An interesting thing has started to happen lately. When you ask someone you haven’t seen in awhile, “How are you doing?” the most common response used to be, “I’m good, thanks. How are you?” Times are changing, however, because more and more we are hearing answers like, “I’m good. Busy. Really busy, but good,” or, “We’re okay, things are a little crazy. We have a lot going on.” Maybe you have even found yourself giving answers like that to other people, and while they are truthful in nature, we have to ask ourselves a very important question in response. Is my busyness producing good and lasting results, or is it tiring and wearing me and my family down? The solution to the problem can be found in one word:
Here are a few questions to help walk you through how to prioritize the most important activities in your and your family's life:
WHAT IS IMPORTANT?
If you and your family are spinning your wheels going from one activity to the next, barely getting homework done in time, or you can’t remember the last time you actually enjoyed a meal together, it’s time to call a family meeting. Let each person talk about the one priority that is the most important to them, and then work together to try and meet everyone’s needs. Maybe Mom needs two family dinners a week. Perhaps Dad wants to coach your son’s Little League this season, or your teenage daughter wants to be on the swim team. After you say out loud and write down everyone’s most important need, have everyone list two or three more needs or wants in order of importance. Do everything possible to make the number one need happen, and then take into consideration the other things that follow. By involving the whole family in this conversation, everyone has a voice and it makes sure that everyone is on the same page. Keep in mind that every year these priorities are likely to change, so it’s a good idea to revisit this every six months or so.
WHAT CAN GO?
Here comes the hard part: figuring out what you may need to let go of. The reality of a too-busy schedule is that in order to make it better, you have to cut some things out. Perhaps you don’t say yes to every party or birthday invitation that you or your spouse receives. Maybe you explain to your children that everyone can pick one sport per season, or if you have multiple children, they will take turns picking a sport. For example, in the spring your son plays baseball and in the fall your daughter is enrolled in dance. Making a personal sacrifice for the sake of another family member also has long-lasting character building results.
Staying on top of grades is very important and should be a priority the whole family is invested in. If you see that school is being compromised, perhaps you limit after school activities until the grades improve. This can be a great incentive for older students who may be struggling with their time management.
WHAT CAN CHANGE?
There can be times where we find ourselves doing something, ‘because we’ve always done it,’ or we think it’s expected of us. Those are not good enough reasons to give your valuable time away.
Be involved in the things that you feel called to or feel passionate about. Maybe for the last three years you served on the PTF, but this year you need to spend more time with your aging parents, so you take a break. Perhaps your workload increased at your job, and so for the next season you cannot be the team parent for the soccer team. Taking a temporary break from activities that are good doesn’t mean you won’t ever go back. It does give you the breathing room you may need to get through a difficult or different season of life. Our children need to see their parents making wise choices and including older children in the process is even more effective.
Change always seems to be hard at first, but there is something very freeing about letting go of an activity or commitment that we once held (maybe a little too) tightly. You will never regret making more time for your family. You may, however, regret not making enough time for them, and busyness can slowly creep in without us ever realising it’s there until we are tired and worn out from keeping a grueling pace. Choose the most important thing for you and your family and give yourself to it. You’ll be surprised how easy it will be to let the unimportant things just walk on by.