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“Too much to do; too little time.” If this phrase expresses how you feel, you are not alone, and this book is for you!

Family schedules get out of control for various reasons. In one instance, they may start off simple and continue to have things added to them with no particular plan; this type of schedule is inefficient from the beginning, but you realize it only after you've added so many activities that you aren't accomplishing them all. In another instance, someone makes a real attempt to plan everything so it will work well, but the tools selected don't match the needs of the family, so they fall into disuse and the schedule deteriorates. This book addresses your scheduling problem at its cause and will show you how to simply and easily organize your family's schedule without upsetting your family's planned activities in the meantime.

What This Book Can Do for You

The In No Time series of books is designed to take a step-by-step approach to guiding you to accomplish your goal. The books contain lots of to do lists so that you don't have to spend a lot of time reading through theory and then trying to figure out what you actually need to do. This book won't take you a long time to read, and, at the end, you'll see practical results.

Many books cover principles of time management: how to set goals, prioritize tasks, and get more work done in less time. And many books tell you how to organize your home and office: how to reduce clutter, process paperwork, and store possessions. This book, on the other hand, takes the unique approach of concentrating on how to organize your family's schedule: how to take the complex mix of jobs, chores, events, and activities of all of your family members and arrange them so that everything gets done without a mad scramble by anyone.

This book does not try to tell you the one “right” system to use. Instead, we'll take you through a series of self-evaluations that will guide you to selecting a system that will complement the individual personalities and interests of your family members. After you've selected the system that's appropriate for your family, then we'll show you how to use it, and you can disregard the material explaining the other systems.

Regardless of the system you select, if you follow the steps in this easy-to-read book, you'll have your family's schedule arranged so that

  • All of your family members are comfortable with the planner system you're using, because you'll have selected a main planner and supplemental planning tools that work well with your family members' individual styles.

  • All of your family members are satisfied with what they're expected or allowed to do, because you'll have designed the schedule fairly, taking into account each person's preferences and distributing the burdens and benefits—okay, call it the work and the play—equitably.

  • Your family's life runs smoothly with a lot less stress, because you've loosened up the scheduling by eliminating some unnecessary activities, streamlining some required chores, and adding some more fun events.

  • You function as a coordinated family, rather than a group of individuals running in different directions, because you've made the small investment of time needed to align all of the components.

Who Should Read This Book?

It doesn't matter if you have a young family or one in which the kids are almost grown, if you have a family with just one child or a dozen children, or if you avoid technology or embrace it; this book is for you if

  • You're finding it difficult to coordinate your family members' schedules

  • You want your family to be able to do more with less stress

  • You don't understand why your family members can't follow a schedule even when they've agreed to it

  • You think you're so busy that you don't have time to organize your family's schedule

Or, you might want to use this book if you're in the process of combining two households and want to get your joint venture off and running smoothly. In fact, you may even want to read this book if you're just starting a family, because while we've made it easy to get your family's out-of-control schedule organized, it's always easier if you start off organized instead.

How This Book Is Organized

To help you focus in on exactly what you need, we've divided this book into three main parts.

Part I, “The Mechanics of Family Scheduling—Tools and Techniques,” explains the tools and techniques you'll need to establish and maintain a smooth-running family schedule. We'll take you on a tour of the many calendars, planners, and schedulers—both hard copy and electronic—that are available. Plus, we'll give you simple questionnaires to help you choose the tools that are best for your family. Then we'll show you how to set up your system and get your family involved using it.

Part II, “Life's Activities,” divides the items your family needs to schedule by categories: necessities, celebrations, enrichment activities, and leisure time. We'll show you how to make sure you have ample time for each area.

Part III, “Scheduling for All Your Family Members,” explores how family scheduling is different depending on the ages of the family members. We'll focus on scheduling issues that are unique to each age group: preschoolers, school-age children, teenagers, parents, and senior citizens. We'll show you how to make sure that no one group takes over or is left out.

How to Use This Book

You're welcome to read this book from cover to cover, of course, but what we really want you to do is to use this book to improve your family's life.

In Chapter 1, “Selecting a Planner,” we'll help you decide whether to use a hard-copy or electronic system. So, it makes sense that when you get to Chapter 2, “Setting Up Your Planner,” you'll need to read only the sections that apply to the type of system you'll be using. On the other hand, you'll notice we recommend that you hold off making your final decision until you've read all of the sections of the book that apply to you, so you may want to read about how to set up both types of systems, because what you learn may influence your final decision.

In addition, each chapter in Parts II and III of this book is a self-contained unit of information, so if a certain topic doesn't apply to your family—for example, if you don't have any preschoolers—then there's no need for you to spend time on that chapter.

Special Elements and Icons

We've done our best to arrange the material in this book so that you can zero in on what you need. So, we've added some special elements to help you spot information:

  • Many sections begin with a Things You'll Need list. This list will let you know whether you should have any supplies on hand as you read the section. If you have what you need as you read the chapter, you can complete the recommended steps right away, and you won't have to come back to do them later.

  • For major projects, we've provided you with timelines that will help you get all of the tasks into your schedule at the appropriate times.

  • We've set aside some information as tips. Tips indicate fairly easy actions you can take that will have a large, positive impact on your schedule.

  • On the other hand, we've flagged other information as cautions. Cautions don't talk about worst-case scenarios; they indicate negative results that are likely to occur if you don't guard against them.

  • Notes give you little tidbits of interesting information about the topic we're discussing in the main body of text.

  • At the end of each chapter, you'll find a Chapter Checklist that you can use to make sure you've done everything necessary to accomplish the goals outlined at the beginning of the chapter in the In This Chapter list.

We've also flagged four particular types of information with special icons:

  • The Brain Wave icon indicates material that gives you insight into how people think. It may be information on different learning and functioning modalities and the types of scheduling tools that work better for each of them. Or it may be a layman's explanation of psychological or emotional factors that may influence a person's tendency to accept or reject a certain type of scheduling.

  • The Product Note icon precedes any reference to a specific product relevant to the subject we're discussing. Each product note contains a brief description of the product, the manufacturer's suggested retail price, and the manufacturer's—or a supplier's—website address.

  • The Self-Assessment Questionnaire icon usually flags a small questionnaire for you and your family to fill out. Occasionally, this icon will also appear next to a discussion that asks you to think about how you react in certain situations. Based on your answers, we'll suggest which alternative scheduling solution is likely to work better for you.

  • The Time Optimizer icon appears next to examples of how to accomplish certain tasks more efficiently, so that you'll save time.

Our Goal

We know that many of you are overwhelmed by your current situation. This book is designed to help you get over the stumbling blocks that have been in your way until now.

  • If you've tried various systems without success, this book will show you how to assess your family so that the next system you select is a good fit and will work for your family.

  • If you think you're too busy just getting through the days to find time to organize your family's schedule, this book will let you do it a little at a time, with the promise that your small investments of time will have a big payoff in no time.

Our goal is to change your situation from “too much to do; too little time” to “We do a lot, and we have time to enjoy it!”

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