Managing Back-to-School Logistics as a Working Parent

August 4, 2023

Browse by CategorY
Jump into my free
5-day video lesson program below
jump in here!
want to get a taste of the bright method for free?
Welcome! We're all about realistic time management designed for professional working women here in this little pocket of the internet. I'm glad you're here.

Listen on Apple or Spotify

For the PDF of all of the working parent back-to-school action steps mentioned and MORE, go to: http://kellynolan.com/back-to-school

A full transcript will appear here within two weeks of the episode being published. 

To take my free 5-day program, the Reset and Refresh, click here: https://kellynolan.com/reset-refresh.

To learn more about and sign up for the Bright Method 8-week program, click here: https://kellynolan.com/the-bright-method-time-management-course-with-kelly-nolan.

I also share actionable bite-sized time management strategies on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/_kellynolan_/. Come hang out with me there!

Full Transcript

Episode 15. Managing Back-to-School Logistics with Less Stress

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Hey, there! Before you dig in, I wanted you to know that when I recorded this, my idea was that I would just list out the action items in the show notes. Now that time has gone by and I’ve thought about this more and more and I’ve actually talked to more people about it, I actually created a PDF for you that lists out all the action items that kind of came up in this episode but also even more and more.

So definitely check it out! Listen to this podcast episode. It’s definitely still relevant, but also know that there is a downloadable PDF that you can link to in the show notes that you can grab a more comprehensive list of things that you might want to check out. All right, enjoy listening!


Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey there, and welcome back! So I hope up until now it’s been clear that The Bright Method applies to anyone, whether you have kids or not. Today’s episode is going to focus on kids, so it is more for you if you’re a mom or a parent. I don’t want to exclude anyone. Typically I don’t like to do just mom-specific episodes, but this time of year is really crazy on that front, and so, I think it’d be helpful to have an episode really that can focus on the time-management challenge that is back to school.

So that’s what this episode is going to be about. If anyone would like to listen, you are more than welcome to. If you would rather skip this one and join me next week, totally get that too.

Okay, so before we dig in, one thing I want to just throw out there is that I’m gonna kind of throw a lot of little one-off things that you might want to calendar at you, and so, just absorb this episode as you listen to it, but know that you’ll probably need to come back to it to implement. So what I would recommend doing is just listening, but also if you want to pause this right now, calendar 45/60 minutes of time to implement what you’re gonna hear here and then come back to me and listen to it just so that you can kind of take it in, noodle on it, think about how you’re going to make it work for you, and then when you go to implement, you kind of have that benefit of all that noodling time for you when you actually implement it so you can tailor it to you and your family in an approach that works for you.

While I’m throwing that out there, just know that — unfortunately it takes about a week because when a podcast episode comes out, I send it to an awesome woman who does my transcriptions for me. But about a week after each episode comes out what happens is that we paste the whole transcript in the show notes on my website. So if you ever want to go dig back into an episode but you kind of learn better by reading, which I actually very much empathize with, what I would do is go to my website, which is www.kellynolan.com, click on “podcast” at the top. There’s a button below that says something like “see all episodes” or something like that. Click on that, and then you’ll see all of the podcast episodes. It looks like almost a blog post per episode. You can click on the one that’s relevant, and then at the bottom of that there’s a full transcript of what the episode said.

So just throwing that out there for you. If you prefer to read like that or whenever you read this, if you want to go back, that is a way that you can do that. We do have the full transcript available. It’s just about a week after the episodes come out. All right! Onto the good stuff, back-to-school stuff.

I’m excited to dig into this. A client asked me to come out with this episode just to kind of keep it fresh in her head, and so, that’s what we’re gonna do today.

Think About All Back-to-School Things and Get Them in Your Calendar – 3:46

So the general approach to back-to-school stuff that I just want to throw out there before we dig into the details is, one, think about all the things you need to do. Two, put them in your calendar. We’re done! That’s it! That’s all you have to do. But that’s just kind of the framework I want you to have in mind because I’m gonna go down some rabbit holes today, and I want you to kind of have just that general framework right now.

