By Laurel Kilpatrick, M.D., Certified Life Coach
Is it really time to start thinking about going back to school? It seems like it was just a few days ago I was picking the boys up on their last day of school, celebrating with sno-cones and looking forward to a relaxing summer.
Funny – relaxing isn’t a word I would use to describe this summer! It feels mostly like we just ran from one activity to another without much down time. Between work and kids’ activities there was hardly room for anything else.
One thing I am learning through coaching is how to exercise constraint. If you are an over-achiever like I am, it is hard to say no to new things and you may worry about missing out on something amazing if you don’t say yes. Unfortunately, saying yes to the wrong things drains my energy and leaves me exhausted! It is no easy task to stay focused on the things you value most and find joy in missing out!
So, on the tail of this very busy and over-committed summer season, I am taking some time to consider how I want to show up for myself and my family as we look forward to a new school year. This year is a special one for my family as my youngest child is starting kindergarten. For the first time, all 3 of my boys will be in school. It is certainly bittersweet to be ending the era of babies, diapers, naps and coordinating childcare, and moving into an era of homework, sports and socializing with friends. My relationship with my kids and the culture of our family is evolving as we venture into this new chapter.
So, with the future in mind, I want to share three tips to help keep you on track as you consider what this school year may hold for you and your family. These simple tips are tried and true tactics you can use every day, every week or every month depending on how you like to plan. They are also so simple you can come back to them at any time if you feel you are veering off track.
1. Make decisions ahead of time: This may seem like a simple and obvious statement, but it is something we often neglect to do in an intentional way. Picture this – you just made it home from work and kids’ activities. You are tired. And you think… “What are we going to have for dinner?” This is one of the most common challenges I hear from other moms. After a long day of making all kinds of decisions, this question at the end of the day feels exhausting. It’s one more thing to do, another decision to make and, if you aren’t sure what you even have in your fridge, you may just be picking up the phone to have food delivered! This is why making decisions ahead of time is so critical. We suffer from decision-fatigue after we spend time tackling all the chores that need to be done at home, coordinating kids’ activities, and going to work!
To avoid decision fatigue at every turn, here are two simple ideas you can try today:
- The Sunday Huddle – Huddling is a concept many may be familiar with from the workplace. It is a 15–20-minute meeting to review key takeaways for a team, review data and create action plans. My husband and I do this for our family on Sunday mornings. We review the calendar for the week and figure out who is doing what and when so we can coordinate activities, including who will be making dinner and what meals we’ll have. Once it is all written down, we have a reference to keep us organized all week.
- Plan Your Meals – I can hear groans from some of you already 😊 Planning meals may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. If you order groceries for delivery or pick up, meal planning can make getting groceries easier and help you stick to the budget. In general, I can organize food knowing which nights I’ll have time to cook and which nights we need a quick meal. Between make ahead casseroles, tacos, one-pot meals and slow cookers, it is pretty easy to have fast and healthy meals most nights of the week. Also – don’t forget you can ask for help! My husband is off on Wednesdays (which happens to be my late day), so that is his night to cook. He figures everything out for that night and all I do is show up and eat! It is glorious!
2. Delegate and/or eliminate: Sunday huddle is a great time to figure out what you DON’T have to do each week! As you review your to do list, think about what you can delegate to someone else. What can you eliminate all together? Don’t be afraid to decide you just don’t need to do some of the things on your to do list!
A few years ago, I turned school lunch making over to the kids. It has been one of the best choices I ever made. The habit has even rubbed off on my youngest son – he loves to make his lunch and I just oversee his choices!
Now that the kids are older, it has been a good habit to develop as they unpack and repack their backpacks and get everything ready for school the next day. It has helped all of us stay organized and give them more responsibility. If you have in-home childcare, consider delegating tasks to your hired help. If you are having to manage laundry, dishwashers and other household tasks, how can the kids help?
We started chores for our kids early since they were stuck at home during COVID, we needed them to help out more. Now the chores are growing with them. The older kids help with yardwork and outdoor chores, everyone helps inside with dishwashers and folding laundry. It is a great time for me to talk with the kids and hear about their day while we are also all getting work done so we can have some time to relax afterward.
Finally, if you can afford it, decide what you can hire out. Your time is valuable, and you may find hiring out something you really dislike doing is worth every penny!
3. Schedule time to rest: Downtime is truly essential. Your brain needs time to relax and reset. We have such a tendency to think of resting as laziness. It most definitely is not!
The to do list will never completely go away. The responsibilities of work and home life never really end. It is a choice to slow down and rest. Making time to rest doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing. There are several different kinds of rest: mental, social, physical, spiritual, emotional, and even creative rest. Rest is often divided into active and passive categories. Our brains are still very active even during passive rest.
For example, meditation and sleeping are 2 kinds of passive rest where our brains are very active. When we sleep, our memories are codified, organized, and stored. During meditation, our brains are doing a lot of active processing work. This kind of rest for our brains is rejuvenating and refreshing. It’s the opposite of being lazy!
Active rest, like socializing and exercising have different benefits for our bodies that include the release of endorphins – feel good hormones that help us feel connected and loved. During your Sunday Huddle, take time to consider what rest you need during the week and put it on the calendar. If you make it an appointment you have to keep, you are more likely to actually do it. You will have made a decision ahead of time to rest and you’ll reap the benefit of actually doing it!
All three of these tools work together to build habits that help us get done what needs to be done and still have time to rest and play. It may seem counterintuitive that scheduling your time intentionally actually creates more time, but you may find you can get 2-3 hours back each week when you can plan ahead and do only what really needs to be done. I have found I feel less guilty about how I spend my time when I know I am sticking to a plan and finding ways to include the kids. They just want to play, and they know when mom’s work is done, we all get to have more fun!
Let me know if you try these time hacks and how they are working for you!
For more resources or if you want to learn how to work with me – check out positivespindr.com
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Maya Angelou