Chores pt 4: Beyond a Chore Chart to Teach Time Management

Chores pt 4: Beyond a Chore Chart to Teach Time Management

After a couple of weeks of a new chore regimen, expect some push back from everyone.

The novelty is gone and frankly, we are over it!

People who are procrastinators by nature are never going to be that excited about a To Do list or a chore chart. So, we have to get creative. Here are some things to try especially if one or more of your kids are just not into charts and lists.

Timers and alarms and clocks

Every child needs to have easy access to analog clocks and timers if you expect them to develop a logical sense of time passing. Digital clocks are just numbers that magically change. What do they mean anyway? To a kid, not much. Get them some old fashioned clocks with hands. Kitchen timers that tick down as the pointer moves toward zero are also great.

How can a timer help, you ask?

Your son is sick of you nagging him and besides, he’s right in the middle of a chapter!

Son, when this timer goes off it is time for you to take a bath.” Leave the room.

Now you aren’t telling him to take a bath, the timer is! And it usually works.

If you notice your child(ren) having trouble remembering what the timer signifies (because it is always changing) use sticky notes beside the timer. TAKE A BATH

Phase 1: check on them (silently) when the timer sounds and give gentle reminders about what they are to be doing

Phase 2: let them set the timer themselves at your prompting (“15 minutes until bathtime”)

Phase 3: independent time management with one task at a time.

chore time lineTimelines

This is the winning solution for my VERY STUBBORN, introspective child who procrastinates like he was being paid to.

Create a timeline for the after-school (or morning) time period. End the timeline 30 minutes before bedtime to provide a cushion. We are setting them up to succeed.

Mark off 15 minute increments like in this photo.

Create pieces of paper to indicate activities in corresponding sizes. For example, dinner at our house takes a bit under 30 minutes. So we have a Dinner piece of paper that is the right size to occupy two 15 minute sections of the timeline.

Create pieces of paper that simply say Chore if the chores vary from day to day.

When your child gets home from school, one of the first things they do is set up their timeline. They design their afternoon! If they want to put everything at the end of the day, they will learn how that plays out. Let them try it! Give them a chance to learn from experience. Maybe they will rock it and you know they’ll be the students pulling all-nighters in college to finish a project.

This timeline gives your child a lot of freedom and it saves you a lot of yelling and the frustration of trying to convince them that it’s really a better idea to take a shower after you play baseball. It’s about learning and figuring out how life works.

Phase 1: help them set up the timeline everyday just by practically making sure the pieces stick on and that everything is included. 15 minute increments

Phase 2: “Have you set up your timeline yet today?”

Phase 3: they enter items into their own digital calendar themselves and follow that instead (or as well)

Just because a chart or list didn’t work for your child doesn’t mean they are never going to be able to be a contributing member of society. Use timers and reminders, calendars and timelines to start teaching them time management and how to prioritize. Those skills are just as important as How to Load a Dishwasher.

Who has another not-a-chart chore system? Do tell! in the comments.


Take a day off.

too busy?

too busy?

Sometimes it feels like everyone I talk to is competing for World’s Busiest Person!

And I admit, some days I feel like I’ve been thrown into the ring myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a title, especially if it comes with a crown! But, being too busy isn’t really winning.

Being too busy is losing.

We do too much because we feel so important when we’re busy–so needed and efficient.

Unfortunately, there is plenty of research telling me that being busy can be the opposite of being efficient–specifically when it involves multi-tasking.

This past Saturday, an old friend texted me (because she was probably too busy to call) an invitation to bring my kids to Disneyland and play hookey with her and her kids on Monday. I will spare you the inner dialogue that ensued. (Just imagine what you think when presented with a chance to run away for 24 hours.)

Long story short: I said Yes. We shirked all of our responsibilities for the day and had an amazing time.

I caught up with my friend. Our kids got to hang out and eat Dole whips. We laughed a lot.

The most amazing part has been the fallout from this spontaneous day-off. No one is mad at me, even though I backed out of something I agreed to do months ago. My business didn’t implode without me. I have a few extra emails to write. No biggie. My kids’ sports coaches and teachers didn’t call me irresponsible.

I guess everyone else is too busy to react to my day of frivolity!

It is true that in those moments when you hear yourself saying (whining), “I don’t have time to exercise/rest/meditate.” that is exactly when the break will do you the most good.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”


Give your thinker a break one day. Let me know what happens!

