While many parents are relieved that their children are back in school, balancing a family’s varying schedules can be near impossible. Soccer, hockey, dance, skating, Brownies, Scouts, skiing, swimming, school activities, homework, not to mention play and sleep time, fill our children’s lives. Now add in the parental activities, including work, fitness, volunteering, and home maintenance and well, 24-hours just doesn’t seem to be enough.
First, we need to shift our perspective and look at time from a different angle. Many of us find ourselves complaining about all the time we don’t have. I believe we need to be grateful for the time we do have. People across Canada have been re-evaluating their priorities in the last few years and effective use of time is very important.
Spending quality family time together is one of these priorities and when a family is running around from activity to activity, it is hard to find. We then need to look at time management from a family perspective rather than an individual perspective. See if the following list of strategies can help your family learn to gain control of their time:
1. HOLD A FAMILY MEETING
First, parents need to objectively determine some initial priorities for their family. These need to be based upon last year’s schedule, the individual family member’s personalities, finances, current commitments and the comfort level of the family. Some questions that will guide this process are:
• Do you want to focus on activities or academics based upon last year’s performances?
• Will the demands of school or work change?
• Do we want to fill time with activities or a balance of activities and free time?
• Do different family members have different needs?
• Is everyone enjoying their schedules?
• Is there time for friends, for family, for quiet time, for reading, or for playing?
Once the family guidelines are determined, hold the meeting and give everyone a chance to choose one or two priorities for the session or year. If one member is having trouble narrowing their list down, have them put them in order of importance. Make sure everyone shares their list and explains why they put it in that order.
2. CREATE A FAMILY CALENDAR
Get a large calendar and input everyone’s current schedules for the upcoming month into it. Add or remove commitments based upon everyone’s priorities determined in the family meeting. Make sure this calendar includes school hours and activities, work schedules, activity schedules, religious events, family time, mealtime, homework time, sleep time and most importantly NON-scheduled time. Take into account hidden time - travel time, preparation/clean up time, waiting time, etc.
Determine where conflicts lie and as a family see if you can figure out solutions. Maybe one child can suggest a friend they could car pool with, maybe another can walk to their activity, or maybe one can bring their homework along and do it while their sibling is in a lesson. Depending on the comfort level of the family activities may need to be removed or postponed. Some families thrive on being busy while others need to have a more relaxed schedule. Make sure that everyone is in agreement or can live with the schedule. Try it for one month and then have another meeting and evaluate the schedule. Make sure it works for everyone and make necessary changes.
Once the priorities and scheduling are done, there are a few things that families need to do to make sure that they can handle their schedules and not waste their precious time.
If everyone follows a routine that works, life will run much smoother. Some areas where routines are a must are: before and after school, homework time, chores and meals.
Looking for things wastes a lot of time. Have set places for the things you use daily: keys, school items, library books, bags, purses, lunch kits, etc.
DEAL WITH PAPER IMMEDIATELY
Read and recycle mail right at the mailbox, write all pertinent information off school papers, newsletters, mail, flyers, etc on your family calendar and recycle them.
Aim for completion and excellence. A little dust or a wrinkle won’t hurt.
We have so many choices available to us in life. Limit the decisions you offer your family. Ask questions like “Would you prefer a peanut butter or ham sandwich?” rather than “What do you want for lunch?”
Limit the amount of time family members do the following: Watch TV, play video games, surf the Internet, or talk on the phone - unless you are a teenage girl!
When we have children in school, we can’t help but be busy. But being busy with things that are important to us is very different than being overwhelmed by disarray. If we take the time as a family to determine our priorities and work together to eliminate time wasters, we will be in control of our time!
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