Have you ever gotten to the point in your Girl Scout year where you realize you’re a bit overwhelmed and can’t believe you signed up for this job?
As much as I love being a Girl Scout leader, it’s happened to me. I have some tips to share about how intentional and strategic scheduling can help you avoid getting overextended.
Plan the Whole Year
My first tip is to try to plan out the entire year, to the best of your ability. It may seem like a daunting task, but putting in the effort to schedule the whole year now will pay off by reducing your stress later. And your troop families will appreciate being able to plan ahead by knowing what to expect.
Try to schedule regular troop meetings, camping trips, service unit activities and field trips early in the Girl Scout year.
● Check with your Service Unit about activities they are hosting, so you can include them on the troop calendar, even if these activities aren’t required.
● Look at the Girl Scouts of Northern California calendar to find activities that your troop may want to try such as Winterfest. It’s very exciting that a lot of group activities are coming back, now that the Covid pandemic is over.
● Look up major holidays and school breaks ahead of time and block those times out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mistakenly scheduled a Girl Scout event for a long weekend or over Spring Break!
Meet at the Same Time All Year
Try to hold regular troop meetings at the same time and place all year. This helps families plan ahead and may even increase your attendance.
Consider sending a poll to troop families to find the best time for most. If possible, you can even try to meet at the same time year after year, for continuity and to help families plan ahead. This also helps to recruit new girls, because they will know in advance if the meeting time works for them.
Pro-tip: My Junior troop meets 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays about twice a month during the school year. This tends to work well because it usually does not conflict with sports, religious obligations or social events.
Use a Shared Calendar
Ask all of your Girl Scout families to join a shared calendar such as Google calendar or Shutterfly. This will really help everyone in the troop, including yourself! Set up automatic reminders to help everyone remember what’s happening when.
Check School Calendars
Whether your girls attend the same school or not, it’s a good idea to try to use school calendars to make your schedule. If you have time, you can gather a list of schools that your girls attend and look into their various vacation schedules, or use the school calendar from the school that majority of your troop attends. You could also ask troop families to provide a list of school vacation days.
● Try to plan your field trips and camping trips when your troop members don’t have a school vacation, like Spring Break or Monday holidays like Labor Day.
● Take into account the last day of school and graduation ceremonies – this tends to be a very busy time for families, especially if you have girls that will be graduating this year.
Plan Around Mother’s Day, the Super Bowl, and Religious Holidays
Take a look at major holidays and other commonly celebrated events like the Super Bowl when you are planning your meetings, field trips, and travel. You can also look into religious holidays. Although different girls will have different religious holidays you can try to avoid planning particularly exciting events – like a much-anticipated horseback riding outing or archery class – on some of the major religious holidays like Rosh Hashona, Diwali or Lunar New Year.
Take it Easy During Cookie Season
Consider meeting less frequently, or have optional, casual meetings without badge work. It’s even OK if you take a break from meeting entirely! Selling cookies is fun and important, and making sure that Girl Scouts aren’t over scheduled during the season can help set them up for success.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed!
Your schedule will not be perfect but by looking into these various ideas you can try to alleviate some of the stress. Remember that you can’t make everyone happy all the time, but you can do your best to create a respectful and manageable schedule. And finally, don’t be afraid to change your plans or cancel meetings when things get too busy! It’s better for you to avoid burnout and keep your troop going strong.
Heather Osborn-Ng – Heather co-leads a co-op Junior troop and a traditional Senior troop in Sunnyvale, CA. A former newspaper reporter and a law school graduate, she now spends her days as a homemaker, raising three incredible daughters and a rescue dog from Taiwan. She loves all things Girl Scouts, but especially crafts and camporees.