Sometimes just mentioning the term “Work Life Balance” is enough to trigger a stress response in parents. “Once baby makes three” the hours in the week can feel as though they have become much more compressed and less available to us. Obviously time is the one commodity that we all have the same amount of in a given day, but not all of us use it as effectively as we could.
Here are 5 simple and effective habits to implement this year in order to best use the time which is available to all of us, in a way which leaves you feeling balanced and in harmony with what is most important to you in life.
Firstly, create a visible schedule
Create a schedule in a visible place such as on the fridge or kitchen wall for everyone in your family to see. This schedule will be the foundation which all the following habits build upon, so I strongly urge you to put this in place as a priority if you don’t already have one!
Invest in a generous sized calendar or whiteboard so that you have enough space to map out all of your family commitments in regards to work, bill due dates, school, play dates, birthdays, parties and extra-curricular activities for the coming weeks and months.
Whenever someone requests time with you, you will have a visible reference point to work out whether you are available or can make yourself available on a given week in relation to other commitments. As a bonus, the visual schedule is a great educational tool for children and teenagers as it demonstrates how time can be managed in advance to organise ourselves effectively.
Set 15 minutes aside every Sunday to review the schedule and to prepare for the approaching week.
Plan family meals in advance
Try to plan your family meals on the weekend so that you know what you are going to cook during the busy work and school week ahead. For weekdays, list meals that take 30 minutes or less to put together so that it doesn’t require too much effort from you at the end of a busy day.
Don’t feel guilty if you schedule one night a week for take-away as this may help you to lessen the load. Your awareness that Thursday is take-away night in advance, may be the one thing that gets you through the earlier part of the week where you need to be a bit more organised to cook your 30 minute meals.
Remember that there is nothing wrong with serving up extremely quick and simple meals such as eggs on toast during those particularly busy weeks if it helps to take the pressure off!
Create regular family rituals
Nurture your family dynamics and allow time for family bonding through scheduled family rituals. Something as simple as dinner time could be the first daily ritual that you target if this currently tends to be a disconnected and chaotic time in your household. Agree on a time for the table to be set and for everyone to be seated at the dinner table (not on the couch!).
Other semi-regular rituals could be a Friday Family Movie Night with microwave popcorn shared on the couch, having a shared cooked brunch on Sundays with extended family members and going camping at Easter time each year. Brainstorm some ideas and schedule these activities on your family calendar so that everyone knows what to expect and has something to look forward to. With older children, it might be useful to ask for their input in regards to what sort of activity they would like to do so that they have more ownership over it.
When engaging in these family rituals avoid checking your phone, taking phone calls or talking about work. By putting these distractions aside, you will be able to engage with your family members more mindfully by talking about what they have been up to for the day, what is important to them at the moment, what they are really interested in and what their plans are for the future.
Spend quality time with your partner
Remember to nurture your relationship with your partner. Often when life is busy, time with your partner is the first thing to get neglected and relationship satisfaction can start to decline. Initially, start with monthly dates and schedule a babysitter ahead of time.
Your date does not have to be an expensive venture. It can be as simple as arranging an evening without the kids so that you can cook a favourite meal together with wine at home, it could be a shared picnic in a park or a walk on the beach followed by ice cream.
Prioritise time for you
It’s difficult to be a support to your family if you are not allowing yourself quality time for you personally. There is a point where you can’t look after everyone else effectively, if you haven’t been properly looking after yourself.
It might be helpful to ask your partner if you can both take turns to separately take the kids for an outing, so that each of you have time to possibly catch up with a friend over coffee, go to the gym, curl up on the couch and read a book or do something else that you enjoy but rarely get to do.
Sit down and write a list of all the things you would really like to do for yourself so that you have a reference point for your pre-arranged “me time”.
These are 5 habits to get started with and you should notice an improvement in your Work Life Balance in a matter of weeks. There are many more simple habits that build on these as well. It can be useful to discuss your current state of “Work Life Balance” with a trained professional in order to work out what areas of your life need tweaking in relation to your personal values, so that life feels more in balance. If you are interested, feel free to contact Attuned Psychology to book an appointment with our friendly staff on 08 8361 7008.
Sarah Davies, Psychologist
Subscribe to our newsletter Attuned Life
Would you be interested in receiving our occasional newsletter, event information and other useful tips via e-mail?