The month of August is exciting. It feels like a second new year! And it’s back to school for many of us, which—let’s be honest—means back to being busy. The decisions we make this month will affect the rest of our year, so I want to give you tactical, practical time-management tips to set you and your family up for a wonderful fall.
1. Doing all the things.
Right now, all the calendars are coming your way! You’re excited by the opportunities and ready for your kids to be out of the house and involved in new programs. Your kids are also ready to reconnect with friends.
But before you know it, your enthusiasm causes you to go overboard. Your kids are signed up for violin and volleyball and the school play and that tutoring program . . . and you are the chauffeur. In just a few weeks, when you’re living in this jam-packed schedule, you’re going to regret it. You’re going to be running ragged and resentful of the fact that you made all these decisions.
If you overcommit yourself and your kids, you won’t have any margin in your schedule—time to rest, have fun and play. Avoid the temptation to say yes to everything, and choose just a few things—or maybe even just one!
2. Failing to have systems.
Sometimes my home feels like an air traffic control tower. My husband and I are always coordinating logistics, trying to make sure our kids are getting where they’re supposed to be on time. I’ve learned that when we get the right system in place, we stay on the same page and cut out unnecessary stress.
A calendar is an example of a system. It’s a way to organize and communicate how you’re spending your time. My family uses a wet erase board in our kitchen so everyone can see it—even the kids have started to rely on it!
I encourage you to try out different systems for not only your calendar but also other weekly rhythms like these:
- Packing lunches
- Reviewing your schedule for the week
- Having family time
- Doing chores
- Meal prepping
Experiment to find what works for your family. It doesn’t matter which systems you use, but it does matter that you have systems!
3. Trying to be the hero.
This time of year, it feels like everyone needs a volunteer for everything. They’re looking for coaches, small-group leaders, Sunday school teachers and a hundred parents to bring snacks to a hundred different events. And guess who they’re going to ask. Yep—you. With each request, something in you is going to come alive at feeling needed. If you’re not careful, you’ll say yes to everything because, deep down, we like to think of ourselves as the hero.
Resist the urge to meet every need. Be intentional about when and where and how you serve. When you overcommit, you end up doing more harm than good to the people you’re trying to help. Choose just one or two opportunities and let that be enough.
4. Staying up too late.
Whenever things get busy, the first thing to go is sleep. We cram more activity into our days, stay up late, and quickly become exhausted.
The problem is that sleep isn’t just “nice to have.” It’s essential for our health and our energy. Don’t cut corners on this one—for you or for your kids! Since you’re probably waking up earlier now than you did in the summer, commit to getting in bed earlier. Make sleep a priority for your entire family so you can function well throughout the day and enjoy each other’s company.
5. Having no boundaries.
If you’re a free spirit, the idea of boundaries might feel like a drag. But boundaries are simply a way to protect your priorities. And while we typically think of boundaries in terms of relationships, we can also set boundaries around our time.
For example, my husband and I have a boundary around screen time. We put our phones in a box the moment we walk in from work every single day and leave them there until the kids go to bed. I don’t want my kids to have memories of me looking at my phone—I want them to remember me looking at them!
Boundaries help you put the important things first and keep them there. How do you want to protect your time?
6. Being all work and no play.
We always think of summer as the fun season—going to the pool, the playground, the beach, the zoo. And then the fall rolls around and we slip into the back-to-the-grind mentality. We’re focused on responsibilities and commitments and practices. And of course, we need to prioritize and model discipline for our children this time of year. But you can still be intentional about scheduling fun!
Fun doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Maybe fun for you is teaching your kids to fingerpaint or exploring a new park. Whatever it is, don’t get so caught up in work mode that you forget to enjoy life together.
7. Missing what matters most.
So often we get distracted by what’s urgent and miss what’s important. Take a step back—away from the basketball practices, the dentist appointments and the exams. What actually matters to you and your family in this season? Don’t lose sight of faith or family time or growing your career just because you’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of life.
Knowing what matters most to you is the first step in finding life balance. You see, we believe a myth about life balance in our culture. We think it’s a perfect split between all our responsibilities, but the reality is that life balance isn’t about doing everything for an equal amount of time—it’s about doing the right things at the right time.
I care so much about this topic that I wrote a book about it—Take Back Your Time: The Guilt-Free Guide to Life Balance. It will help you get to the root cause of why you’re overwhelmed, overcommitted and stretched thin. If you’re ready to take control of your time, preorder your copy today!
No matter what lies ahead this school year, friend, my hope and prayer for you is that you’re able to focus on what matters most. After all, God has given each of us one life. Let’s be wise about how we spend it.