The school bell has rung, the temperatures are starting to cool (knock on wood), and there's a certain calm in the neighborhood during the day - school is in session. In your home the evening may be everything but calm as you juggle homework, last minute supply needs, meal preparations, chores and .... a little break to relax as a family. Here are some ideas to help you actually get to relax.
Simplify mealtime with ultra fast meals. Scrambled eggs embellished with cheese, onions, and mushrooms served with fruit. Grilled cheese and tomato soup (my favorite!). Hummus and pita with a cucumber and onion salad dressed with plain yogurt. Hot dogs with carrot and celery sticks. These are our favorite meals that can be fixed in 15 minutes or less and with a minimum amount of heat in the kitchen (because it's still a little warm outside).
Use the secret weapon for helping kids focus on homework: music. Ask older children to create their own music playlist on their mp3 players. The rules for the music choices are: the music must be liked but not so much that the student starts singing along and it's not so engaging that the student is focused on the music rather than homework. Mozart and Bach are splendid backgrounds to homework. And yes, these composers often are the choice of my student organizing clients. It's easy to put these composers on your stereo for younger children to enjoy.
Have a set chore time for everyone. It will be much easier for the entire family to get chores done if everyone is working together.
Have a set bedtime for both you and your children. Thirty minutes before bedtime start slowing things down: turn off the TV and dim the lights.
Speaking of TV: TV and social media (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, etc) are distractions. They absolutely must be off while focusing on homework. Texting is also a distraction - put the cell phone in a different room. Rather than a complete prohibition of these electronic distractions consider using them only during 10 minute breaks between assignments. BUT, still no TV. Plots on TV last longer than 10 minutes, and TV is infamous for holding people's attention so firmly that it's difficult to disengage.
Analog timers are among my favorite organizing tools. Use it to time breaks. Having a hard time getting motivated? Make a deal with yourself to work just 15 to 20 minutes on that task you dread. Focus on the time period rather than the task. You will be a little further along when the timer dings. By the way, an analog timer is one where you watch the time sweep. It is not a digital timer. The old KitchenAid timer is a great example of an analog timer. My favorite timer is the Time Timer.
Boost your technical skills so you can act more effectively. There are two upcoming events in St. Louis to help sharpen the saw. Acumen Consulting in Brentwood is offering Word and Excel training on August 29 and 30. Please see the flyer for more information. The second event is the time management workshop, "Time Management Strategies That Will Make Your Life Easier," presented by internationally renowned time management expert and author Harold Taylor.
I learned something in a recent training class that really drove home the need for this upcoming class: most people learn their time management strategies in high school. When we were in high school the world was a very different place. Personal computers and cell phones did not exist. The pressure to do more with less time did not exist to the extent it does today. Until September 1 you can register for this time management workshop for half price! It's easy to register - just see the side bar.
It's a little hectic now, but life will feel calmer as your family falls into its back to school routines.