Back to school. No doubt that phrase brings up certain emotions. From managing back-to-school shopping for clothes, shoes and supplies, to getting (and keeping) everyone on the same schedule, this time of year can be hectic. This article offers some ideas to help you use technology to take charge of the back-to-school chaos and make this school year great.
Make and share electronic lists
Many schools send supply lists and the like through electronic means. Often times, that email or web page is not printed or reduced to writing. Or, the printed copy gets left on the printer when you leave to go to the store, which can cause even more stress.
Instead of dealing with more paper or trying to find the email with the link or information, transition the back-to-school lists to an electronic note system. On iPhone, use the default Notes application to make a master to-do list or checklist. Add pictures of the lunch menu or favorite backpacks to keep everything in one place. Then, put individual tasks into the Reminders app.
The beauty of the Reminders app is that you can have different lists for different stores. Need something at the grocery store? Add it to the grocery list. If that list is shared, the family member at the grocery store can look at the list and get the necessary items. Bonus: You or others in your family can add things to the list while that family member is on their way to the store. The added item(s) will show up on their phone when checked at the store.
Make and share an electronic calendar
Keeping schedules in sync between school, work, home and sports/activities is difficult. A shared electronic calendar can make things much easier.
The main benefit of an electronic calendar is to keep everyone on the same schedule. One person changing the event on the calendar changes it for all others attached to that calendar. Yes, you need to be careful with who can make changes, but being able to update a calendar entry with a corrected location or time is highly beneficial. Last-minute location or time changes won’t send you into a texting/phone-calling frenzy. Simply update the shared calendar and your family has access to the new information. Set a reminder alert for a calendar event to (try to) get everyone there on time.
Consider adding the address to the location field of the calendar entry. That way, your smartphone can give you directions to an unfamiliar destination (or tell you how late you will be because of traffic).
Another benefit of electronic calendars is the ability to search for an entry. Follow a consistent naming structure for your calendar entries and you can easily search for events related to a particular child and see them all in one place.
Update your contact list
Each school year brings new teachers, friends, parents of friends, coaches and others you may need to contact. The beginning of the school year is a good time to review and update your contact list.
Your iPhone or other device has a built-in contact manager. Use the contact manager to keep the most important information (e.g., phone, email, address), but also make sure to use the notes feature to add more information about the individual. The notes field is searchable so when you can’t remember the name of your kid’s soccer coach, you can search for “third grade soccer” and see the coach’s name.
Consider using VIPs for teachers or coaches. Marking a contact as a VIP allows you to manage notifications for those individuals. You can have immediate notifications if practice changes or there is an issue at school.
Finally, having the contact in your phone makes it easier for your phone to auto-dial for you. Saying “Call Jim Smith” works better than trying to tap on the screen or scroll through your recent calls or text list.
Some other ideas
Some other ideas to get ready for back to school:
1. Back up your device(s). There’s nothing worse than putting in all this electronic information and losing it due to an unforeseen event.
2. Buy a portable battery charger for your (and your kids’) device(s). Who knows when you will be somewhere and need power?
3. Consider protective cases for your device(s). If the device will routinely be out in the elements, have an appropriate case.
4. Set up a charging station where all devices land at the end of the day (and hopefully stay). No need to be tied down 24/7.
5. In the midst of the back-to-school excitement and confusion, enjoy each moment with your kids. They grow up fast.•
Seth R. Wilson is an attorney with Adler Tesnar & Whalin in Noblesville. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm. Seth writes about legal technology at sethrwilson.com and is a frequent speaker on the subject. The opinions expressed are those of the author.