Despite centuries of proclaimed technological advancement, we are yet to solve the most widely agreed-upon problem of all time. There are simply not enough hours in a day. This experience is true for nearly all of us, but it’s especially true of parents. So, how can parents possibly get by with so little time? Science can’t explain it yet, but below I’ve compiled five methods for parents trying to squeeze a few more minutes out of their day.
What is most important to you? Your answer can be as wide-ranging or specific as you’d like. But, what will you prioritize? Before hoping to scale the mountains of work you have each day, you need to identify the peak you’re aiming for. Determine what you value most so that you can measure competing obligations against it. For instance, if family time is most important to you, it’s important to be able to articulate that. With the knowledge that family time is your priority, you can be sure to prioritize family time when making other day to day decisions, like when you’ll pick up your dry cleaning.
Have you ever heard the expression, “when you say ‘yes’ to something, you’re saying ‘no’ to something else?” It’s one of my favorites and gets at the subversive reality of the economics of our time. Once you’ve identified what’s important to you, and what ought to take priority in your life, you’re sort of saying “yes” to it. Consequently, you’ll be more inclined to carve out time for what means most and spend less time on the things you don’t care quite as much about.
2. Choose Down Time
This day in age, many kids are enrolled in a slew of extracurriculars. For families of any size, a few children in Girl Scouts, soccer, and wrestling, or any variety of enriching hobbies can get hectic quickly. These days, there’s immense pressure to enroll students in sports, clubs, volunteer programs, in order to allow them to become the multi-talented balanced rockstars they likely are. However, somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the value in “downtime.” It’s fine, if not healthy, to choose to not fill every white-space in your calendar.
3. Perfect is the Enemy of Good
We tend to be our own worst critics. It’s easy to be overly critical of the work you do, as you’re an expert at what you do, and you’ve got a behind the scenes insight as to how you do it. Due to your expertise, you recognize where you could improve on your work, whether it’s cooking dinner or helping with a school program. Moreover, because of your unique vantage point, you were also privy to all of the mistakes you’ve made along the way. All in all, you were set up to be your own worst critic. However, not only should we be kinder to ourselves for the sake of kindness, but it’s also much more efficient. Sometimes, we spend too much time trying to attain “perfection” before declaring victory. Perfection is, of course, an unattainable standard, and thus a time-consuming one. Try to make it a point to accept the extremely-human imperfections in what you do, to avoid chasing perfection.
As much as it may hurt to hear, you’re likely wasting more time than anybody else at home. So often, we aim to do everything ourselves. For different reasons, we feel a need to keep our burdens to ourselves and avoid “burdening” those around us. In all reality, we create massive traffic jams in our workflow when we try and do it all alone. Teamwork makes the dream work, and it saves time.
Beginning with the more routine and mundane day-to-day to-do’s, chores are for everybody. Children have plenty to gain being assigned chores, and other responsibilities regarding household maintenance. Many classic chores (e.g. “clean dishes,” “take out the garbage” etc.) pertain to household work caused by everybody’s living to everybody’s benefit. Symmetrically, everybody should do chores. Ultimately, delegating work is a way of treating yourself fairly, and finding oodles of time.
5. Make it a Routine!
Too often, we don’t appreciate routines enough until they’re gone. In some sense, that’s where the beauty of routines comes from. They secretly work for us, and we don’t quite realize the peace they bring us until they’re broken. So, if there’s some part of the day you seem to be lacking routine, like breakfast, make one. Like anything else, with practice and commitment, suddenly breakfast will become predictable and less time intensive. Try to make certain daily or weekly activities routine in their execution. Although it may take a little start-up time to develop a plan, your routine will be the gift that keeps on giving.
Frankly, 24 hours won’t ever be enough time, for anybody, never mind parents. Hopefully, you can implement these means to find time into your daily life. For optimal results, fashion yourself a Google calendar, or a paper calendar as a jumping-off point. Not only will this make your initial time constraints abundantly clear, but it might also make the origins of time conflicts more clear. Cooler yet, you could try to observe any changes in the landscape of your week after trying new time-saving strategies. Whether you save yourself 15 minutes or 2 hours, you’re on your way! Which of these strategies will you try?