Create family balance through time management
Simple time management techniques can be the key to reducing stress that comes with finding a work-family balance.
Today’s family members are managing more work and family roles than ever before. Increasing demands and effort to balance work life with overflowing family schedules may cause stress and strains that can take a toll on the health and well-being of parents and children. Experts have many suggestions on how to manage the demands of busy and over-scheduled families. One of the easiest to put into practice is time management.
You can begin by making a divided list of all of the things that have to be done, and all the things your family wants to do each week. Be sure that all family members help to prepare the list and discuss why each item falls into its respective category – need to do or want to do. The items in the first column (have to do) should include the everyday and non-negotiable items that need to be completed. Examples include grocery shopping, meal preparation, homework and laundry. The items in the second column (want to do) should include items that would be great to do, but can also wait another day. Examples include trying a new recipe, cleaning out a closet or watching a family movie together. Keep in mind that family time may be a non-negotiable priority for your family and may appear in either list.
Review each family members’ roles together and discuss items on the list that members might be able to assist with. Consider breaking chores down into smaller parts to make a large chore easier to manage. For example, the breakdown of the chore of meal preparation may include setting the table, cleaning vegetables, planning the menu or kitchen clean-up. Have family members commit to at least one piece of a chore. Next, think about multitasking and making accommodations. Are there two things that could be done at the same time? Can the kids fold laundry or pair socks as they watch a TV show? Also, many recipes can be doubled and frozen to provide a meal for another day which is a great timesaver.
Family members may prepare their own personal have to do and want to do lists as well as prioritize their tasks. A balance of work and play won’t happen overnight or without some effort by all family members. Keep the idea of flexibility in mind and remember that things can come up which might change all your best laid plans.
As your family works on improving time management, remember to let some things go. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that will happen if a certain chore does not get done today. Chances are that you can accomplish the task another day when things aren’t as hectic. Also, don’t forget to put time for you on the need to do list! A Montana State University Extension bulletin calls these “joy breaks”. Self-care is important so that we can be energized and able to take care of the many demands of work and family. Make this item on the list mandatory – even if it is only for a few minutes each day.
Working toward family balance needs to be a daily effort. Time management begins to pay off when planning is no longer an effort but becomes a habit. Even the smallest positive changes can impact the balance of your entire family.