When summer gives way to another school year, it's all too easy to start feeling overwhelmed. Suddenly you're juggling new school schedules, extracurricular activities, daily homework, constant laundry, and rushed meals on top of your regular work routine. How can you keep up with it all? Are there steps you can take now to prepare your family for the days ahead? The good news is, with a little strategy, the answer is yes! Here are some creative ideas to inspire you this school year:

  1. Organize Your Calendar

    It doesn't matter if you do it on your smartphone, a paper planner, or a giant chalkboard in your home office. However you do it, you need to organize your schedule. Create a command central of some kind that lists all activities, events, deadlines, and holidays. Make sure all family members who need to know about the schedule understand where it is and how to use it. With a clear, obvious calendar available, you won't be stuck trying to remember when a birthday party is or which day a track meet takes place.

  2. Use a To-Do List

    Likewise, instead of trying to memorize the details of every project that needs to get done, let your to-do list be the place where you track tasks and goals. When you have something that needs to get done, add it to your list and free your mind from trying to juggle everything you have to do.

  3. Double Up Your Errands

    If you have to wait with your son while your daughter finishes an after-school activity, use the time to tackle your e-mails while your son starts his homework. And when your preteen has soccer practice near your grocery store, make it a habit to work in your regular shopping routine before, during, or after that time. Whenever possible, look for opportunities to use your time more efficiently, so you can cross more tasks off your to-do list.

  4. Start Dinner in the Slow Cooker

    Whether you're going to be home late or you're just looking for an easier dinner routine, try planning a crock-pot meal. With your slow cooker, you can start dinner in the morning before you leave and have a finished meal waiting for you when you get home.

  5. Prepare Make-Ahead Meals

    Another time-saving strategy is to prepare meals ahead of time. From overnight oats for breakfast to freezer-friendly recipes that just need to be warmed up for dinner, meals that you make ahead of time offer wonderful convenience. Try taking one day a month to prepare a bunch of meals ahead of time. Then you'll be able to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from weeks of having prepared meals on hand.

  6. Minimize Distractions

    Ask yourself which unnecessary activities are cluttering up your routines, which habits can go, and where you can eliminate distractions. What would give you more freedom to pursue what you need to do? Whether you have to use headphones to focus on a certain task or want to block time-wasting websites during work hours, find ways to cut out the things that waste time during your day-to-day routine.

    This year, give yourself a head start on the new school year by thinking proactively about your time. Incorporate the strategies above into your schedule to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to make your life feel much more manageable.