Designing a Weekly Schedule

My husband and I both work full-time and we have two elementary-age kids. This means that our life can get pretty busy sometimes, what with everyone’s activities, obligations, doctor appointments, etc.

Several months ago, my husband wished for a way to organize our chaotic schedules, to have a big-picture idea of what was coming instead of just being unpleasantly surprised by his phone alerting him that David has a basketball game across town in 15 minutes. Synced smart-phone calendars help, but they don’t do a very good job of giving all four of us a picture of what our week will look like.

In the past, we’d also had laminated chore charts on the fridge so we could check off everyday chores. He wanted to bring those back, too, so I took it up as a design challenge to save fridge space and combine the two: weekly calendar and daily chore chart. After all, I’m a graphic designer turned UX specialist. This sort of thing ought to be right in my wheelhouse!

The Original Design

After several iterations, here is what I came up with. This is an example of a weekly schedule from several months ago.

I created it using Adobe InDesign. I really like that software for creating text-heavy print designs.

Familyl schedule version 2.0

Here are some of the notable features of this design:

  • Only 4 activities fit on each day, a reminder that it’s just not realistic to try and do too much in one day.
  • The schedule begins on Monday, because that’s how we think of our weeks: five days of school/work followed by two days of weekend. Also, some events go across the whole weekend and having Saturday and Sunday next to each other makes it easier to show that.
  • The chores can be changed each week when I print out the new schedule. For example, this week I added making & delivering a cake to the chores.
  • Originally, I had initials next to each chore showing who was supposed to do what. I ended up getting rid of those because everyone already knows which chores are theirs. (As noted above, this is iteration 2.0.)
  • Even the youngest member of the family can easily see which days are busy and which are not, especially useful if you want to know when you can invite a friend to come over.

Refining the Design

Over the months, I refined the design based on how we actually used the schedule, talking with family members to figure out what worked and what didn’t. For example, the kids need to know what days I’m traveling so they know they need to go to the after-school program, but it doesn’t matter to anyone else if someone has a dentist appointment during the work day.

Discovery:

  • Only activities that affect more than one family member should be on the schedule.
  • Too many chores = too much visual clutter = nothing gets done. I’ve pared those lists way down.
  • If the schedule always looks the same, it starts to fade into the background and we forget to look at it. Changing the colors and background every couple of weeks solves this (it’s also fun for me).

The current version of the schedule on our fridge is iteration 6.0. I’ve added meal planning and figured out a better way to show overnight events and special dates like birthdays and holidays. I also used InDesign’s styles to create several themes (sky, swimming pool, Art Deco), so I can easily customize the fonts and colors.

The current version of the weekly schedule, in situ.

I’m still iterating, of course. Still improving, still figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Our life continues to change, from the school year to summer vacation, from basketball to swim team season. There’s no telling what version 7.0 and beyond will look like.

I’d love to hear any feedback you have on this schedule, its design, and ideas for improving it.

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