In the blink of an eye, all of that planning and organizing you did to make your summer run smoothly is in the rearview mirror, and it's already time to focus on yet another busy seasonal and schedule change. The waning weeks of summer require some thinking ahead to make the shift back to more hectic routines, new schedules and less free time more agreeable. Here are five things you can do now to help get the school year off to a productive and pleasant start.1. Update your calendars
Add important dates for the entire school year to your electronic or personal paper calendar. It will save you significant time to enter all the dates at once, instead of constantly having to access your school's website to check for days off, parent/teacher conferences and vacation dates. Likewise, note important school and other dates on your family's shared calendar at least through the end of October, so you don't have to rush to do it later.2. Stock up on lunch staples
If you know you're going to pack things such as chips, pretzels, juice boxes and fruit bars in your kids' lunches for the next nine months, buy them in bulk so you don't have to purchase them every other week. I also like to keep a list of quick dinner possibilities and school lunch ideas on my refrigerator or in a kitchen drawer. When time is tight and you've already made 100 decisions during the day, it can be especially exhausting to come up with dinner ideas. But if you can quickly look at options, it's easier to make a decision and actually prepare it.
The same goes for making lunch. It's easy to fall into a routine of packing essentially the same lunch for your child every day, but it's always nice for them — and for you — to mix it up a bit. It can be hard to think of ideas first thing in the morning, however, so keep a reference list.3. Organize plastic storage containers and water bottles
Inventory your plastic storage containers to ensure that you have a sufficient supply in a variety of sizes, and that all of the containers have a matching lid. Discard any that do not have a mate. Buy new containers and reusable snack and sandwich bags as needed and label them with your child's name. Do the same with water bottles.4. Scan and file health and dental forms
Scan your kids' health and dental forms and save them to your desktop for easy access. This will make registering for after-school activities or vacation camps less time-consuming. Make several hard copies of each form and place them in a labeled and easy-to-access file folder.
This is also a good opportunity to check the dates of your children's last doctor and dental appointments. Either add the appointments that need to be made to your to-do list or skip the list and take 15 minutes to schedule them.5. Combine school shopping with home office shopping
Save time, and maybe even some money, by stocking up on home office supplies while you're picking up school supplies. Extra toner cartridges and printer paper are always good to have on hand, and they seem to disappear more quickly when homework begins. And it's always beneficial to have a small supply of things such as file folders, pencils, tape, stamps and envelopes.
—Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik.