Simple Ideas for Maximizing Family Time

From Parents Magazine

Cooking, cleaning and going to work are essential, but they often equal less family time. With a few tweaks, you'll be enjoying more quality time with your family—not folding laundry while everyone else bonds over a family game in the living room.

Make over your to-do list.

Divide your list into three categories: Don't, Delegate and Do. There's always something you know you're not going to do. Cross it off. Go through each item and ask yourself, "What happens if I don't do this?" If you're doing a task out of guilt, move it to the Don't section. If someone else can do the task, put it in the Delegate column. For the items that must get done, draw or put stickers of a happy face next to the things you like to do, a dollar sign by items that save or make money, and a clock for tasks that save time. These symbols will remind you why these things matter.

Use what you've got.

Take advantage of every available resource. Ask your babysitter to prep dinner, pick up the toys or restock the diaper bag. Find out if your dry cleaner can pick up and deliver clothes, and coordinate errands by location to save time. If friends or family members offer to help out, take them up on it. Don't forget to offer an incentive or a thank you, like a dinner invitation or a special IOU.

Involve the kids.

You may be able to fold clothes and set the table faster than a 5-year-old, but when you include the kids, you turn chores into bonding time while teaching valuable skills. Even a small child can put toys in a basket. Invent a family game where adults and kids compete to see who can get the most done the fastest, or make up a family song to sing while you work together.

Reduce time-wasters.

If you spend hours looking for keys, set up hooks or a small basket near the door to help keep track of them. Give everyone a basket or cubby by the door to hold coats, shoes or rain boots. To prevent morning stress, check before bedtime to ensure that the next day's clothes and shoes are ready. Check emails and catch up on messages or phone calls before the kids wake up or after they go to bed.

Make your job work for you.

Productivity at work creates more relaxed time at home. See if your company will let you arrive earlier (or later) at the office or let you work from home one day a week to reduce the commute. If business travel is taking too much time, suggest alternating travel with other coworkers or participating via conference calls or Skype. When you’re in a meeting, clarify next steps before it ends to reduce follow-up emails.

Rely on technology.

Sign up for school or city email or text alerts to get updates about snow days or traffic. Websites like Diapers.com and Soap.com allow you to save time and money by purchasing groceries and drugstore staples at the same time. Program important dates—parent-teacher conferences, school holidays, field trips and business trips—into your smartphone calendar and sync the entire family's calendar across different phones. There’s an app for that!

Double up dinner.

If you're making lasagna, double the recipe and freeze one for later. Steam extra vegetables for tomorrow’s dinner. Turn leftovers into the next day’s breakfast or lunch. Look online for easy and family-friendly recipes. Keep the freezer stocked with frozen veggies and fruits for a last-minute side dish or dessert. Give yourself a break by keeping a couple of frozen pizzas (choose veggie-heavy ones for more nutrition) on hand for when you don't have time to cook.

Know yourself and your priorities.

When you give up trying to be perfect, you create more time. Figure out what your priorities are and pursue those. Something has to give—there’s no such thing as Supermom. Do the things that help you feel happy or less stressed. If you feel calmer with no papers on the dining room table, involve the kids in helping you clear it off. If you can live with a few stray papers, and would prefer to cook with the kids and try a new recipe, do that instead.

Create new traditions.

Don't wait for holidays or vacations to connect. Sunday breakfast, Friday game night, weekend shopping or gardening can bring the family together. Whatever tradition you choose, make sure everyone, including parents, honors a set time. Everyone should show up and unplug. Enjoy each other.

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