Photo Courtsey of Imama Lavi @

The Working Mom’s Guide to Conquering the Year

Donita Brown
Jan 17, 2018 · 9 min read

It’s January, but as I write this, it’s only January for a short time.

Do you know what you are doing this summer? You may not think you need to and you could be right. Some people like to live free and do not want to be tied down to plans.

As a working mom, I can tell you mapping out the year, now, in January, before the month is over will give you peace of mind. Not only will you have peace of mind, but you will have more flexibility to live free. Planning gives you freedom. And oddly, gives you the flexibility to be spontaneous, because you have the non-negotiables already covered.

Work-Life Balance is a Farce

There times as a working mom that we need to flex and be more at work and conversely there are times which require more time at home, like the field day as mentioned above day.

Often, I have found myself saying, “if I’m flexible, then the company will be flexible” and I find that to be very true, especially in the times where we embrace flex time and working from home.

If you strive for work-life balance, you will always be disappointed. If you aim to accomplish what matters most, then you will find yourself more satisfied.

For working moms (or working parents for that matter) using a family calendar can keep you on track. You need 4 calendar views. Each is used for different purposes and are used for contexts.

Yearly Calendar

This is a calendar you can keep electronically and add items to quickly. I use Evernote for this. This is where all my annual events go. I keep it as my reference point. I look at it weekly. Evernote makes a simple one-pager yearly calendar template. It is easy to download and then add your important dates to it. Once I have downloaded it and add it to my shortcuts in Evernote, by doing this, I can access it quickly from any device which has the app loaded or as the internet. This can even be shared from Evernote with your spouse.

Evernote Annual Calendar Template

Use your yearly calendar to manage your time from a big picture standpoint.

90 Day Calendar

For this calendar, I use a visual calendar in a laundry room. It’s a dry erase calendar that at a glance, I can quickly see the next 90 days. I bought this one from Amazon and it works well. It was inexpensive, although there are many others that you can buy, which are fancier. Etsy is a great place if you want to search for a nicer version than mine.

Each person in our family has a dry erase color marker and this is the central point for all our scheduling activities.

Use a 90 day calendar to serve as a visual reminder. Each month I re-write out calendar, showing the most current month in the left most pane and then shift all the details over by a month.

Monthly Calendar

The monthly calendar I used my Google Calendar, it keeps me on track and provides an easy way to add items and see them at a glance. You can also use an Outlook calendar or another easy to use electronic calendar. It needs to be easy to add items to and invite people to events.

Google Monthly Calendar

Weekly Calendar and Check-In

This is where the planning gets easier. Pick a day of the week and each week on that day, plan the following week. I use Sundays for this, and I start with my Yearly Calendar, looking at any items coming up. Then, I double check all the elements are on my work calendar. I also make sure there are no new items which need to be added to the 90 Day calendar. By doing this weekly, this process takes less than 15 minutes.

Google Weekly Calendar

Once you have your four calendars ready, add the following holidays for 2018.

Plan now for the holidays in 2018

  • Valentine’s Day — 2/14 (Wednesday)

Now that they’re on your radar, let’s walk through them and see what you can do to prepare each one well in advance.

Photo Courtesy of

Valentine’s Day — 2/14 — on a Wednesday this year

Start now if you want customized Valentine’s Day cards. You can find cute ideas on Pinterest or purchase premade ones at Etsy. Message the shop owner on Etsy to ensure that if you order them now, they will arrive in enough time to get them to your child’s class party. Especially if you need to put names on each of the cards.

Daylights Saving Time — 3/11 — always on a Saturday night / Sunday morning

Although not a holiday, this day can be a challenge for some families, especially those with small children. Let’s be honest, it’s hard for working parents, too. As time changes and we lose an hour of our day, it takes a few days or maybe even a week to adjust.

St. Patrick’s Day — 3/17 — on a Saturday this year

Are you planning on having something green to celebrate? If so — plan a week ahead and buy green food dye. Trust me, plan ahead.

Easter — 4/22 — always on a Sunday

If you prepare Easter baskets for your children, put on your calendar two weeks ahead of Easter and buy the items.

Mother’s Day — 5/13— always on a Sunday

Buy the card a week in advance, trust me — you’ll appreciate getting it early, especially if you need to mail it. There’s more selection at the store if you shop early. If you are going out to eat, plan ahead. Make reservations early. This is the busiest day at restaurants.

