Before They Leave

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 My oldest is 16 and will be leaving for college in two years and I have started to get a little panicky that she will leave home and I will have forgotten to teach her some really important life lessons , skills, and values.  So I did what I do best and made a list to clear my head and calm my nerves.   Here is my list (in no particular order).  What’s on yours?

  1. Make kindness, compassion, and love the foundation of who you are.  Hate and fear will destroy you.
  2. Don’t be afraid to live.
  3. Work hard and take pride in everything you do
  4. Manage your money responsibly, save a lot of money, and give to those who need it more than you.
  5. Know who you are and believe in what you can do.
  6. Life is hard, stop whining and do something about it.
  7. Dream big.
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  9. Call your mother.  I love and miss you.  Don’t make me come looking for you…
  10. Take care of your health and get enough sleep.  Life is so much easier when you are not tired.
  11. Trust in God.  She has great plans for you.  Just make sure you are listening.
  12. Everyone has a purpose.  What’s yours?
  13. Stay close with your sisters.  Love them, accept them and when needed forgive them.
  14. Don’t go crazy on anyone until you get the facts.  I think Stephen Covey said it better when he said “Seek first to understand, then be understood,” but you get the idea.
  15. A great life is made up of a lot of little special moments, so don’t be too busy to notice or appreciate them.

 

Keeping up with the “Pinners”

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The saying used to be “keeping up with the Joneses”. You know the Joneses, they were the neighbor who had the newest of everything, their kids behaved perfectly, a home-cooked dinner was on the table at 5 every night, the grass was green, the car was clean, and everything just seemed peachy. That’s reality, right??? NOT!

I think that for many years now people have recognized that obtaining that level of “perfection” was not realistic. However, I’ve found that recently we’ve been slipping into this mindset again. Although now we’re not keeping up with the “Joneses”, instead we’re keeping up with the “Pinners.”

For all of you Pinterest fans out there (and I am one of them), you know exactly what I mean by “pinners” so skip ahead while I school the newbies. The way I explain this awesome website to people is this: It’s a virtual cork board to collect and organize ideas in picture form from all over the web. Once the picture is “pinned” to your board, you can link to where it was created and gather further information on it. Therefore those who “pin” these things are called “pinners”.   Here’s how Pinterest defines their website: “Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing the things you love.  Browse boards created by others to discover new things and be inspired by people who share your interests.  People use boards to plan their trips, decorate their homes, and share their favorite recipes.” Got it?? Ok, let’s continue… ;-)

Let me first put forth this disclaimer: I am in no way knocking Pinterest… in fact I love that website and consider myself a Pinterest junkie (you can see that from my boards)! That being said, although Pinterest is full of amazing ideas it can lead us to believe that what we are doing is not enough.  We see people who have gorgeous hairstyles, runway outfits, organized & decorated homes that could be in a magazine, delectable dinners, creative crafts for the kids, and party plans to rival the best event planners. Everyone seems to be everything. Everyone that is, except for you.

If this sounds familiar, here’s what I want you to remember… you are seeing the “outside” of the situation (not behind the scenes). You’re missing the burnt dinners, microwave meals, crying kids, messy hair, no make-up days, the 30 outtakes before they got the perfect picture, the toys strewn about before they cleaned up! Do not fall into the trap of comparing your INSIDES to someone else’s OUTSIDE.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, that’s how the world goes round. Gather inspiration and motivation from others, but do not compare yourself or feel like you need to keep up.  Have fun pinning and certainly follow YOUR passion; maybe it’s cooking, or fashion, or organizing, but maybe it’s something entirely different.  We were all given different gifts for a reason, so remember you are enough.  Keeping up with the Pinners is as unrealistic as keeping up with the Joneses!

Bobbie Friedman is a Professional Organizer, Home Management Consultant, and the owner of Simplified by Bobbie located in Pennsylvania.  She is dedicated to helping individuals and families simplify their lives!  Through personalized organizing services, hands-on help, and knowledgeable guidance she’ll help you establish effective ways to manage your schedule and home; turning CoMpLiCaTeD into Simplified.