So what I would do is if you’re revisiting this later, what you might want to do before you even listen to some of this other stuff is just get out a blank piece of paper and just get all the things that you can think of about back to school out of your head. Just kind of let yourself go. Let it all out. Then maybe think of each kid. If anything else comes to mind, write that down. Then think about the subjects they’ll be learning, the extracurriculars they might be doing, any social hurdles that might happen this year, just anything that you want. As things come to mind, just try and spark ideas. As things come to mind, write them out.

Then what we’re gonna do is help you not get overwhelmed by all of those things because I really want you to hear me say this: you don’t need to do it all right now. In fact, you probably can’t do some of the stuff right now at all, and it would be very inefficient to try. And so, just know that. Know that a lot of the things we’re gonna talk about today, you’re gonna be like, “Well, I can’t do that right now.” We can still guestimate when you might and plot that time in your calendar, and you will start to see, “Okay, I can let that go until then,” and that is really magical.

So we’re gonna learn more about that so you can kind of see how that comes to life today as we keep going. But I want you to understand the general approach is we’re just gonna write down the things we need to do and then we’re gonna calendar when we might do them.

The reason we do all this, just to be really clear, is not because I love planning and I want you to just plan, plan, plan. That’s part of it, but it’s the ripple effects that I love because the ripple effects are our stress is majorly reduced because we have suddenly a realistic game plan that can work, that will help us accomplish the things we need to do in time, we’ve put it into a trusted system that we can count on to tell us to do the things when the time comes around, and all of that combined helps us do that with a lot less scramble but a lot more peace of mind, and more so, you can let it go until then.

If you see, okay, I protected some time to buy, let’s say, school supplies the week before school starts. “I can do it here, things like that.” “Maybe I’ll block some more availability to do that now,” or “I’ll do an Instacart order,” or whatever your plan is. “I’m gonna do all of that now. There’s my plan. I don’t need to think about it until that week,” then you can let it go. If you can do this across the board with all the things you need to do, you can start getting a taste of, “That will allow me to actually really enjoy the rest of my summer because I’m not constantly stressed about when am I gonna do all those things, can I get it all done, things like that.” You have a gameplan in your calendar that helps you see, “Okay, I can get it done in the future. I don’t need to do it right now, so I can just soak in the rest of this summer and enjoy the time with my family.” That is really what I’m aiming for for you, okay?

List of Back-to-School Things To Do – 7:00

So let’s dig into what are the things that you might want to do? Let’s say maybe you haven’t plotted it out on a piece of paper. Totally fine. But maybe you have and you just kind of want to make sure you’ve got everything. This is some of the stuff that came to mind for me that I’m also going to share some stuff that — I talked about this on Instagram and some other people shared some stuff, so I think it’s really helpful to hear from other people as well.

I also want to throw out that I am limited in my kid experience, so I only have my very limited experience with kids. I have a rising kindergartener. She did go to Pre-K at the school that she’s going to continue though, so I have had a year. Last year was my real learning year of what real school is like. So I did get an early taste of it, but it’s still very limited, and I don’t pretend to be some sort of parenting expert. Thankfully, I have clients who have older kids, so I’ve learned more through them. But I, myself, personally have found a podcast called The Mom Hour — I know I’ve mentioned them before in a previous episode — to be really helpful because they’re moms of much older kids. They span. They have some young kids still, and then they have kids out of high school, and I think in college even.

So to me, I just don’t get to hang out with moms who are much more experienced parents than I am, and it is really helpful to learn from parents who have much more experience than I do. So I’ll just throw that out there as well. That would be a nice pairing with this episode. I would just, in whatever podcast platform you use, search “Mom Hour school” and see which episodes come up because I think they’re really useful, and I’ve enjoyed listening to them.

