Family in a car

How Plans Reduce Stress

Lisa - June 15, 2022

The family has a big camping trip planned. Dad types up a long packing list that he’s sure covers everything and prints it off. He just listed things as he thought of them, so it’s a bit unorganized, but everyone eventually figures out what they’re trying to check off, and can always add more items with a pencil. The kids are finally old enough to help pack the bags and organize the gear, though some do it better than others. Everyone knows what day the family is leaving, but the parents didn’t communicate well their desire to leave by 9:00 am in order to reach the campground and have lunch by noon. As a result, one of the boys sleeps in and the family is getting things finished at 9:34. No one was assigned to fill the cooler in the morning, either, so it’s almost left behind.

At last, the car is on the road. An hour into the drive, the gas tank is low, and Mom apologizes for forgetting to fill it the day before. The family reaches the campsite at 1:07 and hungrily eats their late lunch. They set up the tent together, and as they unpack, a daughter unrolls her sleeping bag to find it smelling like mildew. She realizes that it got wet last year and no one thought to wash the sleeping bags before this year’s trip. Mom offers to drive into town and wash it, especially since she also needs to buy sunscreen, which didn’t end up on the packing list.

Does this sound familiar? Family trips can be a lot of fun, but there’s a lot to keep track of, and a little organization can go a long way to avoid the mistakes described in this scenario. Family Tools has a feature called Plans that is specifically designed to break large projects or events into smaller pieces, ensuring that every task gets done, every item gets checked off, and every schedule is clear to everyone. We’ll describe its uses while continuing the camping trip example, but know that it can help with everything from big school assignments to spring cleaning.

Family camping

Plans work by letting family members see related tasks, lists, and events all in one place. After creating a plan for the camping trip, you can start with a calendar event that tells everyone when the family is leaving and how long the trip will be. If more specific activities are planned, like a hike or campfire s’mores, you can put those on the calendar, too. All of them will appear together in the plan.

On the very same screen, you can then create a packing list that anyone can see or add to from their own device. Since everyone can put items on as soon as they think of something, the chance to forget something will be minimized. As a digital list, it will also sort automatically, and there is always room for more. Lots of family members? You can create multiple lists and assign them to specific people, especially since a Premium subscription gives you both Plans and unlimited lists. No matter how you divide it up, all of them will stay connected to your camping trip plan for easy access. (Each list will show items on a separate screen to avoid clutter, but the links to the lists are directly on the plan.)

Finally, add some tasks to make sure things get done. Give assignments according to age, like trusting the teenager instead of the five-year-old with preparing the cooler, and ensuring that someone with a license is asked to refill the gas tank. Make sure you add proper due dates as well; if washing the sleeping bags will take a day or two, give it a due date several days before it’s time to go. Again, these tasks will all be visible on a single page, along with the related events and lists.

As time goes on and tasks are completed, past events and assignments will be hidden from the plan to help family members focus on what’s coming. However, if you need to check on something that already happened, just use the toggles in the upper right corner of the Events and Tasks sections. Find what you’re looking for, then select the toggle again to hide the clutter. You can also hide entire sections if you want, such as while trying to focus on the schedule; just select the headings of Tasks and Lists to condense them.

While Plans excels at bringing everything together, each object attached to a plan will also appear in its regular area in the app. Each will be distinguished with a little target icon, both to remind you that it’s part of a plan and to provide an easy link back to that plan. This is especially useful for helping family members remember to do plan-related tasks in addition to their regular chores and homework. A daughter who goes to the app to check off the dishes she cleaned will see that she’s also been assigned to gather medicine and bandages into a first aid kit. A parent looking over their daily to-do’s will be reminded to make some sandwiches the day before the family leaves.

This, of course, applies to lists and events as well. Someone checking the calendar will see all that’s happening, inside and outside the plan, and a child looking at the family’s lists can easily find their own packing list. Family members can view and use the plan in the way that makes sense to them, whether in its own place or integrated with day-to-day life.

After getting all that in place, your camping trip is set to succeed. Tasks will get done, things will get packed, and family members will know exactly when events are happening. But the organization doesn’t have to end there. As mentioned, you can also use Plans for other big events and projects. Try scheduling due dates for a science fair project and making a list for the steps of the experiment. Put a family reunion on the calendar and attach a wish list of food to bring, which can be shared publicly with extended family members. Get ready for spring cleaning by giving out different chores and setting a day to get them done. The possibilities are endless.