Visit www.simplifiedbybobbie.com to learn more, view before & after photos, and read helpful organizing tips.  Contact Bobbie for your FREE phone consultation, and make your space & time work for you

How I Manage Chores

How We Manage Chores

Similar to allowance, managing chores in my home has been a learning process for me.  I have tried many different ways of assigning and managing chores and have finally found an approach that works best for my family.  Here is what we do to manage chores in our home.

Chores are no longer called chores, but rather family commitments

This is an idea I picked up from Amy McCready over at Positive Parenting Solutions and I love how referring to chores as family commitments puts the focus on how each member is responsible for contributing to the family.  It puts the emphasis on “we” rather than “me”.  It is just a little change that I think really has helped us.

We use one central chart to keep track of all the family commitments for the day

For us, a simple dry erase board works best.  It hangs on the backside of the basement door where everyone can see it.  Each family member can see their own family commitments as well as the family commitments of other family members.  When they are done with their family commitments for the day, they are allowed to cross it off their list.  The act of crossing it off I think helps reinforce a sense of accomplishment and it easily communicates to me when their family commitments are done, so that I don’t have to continually ask. Here is what our family commitment chart looks like

family commitment chart

Every day each family member has one regular family commitment they are responsible for completing.  For us, Jennifer is responsible for bringing in the mail, Katie takes out the recyclables, Grace puts away the clean silverware, and Lilly sets the table.  In addition to their regular daily family commitments I also assign additional family commitments.  I use these additional family commitments to break down bigger jobs (i.e. cleaning their bathroom) into four smaller jobs.  Or in the spring or fall when there is a lot of outside work to be done, they will each get one job to help.  I try and mix it up a little so that they have variety and so that one kid doesn’t always get stuck with the same job.

I make family commitments a personal priority

Over the years I have found that to make family commitments work, they have to be a priority for my husband and myself.  If we as the parents don’t make it a priority to assign family commitments and make sure they get done, the girls are much less likely to willingly take on anything around the house to help.  For some reason the dirty bathroom sinks and 6 inches of dust, just don’t seem to bother them….  So to make sure that I stay consistent with the family commitments, I have included updating and checking the family commitment board in both my morning and evening routines.  I use Remember the Milk to keep track of my morning and evening routines and each morning I have a task to Update the Family Commitment Chart and each evening I have a task to Check the Family Commitment Chart to make sure they are done.  This is basically how I force myself to make family commitments a priority for both myself and the kids.

I assign family commitments based on our schedule

I have learned over the years that it is best to only assign family commitments that can realistically get done each day.  In the past, I assigned family commitments without thinking through how busy our schedule was for the day or whether or not I would have the time to enforce that they get done. This resulted in having many days where the family commitments didn’t get done because we were too busy.  And when you have a lot of family commitments assigned that can’t or don’t get done, kids stop taking the family commitments seriously.  So now I only add things to the list that I know we can get done and that I (or my husband) have the time to make sure get done.  Some days there is nothing on the family commitment chart and other days there are a lot of things.

There is less complaining

Now that we have been managing family commitments this way for a year or so, I would definitely say there is less complaining about family commitments.  They still don’t like having to do them and they really don’t like all the outside work that needs done in the spring, but for the most part they know what to expect and get them done.  Family commitments have become a regular part of our routine and family life and in the end it just makes things easier.

So this is how we manage family commitments in our home.  How do you manage yours?

Intentions vs Actions

I have A LOT of good intentions. BUT, that doesn’t mean they always translate into actions. You know it’s an intention when it sounds something like… “I’m going to, I want to, I plan to, I’m thinking of, it would be nice to, one day I will.” You get the idea, right?

These plans are great; this is exactly how goals begin. However, they never move off of good intentions without some kind of action. We can create lists, plans, and goals all we want… but until we take that first step (and physically DO something) all we have are intentions. They sound nice but they won’t change your life. And if you’re creating these lists that says you’re looking for a change.

You need to be both brave and motivated enough to move from intention to action. Usually the first step is the hardest. But once you build momentum it gets so much easier. Don’t overwhelm yourself, break your goals into smaller steps and take the leap of faith to make each happen.

