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Plotting Your Planner

Reclaim the family calendar with these six steps

Whether neatly tacked to the fridge or slipped into a pristine Day Runner, many family organizers seem to get lost in paperwork – or simply scrapped.

The culprits? A method that just didn't fit the family – and parents who didn't fully commit, explains Amy Knapp. The Kalamazoo mother of two has been selling her own planner, Amy Knapp's Family Organizer, for more than a decade. "At home, you don't have as much accountability – the worth of your time is very fuzzy," Knapp says. "It's a process of training yourself."

Keeping a written schedule takes effort at first but ultimately can erase mental clutter. Apply some of Knapp's tips, from her Amy Knapp’s Family Organizing Handbook, to your family's calendar.

1. Make it visible. Wall, desk, electronic or binder-sized: The format doesn't matter, so long as your family can easily access and view it. Would color-coded pens for different members drive you batty? Scrap 'em for functionality.

2. Plot it out. We tend to fill up new calendars with big events. Take it a step further, Knapp says. A week before a birthday, remind yourself to get a gift. Scribble down a note about vacation costs several months in advance.

3. Pick a gatekeeper. Working parents usually share this responsibility, or it's whoever's home most. Their duty: Monitor additions and omissions, hone in on possible conflicts, and tell everyone else what's going on.

4. Keep it neat. Write fixed events in marker or pen. Choose pencil for other events, like games and recitals, to avoid a mess of cross-outs. Include only the basics: Who, what, when and where. For younger kids, try stickers, too.

5. Review it. Jotting or typing down an event gets it off the mind. But, Knapp says, that means you rely on the calendar to remember. Be sure everyone reviews it before bed and again in the morning.

6. Adapt it. As kids get older, it's inevitable you'll outgrow your system. Evolve as your family does. By that point, the calendar concept ideally will be second nature – and a tool that's helped your kids get organized, too.

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