5 Ways for Parents to Stop Suffering from “I’m Too Busy!”

Ask Julie Smith, Human Nature, Influence + Leadership, Relationships

Dear Julie

I’m drowning in to-do lists. I’ve tried everything from bullet journaling to online calendars and I still can’t figure out how to keep track of / keep up with all my work and volunteer responsibilities, my kids’ activities and still have time for my family. Is there any way a working mom of two teens can get it all done?

Busy Bee


Dear Busy Bee,

I know how you feel. The other day, I was racing to get my kids out the door for school, find matching shoes for them, proof an article, clean up after the cat, check the calendar to make sure I could make it to all 5,000 events we had committed to when I stopped and said. “Holy moly (ok, I actually used a different word, but let’s just pretend I said holy moly) “We are really frickin’ (same with this word) busy this week!” My son replied, “Um, Mom, duh. When are we not busy? It’s the story of our life.”

He was right. Busy has become the story of our life, and I foresee it having more of a burnout ending than a happy one. I can’t remember when we weren’t either doing something or thinking about doing something. Busy has become our new norm. As our school-work-travel-friend-getting-older-whatever-life load has grown, our family time has gotten smaller. It feels like quality time together has fallen off our bulging to-do list.

So, I hear you. This is par for the course for most of us with tweens and teens. Here’s what I have come up with to take a wee bit o’ the busyness out of our days:

1. 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 my loved ones, 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 a priority, we will live a life of regrets. Be responsible for the activities that fuel you rather than just steal time away from what matters most.


2. 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 and just be.


3. 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 loo. 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.


4. 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.


5. Stop “shoulding” on yourself.

I once had a very frustrated mom come into my practice with a very similar question to yours. “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 is 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 while sending the message to your teens that they, too, need to operate at the breakneck speed of busy. 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 make choices, someone else will make them for us … and chances are high we won’t be too happy about it.

Your turn! How do you keep busyness from taking over your life? Share your comments below. 


P.S. Hey! With all that extra time, you may want to start having some quality conversations with your kiddos. However, there are times when kids just don’t want to talk. Find out What to Do When your Teen won’t Talk with You here. 🙂