I read silly articles about saving time way too often. "Delegate," they insist. Sure, no problem. I'll get my servants right on that. "Schedule your day," they proclaim. First of all, my planner does not have room for an entire schedule on the page. Second, let me introduce you to The Loki:
(Full disclosure: The Loki has an older brother who has not managed to put me in therapy. His name is Ander and he aspires to be a Jeopardy champion.)
Last year, when the school called to inform me that The Loki had kicked his teacher in the shin and was in the office until he apologized, that telephone conversation - held on my cell phone in Target with ice cream melting in the buggy - was noticeably absent from my planner.
While other kids need a change of clothes at school, The Loki exceeded all expectations by needing a change of SHOES. Shoes, people! (He explained that he cannot be expected to use the potty at school. I explained that it was good practice for prison.) I was not even in the same town as the shoes at the time.
The Saints (as we shall appropriately and anonymously refer to his teachers) rarely sent him to the office, but when they did, he informed me with a smile that "the principal likes to talk to the bad kids!"
No carefully crafted minute-by-minute schedule will work for me while The Loki still lives at home. (He graduates in 2026. I am in the market for a personal-sized countdown calendar that goes that far into the future. Oh, and some wine. I'm in the market for wine.)
Instead, I have a lot of tricks that I use to save time. That way, I can be ready when The Loki strikes.
1. DO THINGS IN A LOGICAL ORDER AND A PARTICULAR WAY. I take showers in a certain order. (I know that sounds silly. But please - do you know what The Loki can do to the house while I'm in the shower?!?) Hair first, so it can start drying while I finish bathing. Always put away each item as I go. If I run out of shampoo, I replace it from the linen closet stash and put it on the running shopping list in my planner immediately. If I am serving dinner, I take the clean dishes directly out of the dishwasher so that no one has to put them away later. If I know I am making leftovers for lunch, I serve the leftovers immediately in a microwaveable dish while serving supper. If I start supper and it's going to take the potatoes ten minutes to boil, I use that time to freeze the ground beef and mop the floor.
2. CHECK THE PLANNER EVERY NIGHT. I check my planner every night and set up everything (clothes, purse, tote bag, school bags, etc.) for the next day, without fail. If something cannot be pre-packed (like yogurt for breakfast), a sticky note on the outside of my planner reminds me to pack it in the morning.
3. KEEP TIMED EVENTS ALL IN ONE PLACE. I write every timed, nonnegotiable event on my monthly pages in my planner, including carpool. That way, if the morning starts with a fever or some other "incident" (note: people who said my own kids' bodily fluids would not bother me were WRONG), I instantly know what to cancel.
4. KEEP BREAKFAST AND LUNCH SIMPLE AND REPEAT OFTEN. Breakfasts get made the night before in lunch boxes. Each meal is usually a protein, a calcium source, and a fruit. Mostly, that means nuts or peanut butter, yogurt or cheese stick, and fruit. We have a long commute, so the kids eat in the car. (This has the added benefit of keeping The Loki's mouth occupied while I listen to my own music in the car.) We buy lunch.
5. USE A FLEXIBLE MENU FOR DINNER. I write the menu in my planner and check off meals each week as I cook them. I plan five or six meals and we do leftovers on the other days.
6. MAKE ENOUGH FOR THE FREEZER. Seriously, it takes just as long to make one nights' worth of red beans and sausage as a week's worth. I freeze in individual servings so we can use the meals as fast food.
7. KEEP A RUNNING GROCERY/SHOPPING LIST. As I run out of things, I write them down. I coupon, but on weeks where The Loki throws me a curve, I just buy what is on the list.
8. DO IT OR WRITE IT DOWN. Whenever I think of something, I write it down if I cannot do it right away. That's why my planner is with me all the time.
9. USE FOUND TIME. I do my nails while waiting in the carpool line. I keep a tote bag of on-going projects for the dentist's office.
10. EXPECT THE LOKI. Seriously. Life won't always go smoothly. Be mentally and emotionally prepared for that and keep your planner with you.