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Time Famine Prevention Guide

Practical Advice about Ordering Our Crazy Lives

By Elmarie Hyman

With Special Thanks

To my dear friends for all their loving support and for those who took the time to look through this booklet and gave me some feedback:  I love you all!

Table of Contents

Foreword                                                                     3

Scheduling help                                                           5

            Goals & priorities                                            5

            Unchangeables                                                7

            Class schedules                                                            9

            Adding in activities                                         9

            Things to remember                                        10

            Cleaning scheduling tips                                  11

            Overfilling schedules                                       12

            Hobbies                                                           12

            Daily planning                                                 13

Time saving tips

            Email                                                               14

                Paying bills                                                      16

            While working online                                      16

            Keeping school records                                   17

            Filing system                                                   18

            Efficiency on the road                                     21

Multitasking ideas                                                       22


I often get asked the question, “How do you do it all?”  Well, with 4 kids, it is challenging to fit in the many things I do on top of being a mom to my kids.  I tell my kids this all the time and it is the truth:  If I didn’t have a schedule to go by and some to-do lists flowing from the schedule, I would get half or less done of what I do.  Yes, you may not be a list type person, and of course you can get by without it, but if you really have a lot to get done, it brings a lot of focus and help you fit a lot more in than if you didn’t have it.

The trick is to make schedules work for you and not the other way around where you feel like a slave to the schedule and end up throwing it out because of the frustration and feeling completely overwhelmed, feeling like a failure, because you couldn’t keep the schedule perfectly.

In a typical month, I

  • spend time with my family,
  • homeschool my 4 children,
  • drive them to various classes in different locations (usually about 20 minutes from my house) including community college classes, dance classes, karate, voice lessons, art classes,
  • run Learn Beyond The Book as CEO, CFO, teacher, marketer, and janitor J
  • book and attend fieldtrips,
  • plan all my kids’ schedules every semester on top of planning mine and making sure we can get everywhere we have to be with our car without overlapping activities,
  • do research and work on writing articles and resources for homeschoolers,
  • prepare for coaching clients,
  • do coaching calls,
  • work on workshops for conferences to help homeschoolers and possibly earn some cash,
  • pay the bills and update personal finances
  • do a monthly bookkeeping job,
  • do my charter school learning records,
  • contribute actively to local homeschool groups by

            organizing various fieldtrips,

            attending parkdays,

            preparing for and teaching classes,

  • call family and friends locally and internationally to stay in touch,
  • spend time with friends,
  • run errands,
  • grocery shop,
  • shop for supplies for classes being taught,
  • do laundry, dishes & clean the house,
  • cook meals,
  • exercise,
  • eat, sleep & relax,
  • Every week something random comes up that takes some extra time like
    • doctor’s or dentist appointments,
    • a friend needing help or
    • just a trip to the mall, a coffee shop or the performing arts center to spend some extra special time one-on-one with one of the kids. 

How does it all fit in?! 

I hope that you will find this booklet helpful in your life as I share some secrets I have discovered and am still working on perfecting.

Scheduling help

Here are some tips for putting together a schedule that works for your life:


At the beginning of each semester, make a list of your priorities to make sure anything you perceive as unchangeable is really unchangeable. 

What are your goals

What do you want most for your children? 

I have repeatedly heard it said that children learn what they live.  So, our modeling and everyday lives teach more than we realize.

What is your vision for where you want them to end up at the end of all your hard work of schooling them?

What is really unchangeable considering all of these variables?

It is even helpful to look through this list at the beginning of each day in order to remind yourself of where you’re heading.

Think about your goals/priorities for the next year and long term.  Write them down so you can refer back to this when your life gets too crazy and you just need to refocus:










The unchangeables will be different for every family, but once you have determined what is truly unchangeable, write that down on your schedule, e.g. what time you have to be somewhere that you don’t have control over e.g. work, classes, etc.  In my case, my high school children attend college classes for dual credit.  That is top priority to get them into the classes that they need to complete their AA degree and IGETC transfer requirements.  So, I have to start with their college class schedules as unchangeable.  Everything has to be built around the things you can’t change, put the highest priority on, or have no control over.

