Creating a family command center

One kid has football practice after school while the other needs a ride to piano lessons. Your dad needs his meds refilled at the pharmacy. You have a work deadline tomorrow, and you need to pick up dinner because the fridge is empty.

Sound familiar? Being a card-carrying member of the Sandwich Generation is no walk in the park. When you've got this much on your plate, it can be a challenge to stay on top of it all. Luckily, you can now turn your smartphone into a family command center that keeps everything you need to know at your fingertips.

The Calendar

Streamlining your busy family's schedule is much easier with a great calendar app. Better yet, use a shareable calendar that each family member can add to and read from his or her own device.
• iPhone users can use iCal to set up a different-colored calendar for each family member. Make sure to share every calendar with every family member, with each individual assigning the correct colors manually. This gives each family member the ability to edit everyone else's calendar, which is particularly useful for adding appointments for older folks and younger kids. Now you can pick up your phone, click on the day, and see what everyone is up to instantly.
• Google fans can do the same thing with the Google Calendar app for Android devices. The set-up is almost identical to iCal. Just click the red "Create" button at the top of the page to make and color-code a calendar for each family member. Once the calendars are shared, you'll now be able to keep track of your entire family's schedule.

The To-Do List

Managing household chores and errands can be tricky when everyone is on the run. Wunderlist is a great app that allows you to share and sync to-do lists so anyone can check off an item. Is your teenager passing the pharmacy on his way home from practice? Have him check the list to see what he should pick up. Is your daughter slacking on homework? Keep a list of her assignments and their due dates so you know exactly what to work on. The app also allows for unshared lists, so it's perfect for the office, too.

The Grocery List

How many times have you arrived home from the grocery store only to discover you're out of milk? Of all the things to sync on your family's devices, the grocery list might be the biggest lifesaver. You can add a grocery list to Wunderlist along with all your other to-do lists, or you can get a grocery app like Grocery iQ. This app lets you sync lists so everyone can add requests to the shopping list - they'll pop up even as you're cruising the supermarket aisles. Best of all, this app lets you scan barcodes of favorite items, keeps track of frequent purchases, and even sends you coupons.

Analog Tips

For young kids or tech-averse elders, you may still need an old-fashioned system for aligning schedules. To keep this simple, print out your calendar and lists on a weekly or monthly basis and post them on the fridge. Set up a magnetic pen holder nearby and have analog lovers add items to the calendar or grocery list as needed. Check the paper regularly for new information to add to your official online command center. If you need help making that a habit, add it to your synced to-do list, then pat yourself on the back for mastering your family's organization.
 


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