Are your evenings a blur of extra curricular activities, household chores, and getting ready for the next day?
You’re not alone.
Meltdowns – they happen more often than not on weeknights and during the most challenging part of the day when we’re juggling schedules, dinner prep, chores and homework. The cause of the meltdowns is simple – family members are after tired, hungry and irritable at the end of a long day.
But what’s a family to do?
Following are some weeknight survival tips for families who have had enough of weeknight chaos and are looking to make some simple yet positive changes.
GET ON SCHEDULE
First off, you need to backtrack. Getting behind schedule is a major factor to weeknight dilemmas. The problem is we often miscalculate how long it takes to do something and to travel from point A to point B.
Work in reverse
If you begin with the end in mind you can usually figure out what it will take to meet your deadline. For instance, if your kids have an 8:30 p.m. bedtime, you’ll want to make sure dinner is finished by 6:30, the food needs to be prepared and on the table by 6 p.m. Factor in sufficient time for homework, chores, and extra curricular activities and if your kids are really young – bedtime stories.
Add a cushion
No, I’m not talking about a sofa cushion – sitting on one too early in the evening will slow down your productivity and can actually add to your stress. There will be time for relaxing later. What I’m referring to is a time cushion – a buffer if you will, where you guard yourself against the worst-case scenario. By factoring in a 10 to 20 percent time cushion you’re better able to deal with the unexpected.
Have a game plan
Spend some time on the weekend planning for the week ahead. A good weekday/weeknight game plan includes menu planning for weekday meals (including school lunches and having a plan for when you're going to shop), reviewing what's on the family calendar and possible batch cooking for the week ahead.
Don't let others hold you up
Not allowing others slow you down can be challenging especially when you run into chatty co-workers or friends in the grocery store on the way home. One of the most effective things to do is to pull out your car keys, wave the keys, take a step back and say, “It’s been nice talking to you but I’ve got to run.”
Weeknight efficiency is all about staying on task and keeping to a schedule that works. Try not to get too distracted by things that come up but when they do, just try get back on track as quickly as possible.
Outsourcing at home can be as beneficial as it is at the office.
Adding another pair of hands into the mix can make a huge difference to the ease of your weeknights. Delegating can be as simple as having an older child play with a younger sibling while you’re making dinner, getting help folding the laundry, or having your spouse or child walk the dog.
Depending on your family situation you may want to consider outsourcing to a neighbouring teen who would appreciate the odd baby sitting or dog walking job.
Get your kids into the routine of using labeled folders to organize permission slips, homework, tests etc. so you can relax and review their paperwork after dinner when things have calmed down.
“I’ve got to do…”
Do you really? Granted there are times when you really need to do things like laundry but often we add unnecessary stress by just feeling we’ve got to do something when it really doesn’t need to be done just then.
Sometimes if you can shift things around to a time when you’re more clearheaded and not as tired, you can be much more productive even if it means getting up an extra 15 to 20 minutes earlier to throw the laundry into the dryer or make lunches.
“I can’t survive without multitasking.”
Can you survive the stress caused by forcing your brain to try to do two things at once? You see, trying to do too many things at the same time impedes our efficiency. Sure something simple like preparing veggies and chatting about your kid’s day is one thing but more involved tasks cooking dinner, folding clothes and helping your kids with their homework, or any tasks that have you running back and forth is counterproductive and unhealthy.
“Electronics save my sanity.”
Electronics as a whole do little to ease daily stress. In fact, studies have proven just the opposite is true. Spending too much time on your computer, cell, or watching TV can ramp up your anxiety level and is a prime distraction away from what should be your priority – your family.
Do yourself and your family a favor - don’t text or answer your cell, check your email, or zone out in front of the TV during weeknight family time. Also consider the example you're setting if you don't.
So having said the above, what are you going to do to simplify your weeknights?
If things are running along nicely most weeknights do you have an pearls of wisdom you would like to share?
I welcome your comments below.