How to Set Up an Organized Family Calendar

Mom and son filling out calendar

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I am one of those moms who has everything memorized. I know which days and times to bring my daughter to ballet, swimming, and gymnastics and I know when it's time for my husband's teeth cleaning. There's just one problem: I'm the only one who knows when everyone else's activities and appointments are.

I realized that I was constantly fielding questions from my family members like, "What day is soccer?" "What time is the fundraiser?" and "Which days is school out for the holidays?" It was exhausting having to repeat myself all the time, and I found myself annoyed that the other people in my home didn't remember everything as I did.

When I vented my frustration to a group of mom friends, one suggested that I use a family calendar. "That way your family members can just go check the calendar instead of asking you," explained my friend Anna, a mom of two girls, ages 8 and 10. "And when they do come asking, you can point them towards the calendar instead of saying it again and feeling resentful."

Anna uses Google calendar to stay organized, so her husband can easily check the calendar while he's at work. They both appreciate being able to add to it from their phones while on the go. I experimented with a few different types of family calendars before settling on a large, paper calendar posted up in my kitchen.

Using a family calendar makes my life so much easier, and it can do the same for you too. Finding a good system that works for your family can lower your stress and help you stay organized. It can also help you plan ahead for the future. "Staying organized as a family is one of the best things you can do to reduce stress at home," says Katy Allen, a professional organizer and founder of the Artful Agenda. "When you have a clear picture of the days and weeks ahead, you are better equipped to make scheduling decisions and are less likely to overbook yourself or get overwhelmed."

Why It's Important to Stay Organized as a Family

When you have kids, life can get a little hectic. There are extracurricular activities, parent-teacher conferences, flu shots, playdates, teeth cleanings, and more to remember and to get to on time. You and your partner or other caretakers will need to know who is caring for, picking up, or dropping off the kids when. Your own work schedule and social life need to be taken into account as well. "I would not remember anything if I didn't write it all down," says Anna.

The goal of staying organized is to have all of these appointments and activities happen smoothly. A family calendar is a form of communication that will make this happen. "Maintaining an efficient family calendar is an essential tool to support clear communication and minimize things falling through the cracks," explains Michaela Bucchianeri, PhD, a psychologist and anxiety coach.

If getting organized sounds like a big effort, know that while it's certainly more effort upfront, it's totally worth it in the end. "In the long run, you will avoid so much unnecessary conflict and stress," emphasizes Dr. Bucchianeri.

How to Set Up a Family Calendar

There is no best way to set up a family calendar. "From paper calendars to apps that sync across users and platforms, we've never had more options to help us get organized," says Dr. Bucchianeri. "It's all about finding a system that works for your family."

Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Use a Calendar That All Family Members Can Access

The whole point of a family calendar is to keep all family members informed. Everyone needs to know what's happening or whether any given day is free for something they may want to schedule. Obviously, infants are not going to be included here, but even young children who are just beginning to read will benefit from seeing their family's calendar.

There are two ways to make sure your calendar is accessible to all family members who need to see it: you can post the calendar in a central place in your home, or you can go digital.

If you decide on a digital calendar, you can adjust the settings so that different family members have different permissions. Anna and her husband are able to edit their calendar, while their tweens can only view it. They have to ask their parents if they can add something of their own to it.

Color Code

Color coding your family calendar helps clarify who is doing what. "Giving everyone in your family their own calendar color allows you to quickly see each person’s activities," explains Allen.

You can color-code both digital and printed calendars. For a printed calendar, have a jar with different colored pens that you can use to write each person's activities with. If Trey's color is orange, you could use the orange pen to write "piano" each Tuesday. If Sarai's color is green, you might write "soccer" each Saturday using that pen. This also helps save room on printed calendars, because you do not need to write each person's name.

Using colors on a digital calendar or a calendar app is just as helpful. "I suggest using a calendar that has a toggle on and off feature for times when you don't want to view everyone's schedules at once," says Allen.

Have Family Meetings

When you first get started with a family calendar, meet as a family to discuss what you are doing and why. Explain how to access the calendar and anything else your family members need to know.

Going forward, it's helpful to have regular family meetings to talk about the calendar. This gives everyone a chance to share what they might need to add to the calendar or to figure out how to handle any conflicting plans. "I suggest having a quick family meeting one evening a week," says Allen. "It doesn't have to be very long. Even 10-15 minutes spent discussing upcoming plans and
obligations can make a big difference."

How to Execute an Organizational Strategy With Your Family

The family calendar is for the whole family, so all family members old enough should be involved in the planning.

Start by figuring out what your family's highest priorities are. Maybe that's vacation and travel or maybe it's unstructured time for rest and play each day. "Block off space in the calendar for this first," suggests Dr. Bucchianeri. "Then, add in other important family commitments before incorporating individual schedules."

Next, take an inventory of important family responsibilities like chores, homework, and other necessities. Add these in next. Allow kids to request times on the calendar for their own social activities and free time, making sure the essentials are already blocked out.

Once the calendar is filled out, make sure it's posted or shared in a way that everyone can check it when necessary. Encourage family members to use the calendar to find information by directing them to it instead of answering their questions about what's happening when. This will help them build the habit of utilizing the calendar.

Meet regularly with your family to plan each month or week and talk about any changes to the routine.

A Word From Verywell

A family calendar can help you stay organized with all of your family's activities. You will be less likely to miss appointments or arrive in a rush. A calendar gives you a clearer picture of your obligations, making it easier to plan ahead. Whether you opt for a physical or digital calendar, staying organized as a family goes a long way to reducing everyone's stress.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.