One of the biggest challenges for any busy parent is freeing up the diary to make the most of precious family time. Here are a few ideas that might help:
1. Keep a time journal
Until you know how much time you’re spending on what, you won’t be able to spot the obvious places for clawing back some time. A time journal allows you to 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 see where the lion’s share of your time is going, as well as seeing exactly how much family time you’re actually spending. The results may shock you.
2. Prioritise your family time
To make family time an event that is always guaranteed to happen, make it an immovable object in your diary. Something non-negotiable that occurs regardless of any other events around it, rather than one that takes place only if you’ve any time left. You’ll be amazed at how you’ll automatically do everything else that truly needs to get done if you take a non-negotiable stance on prioritising your family time.
3. Outsource your life
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.
4. Make chores a family event
The goal here is not cheap labour but rather something the family can enjoy doing together. And rather than secretly begrudge less than perfect results, make a point of being grateful for their help. There should be warm glows all round and a shared feeling of a job (just about) well done.
5. Helping your kids with their 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. Let your kids choose a family activity
By allowing kids 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. Discover the joys of batch cooking
It’s amazing how much time you can save by doubling or tripling up on quantities when cooking meals. 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.
Your Own Personal Time Machine, a guide to getting your life back is available exclusively from amazon.co.uk. in paperback and e-book.