7 Practical Ways to Simplify Back-to-School Routines for Type A Moms! Thomas Hamilton Prepared By: Meraki Lane Brought to you by Pearle Vision and TheCo While I’m [extremely] disappointed that summer is coming to an end, the Type A in me is secretly looking forward to getting us back into a more predictable routine. Even though the days are longer, and my sweet girl is in day camp throughout July and August, I find our summer days are the complete opposite of our school days. Rather than walking to and from school, we spend upwards of 2 hours in the car each day during the summer months, and as hard as I try to stay on top of all of the things vying for my attention at any given moment, I often find myself feeling as though I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing by the time I pour myself a glass of white at the end of the day. LOL. The good news is that being a work-at-home mom has forced me to take my organizational skills to the next level, and I’ve tested TONS of different strategies that promise to simplify back-to-school routines for overwhelmed moms over the last few years. I know what does and doesn’t work, and when Pearle Vision asked if I’d like to partner with them to share my best back-to-school tips and tools, I knew I’d met my match. These tips go beyond waking up earlier, meal planning and prepping, prioritizing homework, and packing bags and picking outfits before bedtime. Sure, those ideas work, but busy moms like you and me need to do much more than that, and I hope these strategies help make this your best back-to-school season yet! Always have a back-up plan. When my daughter fell ill with 3 consecutive stomach bugs late last year, I seriously didn’t think we’d ever dig ourselves out of the literal and figurative mess it created. My husband was traveling all 3 times she was sick, all of my babysitters were either working or in the midst of winter exams, and I didn’t have anyone else to lean on. It was not a pleasant experience, but it motivated me to find a back-up plan for everything, and knowing I have options at my fingertips when disaster strikes helps me feel much more in control as we lead up to a new school year. Create a monthly school calendar. At the end of each month, my daughter and I block off some time together to create a calendar detailing all of the things that are happening over the following 4 weeks. From school activities and closures, to annual eye exams and dental check-ups, to playdates and extracurricular activities, we map it all out, and once we know what our month will look like, we identify how we can incorporate quality, one-on-one time into the mix. Our calendar lives in my daughter’s room, and we make it a point to review it together each night before bed to help us stay organized, and to remind ourselves of all of the GOOD things we have to look forward to (and feel grateful about) each week. Psssst. Did you know you can save time and book Pearle Vision eye exams* for the whole family online? CLICK HERE to find out how! Keep lists. Whether you find it difficult to stay on top of things and/or struggle with regular feelings of overwhelm with all that’s on your plate, keeping a running ‘to do’ list can make a huge difference in helping you feel in control. I have 3 lists I maintain on a daily basis – HOME, SCHOOL, and WORK – and I set a reminder in my calendar at the beginning and end of the day to consult each list so I can add anything new, cross off the items I’ve completed, and prioritize the ones that need my attention. Give it a try! Create morning visuals. If you’re the parent of a child who likes to dawdle in the morning (ahem…), morning visuals will change your life. I’m serious! It’s no secret that kids like to feel in control over their own destiny, and when you empower them with age-appropriate chores and responsibilities, you send a message to your child that you trust her, which can be extremely motivating. Remember that this doesn’t need to be anything complicated. Equipping your child with a list of things she needs to do along with a clipboard and a pen is all it takes! Work in batches. ‘Batching’ involves grouping relevant tasks together and tackling them all at the same time rather than splitting them up over the course of one (or many) days, and it has completely changed my life! Most people are pretty good at batching work-related tasks, but what few realize is how effective this productivity hack can be in our personal lives as well. Set aside an afternoon or evening each week to take care of mindless tasks, like cleaning, laundry, meal planning and preparation, grocery shopping, and scheduling things like doctor’s appointments and eye exams (you can book your Pearle Vision eye exam online HERE) so you aren’t constantly borrowing time needed for more time-consuming tasks several times throughout the week. Learn how to say ‘no’. As a work-at-home mom, I used to find it really difficult