Monday, November 5, 2007

Childrens' Activity Information

How many times has your child(ren) been late for a birthday party because you couldn't find the invitation with the location and directions? How about the scramble for soccer team telephone numbers to find out whose turn it is to drive.
Sound familiar?
I've just returned from four days at our national conference held this year in Vancouver. Professional organizers identified that a consistent challenge for family manager's, (family manager definition: the parent primarily responsible for managing the activity and schedule of the household) is keeping track of all the paper that results from childrens' activities. A significant component of this challenge is the difference in time sensitivity of some papers. You are likely receiving everything from the letter today reminding you of tomorrow's parent/teacher interview, to the six month long competitive dance schedule or, that very Canadian of items - the hockey schedule.

1. Purge
Always start by getting rid of anything that you will not need in the future. Do your sorting with the recycling bin next to you so that paper/letters/schedules from last year, that were duplicated or for the select team your daughter didn't make can go right to "file 13" by recycling.

2. Sort by Frenquency of Access
Sort the remaining items into 2 piles. The most frequently accessed items are those relating to events and contacts:
  • a) regular and frequent access like the weekly schedules - birthday party invitations, team phone numbers, cross country meet dates and times.
  • b) occassional access - reference material, team policies/athlete expectations, brochure for the team, association or company.
3. Set up a Hot File
Take all the items in the pile of "frequently accessed" and sort by family member. Now sort each family member's material by date so that the next closest event is on top. Use binder dividers with names on the tabs to identify each family member's set of hot file papers. Clip them together with an alligator clip. Hang a peel and stick hook (3M removable are ideal, available at most hardware stores) on the inside of a kitchen cupboard or wherever your family information centre is, if you already have one. Hang the alligator clip on this hook. Next time Brittany receives a birthday party invitation, pick up the phone and RSVP, record the date, time and location on the family calendar (I'm sure you already remembered to do this) and put the invite in her section of the hot file. You can grab the invitation on the way out the door and discard it after you have picked her up.

4. Set up a Resource File. This is for the remaining items that are used less frequently. This time you may wish to sort by activity (hockey, gymnastics, swimming) by organization (hockey league, parks and recreation organization, school, church) or again, by family member, depending on how busy and how big your family is. Don't forget to save a space for the orthodontist, doctor or tutor. Use an accordian file or binder. If using a binder, dividers can mark each of the sections. This material gets purged twice a year at the beginning and end of the school year when children and families typically change activities. At the end of school, discard all the classroom specific material and keep only the back to school items. At the beginning of school, throw out the old soccer, hockey or dance schedule and start adding back in the new classroom and teacher material.
Voila! Party invitations at your fingertips, when you need them!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for that fine list of solid advice. Now all I need is the discipline to enforce the list.
- dyc

Charles said...

Our hot file is a corkboard... does that count?