Today I challenge you to:

  • List your goals
  • Break them down into written and achievable steps

  • Choose the one that is most important to you (no matter how big or small)

  • Complete the first step

  • Leave me a comment letting me know that you’re on your way to achieving your goal

  • Note on your calendar when you’ll be taking the next action step

  • Continue the process until you’ve reached your goal

  • Check back in here when your goal is complete and we’ll celebrate your success together!

Remember the saying from Henry Ford… “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  I think you CAN.

Bobbie Friedman is a Professional Organizer, Home Management Consultant, and the owner of Simplified by Bobbie located in Pennsylvania.  She is dedicated to helping individuals and families simplify their lives!  Through personalized organizing services, hands-on help, and knowledgeable guidance she’ll help you establish effective ways to manage your schedule and home; turning CoMpLiCaTeD into Simplified.

Visit www.simplifiedbybobbie.com to learn more, view before & after photos, and read helpful organizing tips.  Contact Bobbie for your FREE phone consultation, and make your space & time work for you

How I Manage Allowance for the Teenagers

giving teenagers allowance

 

In last week’s newsletter, I talked about how I manage allowance for my two youngest kids (ages 8 and 11), so this week I wanted to share how I manage allowance for my two teenagers (ages 16 and 14).  The basic premise of the system I use for the teenagers is similar to the system I use for the two youngest – give them a fixed allowance, make them divide it up between saving, giving and spending, and give them a lot of control over how they spend it.

What are we hoping to accomplish?

When my husband and I were discussing the allowance system for the two teenagers we talked a lot about what our goal was for the system.  For the two youngest, our goals were primarily to teach them the importance of saving and giving and to help them learn skills to manage their spending.  The goals for the two teenagers were the same except that we really wanted them to have a better sense of what it actually cost to live on their own before they actually left home.  We wanted to teach them the skills for budgeting and planning while they stilled lived at home so that we could coach them through some of the issues and obstacles we knew they would face after they left home and had to manage their own money.  So our goal was to make their allowance system as real world as possible.

What the allowance system looks like for the teenagers

  • Each month the girls get a set allowance from us.  They get paid once a month on the same day as our payday.  If they need money between paydays they have to wait until they get paid each month.  We haven’t encouraged the loan from mom and dad concept and they haven’t asked for it.
  • Just like the two youngest they have to divide their allowance between saving for college, giving, and spending.  Their father and I set the minimum percentages that they had to save and give.  And just like the two younger kids, allowance is not tied to family commitments (aka chores).
  • The allowance is set so that they have to pay for all of their entertainment, clothes, and other expenses (including cell phone data plans).  So this means if they want to go to a movie with friends, they need to fund it on their own.  Need new clothes for school?  They need to fund it.
  • They have total control how they use their spending money.  Their father and I made the agreement with them when we first adopted the system that we wouldn’t judge or tell them how to spend their money.
  • Their father and I still do help them for large expenses such as class trips and homecoming dances, but we still expect them to contribute to some of the costs.  For example, my daughter Katie is going to New York City this spring for a journalism conference with the high school newspaper.  They were told they would need to have $300 for spending money (food, transportation, fun, etc.).  So her father and I are paying for half of the $300 and all of the cost of the trip (hotel, air, transportation, etc.) and she needs to come up with the other half ($150) of the spending money.
  • There is no division between short-term and long-term savings.  All of the mandatory savings is for college and any short-term savings they want to do they have manage out of their spending money.  My one daughter is saving for a new computer and is using her spending money to do this.
  • They each have their own joint checking account with me.  They have a debit card that they can use to get money out of the ATM’s or to make purchases at stores.  As of now they do not have checks, but we will implement that later on.
  • I have alerts set on the account to notify me whenever their balance or withdrawal exceeds a certain level.  As of yet, I have not received any alerts.
  • Each month on payday, I prepare financial summaries like these to show them how much they spent, saved, and gave and how much money they have left.

financial_summary_allowance

 

  • They have complete control how they manage their giving money, but they are not allowed to use the savings for anything other than college.

