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Executive Functioning

Creating New Routines for Back to School

As fall approaches and schools are back in session, you may find yourself needing to create new routines. Whether you’re a student, a parent, or both, you have to respond to new timelines, deadlines, and obligations that come with the start of classes each year. Routines can be difficult to plan, initiate, and maintain. And yet they are typically a great place to start when life is feeling hectic. Creating new routines doesn’t have to be scary. Check out these ideas for what types of routines you might put in place. These can help you navigate the new expectations and find structure if you have no idea where to start. 


Planning and preparation for meals is one logical place to start when trying to reduce stress throughout your day. Meal planning can alleviate the need to ask the question, “What are we having for dinner?” This also reduces the number of decisions you to make during the day, saving you mental energy as you adjust to a new schedule.

You might start by making breakfast muffins or bars in bulk that everyone can grab on their way out the door. For lunch, have the whole family pack their lunches the night before and have them ready in the refrigerator for the morning. You might even consider posting a menu in your kitchen to specify dinners for each night of the week. Spending one weekend day to plan your meals, ensuring you have ingredients, and writing out the plan is an investment to free up more time and energy during the rest of the week.


If you struggle getting ready for the day in the mornings, consider picking out your outfit the night before. When you lay the clothes in a place that is conducive to getting dressed, it helps you get ready for the day more quickly.

For younger children, this could even be a system of five bins with each day labeled. Check the weather for the week. Have the children work with you to place their outfits in each bin. This helps ensure that they buy into wearing them each day and reduces outfit arguments in the morning.

Regardless of the outfit strategy, keeping personal hygiene items, accessories, and essentials near the place where you are getting dressed will minimize the amount of transition time between waking up and being ready to walk out of the door. 


Example of a chore chart you could create for a household routine.

Household chores can easily pile up when trying to adjust to a new school schedule. It is easy to leave chores for another time, or another person in the household. This usually leads to inequities that cause more stress for one person, or everyone, in the family.

If you live alone, create a schedule of when each chore needs to be completed to best serve your needs. Consider days when you have a lighter workload as chore-opportunity days. Reserve these days for heavier chores such as laundry and floor cleaning. On days where the workload is heavy, prioritize tidying up and dishes.

If you live with others, divide the chores between every member of your household. Consider a chore chart for younger kids to encourage responsibility and contribution to the family unit. Make sure that chores are age-appropriate and consider other factors that may limit a member’s ability to perform a task. A 3 year old may use the dust-buster to vacuum under the table after meals. Older siblings who can reach the counter may be responsible for bringing in the dishes or loading the dishwasher. If everyone is closer to adulthood, consider asking for input about what each family member enjoys doing (or dislikes the least) to create a system that benefits everyone. 

Calendars and Planners

If your schedule is changing, you likely will need a routine for keeping track of new obligations, deadlines, and tasks. Decide first if you prefer to capture these items in a physical or digital space.

Physical options include a paper planner, calendar, or even a reusable calendar, like a dry erase board option. Some benefits of physical options include being able to have a visual reminder posted in a communal space of the home, ease of updates and contributions, as well as an aesthetically pleasing way to capture the to-dos of the day, week, or month.

Digital calendars are beneficial in other ways. They are accessible no matter where you are and they provide reminders so that appointments do not go unnoticed. Plus, they are aesthetically pleasing if you are not gifted with attractive handwriting or natural color-coding tendencies.

Whether you have your own personal organizational system, or a communal family calendar, creating a space to organize all of the new tasks can help with stress management of new routines for the upcoming year. 

About The Author

Emily Renda is no longer accepting Executive Functioning Clients at Montgomery County Counseling Center. 

Executive Functioning Coach, Emily Renda

Emily Renda is an Executive Functioning Coach with passion lies in for helping others grow. She has a background in education where she was able to create positive change for students both educationally and emotionally. She is certified in universal designed learning. This means she is a pro at tailoring a client’s learning style to their needs.

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