By Roxanne Donovan - Organization
August is a tricky time for our family. It’s the month our school-age kids start their new year. This means there are supplies to buy, lunch menus to determine, summer homework to nag (um…support) the kids into completing, teachers to meet, and nerves to soothe.
Because my partner and I are academics at the same university, it’s also the month we start our new school year. This means we have classes to prepare and endless campus events to attend - meetings, retreats, workshops, ceremonies, the list goes on.
As luck would have it, the start dates for the kids’ school and ours have landed on the same day the last several years.
The. Very. Same. Day.
The chaos was real the first time this overlap happened. A lot of things fell through the cracks. It was ugly and stressful for everyone. Not good.
We now use a variety of tricks to minimize back-to-school chaos. These techniques simplify life, improve family communication, and help us show up physically and emotionally for our little ones. I share five of these tricks below.
Please note I receive no compensation or benefit for the products I endorse. I just really like them.
1. Calendar apps rock
I don’t know what I would do without our calendar app. My boo and I use it to share kids' appointments and deadlines. We prefer this to sharing our entire calendars. We even note who is responsible for each item we share to minimize “I thought you were in charge of this” arguments.
2. Name stickers save time
No more spending hours writing kids’ names on every textbook and piece of clothing. Instead, I use name stickers and get the job done in a third of the time. The stickers are dishwasher and laundry safe so they stay put. Bonus: I delegate the sticking task to our 9 and 11-year-old. It’s something they can do without us having to supervise or redo. Yay!
3. Shopping list app is a must
With three people doing school and grocery shopping (my mom lives with us), our shopping list app saves us lots of frustration, like double purchases or, worse, missed items. Anything that needs to be bought – lunch ingredients, clothing, books – is put in the app. The same list is on everyone's phone and removals/additions are updated instantly. Our app even organizes groceries by category, making them easier to find in the supermarket. LOVE this feature.
4. Outsource where possible (without judgment)
If you have the funds, outsourcing tasks during high stress times can be a lifesaver. Our family typically doesn't outsource. But all bets are off in August. During this hectic month, we have been known to order groceries online and get dinner delivered.
The best outsourcing find, though, is this back-to-school supply company. The company works with schools to determine the supplies required for each grade. Parents then have the option to use them to purchase all – yes, I said ALL – their kids’ supplies with one click. The supplies are even delivered to each child's classroom prior to the start of school. It’s magical. No more running to a million stores looking for that eight-pack of metallic markers or schlepping supplies to school. I could kiss the company’s founder for giving me loads of my precious time back.
5. Scan everything, lose nothing
The amount of paperwork that marks the beginning of the year is intense. I had dreams of keeping all these papers in an organized bin, making them readily available when needed. This never happened. The paperwork either didn’t make it to the bin or the bin got so stuffed no one could find anything.
Now I scan and save all important documents to our family’s shared Dropbox folder. I even save to Dropbox information from the school’s online portal and website. That way all needed info is in one place. No more misplaced items or frantic searches. And everyone has access to the information, even on their phones. Bonus: Having a school folder for each child reduces confusion about which information is for which child.
I invite you to try these tricks to help your family make back-to-school time less stressful and more enjoyable. If you have a trick of your own, please post in the comments below.
In peace and solidarity,
By Joycelyn Moody - JMoody's Musings, Writing
Many of my coaching clients are tenure-track women faculty who revere me as “senior scholar.” They think, by now, I’m implacable in the face of writing assignments. For some reason, they ascribe to the myth (founded by 1950s era white boy academics) that writing anxiety manifests as an individual malady one overcomes the longer one stays in the game.
These colleagues seem to need to believe there comes an end to worrying over word counts and due dates. The fallacy seems to drive them toward professional longevity; it inspires them to stay in the game until they, too, one day magically turn the corner and their fingers whisk rhapsodically over keyboards, turning out pages of stunning prose.
The lie of the mythical Unflappable Senior Scholar, at least as embodied in our humble narrator, lay exposed last month at the July 2017 Inkwell residential retreat, founded by the intrepid Michelle Boyd. In the days before the retreat I fretted aloud to my Baby that I wouldn’t know any of the other participants in the retreat. I worried about the size of my goal for the week, which on alternate days seemed too big, then too small.
We’d been warned (some said reassured) that the internet service at the retreat site would be spotty. Would I be able to lug every book and printout I was sure I needed? I went out to buy a portable printer, just in case, but there was none to be had at the local Office Max on the night before my departure.
Suffice it to say, I had a case of nerves, about both my own writing acumen and my embarrassing introversion (which most colleagues who’ve witnessed my public deportment disdain until they catch me hugging the walls at the conference cash bar).
Tucked immediately into the warmth of two other Inkwell retreat alums, I earned their trust on the first morning, in part by baring my soul about my writing jitters and even more by listening to the wisdom of the most accomplished of the trio of us. Quite literally, she turned my writing conundrum upside down and illumined what turned out to be the most intelligent approach imaginable to set me up for the week. The other reassured me by acknowledging her own goal as similar to mine, by happenstance.
At lunch on the second day, two other retreaters remarked my steady and intense work, and admired aloud how easily I stepped into “the zone.” I couldn’t deny I had slid easily into my work. The two aforementioned gifts had worked their magic: a seasoned sister’s perception and a buddy with a similar need and a similar drive.
Which is to say, I had jitters but—maybe here’s what feeds the myth of One Day You, Too:-- I also had long years of experience to trust my gifts and my conviction. That is, I found conviction after many years of persisting through writing anxiety.
And I trusted my conviction, borne of numerous challenges to it, that routinely surfing the urge to run from the laptop, and scrupulously working the details of my outline, would keep me in the proverbial zone. Opening to an outline I promised myself I could revise “as needed” had further sustained my confidence.
On the last afternoon of the retreat, my buddy stunned me with her variation of the much-needed One Day, I Too myth. I had begged to sit next to her, for security, and my elbow was literally touching hers as we worked up our individual plans for next steps once the retreat ended. I had begged her, and she’d been merciful. We were head and nose down, fingers flying, when she sat back and announced something like, “You are so cool as you write! It’s great to see you never have writing anxiety.” Seriously?! Did I say begged?
I stood up. Hold up! “What do you mean I never have writing anxiety?! I have it on the regular. By the hour. In fact, where’s my watch?! Is it time to panic yet?!”
Behold the myth, yet never believe the hype.
Until next time,
*Shout out to JA, MB, BF, CS, and IW.