I suggest a simple excel spreadsheet for this task or a hardcopy calendar book will work too.  An electronic organizer/calendar works wonderfully too, with much less writing and repeating.  If you’re creating a simple Google spreadsheet, divide it up in 15 or 30 minute increments for every day of the week, including weekends.  You can use it to handwrite what you’re doing at each time and see if everything fits. 

At the beginning of each day or even the night before, take a quick look at your schedule for the next day, so you don’t miss appointments that are out of the ordinary.

One of the most useful things I’ve started doing, is to input my schedule into my Google calendar and it has multiple, automatic reminders that pop up, which can be customized. You can use other applications like Outlook or iCal as well. When it pops up and I want to remember to do something, but can’t do it right that second, I just move it down a bit on my calendar for later in the day.  I put absolutely everything on that calendar, so that I know exactly how much time I have available.  The great benefit of using technology for this is that you can, with the click of a few buttons, make the event recur and therefore won’t have to manually put everything on the calendar repeatedly, but just add those events that aren’t already on the recurring system.  In most electronic calendars, like Google calendar, you can even set a date for when the recurrences should start and end. 

Another timesaver is that you can invite others to the events you schedule as well, so potentially your children or partners can be invited and then it can get added to their Google calendars as well.

Another tool is to color code/categorize the activities on your calendar by color e.g. your children’s classes could be one color, your time for yourself could be a different color, doctors/dentist appointments yet another color and so forth. You can even create different Google calendars for different things, e.g. for each child or specifically a calendar that gets shared between everyone in a household, etc.

Class schedules

If you need to put together a schedule for aclass or group, the principles are the same.  You have to consider the unchangeable things e.g. when certain teachers are available, when the location is available etc. and build the rest of the schedule around that. 

Also consider when most people would be able to do the activity.  A Facebook group or online survey (you can use Google forms) can be very useful in determining this, since there are polls available on these groups, where people can vote for their favorite or most convenient time. It makes it easier to know what to do with the schedule instead of having to talk to each individual parent in person or by phone and even cuts down on emails.

Adding in activities

Once all the unchangeable scheduled events are on your schedule, you can start addingin new activities and events, using your list of priorities & goals to decide what gets on the calendar/schedule and what doesn’t. 

Some priorities might be:

  • I want more social activities for my children
  • I want more classroom experiences for my kids
  • I want to be home more to take care of the basics
  • I want more time for my children to work on their interests.

Sometimes you might find that you say that all these things are priorities to you, or that you have different priorities for your different children.  That poses quite a challenge.  Many times I’ve found that participating in homeschool co-ops has been so helpful in juggling different children’s schedules, priorities and interests.  Another option is to enroll some children in outside classes while you concentrate on something else with the other children.

Things to remember for scheduling:

Leave enough time to drive from one event to the next – don’t cut it too close.  When you are going somewhere for the first time, I suggest you access Google maps or other traffic apps.  Enter your location and where you’re heading and see how long it should take you to get there.  Don’t forget to consider the traffic at that time of the day.  Google maps even has a feature for this at the bottom of the screen. Then give yourself an extra 5 or 10 minutes, just in case you get lost or miss an off ramp to get there. 

Allow some time to get everyone in and out of the car and allow enough time to drive there without having to speed.  If you don’t allow enough time, it will

  • cause stress and
  • set an example of always rushing, never just enjoying the moment and living for the NOW.

Make sure to warn your children a few minutes before your estimated time of departure that you are leaving in e.g. 10 minutes.  That way they can get their last few things ready, gather their belongings that are going with them, disengage peacefully from what they are busy with, visit the restroom, etc.

Then about 5 minutes before actually driving off, let them know to get in the car, if they are old enough and start loading it all in.

To make leaving the house easier, with everything that you need to take with you, it helps tremendously to have a bag/basket at your front door where you can deposit items that need to accompany you and when you walk out the door, you just grab it or you can even put it in the car the night before if there aren’t last minute items that need to be added.