Some things I have learned

We have been using this allowance system for about a year and a half now and here are some things we have learned.

  • At first they weren’t too excited about this new system.  I think they viewed it as us taking something away or they weren’t too sure the allowance we were giving was going to be enough…. So rather than force it down their throats, we discussed it before hand, negotiated the allowance and the rules and told them that we would be open to changes and further discussions if they or we felt there were things that needed changed.  We have kept our word, have made some tweaks along the way, and I think they would tell you that they are pretty happy with the new system (though they would probably tell you they wouldn’t mind having a bigger allowance).
  • Be careful how big allowance you give them.  You want to set it just big enough that it gives them enough experience with really managing money, but not so big that it is too easy for them or they have no motivation to pick up part-time jobs.  Both my girls supplement their allowance with babysitting and some dog walking and when they get a little older they will probably start looking to pick up a part-time job in a restaurant or store.
  • Hold back on buying them expensive gifts (even if you can afford it), so that they have something to work towards.  If they get everything they want for their birthday or the holidays, they will have no incentive to save for it on their own.
  • Uses the allowance system to teach and guide them not control them.  They will resent the control and subsequently tune out the wisdom if you make the system about control.
  • Don’t get preachy about how they should be managing their money.  Teenagers hate parent lectures and the best way for them to really learn is by making mistakes.
  • It can be really hard at times to keep our agreement not to judge or give advice about how they should spend their money, but we try hard not to give any unsolicited advice.
  • Even though I try hard not to give them advice about how they should spend their money, I still continue to give them reminders about things they should be thinking about.  For example, if we are planning a vacation, I will begin reminding them a few months in advance to make sure they have enough money to take with them.
  • Kids are really generous.  They love helping others and it makes them feel good.  Managing the giving aspect has been really easy.
  • The system takes time for the parents.  I probably have to spend about an hour each month, transferring their money to their account and creating their financial summaries, but I think the effort is worth it.

So that is pretty much how we manage allowance for our teenagers.  Overall the experience has been great and I think the girls are learning a lot.  What do you think and how do you manage allowance for your teenagers?  Leave your ideas, thoughts, and suggestions in the comments below.

How I Manage Allowance for the Two Youngest Kids

A note about this post.  I only use this system with my two youngest kids (ages 11 and 8).  I use a similar but slighty different system for my two teenagers.  I will write about that system in a later post.

A while back, I adopted a new allowance strategy for my two youngest kids (ages 11 and 8). It is based on this philosophy here and I think it has been a great learning experience for the girls.

The old system

When my two oldest were young, I used an allowance system very similar to the system that my parents used when I was growing up.  I gave my kids a list of regular chores and only paid them an allowance if they completed the chores.  As the number and complexity of the chores grew so did the allowance.  I also required that each child save 10% for college and put 10% into the giving box.  If they didn’t do their chores they didn’t receive an allowance.

What didn’t work about the old system

Let me just start off by saying that I really don’t have any big objection to paying kids for chores.  Frankly it worked fine for me growing up, helped reinforce the strong work ethic that was important in our home, and helped me learn how to manage money.  And I really didn’t consider the alternative of splitting chores and money management until relatively recently when I sat in on a teleconference on chores and allowance.  I made the switch in part because I REALLY liked the idea of changing our mindset from chores to family commitments and because the system I was using really wasn’t working anyway.  I had nothing to lose by giving something new a try.

The system of assigning chores and paying allowance for the chores wasn’t working in part because I was not consistent in making sure the chores got done nor was I consistent in actually paying the allowance.  My daughters would tell you the system didn’t work because I didn’t pay enough….

I also didn’t give the girls any alternatives to saving for anything other than college and for how their giving money should be used.  Now with the new system they have more control over what they save for and for how their giving money is used.

