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How To Get More Time As A Parent

‘You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.’ James M Barrie

When I work with parents as a psychologist and parent coach managing time is one of the biggest challenges of parenting.

Parenting life tends to be dominated by our child’s sleep, nap, dressing, playing and eating with our children’s basic needs being met. As children get older we tend to get sucked into extra curricular activities going from one after school club, music or sport class to another.

The key is even when we feel we have no control over our time it is easy to get drawn into what we feel our children should be doing.

Parents myself included come out with phrases such as ‘I have not got time to do a class…. or read or …… go out,’ because we feel we should be doing something else which revolves around our children rather than our needs.

As parents we tend to have a scarcity mentality about time and think about all the things we are not doing. Sometimes it is acknowledging the messages we have been given about time in school, by our parents, friends and family.

There are classic phrases attached to time such as ‘time is money…’ ‘time waits for no man,’ ‘lost time,’ ‘wasting time,’ each of which impact on our perception of time. What if there was no concept of ‘wasted,’ or ‘lost time,’ and everything we do and the time we take to do it is a gift. As J M Barrie’s quote at the start of this article suggests time can be ‘golden,’ when we let go of an outcome and enjoy the moment.

My perception of time changed when I stopped thinking about all the things I ‘should,’ be doing and started thinking about enjoying experiences in front of me and not focusing on time. Asking the question ‘what does time mean to you?’ really helps to focus the mind on what is important.

10 things that have helped me think differently about time and accomplish more:

1) Thinking of time as ‘life management,’ not ‘time management.’ When I began to think of the projects I am undertaking rather than trying to fit activities into time slots it made me accomplish more. Assigning a focus for the week has helped me to finish a project rather than giving it 30 minute time slots for different activities. Blocking longer periods of time and immersion in a project is more productive.

2) When I find myself saying ‘I am too tired for…… I ask myself how can I get more energy to complete the task?’

3) Focus on your key values and beliefs and decide if the task you are about to do fits into your values and beliefs. It is much easier to ditch activities if is not aligned to your purpose. Make conscious decisions as a family about what is important for the whole family. It makes it so much easier to make choices when the whole family is involved in what your core values and beliefs are.

4) Having scheduled time for relaxing, catching up on jobs around the home and sharing a big chunk of reading time together are important to reduce the stress levels.

5) Not worrying about what has happened in the past and not being anxious about the future also helps us as parents to focus on the most important thing, which is what are children are experiencing right now and feeling it with them, and not rushing on to the next thing.

6) Ditching and decluttering activities, which are not part of your family values and beliefs help you confirm what is important to you and your family.

7) Rethinking the myth of multitasking. It might be controversial but women wear the badge of ‘multitasking,’ as a badge of honour. What I see is a parent mindset of trying to please everyone by multitasking and that reduces clarity of thought and action. I have been so guilty of trying to text message, listen to homework research at the same time as preparing dinner. It never feels satisfying and when I stopped multitasking my anxiety levels went down.

8) Screen time such as Facebook, twitter reality television may be our guilty pleasures and sap both energy and time. If we monitor the time spent and reduce it slowly without feeling we are missing out.  Reducing tv watching by 30 minutes a day gives you 3.5 hours a week which could be spent on an energy generating activity rather than an energy sapping activity.

9) Reading Eat the Frog by Brian Tracy was a revelation. He suggests doing the hardest task we have on the ‘to do,’ list first. Some tasks are attached with an emotional energy a difficult phone call you need to make. Procrastination and putting off a task till later saps energy levels.

10) When as parents we say ‘we haven’t got time,’ we are modeling a scarcity model of time to our children. If we focus on the activity as a long-term project and we are managing the project as part of our life then it has a different emphasis. Saying yes to activities that do not align with your values and beliefs will drain our energy and time. Ask the question does this fit in with what my family needs right now?

Love, peace and joy.

Dr Linda Mallory