Am I the only one who stays up late all week doing things around the house, forcing myself to go to sleep so that I can get up for work the next day, in full anticipation of Friday when I can stay up late to party, or in my case, read that book that left me hanging in the last chapter? Then, when Friday finally rolls around, I find myself falling asleep at the dinner table. It is so unfair. But isn’t that what being a good parent, spouse, employee, friend, etc. is all about? We do everything we can to keep all those proverbial plates balanced high above our heads on that tiny stick so that we have happiness all around us. The problem with that is that my family knows I’m “there” physically, but my brain is in bed dreaming up my own ending to that book that I’m dying to finish. So, who benefits from my exhaustion?
We’ve heard about the studies that show how stress makes us less productive at work, how power-naps are great for productivity, and delegating tasks will free up time and allow more productive time on the job. Well, let’s apply this to all aspects of our lives. The take-away from all that corporate stuff is simple. Reduce stress, get sleep, and ask for help. But how on earth do we apply that to our busy family lives?
Get Your Priorities Straight
The first thing we have to realize is that we must have time to ourselves in order to be healthy for those around us. I know it is a lot easier said than done, but we have to sort through what really matters. The chores are always there, but our kids will grow up, and have their own time management system one day. Define what is most important to you, and start there. If it is 30 minutes during the day to take a walk, or read a book, do it! Schedule it.
Teach The Kids About “Me Time”
Good habits start young. One way to teach kids about “Me time” and still have some, is to give the whole household that time at the same time. Use different parts of the house to have each person do one thing for a specified amount of time that they like to do on their own. I can do my reading, while my son does his drawing. Uninterrupted bliss, I say. If that doesn’t work, try alternating child date nights between spouse and the grandparents. While the kids are having fun with your spouse, you can get spa time, and then be rejuvenated enough to enjoy the kids on your special day with them. The kids will have a memory of special time with each parent, and you each get some well-deserved solitude.
Plan Time To Plan
Who has time to sit down and write what you’re thinking, right? No, this is really important. Not only do we organize our thoughts, but it has a way of helping us commit. Plan your meals to save the infamous, “What would you like for dinner” with the “I don’t care” response. Put a menu where everyone in the house can see it. Of course, that also requires the shopping plan too. Shop once a week so that you have one less worry in your week, and it saves money too.
Yes, I know how much kids love their veggies, but saving time can be good for them. Salad nights are great dinners, and it saves you from cooking. On grocery day, wash and cut all the produce, and keep it at child level in the refrigerator. In addition to making healthy snacks available to the kids, it allows you to organize your refrigerator, and the best part is that it makes it easy for kids to help make that salad for dinner. If it is all washed and cut, all you need to do is dish it up. Kids can do that.
Enlist The entire Family in Chores
It is time we start acknowledging how smart and capable our kids are, and give them the chance to feel a part of the household. Even young children can be a big help, and let’s face it, they love to get praise for a job well done. Make a game for the little ones and teach them about seeing things that need to be done. If they see a stray shoe, they can put it in its home. They can shoot some hoops by tossing that sock in the laundry basket. In order to help the little ones learn good habits and teach them routines, place lists where they can see them. Morning routines or even chores can be put on a sticky note for them to do something on their own. An excited “Thank you so much for helping” will keep them looking at those notes daily.
The one tool I could not live without is my dry erase board. We each put everything on the board. The menu, shopping list, appointments, lists of things that need to be done, and anything else we may forget, or that other family members may need to know. Placed in a central location, where everyone sees it daily, it also lets everyone know how they can help, in addition to knowing when you are not available. I use different colors for different sorts of tasks, but get creative, and let the kids help. White boards are so much fun for kids.
Set Time Limits
For those big jobs, set a timer and do as much as you can for just 10 minutes a day. It is amazing what you can get done 10 minutes at a time.
Whatever you do, get started. Don’t put it off. Life is way too short to look forward to that fun thing you get to do at the end of the week, only to be too exhausted to participate.