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Fall is here, school is starting, and all over America, small business owners with children are breathing sighs of relief—at the thought of getting back to business as usual after a hectic summer. But sometimes, school-year schedules can be even busier than the lazy, crazy days of summer.
How can you manage your time wisely when school is back in session? Here are 11 ideas.
If you use online calendaring and store the information in the cloud, you, your spouse and even the kids (if they’re old enough to have smartphones) can see at a glance what’s going on at any time. Digital calendars are easier to maintain than paper ones, too, since you can update them on your phone wherever you are. Use different colors to color-code activities, like red for business, blue for family, and green for personal appointments.
Set up reminders on your computer and sync them to your smartphone so you don’t miss important school deadlines or events. As soon as you know your kids’ school calendars, including their school holidays, back-to-school nights, and other events, enter them into the master calendar.
Give yourself ample time—for example, if a big school project that involves building a working volcano is due on a Monday, set a reminder a week ahead that you and your child need to shop for supplies so you’re not running to the craft store at 8:45 on Sunday night.
“It takes a village” is definitely true when it comes to small business owners and their kids. Enlist the parents of your children’s school friends to ease the burden on all of you.
For instance, setting up carpools to get the kids to school or after-school activities makes life a lot easier. If your business schedule prohibits you from actually driving the carpool during the week, be sure you chip in in other ways, like giving the other parents gas money, chauffeuring kids to activities on weekends, or providing after-school snacks for the carpool gang.
Your children’s schools might have after-school day care on-site. Even schools that don’t have formal day care often have homework help programs where the kids can stay a few hours after school ends and do homework under supervision. Other schools might have after-school supervised playground time, instead.
Boys and Girls clubs, local parks and recreation organizations, or other community organizations often have after-school programs for children, either free or at minimal cost.
If the area’s schools or community don’t have after-school programs that work for you, see if you can arrange with other parents to create your own! Set up a rotating system where the kids go to a different parent’s house after school each day and hang out, play, or do their homework.
Talk to your children about how important it is for them to help your business and family life run smoothly by doing more things for themselves. Even young children can make themselves a simple breakfast of cereal and milk in the mornings or grab healthy snacks from the refrigerator in the afternoon.
Try setting goals and making a game out of it, like setting a timer for who can get ready fastest in the morning or seeing who can work quietly the longest in the afternoon.
…in the evenings or on weekends! It may not be practical for your kids to have piano lessons or sports teams right after school. Look for activities that can take place at night or on weekends, so they can still enjoy their extracurricular activities at times that better fit the family and business schedule.
This is especially important if you work from home—once your children get home, it will be hard to keep them from needing your help or attention.
I know you’re already getting up early, but try getting up even earlier to squeeze a few hours of work in at your home office before the kids wake up and the morning craziness begins. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done with no one else around if you really focus.
If you’re more of a night owl, set aside a few hours to catch up on work after the kids are asleep.
Your family hours are precious and few, so try not to spend them staring at your smartphone and frantically checking business emails. No matter how busy your business gets, set aside specific times that are dedicated to family and stick to it. Your kids will feel valued, you’ll build their trust by keeping your word, and you’ll still get your work done.