Don't Be The Family Planner | Giftie Etcetera: Don't Be The Family Planner

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Don't Be The Family Planner

So much of the advice I read on-line about planning for multiple people (mostly, I mean the other people in your household) does not translate well to reality. 

In particular, a lot of people recommend that, in addition to your own planner, you keep a family calendar so everyone can know what is planned.

Bullocks, I say. (That's very British of me, but I am not British, so I just hope I used it correctly. I've been teaching my kids British swear words instead of American ones, in the hopes that when they repeat "oh, bloody hell," the principal doesn't call me at home. But if he does, I am totally blaming my husband! Shhh...don't tell.) 

Having a family calendar just means that YOU spend extra time maintaining it while everyone else virtually ignores its existence...and just asks you when things are happening anyway. (And, really, isn't that a good reason for a swear word?)

TIP: Instead of a family calendar, have a recipe book holder set up in a central location. When not using your planner, leave it open to the monthly calendar on the recipe book stand.

A better solution than a family calendar, in my opinion, is that everyone keeps their own calendars and respects each others' systems.

This is not an easy solution, of course, but it pays dividends. Seriously, it's much easier to just track everything for everybody, on the front end. Bu
that doesn't teach your children to plan carefully, define your spouse as an equal partner, or have the long-term benefit of actually forcing your family to actively decide how to spend valuable time. 

By keeping his/her own calendar, each person is forced to be more thoughtful about the day. 

Now, as Plannerds, we need to realize that not everyone will use a planner. My 5 year old's version of scheduling is asking, "do we have school tomorrow or not?" My 8 year old knows, in his head, that karate is on Tuesday and Thursday. My husband only keeps a calendar at work, on Outlook, and peeks into my planner all the time. The thing is that all of them are doing ACTIVE thinking about schedules, instead of a passive approach of just having the schedule written for them.

Sure, I write down their stuff as they communicate it, for my reference.

But that's the key - someone has to communicate it. As soon as they are initiating communication, they are taking responsibility for themselves and opening up the possibility of discussing hurdles or conflicts between their plans and your plans. Instead of chasing them down and asking how they are getting to soccer practice, you are discussing the problem of getting to soccer practice.

TIP: Have a clear rule that NOBODY writes in your planner but you. All sorts of trouble can result otherwise. 

At the same time, let them leave you notes to remind you to add things to your planner. My husband sends those as Facebook messages. My 8 year old writes "by moor eyes cream" on a notepad on my desk. Sometimes, you just don't have time to discuss things. A note, at least, starts communication.

(My expectations are low for the 5 year old. Mostly, his stuff just goes in my planner. Just to show you why, the (sideways, sorry) picture below was taken at an ACTUAL school for gifted children. He is pushing the door when he should be pulling. Remind you of any famous cartoons?)

TIP: When you communicate to your household, do so in the way that they understand and naturally respond to rather than your favorite method of communication. 

For example, my husband does well when sent an e-mail or Facebook message, since he plans on Outlook during the work day. (Also, when he says that I "didn't tell" him, I can pull out the evidence. Blast!) A teenager might do better with a text message. My littler kids need reminders the night before and physical reminders, like the karate bag sitting in the doorway when they are about to leave the house.

TIP: As soon as your kid can read and write fluently (around 3rd or 4th grade, usually), pick out a planner with him/her. Do a daily review and a weekly review together. Let the child decorate it. Planing is a skill that will benefit a kid throughout his/her lifetime.

If you decide to go this route, and make each person responsible for their own plan, please realize that there will be mistakes. 

Someone will miss baseball practice. Your husband will book a business dinner the same night as the Bangles concert. (What, you've never been to a Bangles concert?!?) It's okay. You'll have to communicate and make decisions at that point. Then, your family will learn to think of others when booking things.

Here's the thing - the SAME MISTAKES would have happened if you were the only one writing things done. Except, and this is important, YOU would have gotten blamed.


Your kid wouldn't have learned to plan ahead of time, to put his karate uniform by the door, and to write things down.

Your spouse wouldn't have learned to add events to his calendar and to check with you first before booking an important business meeting.

You would have been stressed out, overwhelmed, and felt guilty.

Avoiding all that is worth the sacrifice of a central family calendar.

I know today's post ignores most professional organizer wisdom. But my goal here is to make life better for you and your loved ones, not to repeat the advice of others. (Not that I am opposed to repeating good advice, mind you.)

A family calendar is the easy way out, but it doesn't teach, doesn't completely respect the one maintaining it, and is so often ignored. Avoid all that, and give your family the tools to plan and communicate, instead of a useless wall of square boxes.

I'd love to hear from you about this radical idea in the comments. Or, even better, come discuss planning, organizing, and ordering your life at the Giftie Etcetera Facebook page.



Unknown said...

Sorry, Giftie, but 'bullocks' isn't a British curse word; 'bollocks' is.

Great post, though. I definitely agree that proactive planning (instead of responding to someone else's planning) is SO important!

Anna said...

Great post! So far, out of my 3 children, just my middle child and only girl is remotely interested in calendar/planner. I have some stuff in my calendar that they have to check off when they are done. I thought that would at least help with beginning to think about keeping track of things. :) said...

Interesting idea.

I was always the keeper of the calendar - my planner. They were pretty good about telling me what was going on so I could note it.

I did get a family calendar for a couple of years. They looked at it a little bit but I was the only one who wrote on it.

I definitely like the idea of getting them started with a planner early. It's an extremely valuable skill to have and will make their lives much better if they know how to managed and record their time.