Making Time for Family Time


  “A family in harmony will prosper in everything.”  –Chinese Proverb

Time Management

As a management consultant, I have found that business managers at all levels overwhelmingly agree that time is one of their most precious resources, yet few proactively manage it.  Consequently, many businesses are plagued by continual over-scheduling and scheduling conflicts.  Frequent scheduling conflicts in a business can lead to communications problems, employee frustration and poor morale.  The end result is always decreased productivity and profits.  Some studies have shown that improved time management can increase productivity by as much as 40 percent in certain companies!

Managing Family Time

The same holds true for families.  Many families units today have a single parent or two working parents.  Add school age children to the mix and you have an almost certain recipe for scheduling difficulties. Failure to properly manage your family’s time can lead to unnecessary stress, strife and even financial troubles. For families, most activities can be classified into one of four categories:  1) business, 2) household, 3) personal, and 4) family. Each category is essential to a family and each requires good time management.

Business Time is the time one spends on preparing for work, commuting to and from work, other work-related travel, and working.  It’s the most difficult time to manage from an individual perspective, since most workers are tied to a fairly inflexible work schedule.  They arise from sleep at a predetermined time and then spend an amount of time getting ready for work, commuting to and from work, and actually performing their work. It’s fairly easy to estimate the minimum amount time a worker will spend on each of these tasks.  Predicting the maximum is much more difficult, especially for those having long commutes, frequent business trips, and who are salaried rather than hourly laborers.

Household Time it spent doing the chores and other activities required to run and maintain a household.  This includes time spent on business correspondence, bill paying, preparing tax returns, dealing with home maintenance, meal preparation etc.  Many of these activities can be performed on a flexible schedule.

Personal Time includes periods of sleep, relaxation, exercise (including organized sports), personal hygiene and grooming, learning/studying, and spiritual renewal. For good mental and physical health, it is essential that none of these activities be neglected.  Unfortunately, far too many people sacrifice personal time in exchange for more business or household time.

Family Time is defined differently for every family.  Broadly speaking, it includes time spent on communicating, bonding, learning and enjoying one another’s company and love.  Family time includes worship services and other activities at church.  Since it is loosely defined, it is frequently the most neglected category.

Scheduling Your Family Time

As the ancient Chinese proverb at the head of this post suggests, family time is the most important category of time for families.  Mismanaging family time will hamper family harmony.  Sadly, in many American homes today family time hardly exists at all.

To maximize your family time, try this:

1.  Have a family meeting (parents only), to discuss and define what the most important, non-negotiable family time should be for your particular family.  During the meeting, try to set a day (better several days) for family dinner time.  The value of sitting around the table and sharing a family meal is well recognized.

2.  Next, bring any school age children into the discussion.  The purpose of this is primarily to inform them of your decision, but it’s also an opportunity to hear their thoughts and maybe even modify your initial decision.

3.  Use monthly, weekly and daily calendars to plan and list your schedule.  Refer to each frequently and keep them updated.  Time management consultants universally agree that having calendars is essential to success.  Use paper or electronic calendars, or a combination of both—whatever you’re comfortable with.  Free, printable calendars online can be downloaded at this link: http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/schedules.html

Maximizing Your Family Time

Here are some rules to help you maximize family time when planning your family’s schedule:

1.  Use only one set of calendars (monthly, weekly, daily) for the entire family.  This will help preclude scheduling conflicts.

2.  On your calendars, enter dad’s and/or mom’s business time first, since it usually the least flexible.

3.  Next, enter your family time events.  This should include those non-negotiable, recurring events like attending church, designated family dinner nights, movie nights, board game nights etc., plus important non-recurring events like birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, recitals, ball games etc.

4.  Next list personal time for each family member.  This time is essential for mental and physical well being.  If you neglect either of these areas, it will have a negative impact on the other areas of your life.

5.  Next, schedule your household time, which is your most flexible time and can be squeezed in between other activities on our calendar.

Parents should take 10 minutes at the end of each evening to review and refine the next day’s schedule.  If you forget to do this or you’re just too tired, take 10 minutes at the beginning of the next day.  Once you’ve reviewed and made any required adjustments to the daily schedule, review it with the kids as necessary.

As with most things that are important to a family, managing your family’s time takes discipline. It also requires being flexible and willing to negotiate. There will always be scheduling conflicts for parents to deal with.  Every day will require trade-offs. Be willing to go to extreme lengths to protect your designated family time. Failure to be flexible and/or an unwillingness to negotiate on the part of either parent will disrupt family harmony and cause a ripple effect throughout the family unit. Remember to do all things with love.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

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