Switch to the new WRAL

Keep your busy family on track in 2023 with a family command center

Posted January 19, 2023 9:00 a.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2023 9:26 a.m. EST

Megan Sumrell is a Triangle-based time management coach for overwhelmed women

— Between work, after school activities, travel, projects, and lessons -- it can often feel like you need a degree in logistics to keep track of all the schedules and moving parts for a family.

If you have ever searched Pinterest for ideas on how to create a central calendar for your family, you have likely seen pictures of gorgeous huge whiteboard calendars with connecting bulletin boards and various colored pens -- a different color for each family member. But keep in mind pretty doesn’t necessarily mean functional. So if 2023 is the year you plan to finally get it all together, read on for my top five tips to create what I call a “Family Command Center,” a system that your family will actually use.

First, let’s cover the ultimate goal of your family command center. It is actually quite simple: the goal is to eliminate last minute scrambling to ensure everyone has what they need and knows where they need to be. By following the below five tips, you’ll be on your way to a more organized, less frazzled family this year and beyond!

Tip #1: Less is more

When deciding on what information to put on the command center, less is more. This means that you do not need to capture every detail of every family member's schedule on the calendar. Instead, only write down events or activities that affect multiple members of the family or are out of norm.

For example, if I have an important meeting that only affects me, I do not put that on the calendar. However, if I will be gone during our normal dinner time at an event, I will put that on the command center.

The bottom line -- when you overcrowd your calendar with too much information, everyone starts to ignore it.

Tip #2: One week only

I love those beautiful one month (or even three month) beautifully designed whiteboards as much as the next person. But, a monthly family command center will 100% cause overwhelm (and therefore make everyone stop looking at it).

I recommend only having one week of information on your family command center. You can find weekly whiteboards or weekly post-it notes for this (here is what I personally use). By only having one week of information on your command center, it is easier to create and update and easier for your family to consume.

Tip #3: Implement Color Coding

There are many ways to implement color coding. Before you jump in assuming each family member should have a unique color, first think about your schedule. If everyone has a unique color, it can be hard to decide what color to use for an event that affects multiple people. That is why in our house, we use two colors. One color for information that our daughter needs to know and a separate color for info that only affects my husband and me.

Tip #4: Put it in a central place

Deciding where to put your family command center will have a direct impact on how used it is. I see many families that decide to put one in their mud room walk in space from the garage. It seems like an obvious place because it is out of the way and in a high traffic zone. However, this is often the exact wrong place to put it. Think about the head space you are in when walking in or leaving your house through your mud room. Are you in the mood to think about scheduling? Most likely, no.

That is why I recommend an area around the kitchen. We keep ours on the side of our fridge next to the coffee maker and snacks. You want to keep it in a high traffic area but one where people are not feeling rushed and will ignore it.

Tip #5: Review as a family on Sunday night

The most impactful thing you can do with a family command center is to review it before the upcoming week. Every Sunday night as we finish up dinner, I bring over the weekly post it note and we take 2 minutes and review it as a family. Then, I stick it on the fridge. That way, everyone has the chance to ask questions if needed.

I have to be honest with you. This family command center will not prevent your family members from asking you, “What’s the plan for today?” I am not a miracle worker.

But, at least now if you are asked that question, you can simply smile and respond with “Check the command center.”

Triangle mom Megan Sumrell is a former corporate techie turned entrepreneur. As a Time Management Expert for women seeking Work+Life Harmony, Megan teaches specific strategies to help women get on top of their time, calendar and goals while getting rid of stress, overwhelm, and exhaustion. For free training on how to achieve Work+Life Harmony, visit https://www.megansumrell.com/freetraining.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.