Family Time Spent Well (Part 2)
Lisa - June 1, 2022
In the first part, we discussed how to set priorities with your family members so you can improve the ways you spend your time. If you haven’t read it, go check out our tips here and prepare your own list of family priorities. In this part, we’ll go over how to set goals and follow through with those things you’ve determined are most important. This is primarily done through two tools—calendars and task trackers.
The reason we set priorities is to help us spend our time well, so a natural way to put them into action is to set up our schedules to reflect them. Calendars, whether physical or digital, are great tools for keeping track of each family member’s schedule and can give you a visual aid to help you know what needs to change. Using different views (such as daily and monthly) let you and your family see both the details and the big picture of what’s going on. You’ll need both to make your goals a reality. For more tips on creating useful calendars, see our articles on the subject.
As soon as you have your schedule together, you can start to see how closely you’re living according to your priorities. Two simple questions can direct your adjustments: “What do we spend too much time on?” and “What should we spend more time on?”
For example, you might see that daily soccer practice, dance class, and violin lessons are making it impossible to eat dinner all at the same time. If you’ve determined that sharing a meal is a high family priority, then these other activities are taking too much time in the evening. The possible solutions range from setting aside an activity, to rescheduling one of them, to even trying to have a different meal together. You’ll need to discuss the situation as a family and determine what solution works best for you.
For the latter question, let’s say that your family has decided that spending more time outside is a high priority. When you look at your schedule, you see that Friday afternoons are open, so you make a plan to go to the park every week. At times, the weather or other events come up that interfere with it, but because you put it on the schedule, you start accomplishing your goal of spending more time outdoors.
Sometimes the obstacles to your goals will be in the empty spaces in your schedule. Your calendar might look open on Saturday mornings, but in practice, you find it filled with sleeping in, watching TV, and making a big breakfast. In these cases, try tracking the day as it happens. For instance, you could write “slept until 8:20,” “kids watched TV until 9:45,” “breakfast from about 9:50 to 10:30,” etc. With this visual evidence of how your time was spent, you can make a plan to act more on your priorities instead. For example, you might set an alarm to get up earlier and exercise a little, or prepare a quicker breakfast to make time for weeding the garden.
In addition to events, priorities can also be reflected in the things we do. This is where tracking tasks comes in. There are many formats for this, from a chore calendar with each family member’s daily duties, to a list you can check off as you go along, to a bulletin board of tasks where family members can pick how they help out, and on and on. We naturally recommend Family Tools Tasks, which lets you assign tasks according to date, person, frequency, and even category (chore, homework, or to-do), but you find the format that fits your family best.
Once you’ve set up a task tracker that really helps your family get things done, then acting on your priorities is as simple as adding them to it. Do you want the bathroom cleaned more thoroughly? Put it in more often, or assign it to someone who will really make it happen. Do you need to make sure that homework comes before video games? Make sure the rule is established with your kids, then add it to your tracker so they remember to follow through.
When making these kinds of changes, trackers that give you reminders (usually digital) are especially useful. Forgetting to act on these new priorities won’t accomplish anything more than not having them. Trackers with reminders—including Family Tools—minimize the chance of forgetting and help your family make real progress.
As with events, sometimes you’ll find that your family does too much of some things and too little of others. Just like with the gaps in your schedule, you could try keeping a record of what you and your family members accomplished, then make changes according to your needs and goals. For example, if one of your son’s priorities is getting a driver’s license, he might realize he can cut back on reading to practice driving a little more. Often, these kinds of decisions are between two good things, and just need proper balance in order for goals to be accomplished.
Putting goals and priorities into action takes time and effort. Make sure to balance your ambition with realistic expectations; setting too many goals can lead to just as much disappointment as setting no goals. Be patient with yourself and your family members as you work to improve your time use together, maybe just focusing on one thing at a time. You’ll make mistakes and slip into old habits, but as you keep trying, the less-important things in your life will be replaced by the most valuable.
So do your best, and do it together. Time with our families is one of the most precious things we have, so it deserves the persistent effort you put into making it better and better.