If you read the time-saving solutions in Parts I and II that help you save hours a day, they are mostly technology related. In this last column about saving time for your family (yes, I’ll move on after just one more post) I’ll focus on making choices that allow to have more fun. That is, what decisions are you making about how your family spends time? Are you consciously making decisions about it, or do you get sucked into the wind tunnel of activity and wonder how you go there?
Following are 6 tips to be more deliberate and happy with how your time is spent:
- What’s your dream day/week?Prioritize with your spouse about how you would MOST like to spend your time together as a couple and as a family. What are your favorite pastimes? Do you love to go hiking or boating, attend concerts, cook elaborate meals, garden, volunteer, go on dinner dates, ride bikes, read books, take family walks, travel, etc.? Do you currently have time for these activities (and not just on sporadic vacations)? If so, stop reading this and go enjoy your life. Congrats. If you’re still reading, hang in there…
- Learn to say, “No.” The best way I’ve found to do this is to be non-committal when you’re invited to attend an event or asked to fulfill a new task or role. Just say, “Thanks for thinking of me. I will seriously consider it and will get back to you.” Don’t feel obligated to attend every wedding, birthday party, and social obligation to which you or your kids are invited. Don’t feel like you are the parent who needs to bake cupcakes each time there’s a fund raiser. EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE SOMETHING ON THE CALENDAR, it’s more than OK just to have down time to do the things you enjoy most.
- Assess your time commitments. For many families, this has to do with commitments to sports and extracurricular clubs. For adults, it may include social groups, sports, church or volunteerism. Are you booked up every evening with obligations? Do you rarely have time for family dinners? Is your schedule carefully planned with activities with little to no down time built in? Every couple’s needs or family’s needs are different, but assess and discuss the time commitments you have to make sure you are in agreement. Your volunteer time may be very fulfilling and worth every minute.
- Schedule your fun stuff first. Then, when you check your calendar on things that come up, you will have to choose between that weekend away or day of biking and the new “obligation.” Maybe you’ll make more time for fun. When you schedule activities for the two of you, make sure to also get sitters lined up. Once you lock it in, you can honestly say, “I’m sorry we have plans that day.”
- Is your job your life? Is the majority of your identity tied up into your career? Do you have little or no free time for life outside of work? Do you get home and then start checking email and text messages from work? If work is taking up more than a full-time job and you’re not happy with that, consider whether lifestyle changes are in order. Don’t feel like you have to take every career opportunity or promotion if you think your life will be less enjoyable as a result. For example, if 20 more hours a week are required for a small raise, does it really make sense for your family? Is there a similar job you could do with better hours? Discuss with your spouse wither you could downsize expenses, maybe live in a smaller home or share a car. This might allow you to travel more or work in a job you enjoy more. Another option for some people is to work at home and cut out travel time, or to find more efficient ways to work (i.e., focus on priority tasks and only check email after those are complete) and get home sooner.
- Is lack of organization to blame? Do you have a shared family calendar? Do you have a routine for meal planning and cooking? Do you get carry out or fast food more than once a week? Does your family have assigned chores with time allotted to complete them? Do you spend time looking for lost items or important papers? Does everyone in the family help out with age-appropriate tasks? Is your home relatively uncluttered? Being organized most definitely saves tons of time and frustration.
What other tips do you have for saving time? Share in the comments if you have thoughts about lack of time for fun or tips on how to get more enjoyment from family time.
Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.
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