Family is important. It’s one of the most important things in life. Yet we constantly find ourselves wishing we had more time because we don’t spend enough time with our families. Why is that? It sometimes seems like everything urgent in life rushes in and crowds out the important stuff. We struggle to make time with family a top priority. That’s why we have to schedule family time in order to protect it as one of our core priorities.
I’ve always been very family focused. Even as a little girl, I could never imagine moving too far away from my close-knit community of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Anything less than twice weekly visits just seemed wrong. But as I grew up, it became more difficult to stay so connected.
With work, household responsibilities, running a blog and a family of my own, it can be a struggle to make time for even the most important things like family. It certainly didn’t make it any easier when we moved one town over and I started working an hour from home. With the commute to and from work along with the time it now takes to get to family functions, it would be much easier to just skip it and stay home. So how do I protect this priority of mine when everything in me says I don’t have time and it would just be easier to do whatever else needs to be done? I schedule family time.
Why is it important to schedule family time?
There’s an old adage that says “Failure to plan is planning to fail,” and it’s so true. Whether it be work or juggling a household, or even making time for your priorities, you have to plan. It’s the only way to keep all of the pieces of life running smoothly. I used to think that planning out your entire life was just too much work. And why should I have to plan everything? Shouldn’t I just be living without having to worry about exactly when I have to do certain things?
There is something to be said for spontaneity and unscheduled time. But when it comes to the things in life that truly matter but are not urgent, we sometimes have to bite the bullet and schedule them. Then we need to treat those “appointments” as we would any other important, urgent thing on our list.
It might not have a looming deadline, but that’s why it’s so dangerous to not schedule in time for family. These days, there are far too many things in life competing for our attention. Unfortunately, the urgent ones are treated as the most important, even when they’re not.
It’s too easy to think “I can spend time with Grandma tomorrow, I really need to cut the grass today.” Or “I really have to send these emails today, I’ll see my Laura’s next soccer game.” But the truth is, there is a deadline. It’s an invisible one that’s easy to forget about.
None of us are promised tomorrow. No one knows what will happen a week from now, a day from now, or even five minutes from now. It’s a dangerous game we play when we put off until tomorrow what we really want to do today in lieu of something “more important.”
Because the truth is, there isn’t anything more important. Your parents, children, spouses…they are what is important.
As Bronnie Ware noted in her extensive work with those at the end of their lives, the regrets we face at that time have everything to do with living a life we truly love in line with what we value most. We end up prioritizing the wrong things. Our true priorities, like our happiness, being true to ourselves, and spending our precious time with our family are left in the dust.
To avoid this, we need to protect our priorities. Scheduling family time is the best way I’ve found to do that when it comes to my family.
How to make time with family a top priority…when you have no time.
I know you’re probably saying to yourself, “Yes, I agree but I don’t have any time! How am I supposed to schedule all of this magical family time??”
First, I get it. I used to work a job I hated that invaded my personal time. I had all of those same responsibilities we all do; yard work, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, running miscellaneous errands. And yes, it is super hard. There were lots of times when I felt like I was running on a hamster wheel and couldn’t get off if I tried. To be completely honest, there are still days like that sometimes.
But now, they bother me less. Because I know that I have my family time safely locked up in my schedule. And I keep to that schedule.
So how do you find that time?
First, you have to change your mindset. You DO have time. Let me rephrase that. You have more than you realize you do.
We all waste time every day unintentionally. Whether it be trying to multitask (which is generally not effective nor efficient) or those times you zone out on Facebook because you’re pushing yourself too hard and need a quick break (which usually becomes longer than a “quick break”). There are little moments throughout the day when we’re being less effective than we could be with our time. We bounce from activity to activity, not giving much thought to the what the most logical sequence of activities might be, or how we might best utilize the time we have available.
Additionally, we tend to look at time frames that are less than an hour and think it’s not enough time to really do anything with. When it’s not enough for any one thing, we tend to waste it. That’s so the opposite way we should be viewing our time!
A half hour might not be enough for a big involved project, but it’s the perfect amount of time to color or play with Play-doh with our kids. Similarly, 15 minutes is an excellent amount of time to read a few books with them. Because in reality, it’s not about the length of time. My son doesn’t want to do any one thing for much longer than 30 minutes anyway!
They just want to be with you. Not just with you, but with 100% of your attention. Scheduling all of those other things you need to do will show you all of those little blocks of time that you can maybe shift around to make a larger block of time on the weekend for a movie night, or leave as smaller chunks during the week for just moments of fun.
Don’t get caught up thinking you don’t have time because it’s not several hours at once. You can start small. You don’t have to do all of the things all of the time, but you do have to make sure to do some of the things as often as you can. The point is…just start!
You can start planning your days by getting a good planner, this is the one I use, or simply start scheduling everything you need to do into your phone.
At first, just schedule in small chunks of time where you start to see them. You don’t have to specify what you’ll do during that time other than family time. When the time arrives, ask your family what they want to do with the half hour. They might just want to sit and watch their favorite cartoon with you, and that’s totally okay! This is a time set aside to say yes to all kinds of seemingly lazy, unproductive activities. The real activity is creating that space for you and your loved ones to connect in.
Once you’ve started scheduling in your regular tasks, then start scheduling in family time more purposefully. I try to shift a lot of my tasks together so that there are one or two days a week when I have at least half a day to spend with family. During that time, we schedule things like trips to the zoo or park, going to see a movie or visit a museum. And we still reserve every other Wednesday night for our big extended family dinner.
Then, look a little further ahead in your schedule. Find a large chunk of time where nothing absolutely must be done on that day, or for a couple days. Then schedule a big family activity like a mini-vacation. You absolutely can find ways to schedule all of your must do’s around one big want-to-do. As long as you do it in advance, then you’ll know that time is off limits and you’ll find the time to take care of everything else before the date arrives.
It doesn’t even have to really be a vacation, although we love to do one of those every other year or so. It can just be two or three days where you have no other obligations and can focus on just your family. With all of that time freed up, you can do things you never had time for before, like a trip to a national park for a day of hiking and a picnic. Or maybe you want to spend an entire day at the beach building sandcastles, searching for seashells and sea glass and swimming. It can cost as little or as much as you like. The time you schedule is what’s important.
Make time with family a top priority…schedule it!
Don’t let what you value most suffer at the hands of that which screams the loudest. There will always be chores to do, errands to run, and deadlines to meet. Setting aside small segments of time to schedule in family time will not derail them. It will, however, move you closer to the ultimate goal of prioritizing that which you value most.
At the end of the day, this is what we will most remember; either we made the time to prioritize our lives or we didn’t. Start taking the small steps to choose what you want. You can do this. Your future self will be eternally grateful.
How do you make time with family a top priority?
-To your Better Life-