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A personal question many parents often ask is “how do I do it all?” or “how do I get everything done?”
Your schedule could be active, yet you won’t be stressed or over worked. You can get a great deal done because of your time management skills. These skills cannot be acquired overnight. It takes time, study, and an objective awareness of your usage of time that can lead to a more organized, practical, and easy way of managing your household and time. 
Many families face the problem of filling their schedules and facing the challenge of managing multiple commitments. Balancing work and family is an issue for almost every family and finding the right balance can feel completely overwhelming. There are 16 strategies, however, that can help families cope.

1.      Set priorities (Know Your Hierarchy of Importance)

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With so many demands on our time, it’s hard to be everything to everyone. You may be juggling a number of roles and goals in your life. You want to be successful at work, enjoy a healthy couple relationship, be an involved parent. You may have goals of furthering your education, maintaining a home, contributing to your community, keeping to a fitness regimen, saving for early retirement. Further, you may be juggling extended family issues, like caring for aging parents or dealing with an illness in the family. All of these things take your time and energy and often run into conflict with each other. As there are only 24 hours in a day, you may have to think about your values and set some priorities based on those values. For example, if “being an involved parent” is a priority for you – setting aside time each night to play with your children might take priority over working those over-time hours in order to finance a bigger home.

2.      Plan and do things in advance.
Work weeks are when most of us tend to be the busiest. By preparing for Monday’s arrival, you can ease the stress of the week ahead. Keep a family calendar posted on the fridge. On Sunday, look at what’s on tap for the week and plan how you are going to manage the week. Where you can, make meals on the weekend and put them in the refrigerator or freezer for a quick reheat on a busy evening. This can be an activity where you can involve and enlist your older children’s help. Before shopping for groceries, get your cookbooks out and make a list of several meals for the following week and make your grocery list from your menu list. After work stress is often more in deciding what to make for supper than in actually making it. If you go home for lunch, do some initial meal preparation then so that it cuts down on your after-work meal prep time.

3.     Keep an Organized Home

Your home does not need to be perfectly well kept. Nobody has time for that. However, if you have an organized household you will find that life runs so much more smoothly. If you spend more than 10 minutes a day looking for something on a regular basis, then you are not organized enough.
You and your household need systems in place that help everyone keep track of their stuff, so it can be easily grabbed on the way out the door. Keep jackets and backpacks hung in the same place every day. Teach children that it is their responsibility to put these items where they belong from the moment they walk in the door. If they fail to comply with the rules then there should be consequences. An easy and effective consequence is losing time on their favorite form of technology. For my kids it means they lose time on their tablets for that evening.
Wallets, purses, and keys should have a specific place within the home. If they are plopped on the couch one day, on the counter another, and on your bed the next day, it becomes far too easy to misplace these items. You end up spending countless minutes searching for these needed items every day. If they are placed in the exact same place every day, then you gain back that time you would have otherwise spent searching. You also become a less frustrated individual. When you spend time searching for something you need and you are on a time crunch, it can be extremely frustrating and upsetting to not find what you need. You end up running late which sets the mood for the entire day. Don’t be the frustrated parent.
Implement a plan for where things will be placed within the home when each member of the family enters the home. Everyone enters the home and has stuff in hand, whether it’s a backpack, diaper bag, purse, coats, keys, lunch boxes, briefcases, or shoes. Think through all the things that are brought in and out of the home each day. Then pick a place for these items to be placed each day. You may need to create some organized space within the home to make this unloading each evening and reloading each morning go more smoothly. Our laundry room is our area. We utilize cubbies for each the kid’s shoes and then a coat rack for backpacks and jackets. Its not rocket science, but it will make your life much easier if everyone in the family gets with the organized home plan.
This also means the rest of your home is relatively organized. Every single thing within your dwelling should have its own home or place. For example, where are your flashlights, candles, or matches? Would you be able to easily find them in a power outage, or would you be searching through drawers? If you have a specific home for these items, for example, in a bin in your pantry that is labeled on the outside, it makes it very easy to find it when needed. When the items are used they are returned to their home after usage.
Keeping an organized home is a great skill to teach your children. It takes practice, but don’t give up because you will all have a more sane and easily run household when you can find what you need when you need it. You will also save money in the long run because you aren’t purchasing secondary items because the first one is lost somewhere in some drawer or cabinet in the home.

