10 Life Hacks for Busy Parents
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Working while managing a household and kids can be beautifully chaotic — and chaos can increase in the summer when schedules may change week to week and school-year routines fall by the wayside. Finding ways to become more efficient with household tasks and your children’s needs means you’ll have more time for the fun things in life, like playing tag in the sunshine with your kids or reading books while cuddling in bed. Here are 10 tips to increase your efficiency, both at home and work.
1. Hold family meetings
Hold a weekly meeting with all members of your household to review big events, check-in with each other and make sure that everyone is ready for the week ahead. Keep this check-in brief but do address issues that might be causing strife in your home. Most family meetings can be done in 10 to 15 minutes and everyone will be on the same page for the coming days. Here's a complete guide to family meetings.
2. Keep a family calendar
There are a billion calendar apps out there for families, from Cozi to Google Calendar. And don't forget basic paper calendars for the wall! Keeping one calendar where family members can note events that affect the entire household will keep everyone aware of what's next.
3. Plan your meals
Making a weekly meal plan means fewer manic pre-dinner grocery store visits. Take a few minutes at the beginning of the week to plan your meals and then hit up the grocery store or order your groceries online through a food delivery service such as AmazonFresh, Instacart or Safeway. Also consider meal planning sites like Blue Apron that take care of both menu planning and grocery shopping (here's a nifty list of food-delivery services). You just need to cook the meal once the food arrives by following their clear directions.
4. Use your lunch hour
Make your lunch hour productive by paying bills, getting a haircut, running errands or working out. Taking this break in the middle of your work day can mean crossing off those pesky to-dos. And if you work out, it's a nice way to release some stress in the middle of your day.
If finding time to exercise is hard, consider using your commute by riding your bike or running or walking part of the way. Taking the bus halfway home and then hoping off to walk the rest of the way will give you time to clear your head and work your muscles.
5. Schedule yourself
Developing a routine for household jobs means they’ll get done on a more reliable schedule without the added guilt of a to-do list. By doing your laundry on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you’ll have a set time for necessary chores, which means fewer things will fall by the wayside.
6. Hire help
No parent is an island and having a team at your beck and call only helps with world domination. Find occasional help through Neighborly, hire a weekly or monthly house-cleaning service and schedule walks for Fido. Perhaps use your favorite parenting listserv or Facebook parenting group to help you find the best help.
7. Find back-up childcare
Sickness always arrives at the worst time. You and your partner might have busy weeks with major presentations and then your little one gets the sniffles or your nanny calls in sick. When you just can’t take time away from work, having great back-up childcare is a necessary. Services like Bright Horizons and Spilt Milk Nannies can be a lifesaver. Also check out local start-up Poppy, which builds a custom team of 2–3 sitters for your family.
8. Use the internet for everything
You can do practically everything online from ordering groceries to scheduling appointments to even seeing a doctor. Use the internet to your advantage. Order your children’s entire spring wardrobe but take note of website’s return policies in case something doesn’t fit or your child doesn’t like it. A lot of times, retailers will have special online promotions, which means you can also snag a great deal.
9. Organize, organize, organize
Keep an organized landing station at home so when you come home, you can quickly unload everyone’s belongings so they are ready for the morning. At the end of the day, switch out daily items like lunch boxes and dirty clothing. At the end of the week, update bags with clean clothing, water bottles and special items for the coming week. Have a basket for items that need to be returned, like library books.
10. Work ahead
Get everything ready for the next day the night before. Pack lunches and bags for the next day or even the week ahead. Some people like to pack a few lunches and snacks so they only have to make lunches once or twice a week. Place important papers next to the front door so you don’t forget them. Lay out your children’s outfits the night before or even plan ahead by having them select their clothing for the week.
Need more mealtime organization? Try these handy recipes!