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How to organize your schedule

Want to organize your schedule, create fun shortcuts and consolidate errands? Look no further. Eileen M. O’Connor is one very busy mom and has got it down to a science as the mother of five children, an attorney and former CNN White House correspondent.

woman with day planner

Calendar Cool

“Every night, I enter the tasks I need to get done the next day in my Outlook calendar’s 7 a.m. slot. It helps me sleep as I am not thinking of all those things I need to remember to do, and it helps me get up and organize myself quickly by just glancing at the calendar entry on my BlackBerry,” says O’Connor. Sure, she has a BlackBerry, but she says you can do it on a kitchen calendar just as easily.

Stacey Crew, organizing expert and author of The Organized Mom (November 2009), relies on Outlook, too, as well as a variety of other ways to create an organized day. She says, “I also have an iPhone, which allows me to check email while in the carpool line or text something to a friend while on the go. I have a master to-do list that I make up for the week based on my overall goals (most of the tasks on the list [relate to] my annual goals).”

Crew uses the calendar for appointments and relies on her to-do list to see what needs to get done. “I choose a few things off my master to-do list and put them into my calendar based on the free time after appointments,” she says.


Consolidating Errands

Crew groups her tasks into categories. “By using the GOPACK method — group objects, purge, assign, contain and keep it up — you can lump like tasks together, eliminate what doesn’t have to be done that week, assign a day/time to accomplish it, then enter on the calendar.” Thus, she remains focused.

Location also plays a role, too. “Group your errands together by the part of town you need to hit.” For O’Connor, grocery shopping strategies entail a weekly (instead of daily) trip to the supermarket. She says it’s more economical. “You don’t do impulse buys, and you can use the same ingredients like celery, onions etc. for multiple recipes.”

She also plans her recipes while at the store to take advantage of what’s on sale. Get this: She started doing this when she lived in Communist Russia and had to go to five places to cover even the basics. Shopping took almost an entire day, and she never knew what was going to be available in the store.


Staying on Task

Whether you’re managing your day, the errands or the carpools, staying on task is key. Crew only answers the phone for calls she’s expecting. “I create a clutter-free workspace, only checking e-mails between tasks, and most of all, just being realistic about what can actually get done.” Plus, she keeps her kids on a solid routine of snacks, homework and relaxing time, then dinner, baths and a little family time, then snack and bed.

Above all, she says the secret to organization is learning how to say “no.” “Learning to know your limitations and how to say, ‘No, thank you,’ is really critical for busy moms,” she says. “It’s easy to become overwhelmed, which can snowball if we are then saying ‘yes’ to more commitments that are keeping us from handling our current ones.”

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