Deb Peterson, of http://adulted.about.com/, has had some great posts in the last couple days regarding organizing your thoughts and goals for the next year. Being organized is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself as a nontrad. It's easy to become overwhelmed if you look at all that needs to be done as a student - applying for financial aid, advisement, determining which classes you need and putting together your schedule, trying to balance school, home and work. Whew! It's easy for me to be organized as a student, but more difficult for me to be organized as a Mom and a student. The following are some things I've tried to help with getting my family organized:
1. Dinner: invest in a good crockpot and some crockpot recipes. The crockpot will be your best friend when it comes to making dinner on the nights you have class. Let it cook so you (and other family members) don't have to. Make enough for leftovers (for lunches, next week's dinner, etc.). Make up a menu for a two weeks' period. Post the menu so the family knows what's for dinner. Shop off the menu (saves time and money!)
2. Laundry: If you have children, teach the older ones to do their own laundry. This is a valuable life skill for them to learn anyway. Let them know they have to be responsible for "following through" their own laundry (putting it in the washer, the dryer, then folding and putting away). Leave the major portion of the laundry for the weekend. Enlist family members' help in following through on the laundry.
3. Lunches, Ironing, etc.: As much as possible, get your children to participate in keeping the house organized. Teach your family members to do things the night before - make their lunch, iron their clothes (if applicable), get their schoolbooks and sporting stuff organized and ready to go. That way, you're not running around like a crazy person in the morning, trying to get everyone organized while you're on your way out the door to class!
4. Dishes: Teach your children to use the dishwasher. Assign children and Dad a night to do dishes. If you are the only one doing the dishes, run the dishwasher before you go to bed at night.
5. Plan ahead: As much as possible, plan ahead. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Use a wall calendar and mark upcoming events (school plays, work schedules, etc.) for your children, exam days for you, days your husband will be out of town on business, etc. That way, everyone knows what to expect and when.
6. Use it: if you have to make cookies for a child's school, use the preformed frozen dough. Don't be afraid to go to a store like Sam's club and stock up on stuff you anticipate using (like the cookie dough, trail mix, etc.). Take advantage of every convenience you can. If you have to attend a child's sports competition, take your homework, reading or studying with you. Learn not to waste time.
7. Relax! Once word gets out you're Mom (or Dad), employee and student, folks will be incredibly gracious to you. My daughter's volleyball team knows I'm wearing those three hats at one time. They don't expect a lot out of me and can be very encouraging in my educational pursuits.
8. You: Remember to take time for yourself. If you don't take care of yourself, who will? Do something special for yourself at least once a week. Take some time off over the weekend to NOT be a student, but to enjoy your family and friends.
I'm still trying to get more organized. I guess it will be a constant thing because each semester will be different. However, the basics are still the basics (household chores and my school schedule). "Blessed are they who are flexible, for they shall bend and not break." Be flexible, learn to laugh at yourself and appreciate the small things in life. Reading "Sheep in a Jeep" is one of my favorite de-stressers. Try it!