5 Ways for Parents to Stop Suffering from "I'm Too Busy!"

toobusyThe other day, I was racing to get my kids to school on time and proclaimed, “Geez, we are so busy this week!” My son replied, “Um, Mom, when are we not busy? It’s the story of our life.”

Yikes. He was right. Busy had become the story of our life, and I didn’t foresee it having a happy ending. I couldn’t remember when we weren’t either doing something or thinking about doing something. Busy had become our new norm. As our school-work-life load grew, our family time shrank. It felt like quality time together had fallen off our bulging to-do list.

This is no way to live. Something has to change. Here are five ideas to take the busyness out of our days:

Define what matters most. What are the 4-5 things in your life that you love to do? For me, it’s spending time with family, writing, reading, hiking and teaching. That’s it; those are my top five.  However, those things have not been anywhere near the top lately. I’ve been scheduling my time around what I believe others expect of me. If we don’t start creating a life that reflects the things we see as priorities, we will live a life of regrets. Be responsible to the activities that fuel you rather than just steal time away from what matters most.   

Schedule time for you and your family first. This builds on the first point. After you have defined what is important, schedule it. Create blocks of time for yourself and your family. Make sure these are work/errand-free times. These are the moments to laugh, talk, cry … these are the moments to be un-busy.

Do Less. The best laid plans start with doing what matters most to you, right? But, what happens if something pressing comes up and you say yes? All those well-intentioned plans go right down the toilet. One of my mentors told me long ago, “Julie, if it isn’t a hell yes then it’s a no.” Begin to set boundaries to let go of living a maybe, meh or half-cocked life. Set boundaries that say “hell yes” to you and your family.

Buy Less. A year ago, I decided to stop buying as much and something really fantastic happened. I had more time. The fewer clothes, fewer tchotchkes, fewer whatever you have, the less time you are committed to washing, dusting, maintaining it.  Buying “stuff” is time consuming, as is maintaining, repairing, replacing and returning the stuff. If you can reduce it, you will gain so much more.

Stop “shoulding” on yourself. I once had a very frustrated mom come into my practice exclaiming, “But I should be able to get it all done. How do I do it?” I replied, “You can’t! None of us can ‘get it all done.’ And, the more you think you ‘should,’ the more you will beat yourself up.” The lesson here is to stop shoulding on yourself and start making choices that make you feel better.

Busyness really can be a sneaky destroyer of happiness. We walk fast, talk fast, eat fast and then announce, “Ack, I’ve got more to do!”  All this busyness splinters our families and our lives.  When our schedules become overloaded, we start skimming from those we love.

So, the takeaway here for me and for you: It’s our life; let’s choose how we really want to spend our time. If we don't, someone else will … and chances are high we won’t be too happy about it.