Post written by Sherri Kruger. Follow me on Twitter.
The general sentiment around productivity is to get more done in less time. While this is great in theory, focusing solely on getting the most done can lead to burning out. This is only compounded when you throw managing a home and family into the mix.
Whether your family is large or small, time management should be a priority. Taking a bit of time upfront to plan a schedule or routine can reduce stress and allow your family to function optimally.
1. Limit commitments. This is where you’ll get the biggest bang for your time management buck. Reduce the number of committees, groups, teams and activities you participate in. Choose only those that are really important to you and that you are happy to be doing. Continuing to participate in something out of a feeling of obligation is not good. Learn to say no. Realize that when you say yes to one thing you are saying no to something else. All too often that something else we say no to, is our family or ourselves.
2. Focus on real deadlines. The trick with deadlines is they wreak havoc mentally. Setting a deadline is one thing, sticking to it and not letting the day lapse is something else. Think of the last time you missed a deadline, we’ve all done it. How did it make you feel? Did you feel bad? Did you get down on yourself? I used to. The thing with deadlines is a lot of them are self imposed. Meaning we set them for ourselves but there aren’t any real consequences to not meeting them. Instead, focus on those that must be met. Things like bill due dates, doctor appointments, birthdays, and taking the garbage out on garbage day. Entering these true deadlines in a family calendar (see point 3) will provide a framework around which all other activities can be slotted into.
3. Create a family calendar. This can be as high tech or as low tech as you want it to be. The key to a useful family calendar is that it should be easy for everyone to use and accessible to everyone. I like the idea of using a good old fashioned flip calendar but you can use an online version, whiteboard or chalkboard. It’s up to you and your family. Start by filling in the regular commitments of all of your family members. Things like, soccer practice, yoga, doctors appointments, business trips, and garbage day. Then fill in the other date-independent plans each of you have. I prefer to do these a week at a time. Life and circumstances change so by filling in the calendar one week at a time it allows for some flexibility.
4. Get the right tools. Decide on what tools will work the best with your family given space, time and financial constraints. If PDAs (handheld computers) work for everyone, and you can afford it, then add them to your list. If you’re like me a whiteboard or paper calendar will do just fine. Consider color coding each person so their responsibilities and commitments are immediately obvious. What else do you require? An inbox or two? Post-it Notes for taking messages or leaving reminders for other people in your house? An assortment of colored pens or markers? Just give a thought to what you need, see if you can make do with what you already have and purchase what is still remaining.
5. Be realistic. You are not Superman/Superwoman. There is no way you can be in two places at the same time. Yes, something has to give. This relates back to point 1 in that for every new commitment you take on board you will be taking time away from something else. Consider and reconsider adding any more responsibilities to your family and start saying no. It’s your job to make sure you and your family are being well taken care of. Every member of your family should feel their needs are being met and not neglected.
6. Reduce clutter. It’s difficult to be efficient and to manage your time wisely if you are constantly rummaging through piles of paper, mounds of clothing, boxes and papers. It doesn’t help that when you do eventually find something it’s run out of ink, batteries or otherwise. Reducing clutter can help your family to run like a well oiled machine. When things have a home it’s easier to maintain order. Start by clearing a spot for your family calendar or message centre and work out from there. Do it in small bits and work as a team to get everything in the most logical place.
7. Work as a team. It’s difficult enough to come up with a plan that everyone will stick to and follow. What makes it even more difficult is when you do it alone and dictate to the others “how it’s going to be”. The best way to get everyone on board is to include them. Include them in the brainstorming, organizing, shopping and executing. Put ideas out there and allow for discussion. Take other ideas on board and see where they lead you. Some of the best ideas come out of group chats. One idea leads to another, leads to yet another and finally leads to the best one of the day.
Time management takes persistence and patience to master. Working together to get a system that works well for your family is what’s important. Try leaving a couple nights a week free to accommodate for emergencies or rescheduling or just a good family fun night. Once you’ve decided on a system give it time to take hold. If it’s still not working for you after a few weeks get together and re-think it. What’s working? What’s not? You shouldn’t feel as though this is set in stone. Be open to change. You’ll be operating like a well oiled, stress and chaos free family in no time.