Memorial Day — 5/28 — always on a Monday

Now is the time to decide if you are going out of town for this holiday. Hotels are often booked up well in advance for this holiday. If you are buying decorations they can be used for the 4th of July, as well.

Father’s Day — 6/17 — always on a Sunday

Same goes for Father’s Day — buy the card a week in advance, trust me — you’ll appreciate getting it early, especially if you need to mail it. There’s more selection at the store if you shop early.

4th of July — 7/4 — on a Wednesday this year

Put on your calendar at the beginning of June to buy decorations, or use the ones you purchased for Memorial Day. Since this falls in the middle of the week, think about if you will be taking off from work the following day. If you do plan to take off July 5th to recover from being out late, schedule that vacation day, now!

Labor Day — 9/3 — always on a Monday

Similar to Memorial Day, this is a very busy travel weekend as many see this as the end of summer. Book your travel plans well in advance.

Grandparents Day — 9/9 — always on a Sunday

Many schools have a special lunch with grandparents and while it may not be on the actual day. It would be wise to find out from your school in advance to pass along this day to the grandparents (actually or those special people who plan this role in your family) in order for them to plan to attend this celebration.

Halloween — 10/31 — on a Wednesday this year

At my house we have never let our children pick their costumes. You may consider this mean, but I consider it self-preservation. Instead, we have a costume unveiling. It’s a lot of excitement when their costumes are revealed. There’s a big build up to it and everyone is happy, not frazzled from trying to find that perfect costume, then at the last minute someone changing their mind. I also purchase the costumes a month in advance. It’s on my calendar at the end of September.

Daylight Savings Time Ends — 11/4 — always on a Saturday night / Sunday morning

Much like the start of Daylight Savings time, this causes a change in our body rhythms. Many enjoy the extra hour of sleep, but it also changes the day’s light, causing the days to be shorter and the darkness to come quicker.

Thanksgiving — 11/22 — always on a Thursday

If you are cooking for a large group, block off the weekend before Thanksgiving and do as much prep as you can for Thanksgiving. I always take off this entire week and get ready for Christmas. I do all my Christmas prep this week and having it done before December helps me prepare for a less-stressful holiday season. I decorate my house, buy my gifts and wrap them. I also order my Christmas cards before this week and address and stamp them this week.

Elf Day— 12/1 — on a Saturday this year

This is the day that the Elf on a Shelf arrives at most homes. Do yourself a favor and write down where you have put the elf from last year.

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day— 12/24 & 12/25— on Monday and Tuesday this year

Hopefully you have prepared for these days. If you have small children, this is a magical holiday, full of opportunites for making memories. I use the week of Thanksgiving to make these days as stress free as possible.

New Year’s Eve — 12/31 & 12/25 — on Monday this year

Plan the first of December to get a babysitter if you have plans to go out without the children. Often the great babysitters are booked well in advance. If you don’t plan on going out, there are some great opportunites to celebrate early with little kids, such as watching the celebration in Iceland, which is live streamed and earlier than watching it in the United States.

Other dates to remember:

  • Field Day (May or June)

If you are new to planning, take it one step at a time. This does not need to be done in a day. Take it a day at a time, five days and you will get there.

Day 1, start with the yearly calendar, take it slow. Add the dates that are important.

Day 2, add the 90 day view. Take the items from your yearly calendar and copy them on your 90 day view. Make sure this 90 day calendar view is somewhere that is easy to be seen by the family.

Day 3, layer in the monthly view. Add your items from the 90 day view and add them to your electronic calendar. Again a Google calendar is easy to use and on most smart phones.

Day 4, you are ready for the weekly view! If you have used a Google calendar, your weekly view will auto populate by choosing the weekly view. You’ve done the hard work.

Day 5, time for the review. Look over your calendar and see if there are any items you need to adjust. Then pick a day of the week and review your calendar each week.

I hope this helps you think about the year in advance, so you can accomplish what matters most.

Thanks to Kendra Kinnison for the feedback!

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Thanks to Niklas Göke and Kendra Kinnison

Donita Brown

Written by

Professor, Working Mom Encourager, and Author:

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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