Cleaning scheduling tips:                     

I suggest you assign a day of the week or a certain block of time on several days, on your calendar, for things that need to get done at home, like cleaning the house or laundry. 

You could also implement a 15 minute cleanup at night before bedtime, where everyone helps out to get the house back in order.  We’ve done these for years and they work amazingly well.  Some families have even made the kids have a bigger part in this by buying a timer and letting them decorate the timer with stickers and stamps and then using that at cleanup time, maybe taking turns starting the timer every night.  You could give each child a room or two to work on or all just work together on the same areas at the same time.

Don’t put the cleanup time off till too late or everyone will be really tired and have a hard time doing it.

You can put on energetic music and even make a game out of it, by racing against the song to see how much you can get done before the song is done.  Energetic music will also help them to clean faster.

Write these things down on your schedule, because they do take time and will be left undone if it’s not planned for and cause frustration.

A practical tip to make cleanup time easier is to have a system e.g. a basket on your stairs if you have a two-story house.  Anything that needs to go upstairs, goes in the basket at the bottom of the stairs.  When you go upstairs, you can grab the basket and unload everything in it in its proper spot.  You could also have a basket at the top of the stairs to take down each time you go down or you could use the same basket going up and down.  You could try to find a basket with different compartments and let the kids help you sort things for different rooms into the different compartments, which then will be easier to put away. Play with it for a while to see what works best. 

Something else that could be helpful, is either a scheduled day once a month where you can clean in places that you normally won’t clean or breaking up deep cleaning tasks, e.g. Week one, “I wash the windows”; Week 2, “I clean out spider webs”; etc.  Check out http://housekeeping.about.com/od/schedulesandcharts/a/schedule.htm for some great tips on daily, weekly & monthly cleaning lists, as well as help creating a schedule for each.

If you find that there are some tasks that you or your children keep procrastinating on because you or they just really do not want to do them, consider breaking the task down into smaller steps and offering yourself or them a little break every few minutes (15 or 30 minutes), with maybe a little something special like playing a game together or reading for a bit or even a small favorite snack to make it more realistic and enjoyable.

Overfilling schedules and saying no

Don’t overfill your schedule.  If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit!  If you overfill your schedule and something unexpected comes up, you won’t be able to handle it without a lot of stress. 

Be careful not to overestimate how much you can get done in a certain amount of time, especially if it involves your children’s schooling, because if you are rushing through the schoolwork, and stressed out about it, the kids will feel the tension and will not work as well as they would otherwise and it can result in conflict rather than learning. A good general rule of thumb is to estimate how long something will take you and then double that time. For some things, it might even be necessary to triple the time, but doubling usually works and then you can get a good gauge for if that works for you.

Overfilling schedules also does not allow for them to really get engrossed in what they are learning, because whether they’re enjoying it or not, it’s time to pack up and go.  It is again the example of the running hamster on his wheel, caught in a race all the time, not stopping to smell the roses.

Learn to say “No” gracefully to things that will crowd your schedule and not contribute to your ultimate goals and priorities.  This is, of course, easier said than done, but a boundary that everyone has to learn to set. It is important to remember that you do not need to explain to people why you need to say no. Simply saying, “I’m so sorry but I’m not actually able to do that” is sufficient.


Schedule time for your hobbies and personal goals for growth and relaxation too or you will get stuck just doing what you HAVE to do and not have any time for the things you WANT to do.

If you are enrolled in classes for your own enjoyment, enrichment and personal growth and have assignments due, a great idea is to put the due dates on your calendar, but also put an appointment a day or two before the due date to remind yourself to get started.  If it is a research project that will take more time, I suggest putting it on your calendar as far before the due date as you think you will need to start researching.  Then also add it to your calendar at regular intervals to keep yourself on track. 

What are some hobbies/interests that you would like to make the time to pursue?  How much time is needed per week for each interest?






