home but virtually at the office, resist the temptation to take care of home tasks when you’re on the clock. The dishes and vacuuming can wait. They’ll still be there when you’re done. Instead, treat work like a workday, where you are “at work” during your regular work hours and home before and after. You just have a shorter commute.
- Stop working when you're not. Don't let work become your life. Just as focusing on work during business hours is important, so is focusing on the rest of your life when the workday is done. Tough as it might be today to disconnect when we are tied to our cell phones, emails, messaging, etc., it's important to break away and take care of ourselves and our families.
What time do you get out of bed in the morning? The most organized and productive people get up at the same time every day. It doesn’t have to be the crack of dawn (unless you work best early in the day), but consistency is the name of the game. If online school or your now-remote job requires you to start at a certain time, that’s a built-in alarm clock. Even if you have flexible hours, it’s still a good idea to maintain a steady schedule when possible. This consistency helps keep everything and everyone organized and on track.
One challenge every family faces is managing all the weekly events. From soccer practice to concerts to date night, here are a few tools to keep everyone’s schedules straight.
- Google Calendar is a great way to connect everyone, so the whole family knows what is coming up. Parents can control admin settings and send invitations to each family member involved in each activity. Because it’s online, anyone with access can pull it on their phone on the go. You can also set up alerts to remind you what’s next and when.
- Google Tasks gives you a portable list that keeps your to-dos at your fingertips. It comes as part of Google Calendar or as a separate app.
- Those who prefer the tactile experience of writing out the family calendar and posting it on the fridge can find many dry erase and paper options available all over the internet or at your local office supply store.
Get ahead of the chaos
Whatever methods you choose to organize your life, implement your preferred system before the chaos becomes unmanageable. It’s a whole lot easier if you get ahead of it. Sooner is better. Start today.