Turkey Day Preppers

Get Organized Already

Photo credit to Vicki Nikolaidis via Flickr

Preparing for Thanksgiving is kind of like preparing for the end of the world. Everyone is hoarding food, the store shelves are stripped bare, and everyone is running around like they are never going to see the light of tomorrow.

The biggest stresser is timing. I mean, the turkey takes hours, the gravy takes minutes. There are sides, and salads, desserts, and cocktails. How in the world are you going to make sure everything comes out at the right time?

Plan ahead.

This important step may add a little more time to your prep routine, but it will be worth it. It’s something I have done to keep me from losing it every holiday season. Plus, once you have your routine down to a science, you can it apply it to other times like birthdays or the super bowl party your other half springs on you a week before.

First things first: The guest list. You can’t possibly know how much to make if you have no idea how many people are coming.

Once you have your list, prepare 1.5 servings per person even for children, because while they may not eat their allotted serving, that extra will be there for the person who comes back for their third plate.

Get Organized Already

Photo credit to Bruce Turner via Flickr

Next thing: Grocery list. Decide ahead of time what you’re going to make and write a list of food items with each one’s ingredients underneath. You don’t need to include measurements in this list. Go through your pantry and cabinets and cross off what you already have on hand. Eggs, butter, and milk are things to buy even if you have some on hand. Chances are you’re going to need more than what you have.

To make your big day easier, prep some of your food the day before. Assemble the baked macaroni so all you’ll have to do is pop it in the oven while the turkey is resting. Boil your potatoes the day before and mash them on the day of. You can even put pies together, refrigerate, and bake them while everyone is eating.

How much early preparation you do depends on your comfort level and what you’re making. To make it easier (and because I’m a huge list person), write out everything you will be making the day before. List all of the preparatory steps one food item at a time. The list will keep you from feeling frazzled, and going in circles.

What are some Thanksgiving cooking tips and tricks you find helpful?

Or is this your first Thanksgiving? If so, what are some concerns and worries you have?

The Joys of Self-Employment

Today I was a terrible business owner.
But, I was a great wife.
Sometimes the life work balance needs a shake down!

My man is leaving town for a couple of weeks and he wanted me to join him on some shopping trips around town to get ready. I have a (constant) pile of stuff to do for my boss (who is me) but today I called in sick and hung out with Jeff.

Guess what? The list is still there. I’ll work on it tomorrow, and my family is happy pappy!

2 secrets for Mommy-Work-Life Balance

Is there such thing as life-work balance when you are a mom? Lots of people have been asking this question.

work-life-balance-signFor some, it’s more comfortable to assume there is such a thing–to assume it is possible–and therefore assume it must be our fault for really messing things up. But, it ain’t necessarily so!

This being said, there are some tangible things we can do to be more organized with our limited mommy-time every day.

First of all, I’m going to assume you are taking care of yourself. Because it goes without saying that if you don’t get enough sleep, exercise most days, and eat fresh foods there is no way to find balance in your body, much less your whole life!

After that, I’ll tell you two things that have been monumental in helping keep my family schedule organized so I can be more productive than the average bear.

shared mobile calendar

The first is a shared mobile calendar. We Driskills use google calendar, but any online calendar will allow you to see what your partner or childcare provider is doing and vice-versa. This in turn will give you a chance to plan without having to discuss or argue about priorities at every turn.

School gets out early next Friday. No problem. It’s on the calendar. Both parents are aware.
You are both working late Monday night. The last one to book work, books the sitter.
You want to go out with the ladies. Check the calendar to see if there’s a night you wouldn’t have to hire a sitter at all because another adult will be home.
There is a bit of a learning curve as you all get used to relying on an app instead of your day planner or wall calendar to tell you when to go to the dentist. But the payoff in increased communication, and the practice of actually planning ahead, will seriously change your life and possibly save your marriage.
Can I get an Amen?!

hire some help

The second thing I recommend is hiring household help. I don’t mean a butler or a catering service to cook your meals. (However, if you can afford it and hate to cook, then I do mean exactly that!) I mean taking an honest look at some things you really prefer not to do and figuring out who could do them for you.

6 year olds can do laundry

6 year olds can do laundry

There are small jobs in every home that can be outsourced—maybe to your own children as chores (bingo!) Or consider help that is already in place. How happy was I when I discovered the dry cleaner down the street will iron a man’s shirt for $2? I thought for sure I was going to win the noble prize for marital harmony! Now, instead of spending over an hour ironing (and not very well), I spend $10 and pick those puppies up later. $10 is worth 85 minutes to me.