Okay! Let’s dig in. So we’re gonna go through a random list of things you can do with some of my random commentary, and just always remember, anytime you start feeling a little twinge of overwhelm, that you do not need to do all of this right now. The point is that these are things that are gonna occur to you and stress you out when you’re falling asleep, driving somewhere, and what we want to do is avoid that, capture them all right now, plop them in your calendar, and then when they come to you when you’re falling asleep in bed, you can be like, “Yep, I have a plan for that already,” and you can just dismiss it and let it go.

One: Buying School Supplies – 9:13

First up is buying school supplies. This is one that you likely probably don’t have the list for yet, and so, you might just want to think about when will I get the list, and just from a general standpoint, I will throw out there before we get into the more specifics that I find the week before school — and, again, in my very limited experience — to be the time when you get a lot of this information and there are suddenly things to do.

So what you might want to do right now just from a general standpoint is kind of keep that week light. You might want to block some availability in your calendar so that it’s not a super meeting-heavy week. You might want to give yourself some space so that if you have to run a couple errands, maybe take the Friday off or something like that, before school starts. It just might be a nice way for you to give yourself the breathing space so that, then, when you get the school list of activities or you get all that paperwork you need to fill out or anything like that sent to you, you’ve already accounted for that and have some breathing space in your calendar. So you could take off Thursday or Friday the week before. You could leave every day at three o’clock. You could just plan on a lighter week so that you have the flexibility, whatever makes sense to you. But just know it’s coming, and that will give you some space to do this kind of stuff.

So, along those lines, you might want to buy school supplies on one of those days that you take off or around that period of time. If you want to do it with kids, block the time that you will do it, and hopefully that works for you. One tip I did get from The Mom Hour is, oftentimes with very little kids, the school supplies are more communal. So if you have to get a couple glue sticks for your kid, those are not the only glue sticks your kid will use. They’ll go in a communal glue stick pile. So their point was more like don’t overstress if you don’t have everything on day one because it’s all communal anyway, and sometimes teachers actually like when you bring things in a little bit later. So don’t overstress if you aren’t able to get every single little thing right before school starts. They also said that if a kid really needs something before school starts or on the first day, the teachers will usually communicate that to you. So that is not something I have personal experience with, but I really liked that takeaway.

Clothes for School – 11:28

Another thing to think through is clothing for school. So if you are going to buy back-to-school clothes for your kids, this is something that I know my parents did for us. It was the one thing they bought us on the clothing front were back-to-school one or two outfits. If you are gonna do that, calendar time of when you’re going to do that, and just, in my experience (I’m sure you know your kids better), you don’t want to do it too early probably because then they might change their mind. So you just might want to think about when would work best knowing the personalities of your kids and your own schedule and the timing to do that clothing shopping if you want to, to get those back-to-school outfits.

Back-to-School Haircuts – 12:05

Along those lines, just on appearance, which I don’t normally like to focus on, but while we’re on the topic is back-to-school haircuts. If that’s something you would like to do is really getting those on the calendar early. By the time this episode comes out — candidly, it depends on your area. I know the place I take my kiddos, they would probably be fully booked by then. So if you missed the boat this year, again, remove the self-judgment and put something on the calendar for when you can get it. But if it’s important to you — and it does not need to be, but if it is, figure out, “When should I book next year?” Put that in your calendar, repeat it on an annual basis from then on out, and then you’re golden. 

School Paperwork and Medical Forms – 12:43

All right, school paperwork and also those medical forms that kind of get swept up in the paperwork. You just might want to protect time for when you’re gonna fill those out. Again, that might be in that week before school, but whether it is or isn’t, just kind of think ahead on when you’re gonna do that paperwork time.

Along those lines, you could start thinking of what are the medical forms that we’re gonna need (usually they’re somewhat standardized – vaccine records, anything like that you might need), and just get the ball rolling on those if you can right now. What’s nice is thinking about this stuff now will allow you to book any appointments if you need to or give you the breathing space to email in forms without stressing about getting them back on a tight turnaround.