Daily Planning

Another great device is to schedule just a 15 minute block of time at the end of each day to plan for the next day.  This is the perfect time to take stock of what you might need to accomplish the next day.  For example you can put whatever you will need to be productive in the car together.  To be productive on the go, you might need a few snacks and drinks in the car as well as the kids’ school work.  If you own a laptop, that might accompany you too.

In terms of preparing meals you might for example just have to take the frozen meat from the freezer to be ready for the next night, but if you don’t, you have to buy something or cook it from frozen, which takes extra time.  Just a few minutes of planning for this make all the difference.  Remember to put this planning time on your calendar.  It really makes life easier!  But it takes time!

You can save time and money by taking homemade lunches with you.  Just a few minutes the night before, can save you precious time and resources.  It is also a good idea to keep some activity books, crayons, markers and/or games in the car for if you get stranded somewhere or end up at a lengthy appointment that was unplanned for.

While making a schedule for yourself, why not make one for your children too, with their help.  It will teach them about time management and scheduling as well as give them a daily list of what they need to get done, an invaluable gift to them for the future.

Time saving tips

Do as much as you can online!  No standing in lines or wasted drive time!!

Email or texts

Email saves a ton of time instead of phone calls about everything.  Whenever you call someone, some small talk is important to not seem rude, but on email or texts you can just ask a quick question and it takes just seconds, plus you can send emails at odd hours of the night, as I frequently do and nowadays there are even options on some apps to schedule your emails to go out at a specific time. Voice texting or writing an email by speaking it into your phone makes it even faster!

To save some time dealing with email that can accumulate at the speed of light, you can create different email addresses for different purposes and within those create folders or labels as subfolders. I have one email address that I give to those people I really want to hear from.  I have another for business related emails.  Then I have a different account for giving out when I have to fill in an email address on some form at a business.  As a result, I don’t have to check the third email account very often, because 90% of emails going to that address are junk mail/spam messages.  That means that your main email account will most likely remain pretty clear of junk mail.  I have followed this system for years with great success. 

Here are some examples for folders I have:

To keep

To research

Helpful educational links

Bill payments

Xxx School year planning

Vacation planning

Different homeschool groups I belong to each have their own folder

Every fieldtrip I plan has its own folder too

Accounting business

Coaching business



These last six folders could even be subfolders to a big folder called Work or something similar.  New folders/labels can be added at any time if you find that you need anything else.

This way, when you’re done dealing with an email, taking the necessary actions e.g. putting a date on your calendar for an event, you can store the original email in a subfolder and if you’re looking for details about the event later, you will be able to easily find the original email.

Keep only the emails that you still have to take action on in your main inbox and then file or delete them as you take care of them.  Some email programs even have the capability to let emails from specific email addresses go directly into subfolders by setting up rules, so if you, for example, belong to a few groups that send out emails, the program can be set up so that the emails from each group automatically get added to their individual specified subfolder and so it is already sorted and you can read them when you have the time for that.

What are some categories you can use for email filing?




Paying bills

This takes a little bit of setup time the first time, but after that, it saves so much time, not to mention postage, envelopes and checks.  If it seems overwhelming to sign up for all the bills online all at once, just do one at a time.  Next time you have to pay that bill, you sign up for online instead of paying with a check.  In addition to saving time, energy and money, it is also good for the earth, less paper floating around!  Many don’t realize that you can pay your bills online without having it be auto pay, so if you are concerned about not having control over what gets paid, you can just pay it manually online, it reduces paper and filing and also is a quick way to pay. 

For those expenses that you obviously don’t need to control, like your mortgage, auto pay is the best solution.  All you have to remember then is to make sure you have enough money in your bank account for the payments to go through.

While working online

When you are working on checking emails and other online activities, you can keep different programs open, unless you are done with it.  Right now I have 24 tabs open on Google chrome of things I need to do online or some email accounts that I check regularly.  If I closed these, I would have to reopen them all the time and that would waste a lot of time.  You can just refresh each time you get to the tab and it updates it with new information. You can even have multiple clusters of browsers or even multiple Google users with different windows with multiple tabs each.

Programs that you use a lot can be left open. They get minimized and so I don’t see them while working on something else, but they are at my beck and call.

