Guest Post by Ian Child, author of Your Own Personal Time Machine
As a busy parent, you’ll know how challenging it is to free up your schedule for all the family activities you want to enjoy.
Let me share some tips that might help:
1. Keeping a time journal
Until you can see how much time you’re spending on what, it’s hard to spot the obvious places for grabbing back some time. A time journal lets you see precisely how you’re spending your time, and it nearly always throws up some surprises. You don’t need to do it for long – just keep an hourly, high-level journal for a fortnight, and you’ll quickly get a handle on where most of your time is going, and how much is family time. The results may be a shock.
2. Prioritising your family time
Have you noticed how you somehow manage to get everything done the day before you go on holiday? You’ll beaver away, you’ll delegate, and you’ll defer. But you don’t ever not end up going on that holiday! So, to make a family event something that is always guaranteed to take place, make it an immovable, non-negotiable object in your diary. You’ll be amazed at how you’ll automatically do everything else that genuinely needs to get done if you take a non-negotiable stance on prioritising your family time.
Outsourcing work is an excellent way of freeing up your time, but why stop at work tasks? Outsourcing your daily routine can free up far more time, but for some reason, we tend to think that WE have to do everything. You can easily save a couple of hours by grocery shopping online rather than dragging yourself around the supermarket, yet it costs less than a fiver. Hiring a gardener would be a little pricier, as would getting a part-time cleaner. But if it gets you back some all-too-precious family time, who’s to say it’s not a good investment? The trick is not to think you’re saving money by doing these things yourself but that instead, you’re buying back some family time. And what price would you put on that?
4. Turning chores into a family event
We both know that, bless their little cotton socks, the family can be more of a hindrance than a help with getting stuff done around the house. After all, it’s far more effective for you to whiz around and do everything yourself. But by making chores an event that involves the entire family, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone. Be sure to make it fun, though. The goal is not cheap labour but rather something the family can enjoy doing together.
The list of chores is almost endless, from cooking and cleaning to helping out in the garden, washing the car, or tackling DIY projects (kids love to fix stuff). And rather than secretly begrudge less than perfect results, make a point of being grateful for their help. There should be warm glows all around and a shared feeling of a job (just about) well done.
5. Helping with schoolwork
All too often, homework time comes at the expense of time with the family, and it’s usually a solo activity. While you shouldn’t do your kid’s homework for them, you can certainly take the time to help them. Find out which subjects they could use more help on and practice these together, or help older children with a discussion or some research on their projects. Homework is a great opportunity for you to get involved in stuff that’s important to them and build a stronger bond.
6. Letting your kids choose a family activity
As parents, we think we know best, but this can lead to us making assumptions about what our kids would like to do rather than simply asking them. By allowing them to choose an activity in which the family gets to participate, you can make it a regular feature of the diary. You might need to inject a dose of pragmatism occasionally, but by respecting what interests them and participating as a family unit, you create another win-win.
7. Discovering the joys of batch cooking
Ok, joy might be overstating it, but it’s amazing how much time you can save by doubling or tripling up on quantities when cooking meals. We may like to think we ring the culinary changes, but we tend to stick to cooking the same few meals, week in, week out. Cooking twice as much doesn’t take twice as long, plus a defrosted meal takes a fraction of the time to prepare and saves you time during part of the day that can be ideal for family time. As ever, when it comes to saving time, a little planning can go a long way. Plus, you can also batch cook with your kids for a double slam-dunk.
In summary, the trick is to free up extra time by working smarter and also by creating more shared activities. Ultimately, it is prioritising family time that has the biggest impact – rather than squeezing it in after everything else. Take the all-important first step and you’ll be amazed at how the rest of your life will accommodate it.
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