clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


Having too much to do and not enough time to do it all usually makes you feel guilty. Which leads to stress and low self-esteem.

But most of us also feel guilty when we don't keep busy. In our fast paced, rapidly changing society, even our children feel guilty if they are not constantly achieving and involving themselves in ceaseless activities.One very busy person we know recently confessed he was burning out. "I feel like I'm an uncontrolled mass of neurons, spinning wildly around trying to keep all the pieces together. When one piece starts to fleck off I reach up to grab it so I can keep it all together. But as I reach up for that piece, another piece splits off. I am constantly afraid that I won't be able to hold all of the pieces in place."

He's not alone. Most working couples we coach complain that there are not enough hours in the day. There is never enough time to take a quiet walk together or to watch the sun set. When the alarm goes off in the morning, they rush to get dressed, get the children ready for day care or school, fight the traffic, dash from assignment to assignment throughout the day, grab lunch at their desks and pray that they won't have to work overtime so they can pick the children up on time.

Then they rush home from work, throw something together for dinner, help the children with their homework, put them to bed, do the dishes, get ready for the next day and fall into bed exhausted.

What happened to "togetherness" or "quality time"?

There isn't enough time for togetherness and there won't be until you make a commitment, together, to take control of your lives instead of letting your lives control you. Schedule a formal family meeting. Talk with your significant others about having too much to do. Make a list of all of the obligations that each of you has. Then brainstorm how you can cut out as many of these commitments as you can.

Spend time thinking of ways to merge activities that are important to each of you. For example, if it's important to include job, family, and fitness into your schedule, find a fitness activity that can include the entire family. You will be accomplishing both priorities during the same period. Or build in fitness breaks during your workday. Then you will be free in the evening to focus all of your attention on the family.

Another technique that works is to divide and conquer. For example, if you have two children who always seem to fight with each other, send one of them off shopping with Dad while Mom stays home to help the other child with homework. It's easier to manage children one at a time. Switch off this division so that each child gets an opportunity to spend time with each parent. When you feel you are giving real quality time to your children, you won't feel as guilty when the two of you want to go off alone, occasionally.

Then, there is the issue of organization. How many times have you told each other that someday you are going to get organized? You probably say the same thing about work. Disorganization makes you appear less capable. So don't just lament about needing to be organized and feel guilty about it. Get organized!

Lack of organization costs you time and builds stress. Spend the time necessary to develop a system that works for the entire family. Have a regular place for keys and train everyone to put them there, every time they've used them. Clean out and organize your closets. You will save as much as 30 minutes every day, getting ready for work and getting the children off to school, if everyone's clothes are where they are supposed to be.

Make everyone responsible for organization and hold them accountable for the consequences of their own disorganization. If he loses the car keys, let him look for them. Don't get involved. If Billy can't find his homework, that's his problem. If she gets a run in her panty hose and hasn't a back-up pair, that's her responsibility.

Do only the really necessary when you already have too much to do. Give up other nice-to-do's until the family is more self sufficient, the job changes, you finish school or inherit a million dollars.

In other words, focus on cutting activities out of your life until you have more time or resources. When you reduce the stress in your lives, you'll both do better in your jobs. And, you will be more able to enjoy live while pursuing your goals.

- For a free copy of "10 Tips for Balancing Work & Family", send a self-addressed envelope with postage to: "He Works/She Works, 720 Turkey Oak, Naples, FL. 33963.