How to keep on top of family admin
One thing parents have in common: we’re a busy bunch. We spoke to Aussie parents about how they get their to-do list sorted.
There’s so much about having kids that you don’t know until you have them. One of those things? Family admin. From making doctors appointments to arranging babysitters to signing excursion notes, paying sports fees, organising extracurricular activities, buying school uniforms, planning playdates and birthday parties…the list goes on…and on. And if you have two or three children the amount of family admin is doubled or tripled. How do parents keep on top of this endless to-do list? Here’s some great advice from Aussie parents on how to tick all the boxes without forgetting a thing. (We hope!)
Keep a calendar
It sounds basic, but one of the best ways to keep on top of who needs to be where and when is to put it in a calendar. There are lots of options available so it should be easy to find a calendar to suit your needs. “We hang a calendar right beside the fridge that has columns for each member of the family,” says Paul, a father of two aged 6 and 4. “All of our events get put into the calendar, whether it's kiddie birthday parties, being out for the night, friends coming over or whatever we’ve got on.”
Some parents prefer a more high-tech approach. “Our big life saver is sharing our Google calendars with each other,” says Tijen, mother to two girls aged three and four. “We can easily see what we’ve put in it, plus it’s always accessible since we can check it through our phones—which we always have on us.”
Take advantage of the thousands of free apps and websites designed to help make managing your life easier. “We use Wunderlist to share things like shopping lists, chores and bills in real time,” says Richard, dad of two, aged 3 and 15 months. (Check out Wunderlist.com if you’re looking for a little push when it comes to being organised.) If you want to keep track of your finances, there are apps for that too! “I use ASIC’s MoneySmart to help track my family’s finances,” Fergus, who has twin eight-year-olds and an 11 year old. There are many financial apps available which can help users pay bills, set budgets, save for holidays and even check credit scores. Check out MoneySmart.gov.au for more information.
A good manager knows when to do it themselves and when to delegate. If you’re too busy, enlist help—whether it’s from your partner, your parents, your friends or even your kids. “We have jobs lotto,” says Olivia, who has a family of six. “Each week the kids pull jobs out of a hat.” Other options include giving members of your family regular jobs to do or setting aside specific times each week where your kids pick up additional chores while you concentrate on administrative tasks. No one can do it all on their own and getting the whole family involved teaches responsibility and creates a family unit that works together to achieve a common goal.
So you’ve set up your calendar - but how do you keep track of all the little things? Keeping it all in your head is virtually impossible, but luckily modern technology has the answer. “I use my phone and set reminders for everything, including things like ‘mufti day’ or ‘library day’,” says Malcolm, who has two kids in primary school. By setting reminders and alarms on your phone, you’ll be prompted to send back those permission slips, make payments for school excursions, attend important assemblies or remember sports carnival days!
Wake up early
Sometimes there’s no help for it—there’s just too much to do in a regular day. “My days are jammed packed with work and taking kids to school or picking them up from after school care. When I get home there’s dinner, homework and bedtime,” says Jillian. “I’ve found the only way to get things done is to get up 45 minutes early one day a week before the kids wake up. I use this time to pay bills, organise appointments, sign notes, buy school uniforms online, reply to birthday invitations…everything,” says Jillian, mum of two aged 7 and 11. Make those mornings an admin blitz—if you get everything done you won’t need to worry about it for another week.
Mortgage, rent, insurance, electricity, phone, Internet and more—everyone has bills to pay and penalties for outstanding payments can be exorbitant. Luckily, there’s a solution for those who are habitually late when it comes to paying bills. “Set up everything on direct debit,” says Matt, a father of one. It’s easy to get started. Simply get in touch with your bank, real estate agent, daycare centre or other service provider and they’ll point you in the right direction.
And the final key to really keeping on top of family admin, day in, day out? Organisation. This means keeping track of everything from school activities to financial expenditure. “We have a box labeled with each of our names for putting receipts into, which helps us keep them in one place ready for tax time,” Matt says. “I also have an expanding file with the pockets labeled: income, insurance, tax, pet, mobile phones, utilities, etc. I store all bills and invoices in there.” Take one day a weekend to set it up your files and use if for the year ahead. “I also have an informal family in-tray,” says Paul. “That’s where any actionable things go—bills to pay, invitations that need RSVPs, appliance warranty forms to fill out, etc. About once a week I go through and sort things out.”