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10 brilliant time-saving ideas for families

The kids made it back to school in one piece. But for many parents, getting into the fall groove is a harsh reminder that 24 hours just isn't enough. So, before the panic sets in, we crowdsourced the question of how to bore a hole in the parenting space-time continuum to find an extra five minutes before the school bell rings, or a blissful hour before bedtime. Here are some brilliantly simple ideas that have worked for parents participating in our School Council project.

1. Text with your kids

One of the best time savers is to arm your children with communications technology. Being able to communicate via phone or text saves a lot of running around and reduces everyone's anxiety. It lets kids have a level of independence while still having necessary support from parents, other family or friends. This is how adults use the technology, why shouldn't kids? – Andrew Campbell, three kids, Ontario

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2. Harness the agendas

When the children arrive home from school, each one brings me his or her agenda, empties out his or her lunch kit, and reviews homework. If forms need to be filled out, then it's done and the forms are returned to the backpack with the agenda. – Ruth Snyder, five kids, Alberta

Cutting down on procrastination. When forms come home, filling them out right away and [sending] back to the school, no time spent later locating the form. If further information is needed, then onto the bulletin board, and the rule is something on the board then something can come down. This helps reduce clutter. – Anelia Coppes, four kids, Ontario

3. Be an errand ninja on your way home …

When I get back into town from my 30-minute commute home, my route to hit the grocery store, to refill our water jugs, to get gas and cash for the following day is meticulously planned to avoid traffic lights, and maximize efficiency. I know it sounds silly, but I have no doubt this saves me up to half an hour each day. I eliminate forgetfulness, I banish it. Cast wasted time into exile. Point A, to B, to C, to D is fluid. – Nick McCabe, one child, Ontario

4. … Or even consider moving

The biggest timesaver ever: We live close to work and school so we have only a few minutes of commuting time each day, which means more time for everything else. – Tara Colborne, three children, B.C.

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5. Delegate duties

Keeping a full fridge, sharing duties and basically relying on [the kids] to be organized themselves is a huge part of our world. It's not perfect but many hands make for lighter work.… The big fridge calendar is our best friend … we know when everyone is working, schooling and away on business trips …who is feeding/walking the dogs and getting the jobs done, who needs the car and who has to drive others to their activities. – Jacquie Hansen, four kids, Alberta

6. Ditch the September activities

Even as homeschoolers we find our September month to be a real time crunch. Our solution is to not start any programs that month. Swimming lessons we start in October, French language tutoring also. For those programs that are offered in sessions, like skating and gymnastics, we opt out of the first session. For all-school-year programs like hockey and Scouts, we start late. It makes our September so much easier and allows us to adjust out of summer mode. – Johanna Barefoot, two kids, Ontario

7. Automate lunch

Setting up the routine wherein we discuss lunches for next week, then do some shopping with the kids to see what can fit in lunch bags. The "lunch stuff" is then put in cupboards, and fridge areas, and the kids are able to prepare most of their lunches the night before. The yogurt gets put in when they are having breakfast. – Steve Masson, two kids, Ontario

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8. Do away with dinner prep

Regardless whether or not we are home I find one-dish dinners and making three or four meals in advance saves a lot of time in our family. Having one major item off the list that I carry in my head makes me more efficient everywhere else. Not only do we cut out the dinner prep every night of the week, but also the cleanup after that. If dinner is already made we don't waste time with those last-minute stops at the grocery store to pick up forgotten items. – Atiya Hussain, four kids, Ontario

9. Throw out the TV

Throw out the TV, and severely limit the amount of screen time in general (it was a desperation move in our home and it worked wonders). With all that new-found time, my kids can take care of many of their own personal-care and organizational needs. To motivate them, screen time (in 15- and 30-minute blocks of time) became the reward for well-done work. – Bobbi Menard, three kids, Alberta

10. Say no to last-minute asks

If the kids don't tell me about something when they learn about it, it doesn't get done. Didn't tell me you needed a dozen cupcakes until you woke up, [but should have] told me the night before – it's not going to happen. Saying no to these last-minute, unexpected things has made me far less stressed. – Tawnya Zwicker, two kids, Ontario

Submissions have been condensed and edited.

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