Can We Talk? Is Your Busyness Your Fault?

Give your family some new rules and lessen your burden.

By Connie Merritt

During my speaking engagements, I ask a simple question: “What makes you busy?” The answers have convinced me that taking control of your “busy” at home presents a set of challenges different from those you must face on the job.

Home responsibilities as a working parent – single or married – will tip you into the “busy danger zone.” If you’re trying to do it all at home, take heart! With a little planning and tweaking of your at-work strategies, you can transform your crazy busy to a designed busy at home. 

Round Up the Troops
The best way to make a change in the tone of your home is by setting realistic goals. Is your household in chaos? Shoot for ordered messiness. You don’t have to be a dictator, killjoy or tyrant to institute a less busy, more peaceful home. It begins with a mandatory household meeting. You gather with all the household members, including your partner, housemates, children and boarders. Tell everyone something they’d like to hear: “We’re going to have a family meeting so that our lives will be more fun.” It’s mandatory attendance. Don’t worry if you get lots of sighs, gripes and eye rolling.

This meeting can be the start of you getting some help from the members of your household. Tell them why you need their help: Your busyness around the house is starting to take its toll in a major way – but if everyone pitches in, it won’t be so bad. Promise them that you’re asking for these changes with only one goal in mind – a happier home. 

Sacred Schedules
Another order of business for the family meeting is for each person to map out his or her schedule for the next six months (or year). This is important because you’ll not only give each person a voice, but you also teach valuable life skills. Each person needs to list every important, save-the-day event he or she has coming up, as well as all the regularly scheduled activities. Don’t forget to produce everyone’s sports schedules.

After individual schedules are made, get everyone on the same page, literally. Post a master calendar in the kitchen so each family member gets a better view (and sense) of working together as a team.

Feeding Time
Start by having a whiteboard on the fridge with the week’s menu and prep assignments posted. In the beginning, a parent will have to be the menu dictator until the entire family starts taking initiative and responsibility. For example, the whole chicken can be washed, seasoned and put in the oven by a teenager; the frozen veggies can be microwaved by a pre-teen; the rice directions can be followed by your mate; and even a young child can concoct a dessert with flavored yogurt and fruit. In the summer, you can teach everyone the basics of grilling, and winter time is perfect for an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink soup in the slow cooker. 

Online Time
Institute rules that apply to such activities as surfing the Internet, gaming, instant messaging, e-mailing and social networking, whether on a desktop, laptop or handheld device. House rules apply to everyone. A few examples include: “No electronics during meals”; “Black screens from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.”; or “30-minute online shopping sessions.”

TV Time
Do we really have to watch reruns of Two and a Half Men or The Office every night and have the nightly news as background noise for dinner? Turn off the tube.

  • Make rules for hours of operation. TV can’t be the background soundtrack for your home life!
  • Leverage viewing time as a reward for chores done by teens and children.
  • Make family night at the movies an event. Get a brand-new DVD that everyone can agree on, prepare some movie munchies and have fun.

Quiet Time
Often you think you need a week’s sleep when all you need is a long bath with some quiet in the house. A quick recharging of the batteries ensures you’ll be much more present for the rest of the night.

This is an edited and condensed excerpt from Connie Merrit’s book Too Busy for Your Own Good: Get More Done in Less Time –With Even More Energy (McGraw-Hill). 

Connie Merritt is a nurse, life coach, business owner and frequent speaker. She will present an education session on the topic of time management at the Toastmasters International Convention in August.