It feels like families are busier than ever. Parents have demanding jobs. Kids participate in multiple activities. There are events with extended family, school concerts, vacations, and all sorts of commitments to keep people on the go throughout the week. If you feel like you can barely pause and take a breath, it’s time to take steps to carve out a little extra time and regain some peace.
With so many commitments, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. A shared calendar where family members add appointments, meetings, practices, and other important events can make it easier to manage a busy schedule. You should also communicate tasks you need others to take on. For example, you might say to your partner, “Don’t forget I have a meeting tomorrow night, so I’ll need you to take care of dinner.”
Schedule Family Time
When you’re creating your shared family calendar, don’t forget to make time to spend together. Maybe every Friday night is family night or maybe you hold a regular family meeting once a week. If you are intentional about putting family time on the calendar, it will be easier to avoid interruptions. Your teenagers might not always be big fans of family time, but we promise they’ll appreciate it when they’re older.
Embrace Routines and Organization
Routines can become boring, but they can also be a great way to save time because they don’t require a lot of planning. For example, if every Tuesday night is Taco Tuesday, you don’t have to spend much time thinking about what’s for dinner. If kids always hang up their backpacks and put their shoes in a basket when they get home, you don’t have to spend as much time looking for lost shoes in the morning (although inevitably one or two will still escape).
Just like your kids can put their shoes in the shoe basket when they get home, they can take on responsibilities around the house. Check out a list of age-appropriate chores to see what tasks your kids can reasonably help with. You can give kids an allowance in exchange for the work they do or simply consider the work to be something that is expected of them as a member of the household. Having kids complete tasks might require some extra time and effort initially as they learn how to perform the task to your standards, but eventually they’ll catch on.
When it comes to delegating responsibilities, think about what jobs you can hire out too. Maybe you can have a cleaning service come in once a week or twice a month to tackle some of the bigger cleaning tasks. Many grocery stores also offer online ordering and curbside pickup. Some will even deliver the groceries for you and a few will put them away too! Yes, these services come with fees, but the fees can be worth the time they save.
The more you can plan, the better. If you’d rather go to the grocery store than order items online (or the service is not available in your area), make a list before you go and stick to it so that you can get in and out. Also, look for smaller blocks of time when you might be able to fit in a trip to the store between events. This is a particularly good idea in the winter when items can sit in the car for longer periods of time without going bad.
Before you run errands or go from activity to activity, take some time to plan out your route. You might not realize that you’re wasting a lot of time by stopping at the pharmacy before you go to the grocery store or by dropping your daughter off at dance practice before your meeting when your spouse has to be somewhere closer and could do it instead.
Declutter and Downsize
The more stuff you own, the more work you have to do. Cut down on picking up toys and doing laundry by decluttering and reducing how many items you own. Spend a day going through the house and trying to get rid of anything you don’t use anymore. You can donate the items to a local charity or sell them on a local buy/sell page to make some extra money in the process.
Also, try to avoid clothing that requires ironing, dry cleaning, or other special care.
Lower Your Standards
Do your floors really have to be so clean you could eat off them? Does every dish have to be washed before you leave the house? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be neat and organized, but sometimes it’s okay to let your standards lapse a little.
Get Plenty of Sleep
People tend to move more slowly when they’re tired. Don’t let yourself become so busy that you neglect to get a decent amount of sleep each night. You might think you can’t afford to get 8 hours, but if you get that much sleep consistently, chances are you’ll find yourself being more productive during the day.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Whenever you can, prepare things ahead of time. Rather than scrambling to find clothes for school in the mornings, lay them out the night before. Try to pack lunches before bedtime too. And when you make dinners, consider making a double batch and freezing half of what you make so it’s ready to pop in the microwave or oven on a night when you’re too busy to cook.
Turn Off Technology
It’s amazing how much of a distraction phones, televisions, and other forms of technology can be. When it’s time to do homework or complete other tasks, put the devices away and turn off the TV. Chances are the work will be completed in half the time
Track Your Time
You may not realize how long certain tasks take. Want to sit down and browse Facebook for a few minutes? Time yourself to see how long you actually spend looking at the latest “news.” You may find you’re wasting a lot of time with idle tasks. Track your time for a week and see where you can cut down on distractions or add in extra tasks.
Once you know how much time you spend on your various activities, consider setting a timer to keep yourself on track. Just don’t let the timer control everything. For example, a heart-to-heart conversation with your child may need to take more than the 5 minutes you’ve allotted to it and that’s okay.
You want to do it all, but at some point you have to admit that it’s not possible. Don’t be afraid to say “no” every now and then, whether it’s taking on another responsibility or agreeing to run your teenager to the mall. If that activity will stretch you to the max and decrease the amount of margin you have in your life, say “no.” We promise the world won’t end even if your teen says it will.