All right, another thing you can do — and you might have already done this, but it’s sometimes helpful just to make sure — is pulling the school calendar for each kid to the extent you have it now (even just the big holidays) and putting that information in your calendar. What I mean by that is all those half days and things like that, really, you want those in your calendar as soon as you can to then block your work availability. Now, to be clear, I hope you can get some childcare coverage or share with a partner or a family member, things like that, but much easier to block your work availability now and then open it up down the road if you can versus have it open, assume you can’t get coverage, then you have to reconfigure means.

So just throwing that out there for you. You’ve probably done it, but it is helpful just to make sure you have. I also candidly really like doing it for as far into the future as they give you school calendars because it comes into play with planning vacations or holidays or things like that. It can just be really helpful to have that clarity for when you do get on the conversation with family about next Christmas you can kind of understand what those dates are now if you have that information already.

Childcare – 14:30

Now, this is random, and this might not be something you want to do, but it’s something I need to do is thinking about do I need childcare for any school conferences or back-to-school nights or things like that. I don’t have those times and dates yet, which of course I would love them just to block my availability and get childcare, but it is what it is. While I can’t actually line up sitters right now, what I do like to do is think about when will I likely have that information and remind future me to line up the sitters.

You might be someone where you see those back-to-school nights populate, and you can just line up a sitter right then. My brain just doesn’t always think that way. And so, I’m just throwing that out there that you might want to give yourself even just a backup measure of a reminder to line up sitters when you should have those dates. So I think I put mine in for like mid-to-late August. I was like do I have conference/back-to-school nights, and do we need sitters? At that point, that’s the reminder that I’m giving myself to then book those sitters. If that seems like overkill to you, I totally get it. You don’t have to do it. But if you are like me and you would maybe forget to do it and only remember a week or two before and then have to scramble, then you might want to consider doing that as well.

Acknowledge the First Two Weeks can be Wonky – 15:48

Next up is acknowledging that the first probably two weeks of school can be a little wonky, especially if the “first two weeks of school” are Thursday and Friday and then the Tuesday through Friday after Labor Day. I just kind of assume that it’s gonna be a little bit of a cluster in terms of mornings and learning when we have to leave and what the driving looks like and what traffic looks like and all of that can just be different or if you’re doing a new bus pick up or things like that. We don’t all know exactly how it’s gonna go to plan, and so, just acknowledge that in your planning.

So what I mean by that is do your best to plot it all out when you have to leave to get to this place by this time with a little wiggle room, all that kind of stuff. But also block your work availability for the first hour, hour-and-a-half, two hours, whatever makes sense to you so that at least you don’t have meetings. So you can still plan to get to work, let’s say, at nine o’clock, but if you don’t get in there until nine thirty-seven, then it’s no problem. You’re not stressed out that you’re holding someone up. So I would just throw that out there. For the first two weeks, consider blocking the first hour to two hours from meetings just so that you don’t have the added stress of also needing to get to work at a certain time.

In addition, you might want to consider blocking the last hour of your workday before you would have to leave to go get kids from meetings as well for similar reasons. Just that you might realize two days in, “Oh, man, I actually need to leave a little bit earlier, and I also want to be able to wrap up work so I can really leave work at work and be more present with kids. So let me block that last hour. It turns out I need to leave 15 minutes earlier than I thought I did. So now I just have 45 minutes of work and then I’ll leave,“ and things like that. It’s a lot easier to give yourself the grace to figure out that learning curve versus schedule things all the way up until when you thought you needed to leave and then realize you need to leave 15 minutes earlier.

So just throwing those things out there. Gosh, I know I say that “throwing things out there,” a lot. I’ll work on it. I’m just putting that out there for you to consider. Block the bookends of your workdays to give yourself the breathing space as you guys figure out the new normal for this semester going into it.

