Do you ever feel like you’re running from sun up to sun down? I know I’ve felt that way. If there is one thing that is universal to parents I know and work with, it’s that there never seems to be enough time.
It’s important to remember however that you choose what parts of your life get your attention. Parents often come to my counseling office wanting to change something about their life and/or family. They want to be healthier. They wish they were calmer and more connected to their kids or spouse. They want to be happier and reach their dreams. Inevitably, when we start to ask questions about what they want to accomplish, each announcement of what they want to change is followed by, “BUT, I don’t know where I’ll find the time for it.”
It doesn’t matter whether you are a single parent of 2 kids or married with 5 kids, we always manage to fill our lives to the brim. It’s important to remember that successful life and parenting are not measured by how much we check off our “to do” list, but there are certainly things that we can do that have a positive compounding effect. It seems counter intuitive, but there are things that we often feel like we just can’t find the time for that actually have a time multiplying effect. These 10 things make us feel like we have magically added hours to our day.
10 Things that will multiply your time and make you more productive:
- Exercise: I could quote study after study that regular exercise improves mental and physical health and capacity. It improves mood, increases focus and attention and just makes you feel better. Another observation that I have made is that the best time for me to exercise is first thing in the morning before the kids get up. By setting an early morning exercise session I can get a jump start on my day. Not only does it increase my energy and productivity throughout the day but it gives me extra time in the morning to tend to the things I need to.
- Meditation: A simple, 10 minute meditation practice each and every day is one of the most valuable things that I do. If you are new to meditation, check out the TRU Calm Series to learn a little more about the huge value of meditation and get help with some easy 10 minute guided meditations. Flipping out about the stresses of parenting and our every day life can sap a lot of time and energy out of our days. Meditation can energize us and teach us to better manage our thoughts, emotions and actions so we can get more out of our interactions with our kids and the rest of the world.
- Planning: My wife and I have a time each week that we can discuss what is going on in our lives and make appropriate tweaks. If you are feeling overwhelmed and busy beyond what you can handle, that is the best time to stop, evaluate, prioritize and plan. I can’t count how many times I have wasted time and energy spinning my wheels, ever doing, but not really getting anywhere. Then finally I decide to stop and make a plan and find that the solution was much simpler than I had expected. It is always worth taking a time out to make a plan.
- Sleep: “Early to bed and early to rise…” We’ve all heard that before. It’s true. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per 24 hours for their bodies and minds to function the way they were intended to function. When we are rested, it makes everything else more effective.
- Play: As a parent it can be hard to find the time and energy to play with the kids, but this one thing can do wonders in teaching our kids, building strong relationships and continuing to upgrade ourselves. Play is a synergistic activity that will have an exponentially positive effect on your kids and your relationship with them. When the relationship is strong, arguments, fights and other negative family conflicts tend to decrease, in turn making more time and energy for the good stuff.
- Healthy Eating: We often think of “fast foods” as being unhealthy and yet some of the fastest foods are actually the healthiest for you. Raw, fresh fruits, nuts and veggies are ready and available whenever we need a pick me up. Eating healthy foods, like exercise and other items on this list also improves mood and makes us feel better and act better.
- Empathetic and undivided attention (to the kids): Life gets busy and full of things that demand our attention and sometimes our children interrupt things that we feel we need to get done. We tend to split our attention between what we are doing and what our kids are saying. When we do this, they often become dis-regulated and more demanding and our performance on either task is diminished. If we can remind ourselves to stop, look at the child and give our undivided attention, our kids are usually more satisfied, we are more efficient with everything we are doing, and we build the relationship in the process.
- Unrushed Sleep-time routine (Nap and bedtime): One of the most common questions I get from parents are about bedtime and nap-time problems. Preparing our kids for sleep can be stressful, but it can also be fun and an amazing bonding opportunity. Having an unrushed bedtime routine that allows you to connect and helps your children calm down and settle into bed can take a lot of time off of the long term nighttime interactions. An investment in an awesome bedtime routine can pay off in a huge way for the rest of the night and the rest of their lives. When the kids are able to sleep, they are also less cranky and that makes life a whole lot easier.
- Fun (Sharpen your saw): Sometimes we just need to decompress. Carve out some time to do something you love. Have some fun yourself. Stephen Covey refers to this as “sharpening your saw.” When we sharpen the saw first, the task at hand becomes much easier and more efficient.
- Mistakes: You may be smirking a little at this one and wondering how mistakes factor in here. Well, here’s the answer. We often say, “I don’t have time for mistakes.” Truth is, mistakes often help us reach our goals and sometimes reevaluate and change our direction faster than if we did things right the first time. We all make mistakes in our parenting, in our work and in our lives. As we do, they alert us to ways that we can tweak things and make them better. When we can accept our mistakes and move forward without dwelling on and getting upset about them, we open up space in our minds and heart for creativity and growth. This is how innovation happens.
Take it one step at a time
I’m confident that each of these 10 practices above will be an asset to your happiness and productivity rather than a drain, but it’s important not to take it all on at once. If any of these things are a particular struggle for you, do that one later. Start with something small that you are confident you can succeed at. The important part is that you start somewhere. Many of these items are things that we often tell ourselves we don’t have time for and so naturally we have not made time for them. Initially, it takes deliberately making time for them and watching the benefits and efficiency that follows. When you start to see time and energy open up that you never knew were available, you can start to add others on the list to your daily routine. Take it one step at a time.
It’s amazing how the very things that we don’t think we have time for can be some of the best things for us to do to create greater self improvement, efficiency and accomplishment into each day and build healthier, stronger relationships in the process.
Which of these things do you think will open the most time for you? What others would you include or suggest to other parents?