Keeping school records

A friend told me about a great free program that helps you with keeping track of your homeschooling, attendance logs, reading logs and assignments.  You can find the free basic edition at www.homeschooltracker.com and you can upgrade anytime if you feel you need the extra features.  Spending a few minutes a day on updating that could save hours at the end of a learning period when you need to possibly do some reporting on your progress. 

Also, if you belong to a charter school, you would want to keep some samples all in one place, so that when it’s time to turn them in, you are not scrambling around to try to locate some.  (also see the section under Filing System)

Filing system

Set up a simple filing system:  When you get the mail, it will be easy to file what you need to keep and will save you numerous hours of searching for important documents that are missing in action due to a lack of filing them properly.  I help clients with this also. 

You can have big hanging file folders for the big categories and manila folders to have in the hanging folder for the subcategories.

Some examples of files you could have would be (notice how many of these also can double as categories in a budget):


Home mortgage

Home repairs


Car payments

Car repairs

Car registration

Car insurance










            Doctors costs

            Dentist costs

            Hospital costs

            Medical insurance


Tax documents

Receipts to save

Credit card statements (a file for each card you have)

If you have a home business, each business should also have its own file folders. 

You can have some files for homeschool work also e.g. a big hanging file folder for each child and then a subfolder in each file for:

Language Arts


Social Studies


Life Skills

Other interests

You can file these by month also, or just keep adding to the file.  You can file lesson plans in them or samples for portfolios.

What are some categories you can use for filing mail & bills?











Efficiency on the road

We all know how long traffic lights can take to turn green, especially when you’re in a hurry, so when you’re getting ready to run errands, it is helpful to put them in the order that they are on your way as you drive down the street, preferably on your right hand side.  In addition to that, if you have to go to e.g. the grocery store, try to think about which stores are right around the grocery store you’re heading for and see if you needed anything from anywhere else e.g. the post office or gas station near it.  It is even easier if you make a list of what you need as you run out of it by simply having a notepad on your fridge that everyone can access and add to the list.  This way, you can then just check your list.  Then, as you’re driving back home, you can do all the errands that would then be on your right hand side.  

Do not forget about the concept of Carschooling!  There is a whole book written on the topic and you could get so much of your school day done in the car, if you plan ahead and use their environment to teach them e.g. books on tape, educational songs, like the states & capital songs, skip counting songs and myriads of other educational things.  They could play educational games on the handheld game systems e.g. Personal Math Trainer and more or play a game with one of their siblings in the car.

What are some items you want to put in your car to be prepared to carschool the next time you spend a long period of time together in the car?






Multi-tasking tips

Accomplish more than one task at a time!  Some people are naturally better at this than others, but you only get better with practice.  Here are a few suggestions to start with:

Online chatting with friends on Facebook/IM services/texting allows you to still be working on something else at the same time and not be rude.  It could become a big black hole for your time though, so be careful not to spend too much time on it.

While you’re just sitting around waiting for people to get done with something, e.g. picking up your child from a class that isn’t ready to be done yet, you could be doing something other than just sitting.  For example, if you have a laptop, you can get a lot of planning done or research, especially if you can access wi-fi.  You can even do online things, like pay your bills. 

Alternatively, you can bring a good book to read (fiction or non-fiction) or curriculum to prepare.

You could use that time as relaxation.  There are great resources and ideas for stress management and relief all over the internet.  My favorite is a great book by a fellow homeschool mom, Dr.Elizabeth Scott, called 8 Keys to Stress Management. She also has a website where you can subscribe for newsletters with stress management tips.

Work on a hobby if it’s portable e.g. if you’re into photography, take your camera with and while you’re waiting for classes to finish up, you can take a few pictures and possibly even download them onto your computer and start editing them.  Is it scrapbooking?  Start a new scrapbook page while waiting around.  Your imagination is all you need.

You can sit near where your kids are working on their school work and be available to them, but still be planning, researching or reading at the same time.  You could even be chatting online with a friend instead of spending the time later to do it.  Just be sure to really be available to the kids and not completely distracted by what you’re doing so that the kids don’t feel that you are not present with them.