to maintain boundaries between my personal life and my career, particularly when it came to school-related activities. I felt pressured to volunteer for field trips and fundraisers, and spent a lot of my time trying to figure out how to get out of all the things I had agreed to do but didn’t have the time for. Now I’m just honest with myself and other people, and while I sometimes feel guilty saying no to my child’s teachers, I’ve learned my limits and what is/isn’t important, and I plan my time accordingly. Prioritize self-care. My last tip to simplify back-to-school routines for busy moms is to schedule time each week to do something for yourself. I know this sounds completely counterproductive, but I promise you it isn’t. While it’s human nature to put the needs of our children before our own, there is only so long we can live in a constant state of overwhelm before our bodies start to break down, and we forget that an imbalance in our physical and emotional health not only impacts how we feel about ourselves, but effects the quality of our relationships with our family and friends as well. For a long time, I used to think engaging in regular self-care would require me to take up yoga, keep a daily journal, and make weekly appointments to get my nails done, and while I encourage you to try all of these things, the reality is that there will be seasons where self-care is more about tending to our physical versus our emotional needs. And that’s 100% okay. Any kind of self-care is beneficial because it reminds us that we are still important outside of our roles and moms and spouses. I was recently reminded of this during a visit to Pearle Vision for my annual eye exam*, and while I realize this probably sounds a little silly, bear with me for a second… I struggled with a semi-blocked tear duct for the greater part of 2017, which resulted in a lot of challenges with my left eye, requiring multiple visits to Pearle Vision while I waited for a referral to an ophthalmologist (referrals can take upwards of 6 months here in Ontario!). Naturally, the condition only seemed to give me trouble when I was either really busy at work, feeling under the weather, or home with a sick child, making the prospect of scheduling and waiting for an eye appointment feel excruciating. And that’s why I love Pearle Vision so much. The moment I felt my left eye start to act up, I hopped on their online scheduler to find the next available appointment, allowing me to rearrange my schedule accordingly and figure out babysitting options if I needed to, and no matter how frazzled I felt when I showed up, the eye care experts always greeted me with a smile and the doctors always made me feel at ease. They took the time to answer my questions and went above and beyond every single time I visited them to make me feel like I was their number one priority. They educated me on my condition and equipped me with a ton of great preventative ideas to improve the health of my eyes, and I’ve only had to visit them once so far this year, which is nothing short of a miracle. The funny thing is that, when it came time for my annual eye exam at Pearle Vision last month, I felt like I was visiting long lost friends when I arrived. I’m serious! Everyone in the store addressed my daughter and me by name, and I felt rejuvenated after we left. There really is something to be said for taking the time to take care of yourself, even if it’s as simple as getting your eyes tested! Oh! And since I have been encouraged to cut back on the amount of time I wear my contact lenses (ugh…), I decided to grab some new glasses while I was there. Of course, with high-quality name brands like Coach, Versace, Michael Kors, Ray-Ban, Oakley, and Ralph Lauren to choose from, I found it difficult to choose just one pair, and since Pearle Vision is currently offering 40% off lenses and free lenses for Kids, I decided to treat myself to two pairs. And who could blame me?! CLICK HERE to visit Pearle Vision’s online scheduler and don’t worry – they direct bill insurance plans, so you won’t have to worry about paying upfront or spending time printing, filling out, and mailing in paperwork after your exam. [Side note: I’m kind of bummed my daughter has 20/20 vision as she looked so darn cute when our favorite eye care expert was helping her try on glasses in an effort to keep her occupied while I decided which frames to buy!] If I can leave you with one last piece of advice as we head into a new school year, it’s this: slow down. As much as we want to do everything and please everyone, there are only so many hours in the day. Our children will not remember if the toilets were scrubbed, the laundry was folded, and if we contributed to the school bake sale each year, but they will remember the time we did (and didn’t) spend with them. Here’s to a fabulous 2018/2019 school year! *Eye exams arranged. This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.