If money is tight, get creative about how to outsource. There are young students in every town who want to earn money. Find those and let go of the guilt because you may be saving money by doing it yourself, but you are still spending–spending your free time. You may also be building up some resentment. (Not that I know anything about that!)

There is no cookie-cutter model for achieving a work-family-self balance in your life. Finding balance is like parenting itself. Everyone feels like they could be better at both things. But the reality is, the majority of us are doing a pretty darn good job.

Just in time for December! Time Management Tips

The holidays are here and your To Do list just got an augmentation to make Dolly Parton proud! So, since we are all adding stuff to our days I have one question:

What are you subtracting from your list to make room for the Christmas chores?

Do you think you can just pile the decorating, shopping, wrapping, writing, singing, and event attending right on top and the peace and joy of the season will magically just happen?  YOU CRAY-CRAY!

Something has got to go and if you don’t plan for it, the thing to go will probably be your sanity. 

Being organized simply means being prepared. So, plan ahead a little for December right now. Think today about what you really love about Christmas or Hanukkah. What do you look forward to?

Put that thing (or, if it’s a feeling, an activity that invokes that feeling) on the calendar. Maybe tomorrow in the shower you think of another thing. Put that on the calendar, too!

Now you’ve given the good stuff some space in your month to happen. Step two, what can you cut out that you aren’t so excited about? Maybe something you always do because your mom did it, but for you the ROI isn’t worth it. Maybe something you do all year but could afford to take a break from for a month. How about the Facebook? Take the app off your phone for a week. See how much time you gain. Maybe none. Maybe a lot. You’ll never know til you try!

How about TV during a part of the day? Turn it off and put on music while you do holiday things instead.

How about the gardening? Dry cleaning? etc. Let it go for a month if you can.

Let me know what you are going to do to make room for your holiday pleasures.


Captain America does my laundry: 5 tips for your Honey Do List

Living with another adult in no way entitles you to control how they spend their free time. It would be ridiculous to think we could tell a room-mate what to do on Sunday morning and yet, when it’s our spouse, the urge definitely does creep in.

Presumably, the two of you have a mutual interest in your home and its upkeep. Presumably, you both want to do an above average job raising the children or pets. And if you are like most people I know, you and your partner probably have different standards concerning these topics. And this is where the bliss of co-habitation can wear a little thin.

Stuff has to get done and who is going to do it? That is the million dollar question.

Thus, the Honey Do list was born.

This is usually a list wherein the more organized of a couple writes down household chores that should have been done three months ago. Or more. But who’s counting?

In many a home, this list may as well be written in invisible ink. And this can be a very sensitive topic. So tread carefully and never assume your Honey had the same convictions you do. Nor can you assume that you are the only one with a list of things you want someone else to do.

If your Honey is not hot to cross off your To Do items consider these 5 ideas: (results will vary)

  • idea #1: (this one is really a rule more than an idea) Ask your Honey where they would like you to post the list. Gently reassure them that these are items that can be done at their leisure and you are so thankful for their ability to do these things. Then say something like, “I do not want to nag you or be a nuisance. I’m just wondering where you’ll be most likely to see this list. I think you are the best judge of that.”

After all, if you hang a list in the forest and Honey doesn’t see it…

  • idea #2: only include chores that are not (really) time sensitive.

If something has to get done yesterday and you have already asked, begged, or pleaded with no noticeable results then you don’t need a Honey Do list. You need a Come to Jesus Meeting, and I’m staying out of that!

  • idea #3: keep the number of chores to under 3

Sure there are about three HUNDRED things you want them to do. But, trust me, you’ll increase your odds of success if you keep it to only 2 or 3 things at once.

  • idea #4: don’t leave the list up for more than 2 weeks.

Just quietly take it down and forget about it for a week or more. Re-visit idea #1. Then put it back up on a different piece of paper.

  • idea #5: spice it up a bit

Lay on the praise and compliments. People love to be appreciated. People do not love to be nagged. This recent incarnation (in the photo) worked well for me. It is titled “How to Save the Universe”. I hung it in the Honey Look at This area of the fridge and when I returned to the kitchen later 2 items were checked off and there was a smiley face on it. (!!)

If you can make it seem like unclogging the drain will turn them into a superhero in your eyes, you may be surprised at the results.

Do you have any other tips for us? How do you get your Honey to do without driving them crazy?