Simple Solutions for Busy Families—Get Back Hours a Day Starting Today!

Even with the school year winding to a close, most of the families I know are struggling with lack of time to do all they would like to do, or even all they feel they must do. It’s such a pervasive issue that affects marriages and families of all ages that it’s worth spending some time to see if there are solutions.

I was prompted to write this from a couple of things I’ve read recently, the most recent of which was a blog post by Kathleen Quiring on “The Importance of Not Being Busy.”  She makes many good cases for striving to be less busy, including the fact that busy people are less likely to give their time to help those in need. (FYI, this isn’t just her opinion; it’s been shown in research.)  Also, busy people are more likely to get into accidents, to sleep and eat poorly, to yell more, and to waste more resources in the name of convenience.

Yes, these are all important reasons. I think even more important is the fact that your family needs you to be present and available, and to do that you need to have time to give. Most of us don’t even have wiggle room in the schedule. When we are rushing from one event to the next, it’s hard to be present and loving—let alone patient and kind. A marriage needs time to be nurtured. We need time to go on dates, or even to watch a movie at home together. We need time to talk and to make love. For those of us with kids, we need time to have real conversations, not just discussions of homework and the schedule of supervised activities or sports. I read a stat today that I seriously hope is wrong that says the average number of minutes per WEEK that parents spend in meaningful conversations with their children is 3.5. I wonder how many minutes per week we spend in meaningful talks with our spouses.

Is there a way out of this busyness trap? Of course. But when I said the solutions were simple, I didn’t say they were easy. They are doable! What would you do with an extra 20 to 30 hours a week? Would it fall through the cracks or would you spend it with your husband, wife, friends, sleeping, or enjoying your hobbies? Could you use the time to better organize your home or family so life doesn’t seem so chaotic? First decide what you would do with that time so you have the motivation you need to make changes.

Today I’ll focus on the absolute biggest time waster for the average American family, then I’ll add some additional tips later in the week.

Your TV May Be Stealing Your Family Life

Nielsen surveys say that say the average American watches four hours of TV per day. That adds up to two months non-stop in a year, or nine years of your life up to age 65. Nine years! The TV is on for six hours and 47 minutes a day in most American homes. And about half of Americans say they think they watch too much TV. Two-thirds watch it while eating dinner.

The average adult male watches 29 hours of TV per week; the average adult female watches even more–34 hours per week. And remember the kids having less than four minutes a week having real talks with their parents? They watch an average of 1,680 minutes of TV a week. When I shared this with my son, he said, if that’s the average, then lots of people watch even more than that! My daughter chimed in, “I’m glad we’re not average.”

I’m not saying TV is terrible in itself. But it’s what we are giving up to have so much of it. What is the opportunity cost for you? What could you accomplish with an extra hour or four extra hours a day? You get to choose what you think is most important in your life. In my experience, TV shows can feel pretty addictive. We get into patterns and they are hard to break. We think of the characters as friends, even as we neglect our own friends. Even the marketing campaigns convince you it’s “must-see” TV. But if you stop watching the new shows, they can’t pull you in.

During the last few years, my husband and I have drastically cut down on TV time. Even when he is traveling on business, he only watches TV if he’s in the exercise room working out. I enjoy a few minutes with Matt Lauer in the mornings, and TV helps me pass the time on the treadmill, but most evenings the TV is not turned on.  I’ve used my extra evening time to write a book (see the end of this post), read many great books, take tennis lessons, and enjoy more time with my family. And I often write this blog in the time that used to be eaten up by TV. I do sometimes miss a show I wish I’d seen. But by the miracle of the Internet, if I really want to see it later, I can watch it commercial- free online. I’m not a fan of TIVO, because I think it encourages more TV watching. My kids watch less than an hour a week and don’t seem harmed by it in the least.

If you and your spouse enjoy the same show, at least you can enjoy it side by side and maybe trade back or foot massages. I cringe when I see that often one spouse watches one TV while the other watches something else in a different room. Every night.

OK, my last point is regarding TV in the bedroom. I’ve said it before, but research shows couples with a TV in the bedroom cut their sex life in half. An Italian study showed having no TV in the bedroom doubles the couple’s sexual frequency.

I can hear people saying, “but TV relaxes me” or “I need to veg out after a long day of work.” But it’s just a habit that’s been formed. You could just as well relax by taking a walk or having a glass of wine with your honey on the porch. What new habits could you form that would be fun for you and would benefit your family?

If you’re not a big TV watcher, first ask yourself if that’s really true or if you just aren’t adding it all up. But if TV isn’t an issue or you aren’t willing to cut back, stay tuned for other solutions this week.

Please share if you have found cutting back on TV helpful for you or your family—as well as other solutions for your busy life.

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 and in all e-book formats at

Photo by Ambro courtesty of

8 responses to “Simple Solutions for Busy Families—Get Back Hours a Day Starting Today!

  1. Hi Lori,

    I’m big into the TV switch off. It’s something we try to do as often as possible in order to all play a board game or an activity together. Whilst the initial moan of “Mauuuuumm” it’s soon replaced by fun.

    Life can be so hectic though and I know it takes a real commitment to make time to just be together. That’s why I’m so big into romance as a means of my husband and I finding time to be together. Even little things like a walk or coffee out is important. It just helps keep conversation going and seeing each other for who we are rather than just exhausted parents.

    I’ll tweet this out as it’s a great post.


    • Hi Grace. Thanks for reading and for sharing on Twitter. You’re right, it takes conscious effort to cultivate romance as well as fun interactions with the family. Sounds like you are doing a great job with both! All the best,

  2. Thanks for this post, Lori (and fort the link!). It is unbeLIEVable how much time the average American spends watching TV. Two-thirds watch it while eating dinner?! That’s prime time for family conversations! You make a great point when you say that we’d get hours of our life back every week if we just cut back on TV-watching. Thanks!

    • You’re welcome! I agree, I can almost not fathom how that much time is possible to watch. The stat that I didn’t include because I didn’t know if it could be true is that “the average American kid” spends more time in a year in front of the TV than at school. It’s rather jaw-dropping stuff. Enjoy your free time with your daughter!

  3. We totally cut TV out of our home probably 3 yrs ago. At first it was hard. We had 2 teens and they were addicted to it. We often had the 3 different tv’s going in 3 different rooms. I hated it! We quickly learned that anything we needed to know could be found on the Internet, we still have a monitor that has DVD and game systems that encourage family time ( wii, family movie night). Our lives are so much more enriched by this and my teens have thanked us many times for getting rid of the temptation. We now wonder where we would even fit tv time in 🙂

    • Good for you, Cherl. We also enjoy the Wii games and the family movie night–and we wonder how people fit TV time in when our lives are so full. What great timing to pull your teens toward you before they begin their own lives as college students and adults. The time you share together is so valuable; glad you can have fun together. Thanks for your note, and have a great summer.

  4. Pingback: Simple Solutions for Busy Families Part II—Saving Even More Hours Each Day! | Marriage Gems

  5. Pingback: 6 Tips to Save Family Time and Have More Fun | Marriage Gems

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