A few tips from my busy family to yours, in no particular order.
1. Have at least one cooked or prepared dish ready in your freezer. It could be a family meal, it could be pre - made sandwiches, a quiche for unexpected guests. When you cook the evening meal try to make too much, either to freeze or for the next day.
2. If you know you need to go out, have everything you need ready the night before. That means nappy bags fully stocked and waiting, spare clothes ready, pushers packed into the car, any toys and books packed into bags (make sure a toddler can't access them before you leave!), food or drinks in the fridge or freezer, your purse in your handbag - you get the idea.
3. Train your family. "Mum" does not translate to "workhorse" in another language, but you may end up as one if your family is lazy and depend on you for everything. I start training our children to "work" as early as possible by having them follow me around as I work, they quickly pick up on things and want to help. Take advantage of their enthusiasm and give them age appropriate jobs. For example:
My 2 year old gets wet clothes out of the washing machine into the basket (I have a front loader). She also replaces toilet rolls in the toilets. She picks up after herself when directed to. She hands me pegs to hang out washing. She fetches items I need for the baby, and much more.
My 4 year old makes her bed. She tidies rooms. She loves to cook and help with meal preparation. She gets the mail. She puts folded clothes away, and dirty clothes into the laundry, and much more.
My 9 year old has many responsibilities. He cares for and feeds the animals daily. He tidies. He wipes down the bench and sink in the bathroom and ensuite. He takes out the rubbish. He tidies the yard. He sweeps the doorstep, brings in the dry washing from the line, dries dishes and much more. He is a shining example to the younger girls.
4. Don't "double handle". By this I mean, don't open the mail, then put it down on the desk to deal with later. Put it where you want it to go, throw it out, file it, whatever you're going to do with it. Like wise with laundry work, if possible, when clothes are dry sort them straight away. Items that need to be ironed go into one basket, the rest gets folded and put away. Dishes should be washed immediately after meals, don't leave them sitting there.
5. Run to a schedule. You can be as strict or as lax with this as you want, just try to have a regular routine for normal weekdays. My schedule is in my head and is flexible, I don't feel the need to write down a time schedule, but if you think it may help you, go ahead.
6. Kill your TV. Yes, I'm serious, it is the biggest time waster ever. Likewise, be aware of how much time you're spending on the computer and try to cut out unnecessary use. (Yeh, I know, that's a bit rich coming from a blogger!)
7. Prioritize. Make daily lists and check off as you go. Don't worry if you can't complete the whole list (I rarely do), just add it to tomorrow's. At least when it's in writing it won't be overlooked and it feels great to tick off as you go.
8. Have designated places for household items. Put things back in their place when you're finished with them. This is really hard, and takes constant maintenance. It also streamlines your organisation practices in an amazing way and isn't so difficult once it's a habit. (Having said that, my husband is terrible for leaving tools etc. lying around!
9. Prevent clutter. Clutter is crippling to your attempted organisation. Be brutal. If you can't let go of certain things make sure you have the space to accommodate them in a tidy manner. I usually have a major declutter once to twice a year and do maintenance de cluttering in between. Particularly as our family has increased I have to be ruthless with unnecessary clutter, as we just don't have the space for lots of people as well as lots of things.
10. Put labels on things. A bag of meat in the freezer looks just like a bag of meat in the freezer. Label it when you put it in and find it quickly when you need it. Likewise, if you're packing things away into boxes, label what is in the box. If you're saving bags of kid's clothes for the next one to grow into, separate them into groups then label the size, season, colour, sex - whatever helps you to know exactly what's in those bags!
I hope these tips help you, I'll be adding more in the future.