Buy Birthday Presents – 18:07

A couple random things. One thing is buying birthday presents for kids who are your kids’ ages. I, last year, was slightly overwhelmed at the number of birthday parties. They’re really fun. I actually love them. I get to know the parents of the kids in my daughter’s classes better. So I really like them. But the present thing is a little bit overwhelming on many levels.

But if you decide to partake in birthday parties and bring presents, I just really like buying 20-ish birthday presents, maybe even 15, whatever you want to do, of kind of that age-appropriate present for each of your kids. Make sure you have some gift bags. You probably have some now. I feel like there’s a circulation of gift bags at all times among parents.

But also one thing I have really needed to buy is tags. You know when you buy a new gift bag and it has a little tag where you can write: “To so-and-so, from so-and-so”? They all disappear, obviously, when everyone’s recycling the gift bags, which I’m hugely in favor of recycling gift bags because, one, we’d be out of money, and two, it’s better for the earth. But the tags disappear. So it is really nice to have a little stash of gift-bag tags that are neutral that you can put on any gift bag. So just throwing that out there that I would — oh, gosh, I said it again! I’ll work on it — that I would buy a lot of presents that are age appropriate and then those tags, and then rely on the recycling of gift bags or buy a 20-pack off Amazon if you need to. But that can be a really nice way to set yourself up for a lot less scramble throughout the year.

Check School Calendar and Update Personal Calendar – 19:42

The next random point is putting in, I have found every two months, a reminder to check the school calendar and update your own calendar. My school is pretty good at sending out weekly emails with updates and things like that, but I have, a couple times, caught new things on the calendar that didn’t make it into the email that we all get until maybe a week or two before the event, where it was really nice to block my availability or at least just even have it on the radar that the kids were going on a field trip on a certain day or things like that. Things tend to, at least in my school, make it into the school online calendar before they make it into the emails, and that is just a nice way that every two months, go in there and be like, “Am I up to date with the rest of the school year?” Because I have caught some things that have been really nice to see coming down from a farther distance than when they made it into the emails.

Consider the Emotional Support Your Kids Might Need – 20:38

My last random point before I go into what other people shared, which has been so helpful, is thinking about the emotional support your kids might need, both to support them emotionally and then also to help them (ah, it sounds so weird when I say it) behave in the right way at school. It’s kind of like those are two different things, but essentially, what conversations do you want to have with your kids? These might be more like one-time conversations where you’re helping them prepare for school again and talking through anything that you can see that might help their transition in an easy way, and it might be something that’s more consistent.

So, for example, for me, we had an issue — I think this is very typical so don’t feel like I’m outing my daughter in any weird way — where if she wasn’t interested in a group activity in pre-K, she just wasn’t as cooperative of coming over there when they decided to do group time. And so, we talked to the teachers about it, and all I did is I calendared time two times a week in the mornings to just have a very brief, short conversation with her that was like, “Hey, when a teacher is in a classroom and asks you to help with group time, it’s really great to be a big helper, wrap up your activity, and then go over there even if we don’t like it,” and we talked a little bit about that, “it can be really helpful.” I just did brief reminders twice a week, and within a couple weeks the teachers were commenting that it was no longer an issue at all.

The reason I want to share that is it can seem really weird to put that in your calendar and very formal, but the alternative is that I was just expecting myself to remember to talk to her about that frequently and feeling like maybe I always needed to talk to her about it, basically going either end of the spectrum. Either I would totally forget to talk to her about it or talk to her too much because I wasn’t sure when I last talked to her, and it probably would have just not been good for either of us. Where I just don’t know why we expect our brains to magically remember that stuff.

And so, just again, accept your brain for what it is. Help you be like, “Okay, I think twice a week this would make sense.” Even if you hit it 60% of the time, you’re doing it way more than you probably would have done it anyway, and it’s just a nice way to kind of support your kid in the way that is helpful to them without having to think about it all the time. So I just think that’s helpful. Take it to leave it, whatever you would like to do.

This reminds me that a friend brought this up on Instagram once that I thought was really smart. She has older kids, and she was like, “Whenever something stresses me out about my kids, like I think something’s wrong behaviorally or things like that,” she’s like, “I’ll calendar something for two weeks to re-evaluate it, and if it’s still bugging me in two weeks, then I’ll deal with it,” but she’s like, “It’s amazing how two weeks later, usually it’s not even an issue anymore.” I thought that was such a great way to manage stress about our kids is to just be like, “You know, this thing. I’m really worried about this and knowing me I’m gonna spiral and ruminate on it,” is calendar it out for two weeks. Be like, “If this is still an issue, then we’ll deal with it,” and you can kind of let it go until then a little bit. A really nice approach, and I really liked that.

Three Things Others Have Shared for Back-to-School Stuff – 23:42

Okay, speaking of what other people have shared on Instagram, three quick things. Someone said, “I would add appointments to get everyone up to date on shots, including mom and dad. You don’t want to wait ‘til December to do your flu shot,” which I thought was so smart! Because of that, I added in “schedule flu shots” to the calendar for mid-August and repeated it annually.

Now, I actually don’t know if it’s available in mid-August. It might not be, but if it is later, let’s say it’s September first, I’ll just drag it to September first, save it for all events going forward, and there we go.

The next one is one thing I want to try this year is a recurring calendar item to check hot lunch accounts and add money as needed. I love this. Anything also just related to finances with your school, just give yourself a reminder to check it out, whatever invoice comes in. Sometimes those things aren’t always communicated in a great way, and there’s an outstanding amount. And so, if you ever notice that in relation to your school, just give yourself a reminder to go check it out and put the link into the calendar entry to make it easier on future you.

Then the last thing someone said is, “My kids are in high school, and I do this.” That was the hot lunch thing. “At the same time, I check grades to make sure they are staying on track. I try not to pester too much, but it’s a good time for me to check in on missing assignments and get a sense on if they’re struggling with a class,” which I think is such a great and creative approach. Again, balancing unintentionally neglecting to do something versus doing it too much, and finding that sweet spot so you can let it go the rest of the time.

Recap – 25:13

All right! That’s what I’ve got for you today. I hope that this really helps. Really just think about what do I need to do, create a game plan in my calendar, now I can see how it can all happen without needing to do it all right now, and I can let it go. I can repeat these things annually. They might land at somewhat of a funny time, like on a Saturday when I wouldn’t do something on a Saturday. I can always move it, drop it around. At least it’s not up to my brain to remember to do those things, and that can be really, really helpful. 

I hope you see how magical this is. I hope you see how it can give you that peace of mind, and if you like this general approach to time management, join me to learn the full Bright Method system. As I’ve said before, one-off strategies are super fun, but the game-changing magic happens when you have the full system.

Enrollment for my fall 2023 program is open right now. I am recording this ahead of time, so I’m not actually sure if there are spots available, but if there are, then you can sign up at www.kellynolan.com/bright, and if there are not, you can jump on the waitlist for the next one! I hope to see you in there, good luck with the back-to-school stuff, and I’ll catch you in the next episode!

[Upbeat Outro Music]

Add a comment
+ show Comments
- Hide Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

check out my 8-week bright method time management program

Want to learn the full Bright Method, a system designed for working women that reduces stress and ups your peace of mind when it comes to managing it all (personal and professional)?

Learn more
Want to focus on email first?

Reclaim your time from your inbox

Spending too much time in your email inbox? You’re not alone. Check out my short’n’sweet, self-paced email management course to help you reclaim control over your inbox.

LOVE these strategies?



Hello, more breathing space.

Learn three realistic time management strategies desgined for professional working women that you can implement in just 20 minutes. Enter your info below & get the free guide in your inbox in a minute.