Crock pot or solar oven some food, while you’re not home or while working on something else.  Dinner is done without you doing much at all at dinner time, except dishing it up!  And you’re saving electricity!  You can do something else while dinner is happily cooking.  You don’t even have to be home!  It must be one of the most wonderful modern day inventions.

Exercise while watching your favorite recorded TV show or a movie, or while catching up with a friend on the phone:  Why not have something fun to look at while exercising and why not save some time by recording your favorite shows and then skipping past the commercials?  Or alternatively, you can go for a walk and talk on your phone while doing that. 

Carpooling:  You can do so much more if you are willing to carpool with families from your area when you are attending the same events.  This is especially helpful again in a situation where you have different age groups that you’re teaching.  For example, my high schoolers might be having a college class that they need to be dropped off to while my other children have a fun parkday they could be playing at with friends.  So, if I can get a carpool going for either group, I can still take the other group to where they need to or want to be, not to mention the amount of time that can be saved by traveling in carpool lanes on the freeway!  Gas savings could be significant too.

If you and another parent both have work that can be done in an environment where kids are around but not directly next to you, you could consider working with a friend while all the kids are playing.  I do this a lot with my Writing work.  I have another friend who also writes and we sit next to each other and work, while the kids are occupied and happily playing.  We take turns to check on them and to make sure conflicts are peacefully resolved.

Another issue that regularly comes up in Q & A sessions on homeschooling is homeschooling different age groups at the same time

I would like to offer some tips that might be helpful on the topic:

If you have older children, you can designate one of the older children to entertain/play with the younger sibling for a period of time while you work with the other child/children.  After the set amount of time, you can switch and then you work with the child who was watching his/her sibling(s) and let someone else take a turn to play with them.

If none of your children are old enough to entertain younger siblings, you can find great educational websites, computer programs, audio recordings or video recordings to keep the ones busy that you aren’t actively teaching and they could still be learning e.g. while I’m working on Math with one child, the other could be practicing Typing with software that teaches typing as well as have fun games to play to reinforce learning while another child might be practicing Chess with the help of the computer and another might be watching a Science video from the local library!  Once children get older, you can also make a schedule for them, so that they can start learning how to manage their time.  They also can receive an assignment sheet at the beginning of each day or week where they have a list of tasks to accomplish during the day or week and they can check it off as they go along.

Something else you might want to do is to do some subjects all together as a family e.g. if you do a History Unit Study, you can cover the same basic time period and information and then assign different level assignments to the different age groups that you are teaching.

Outside classes:  This might seem like an unlikely contender for the category of Multi-tasking, but it completely falls in here.  If you are in class situation, you could be “teaching” all your children, but without having to physically do that all at once.  It can sometimes be very hard to teach with different ages and abilities in one room.  Some subjects lend themselves more easily to it, but some are really challenging to do simultaneously, in which case outsourcing it can be a perfect solution.  You could also teach one kid in the car or library or an empty room while another child is in a class. One of these centers that offers this for homeschoolers is Learn Beyond The Book.

You could also try a homeschool co-op with another family or more that have children with approximately the same age/ability levels as yours.  You can divide the children up between the 2 moms by age/ability level and they can all be learning at the same time with different teachers in different rooms, e.g. if I’m teaching my older children Science and I have a co-op going where someone else is teaching my younger children Art at the time, we are all busy learning.  After that class, it could switch where I then could be teaching the younger ones the Science at a lower level and the other mom could be teaching the older kids Art.  The more moms, the more kids, the more classes that can be offered lead to hopefully all the more fun! It is not as time-saving as outside classes that you would pay for, because you have to prep and teach as well, but it is usually cheaper or free.

Any thoughts on what you might like to study as a family or in a class setting?






I found a useful tool in determining how well you are doing in the time management department and ideas for improvement at http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_88.htm

I hope that you found the information in this booklet helpful and if you need help implementing what you find in this booklet, please contact me at LearnBeyondTheBook@gmail.com