“The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.” – Harold B. Lee, American religious leader and educator.
I find it amusing that some of my colleagues claim the concept of work/life balance is dead. It’s not that they all believe you should give up on having a personal life if you want to get ahead at work, though this sometimes seems to be the subtext. Most simply believe work and the rest of life have become so intertwined we can’t pull them apart, so we have no choice but to respond to email and Facebook requests on the beach or while doing laundry or dining with the family.
Hogwash. Having boundaries and balancing work and the rest of life is absolutely crucial for your sanity, especially when you want to have a life once you retire. Besides, friends and family are your legacy… and nothing will ever replace a family or friend lost.
As a self-employed consultant, work is important to me, and to some extent my hours are flexible. Yet I’ve been married for 17 years to a wonderful man, and we’ve raised three well-adjusted children, while building an excellent business together. And I always, always make time for my family. I can’t say I’m Superwoman, but I think I’ve done a decent job so far, without sacrificing my personal life on the altar of my business.
Routines actually make us more productive, and that’s as true with family routines as with any directly associated with work. Family routines save time, and once things are squared away, I don’t have to worry so much. So let’s take a look at a couple of evening and morning routines you may find helpful, starting with the most logical point: evening, since many morning routines start with evening prep. Even if you don’t have kids, you can modify these routines for personal use.
1. Make to-do lists for your family. Most kids have chores anyway. Just let them know what to do when, so they can get it out of the way. Reward them when they do their tasks quickly and efficiently with something they like doing, like an extra half-hour of TV or some video-game time, and they’ll get in the habit of doing it automatically every evening. My teenage son James does the dishes every night and unloads them every morning without being asked, simply because it keeps me off his back. Good idea. It may take you a while to train them if they’re sloppy or forgetful, but they’ll get there if you stick to it. You can post a whole week’s worth of to-dos on Sunday for the entire week. I review each kid’s responsibilities with them every evening for the next day.
2. Prepare for the next day so you can get out the door quickly in the morning. Make sure your kids have done their homework, and help them if they need it. Then have them select their clothing for the next day, ensuring it meets the school’s clothing requirements. Have them think through the next day, making sure they have all athletic gear, food, and transportation. Make sure everything is in place and ready, down to locating shoes and jackets. You don’t want to be frantically hunting for a baseball mitt (grrrr) or keys two minutes before it’s time to head out the door. My son knows if he misses the bus, he’s walking. Whether they take showers before bed or in the morning depends on how early they have to be up.
3. Find and maintain a steady morning routine. No one knows your kids as well as you do. So if your son is hard to awaken or your daughter gets cranky in the morning, rouse them out early enough to get dressed, eat breakfast, and otherwise be prepared for the day. My daughter hated bright lights in the morning, so we had to start early with level 1. One of my teenage sons loves a cup of coffee first thing (I know, I know, not the perfect diet for a 16-year-old). I’m teaching my older son to take upcoming Denver weather issues into account, so he can build in extra time for warming up the car, scraping off snow, and finding winter gear. Once you know how long everyone takes to get ready and when their schedules have to intersect with their schools’, it’ll be easy to adjust the schedule with little thought on your part. My younger son knows the exact second he has to be out the door to catch the bus and exactly how long he can stay in bed. So I don’t have to worry about it. Nice.
Work. Life. It All Matters.
One good thing about kids is that, despite how they act or what they may say, they need and want structure to build their lives around. They also want to know you care; and you need to do these things so you have a reason to work and a home to come back to in the first place. Part of the importance of family routines is not just that it makes you more work-productive, it makes you more family-productive. Getting all the busywork and requirements out of the way automatically lets you spend more time with those you love so you can help build their lives and make important memories… and that’s what really matters to me.
© 2016 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (January 18, 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.