Special Tips for Family Time Management

The goal oriented process of time management works equally well in family time management as it does for work related time management.

How can you adapt these processes to the unique needs of family time management?

Get Everyone on the Same Page

You won’t be able to manage the family’s time if you have one or two members who won’t cooperate. Sit down with everyone and explain that everybody is busy but we will all be happier and get more of what we want if everybody can work together.

Make sure that everybody sees the benefit — meals won’t be so late and appointments won’t be missed if everyone does their best to keep to a schedule. That means that school appointments and extracurricular activities MUST be put on the schedule as soon as they know about them.

Respecting each other’s time will mean that everyone gets a fair chance. If schedules overlap it is time to reorganize or eliminate activities.

Make it Fun

Planning is easier when it’s fun. Get a large wall calendar or a laminated blank calendar and put the dates in. Get everyone together and assign a colored marker to each individual. Have everyone write their activities and times on the calendar (or have them tell you while you fill it in).

Every time a new appointment is made the family is required to mark it down or tell you so you can fill it in. This will prevent double booking the car or a parent’s time and the colored markers will identify if one person is demanding more of the family’s time and resources than the others.

If you are a parent and you see that your children’s schedules are packed with extra curricular activities it might be wise to limit them to once or twice a week. This is especially true if homework and projects are interfering with sleep, meals and other family time.

Teaching your kids to keep a balanced schedule not only promotes good time management habits they will need in college and work life, but it impresses on them that taking care of responsibilities and spending unstructured time together is part of a balanced life.

If everyone is dashing off in different directions all the time put meal time into the schedule as well as a family night. Both children and adults can then plan their activities in advance so that most nights the family can be together for at least a part of the evening.

Lists…so you don’t forget!

If you have the room, make a note on the calendar of the items needed for each activity or appointment. If there’s no room you can list the activities elsewhere along with the needed items. Keep it next to the calendar and you can quickly see what needs to go with whom.

Remind each person the night before to have the necessary items ready — sports equipment, musical instruments, documents, etc.

Lists like this can also be used to make weekly meals run on time and with less stress.

Have each person tell you a meal that they enjoy. Put it on a Master list of meal ideas. Leave the list on the fridge or somewhere that the family can add on to it when they think of something.

Later, take the list and create a shopping list for the meals. Each week you can choose the meals you will make for the week and will already have a list of all the ingredients you need to make them. Take the list with you when you go grocery shopping and not only will you know what you’re making each night but you’ll be sure to have all the necessary ingredients to make it.

Spending a little time preparing will help you keep organized and prevent you or other family from forgetting items and appointments — a real time waster.

Household Chores

Just like work the home has many tasks vying for your attention: dishes, laundry, meal preparation, vacuuming etc. Use the same prioritizing process as outlined. Make a ‘to-do’ list. Prioritize the list (laundry needs doing every week, daily bed making can sometimes go undone). Schedule the tasks on your calendar so small tasks don’t become overwhelming ones.

On your ‘to-do’ list put the top priorities for the week. Daily jobs should also be listed according to priority. While you may let one or two daily tasks slip if it becomes a regular habit you’ll need to determine: delegate or remove?

If you delegate you should decide if a family member will do it or you’ll hire the job out. If it’s remove perhaps the job can be done less frequently (maybe the carpets don’t need vacuuming EVERY day). An undone task will drain you mentally. Decide if and how it’s to be done and move on.

If your children are old enough to help out use the colored marker system to ‘book’ them for meal making, dish washing, garbage collecting etc. Plan a reward at the end of the week for those who accomplished all of the tasks. While your children must learn that helping the family is not a favor, they respond as we do to rewarding tedious work with small bonuses.

Using the Goal system, choose a family goal — perhaps it’s a new DVD player or a trip to the zoo. Put the reward on the schedule with a big sticker or other eye-catching marking. Your children are sure to see it every time they look at the calendar. If they complete all their tasks without nagging for four weeks in a row — the trip to the zoo. Three months — new DVD player.

Don’t forget smaller goals. Each week can mean that if the kids do all their chores THEY pick the movie, if they don’t than YOU do. Everyone still benefits but they get more of what they want when they stick to the schedule.

Organizing Makes it Easier

If the clothes don’t fit in the dresser do you expect them to stay off the floor? The same is true for toys, shoes, dishes, videos and other items. If you are spending time moving piles from one place to another, stacking items or manipulating them to fit into their storage area, you are wasting time.

Can’t keep the kids coats off the floor? How have you arranged for them to put them away? Hangers in tall closets may not be enough, providing hooks at their level can make it easy and fun for your children to hang up backpacks, coats and other items like the dog leash.

Art materials, mail, toys and shoes do better in bins. Lining up items or arranging them in piles is time consuming and usually doesn’t get done regularly. Stop frustrating yourself by providing ‘homes’ for these items. A bin for each person’s shoes lined up under a bench makes it easy for everyone to find what they need (and put it back).

A small basket for mail gives it a ‘home’ so that school notices and bills don’t mysteriously disappear. Art supplies and small toys can be put in labeled bins making them easy to find and a snap to clean up.

Think about areas in your home that cause the most frustration and determine if you are spending too much time maintaining them. Is there a way to make household maintenance less stressful and time consuming for everyone? Spend the money and take the time to organize it — it will be well worth it.


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