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This chapter is from the book

Following Through After the Activity or Event

The last component of any activity—the wrapping up, cleaning up, putting things away, enjoying the accomplishment part—is the one most overlooked and neglected by people who tend to be disorganized. These people's creative tendencies find the last step boring or superfluous. They want to get on to exciting new projects.

But this last step is critical to a smooth-running schedule and a less frazzled life. Suitcases need to be unpacked; paint brushes must be cleaned; library books (and especially rented videos) must be returned. And nothing will destroy the benefit of a restful vacation quicker than having to head back to work the next day and face a full schedule of meetings and report deadlines along with the post-vacation pile-up of mail, phone messages, and email.

If you're pressed for time, you certainly won't see as much urgency in cleaning up as you will in moving on. But if you take the time to wrap things up, you'll find you can live in the present with a good outlook to the future instead of feeling as though nothing is ever quite accomplished. Don't lose sight of your reason for wanting to organize your family's schedule: to reduce your stress and increase your enjoyment of life. If you won't go the final step without a reminder, then schedule the wrap-up as a separate item on your to do list.

In general, asking yourself the following questions will go a long way toward making sure that you schedule all the follow-up steps to wrap up an activity so that you feel satisfied and don't have a nagging feeling of incompleteness:

  • Is there anything to clean up?

  • If yes, when will you clean it, and how long will this task take?

  • Is there anything to put away?

  • If yes, when will you put it away, and how long will this task take?

  • Are there any follow-up activities, such as having photos developed or writing thank-you notes?

  • If yes, when will you do them, and how long will they take?

  • Do any other people need to be involved in the wrap-up of this activity?

  • If yes, when will they be available?

  • Is there anything else you can do to make this activity more complete?


The highly acclaimed Montessori instruction method teaches how to do things by breaking down tasks into their smallest components.

Organizing for Everyone's Level of Detail

As we've explained, every task you do has three parts to it: setting it up, doing it, and wrapping it up. For some people this entire three-step process is seen as one seamless event. These are the people who never leave the board sitting out after the game is over because, to them, putting the pieces away is all part of playing the game. These people are never left with paint-encrusted brushes or unpacked suitcases either. If some of the people in your family have brains that work this way, you should be aware that you can allow them to maintain their schedules in a less-detailed way.

For other people, playing the game ends when someone has won. Putting the board away is an unrelated event. For these people, other events unto themselves include cleaning the paint brushes after the garage is painted and unpacking suitcases after a vacation. If some of the people in your family have brains that work this way, you should be aware that they will need to maintain schedules in much more detail.

There's no universal right or wrong amount of detail in a person's schedule. It's all about what works for each individual. As long as your family members are aware of individual differences as they organize the family's schedule, they will be able to do their part to keep family life running smoothly.

Things You'll Need

  • Comprehensive activity list

  • Your answers to the questions listed in previous sections of this chapter

  • Paper

  • Pen/pencil

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