“I don’t have enough time!” It’s the common complaint of almost every parent I know! I think all parents WANT to spend more quality one-on-one time with their children and they WANT to spend quality family time together. Unfortunately, the craziness of our lives makes that a true challenge for most families.
I’ve enlisted the help of Certified Professional Organizer and Time Expert, Cyndy Ratcliffe, to help us better organize our lives so we can carve out time for what matters most.
Ask any parent about priorities and most will tell you that family is number one. And yet, somehow family members in all their business can’t seem to “find time” to spend together. Parents know that family time is missing, but they don’t know why and they don’t know how to create it.
Often parents feel like each day is a game of passing the baton and not dropping it! Mom takes daughter here and then Dad picks her up and swings by to get the son who needs to be at a sporting event. After that drop off, he takes his daughter back to her mother so that she can get her to ballet in 30 minutes!
Most families struggle to create family time. The families are so caught up in running every day that it often takes an outsider looking in to help the family see how to stop and evaluate where they are missing time to spend as a family. As a Time Expert on “Time Makeover” on the Fine Living Network, as well as in my one-on-one work with families in this situation, I have discovered similar challenges:
Challenge One – Are you Ready?
Like making any change, the members involved must have a reason to want to change. In establishing family time all family members must be on board one hundred percent.
Solution – Get a commitment from each member. Sharing ideas for how you will spend family time can be a great motivator. One family I worked with decided that their children will take turns determining the activity for their family time each week. Consequently the activities have ranged from game night to sporting events to miniature golf. Once you have been able to share fun family time, the motivation will build.
Challenge Two – Communication
Often times all family members are not aware of the activities planned for the day, week or month. Parents often don’t even know each others’ schedules! This creates last-minute scheduling surprises that can cause resentment, panic, and lateness.
Solution – A family calendar posted in a high traffic area is essential for any family. Along with the calendar, a weekly family meeting is required of all family members. Sit down, communicate and note activities, needs and schedules on the calendar.
Communication also falls short regarding who is responsible for what home maintenance responsibilities. Most tasks, if not determined up front, fall to one or the other parent and that parent finds that he or she is so caught up with all these responsibilities that they have no time for anything else; he or she resents the fact that other family members are not on board with helping. All family members need individual responsibilities in order for a home to be happy and well maintained.
Solution – Create a list of home maintenance activities and at a family meeting determine who will be responsible for what. Let family members, mom and dad included, take turns choosing so that there is more ownership in the decisions. One client I worked with said that she was glad not to have to make the bed in the morning. Her husband had selected this task as his activity and if it wasn’t done she did not feel obligated to do it anymore.
Challenge Three – Making Decisions
Often making family time is about choosing it over other activities or events. We fall into a comfortable pattern and make commitments to others, making it hard to change.
Solution – Establishing family time requires us to take a look at how the family members currently spend their time. Creating family time will require each family member to make decisions on what changes need to be made. You have three options in changing the activities you currently are committed to in order to create family time.
1. Eliminate the activity – Schedules are full of time stealers. Many parents and children are overcommitted to outside activities. We feel the need as a society to stay busy and keep up with everyone else. Often the inability to say no has caused them to say yes to things that waste valuable time. Take a fresh look at these activities. Do they reflect your priorities now? Determine what you can let go of to keep your life focused on your priorities.
2. Delegate the activity – There are many folks looking to help you in activities that could easily give you back large chunks of time. A cleaning service every couple of weeks can cut the time your family spends on cleaning in half. “Wash, dry, fold” services abound; some even pick up and deliver! Imagine the time you can reclaim if laundry was off your activity list! Take advantage of dry cleaning services that pick up and deliver. You can even order your groceries on-line and for a minimal fee of $5 to $10 just sweep by and have them load the chosen groceries in your car! Heck, I’d spend a lot more than $10.00 on impulse items if I did the shopping myself!
3. Shorten the activity – Can you find a way to commit less time to an activity, consequently getting more time back for your family? Examples of this might be repositioning yourself as a member instead of a leader for an organization or choosing the church league that plays once a week over the city league that requires two weekday evenings and your Saturdays.
These choices may seem difficult at first, but change, even change for the good, can cause discomfort. Keep your focus on the results, additional time you will have to enjoy and learn more about your family.
Challenge Four – Scheduling Priorities
So many of us are prone to what I call the Puppet Syndrome. We create our schedule based on responding to the call of others when they “pull our strings.” Boundaries are missing. We react instead of act.
Solution – It is up to us to create time on our calendar. Draw a block around the time you want for family time and label it. Other activities quickly fill up your schedule unless you block out the time first. With this method you have made an appointment with your family and that comes first. When others ask you for that time (pull your strings), you simply state that you “are unavailable at that time.” Saying yes to family means saying no to other activities that try to steal that time from you.
The steps are simple; accomplishing them is not. Don’t let another day go by that you have once again missed time with the family. So slow down, set down that baton and gather your family to discuss the possibilities of finding time for each other.
Cyndy Ratcliffe is the Founder of Organizing Solutions, Inc., based in Wake Forest, NC. Organizing Solutions, Inc. has been assisting individuals to reduce their stress, boost their image and be more productive since their establishment in February 2002. Cyndy is one of only 6 Certified Professional Organizers® in North Carolina. She appeared as the Time Management Expert in three episodes of Time Makeover on the Fine Living Network where she assisted families to find time for what matters most. Contact Cyndy directly at 919.612.3953 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.