4.     Let Go of Perfect

Too many parents put too much pressure on themselves and their children to live up to a certain standard. It’s good to have standards, but if perfect is your goal then you need to let it go. Trying to be perfect takes far too much time and energy. Sometimes getting the job done just good enough is all that is needed. Most of the time you are the only person that will notice the difference anyway.
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5.      Negotiate flex hours or part-time hours if possible.
Flexibility in your work life can bring an incredible stress release to a household. If it’s financially feasible, consider the option of part-time work. It may mean less financial freedom, but it may bring greater daily rewards and quality of life. Again, you need to consider your values and set your priorities. If possible, negotiate with your employer for flex hours or job-sharing that would be more conducive to your family life.
6.      Find a number two and a number three person.
In the workplace and at home, you need to build tremendous supports. With the increased mobility of society, not all families have extended family support. If you don’t have family available in town, seek out the help of co-workers, friends and neighbours. Line up a couple of co-workers that your children can call to deal with their questions or situations when you are unavailable.
7.      Share with other families.
Share your issues with your neighbours and friends who are facing the same work/home balancing act. You will not only benefit from the mutual support, but can also share ideas on how you manage your busy schedules. Look to share responsibilities with other parents. Take turns walking the children to school, driving the kids to their outside activities, babysitting each other’s children.
8.     Limit after-work and after-school involvements.
While parents have good intentions and want to provide their children with a variety of skill sets, parents can get ensnarled in the unlimited opportunities available for children and can thereby create very busy schedules for both their children and themselves. Limit the number of outside activities your children participate in to one activity at a time. Instead, do things together as a family like skating or going for a bike ride. In addition, limit your own after-work activities. You don’t need to sit on the church committee, coach your child’s soccer team and volunteer for your favourite charity. It is wonderful and rewarding to contribute to your community, but you may not be able to do it all given your circumstances. Again, look to your values and set your priorities. Consider what you can manage now and what you may be able to do at a future stage in your life. Learn to say “no” and let go of the guilt.
9.      Build rituals into your life.
Schedule time to ensure that family time happens. Establish a family movie or games night. Make meal time sacred family time when you sit down together for dinner and take turns sharing the day’s events.

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10.  Take time for yourself.
Taking time for yourself has to be a priority. It’s something you should do no matter how tired you are. Drag yourself out the door to your fitness class, afterwards you will be in better humour and happy that you did something for yourself. Have your one favourite show a week and protect that time. After you tuck the kids in bed, make that bowl of popcorn and sit down and watch your weekly drama. Get out of the office over lunch, go for a walk and feel the sun on your face. If you take care of yourself, you will be better able to take care of those you love and deal with the stress that a busy schedule brings.
11.  Be Honest about Time Waste
When you are sitting at a doctor office waiting for your appointment, how are you spending that time? Are you reading the latest gossip magazine or did you bring along some work to do while you wait? If you brought along work, you are winning! You can use that time to catch up on thank you notes, respond to emails, or update your to-do list, just to name a few good options.
Learn to take advantage of waiting time. Car line at school is another time when many parents have daily wait time. Make sure you have a plan for how to wisely use that time, so it is not wasted and then at 10 pm when you are laying in bed you remember several emails you forgot to respond to and you could have done so while in the car pick up line at school.
There are some ways that this era of parents is sucked into wasting time. How much time do you spend scrolling social media each day? Be honest with yourself and the amount of time you are spending online shopping, surfing the web, or on social media. We place limits on our kids with technology, why wouldn’t we do the same for ourselves so we too can optimize our time during the day?
12. Keep To-Do Lists and a Calendar
Keep a running to-do list that you carry with you in your purse or brief case. Keep it handy so when you think of something that needs to be done it gets added to the list. Things in life often don’t get done simply because they are forgotten. Life is full of a flurry of daily activities. We can only concentrate on what is in front of us. If you have a list, you can shift focus to do the activity later and it won’t simply be forgotten.

Don’t just write it down though. If it is a task that will require any substantial amount of time (even an hour or two), then schedule when you can get that done and block out the time on your calendar to get it done. Hoping that time will magically appear to get it done is not good planning, as hope is not a strategy. Write it on a to-do list and then schedule it on your calendar for completion.
Keep a calendar and take it with you wherever you go. Many people use their phone for keeping track of their schedule. I personally use a monthly paper calendar. That way I can see my entire month at a glance. When you are using your mind to keep track of your activities, it takes up too much time and energy. You are constantly trying to remember what you have planned for the day or in the next week. You have to mentally remind yourself about your activities so that you don’t forget anything important. Free up your mind for other things by using a calendar. Everyone needs a calendar, even stay at home moms. Keeping track of doctor appointments, birthdays, and household activities is important stuff. Don’t allow yourself to minimize your importance or the value of your role by not utilizing a calendar.
13.  Make room for couple time.
In the work/home whirlwind, it is easy for two people, while living in the same household, to drift apart. Just as it is important to spend time interacting with your children, it’s important to spend time interacting with your partner. Set aside time for one another. On Friday nights, book a baby-sitter whether you have plans or not. Even if it’s just for an hour when you can get away and go for a walk together.
14.  Share your work experience with your children.
Through your words and actions, your children should know that they are a priority in your life, but it is also helpful to let them know that your work is important to you too. Talk to your children about what you do at work and take them with you to see where you work. Children are more likely to be responsive to your work demands when you share that part of your life with them.
15.   Find time for fun.
Keep in mind that work is only one part of you. We only go around once, so it’s important to enjoy your life and make time for fun. Look for opportunities to enjoy life both at home and at work. Find the humour in things. Laugh.

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16.  Be there for the moments.
There will be special moments in your children’s lives that may happen before 5:00 p.m. – a football game, a school concert, a speech. Most employers, managers, clients have families too and understand these family situations. Talk to your boss, explain your need to be there, have a plan in place as to how they can deal with your absence or you can get the job done in another way or at another time. Perhaps you can work with a colleague and spell each other off for those important family occurrences.

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