It can really feel like there’s just not enough time in the days sometimes, can’t it? Between work, commuting, appointments, errands, chores, getting everyone ready for the day in the morning and getting everyone ready for bed at night, etc., sometimes the list of things to do seems to be never-ending, and a snippet of free time to just relax and enjoy with your kids is always just out of reach. But it’s so important to prioritize exactly that.
But how can you find more time when you feel like you already have none? And what can you do to maximize the time you do get?
You can start by sleeping. Really! First and foremost, if you’re not prioritizing your sleep, you need to. Many people who feel crunched on time already will try to cut corners on an hour or two of sleep for the sake of trying to eke out a little more time. But if this is a habit, you’re working against your own interests. If you’re under-rested, you won’t be as sharp or efficient in anything you do, and that will end up bleeding into what would otherwise be free time (not to mention make you less present even when you have the time, so really it’s just wasting even that time!). Set and stick to a sleep schedule that gives you adequate rest so you can function at your best and make the most of your time the next day. Setting and enforcing a bedtime for your children as well is good for both you and them. Rested kids are happier kids.
Don’t take on more for a while. If you’re feeling short on time and energy, and drained from endless requests at work (which will often lead to having to “take work home” in the evenings or on weekends forever if you let it and don’t stem that flow early), always trying to be present to attend PTA meetings or chaperoning school functions, and even going to all your kids’ sports games or recitals, you don’t have to do it all – say “No” to things more often than “Yes”, especially if it’s not something you genuinely really want to do, and guard your free time and resources vigilantly.
Everything has a cost, and anything you say Yes to is taking some of that time and mental energy you could otherwise allocate to spending with your kids relaxing and having fun. Does it really make sense to take a promotion at work if it means you’ll be busier and tied up for more of the time, or more mentally exhausted from it all once you’re at home? Similarly, while being involved at your child’s school is important and useful of course, don’t let those events become time-consuming obligations that mean taking you (or your energies) away from the kids, instead of spending the actual time with your children.
To that end, to help you make the most of your time, plan out the week and schedule the priorities with your family. Kids, like adults, have a lot going on these days – from organized sports to school plays, music lessons and recitals to school projects, it can feel impossible (and may well be!) to be there to see and do it all with them. You have to prioritize. So just as you’d make a plan for the work week, do the same for your time with your kids as well.
Sit down with your child and the week’s schedule and if you can’t do it all, ask them what’s most important for you to go to (you may be surprised!), work with them to prioritize those things as much as possible, and compromise when needed. They don’t need you to go to every single thing – they just need you to be at the things that are truly important to them, and to understand and feel that they’re still valued by getting some of your undivided – and un-exhausted – time and attention at other times. Going through this process together is good practice to help them learn how to think through and create time/energy life balance, learn to choose and prioritize, and work to find solutions and compromises when resources are limited, as well.
While no one can do it all, remember that even when life is busy, you can start with these steps to help slow down and dial back in on what’s really important to you!