Modern families have a lot going on. On top of school and jobs, there are committees, music lessons, play dates, dentist appointments, oil changes, basketball practice, birthday parties; the list could go on, and it can all get to be too much. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day for everything crowding your schedule.
When time is such a precious commodity, you don't want to waste a second of it. So what can you do to make sure you're efficient when managing your family's time? There are plenty of ideas out there designed to make your family's day-to-day life more convenient and hassle-free. In this article, we've picked the top five things you can do to manage your time and organize your life.
Create a Simple "To-do" List
It's easy to get overwhelmed by the combined schedules of everyone in your family: doctor's appointments, dance recitals, football games, work deadlines and the like all add up to a jam-packed existence. So how can you avoid letting things slip through the cracks?
One way is to literally take it one day at a time. While long-range calendars are great for big-picture planning, a checklist that covers a single day is much easier to swallow. Sit down at the beginning of every week to get an idea of what each day will bring, and then find a time to work in everything else that needs to be done. After that, make an individual list for each day. Remember, not everything has to get done right this minute; if the plan is to go to the post office on Wednesday, don't put it on the lists for Monday and Tuesday. That will only add frustration to your hectic life.
Now that you're on the right track, make sure the rest of your family is, too. Look on the next page for ways to streamline your household scheduling.
Get Routines Down
Routines are important for kids; they offer structure and familiarity, leading to less chaos over all [source: Family Education]. And, if everyone in the family knows the routine, there'll be less opportunity for conflict. Make sure that weekly chores are assigned between all family members well ahead of time so that there's no room for debate. Make it fun with themed chore charts (there are plenty of free ones to download online) and rewards for good performance.
Establishing a routine can also lead to new family traditions, such as Pizza Night or Breakfast-for-Dinner. Whether it's once a week or once a month, these little celebrations give everyone an opportunity to come together and enjoy one another's company. In addition to enriching your family's life, routines are key to managing your time. When everyone knows what's on the horizon, you'll spend less time scrambling to come up with a plan.
See the next page to find out how you can connect with other parents to manage everybody's time more efficiently.
Network with Other Parents and Use Resources
Every family struggles with time management. So, why not join forces with other parents to make everyone's day easier? Carpooling is a particular favorite with many parents. Not only does it mean less daily hassle for you, it also cuts on down pollution and money spent on gas. If your kids and their friends all do a particular activity, you can use that to your advantage. For example, coordinate with other parents to sign all of your aspiring dancers up for the Tuesday ballet class. Web sites like Divide the Ride help groups keep track of schedules and map out routes. You can even set up e-mail and text message reminders to keep you on the right track.
Many communities also have resources for busy parents, such as the Neighborhood Parents Network of Chicago (NPN). The NPN offers continuing education opportunities for parents on a variety of topics and sponsors smaller clubs for groups like working moms and the parents of multiples. Connecting with other parents in your area who face the same challenges you do can go a long way toward lightening the load.
Networking with other parents can help you manage your time -- so how about networking with your own family? Go to the next page for tips on successful family meetings.
Hold Family Meetings
Busy families can have a hard time finding a moment to be together. It's important to have time set aside when everyone can be in one place and catch up on the goings-on of the other family members.
Family meetings can be as formal or informal as you like, depending on your family dynamic. The International Network for Children and Families (INCF) recommends a more formal structure, where the group elects a new leader and secretary at each meeting. Meetings should be held at a table (not during meal time) as opposed to the family room, so that distractions are at a minimum. A key feature of the INCF method is that decisions can only be made by consensus, rather than by majority vote. If the group cannot reach a unanimous decision, then set aside the topic until the next meeting and try again (source: International Network for Children and Familes).
The publishers of the STEP Into Parenting materials (STEP stands for Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) also recommend setting aside protected time for family conferences, but with a slightly more casual approach. Their guidelines include delegating chores, encouraging everyone (no matter how young) to speak and posting an agenda on the fridge ahead of time to give everyone an opportunity to add to it.
Tactics like family meetings and carpooling can help manage your family's time, but what happens when you say "yes" to too many things?
Learn to Say "No"
There comes a point where all the time management tips in the world can't save you from overextending yourself. When you reach that point -- or even better, before -- it's important to learn how to say no. We all want to be an active part of our community, but when you make too many commitments, nobody wins. You don't have the energy to do any of the obligations justice, and none of them get the benefit of your full attention.
Saying no can be very difficult, but you can keep in mind a few tips if you're leaning how. First, acknowledge that there are past obligations to which you should not have committed. The second stage involves recognizing when you're in over your head, and removing yourself from commitments that are too much of a burden on your time and energy. Finally, you come to a point where you can evaluate at the outset whether or not you will have the resources to commit to a particular project or endeavor. That's the point where you're best utilizing your time, as well as others'.
Juggling family life isn't easy, but hopefully these top five time management tools will put you on the right track. See the links on the next page for lots more information about organizing your family's busy life.
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More Great Links
- Birk, Donna. "Stages of Learning to Say 'No.'" SelfGrowth.com. (Feb. 5, 2010)http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Birk1.html
- Chore Charts. (Feb. 4, 2010)http://www.chorecharts.com/
- The Daily System. Pottery Barn. (Feb. 3, 2010)http://www.potterybarn.com/shop/accessories-decor/daily-system-tool/
- Dinkmeyer Jr., Don. "Guidelines for Family Meetings." STEP Publishers. (Feb. 4, 2010)http://www.steppublishers.com/article-meetings
- Divide the Ride. (Feb. 3, 2010)http://www.dividetheride.com/
- Family Education. "The Value of Family Routines." (Feb. 4, 2010)http://life.familyeducation.com/marriage/parenting/45610.html
- The International Network for Children and Families. (Feb. 4, 2010)http://www.incaf.com/index.html
- Neighborhood Parents Network of Chicago. "About Us." (Feb. 4, 2010)http://www.npnparents.org/aboutus.asp