How the new allowance system works

In our new system, family commitments (aka chores) and allowance are no longer tied together.  The two youngest girls get paid $20 once a month and have to divide their allowance up as follows:

20% – Giving

20% – College Savings

30% – Short Term Savings

30% – Spending Cash

We use the same binder technique that Bill was talking about in the video with the exception that they do not keep their spending money in the binder.  They keep their spending money in their wallets so that they don’t’ forget it if we go out and to make it just easier to grab and go.  This is how our binder looks:

allowance_binder

I try hard not to make judgments about what they use their spending money for, but I do offer advice from time to time.  They also have much more say in how they use their giving money, but if I see an opportunity for them to use it, I will suggest it.  Every few months we take the college savings money and put it in the bank.  I then put the receipt with their savings balance in their clear college savings folder.  I also encourage them to use the short term savings to help them save for and budget for Christmas gift shopping.

Some things I have learned

Now that we have been using this approach for a few months and have worked out most of the kinks here are some of the things I have learned.

  • Establish ground rules for what you will pay for and what you expect them to pay for out of their spending money.  For example, if we go to the movie I will buy the ticket but they have to use their own spending money to buy snacks.
  • The visual way of sorting and storing the money really does help!  I included both the dollar amount and % on each clear folder so that they can get experience working with percentages, and I really do think they stop and think now how to spend and manage their money.
  • Decide how you will handle gifts of money from relatives and be clear upfront about the policy.  Our general rule is that they have to split the money between college and short term savings.
  • Hold back on buying kids expensive gifts (even if you can afford it), so that they have something to work for and use their short-term savings on.  If they get everything they want for their birthday or the holidays, they will have no incentive to save short-term.
  • I haven’t noticed any decreased or increased motivation to do family commitments (they still hate them).
  • Be consistent in giving them the allowance!  Whether you add reminders to your calendar or tasks to your list, but just make sure you remember to pay them on the agreed to schedule.
  • Consider setting family goals each year for community service and giving back to the community.  Let your kids use their own giving money to contribute to the family goal.

Teaching kids how to manage money is a really important thing we as parents need to do, but there are MANY different ways to do it.  How do you teach your kids about money?

Have You Seen My Motivation?

woman_not_motivated_to_exercise

Well it’s January 16th and I am wondering if I am the only person who is looking for all that motivation I had a couple of weeks ago.  It hit me like a brick wall this weekend which is probably why I spent a lot of my weekend watching Season 1 of Downton Abbey (I can now see why so many people are hooked on this show).   I have hit this motivation wall before and over the years have used various techniques to get over it, so I thought I would share them here with you.

Revisit Your WHY

Whenever I lose my motivation for something I always start by going back and revisiting my WHY.  Your WHY is always the most important reason why you decided to do something in the first place.  So for example, if you want to lose weight and you are finding it hard to stay motivated, go back and ask yourself, “Why is this so important to me?” or “What is my main reason for doing this?”  If your WHY doesn’t motivate you to get back on track then you probably haven’t found your real reason.  Dig a little deeper, be honest, let yourself be vulnerable, and that is where your WHY will be found.

Work Through It

Sometimes I just need to work through the feeling of lethargy by doing the task anyway and eventually my motivation returns.  In part because I get a lot of satisfaction from “working through the pain” so to speak and because I think when I force myself to do something even though I really don’t feel like it, I begin to remember all my reasons for doing it and see all the benefits that come from completing it.  This is the technique I use when I need to find the motivation to clean my house….

Seek Out What Inspires You

There are certain people, places, and things that really inspire me, so whenever I am feeling unmotivated, I try and turn to those things that I find truly inspirational and they help me find my motivation again.  So for example,  if you are struggling to find the motivation to clean out and organize your basement, try taking or finding pictures of an organized basement and revisit them when you are struggling.  Planning a speech for work and can’t find your motivation to get it written or practiced?  Take some time to watch or listen to speeches of those people you admire and respect to help re-energize and motivate you.

Restore Margin

Whenever I am struggling with motivation, I always look to see if I am struggling with issues of margin.  In his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard Swenson defines margin as “the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.”

In many cases of my life when I have struggled with motivation I can often trace my lack of motivation back to being overwhelmed and exhausted and work to restore margin by reevaluating my priorities, taking out time for myself, or taking a break from the demands of life with a few episodes of Downton Abbey.

So, what strategies do you use to re-energize and motivate yourself after losing your way?

How I Manage to Only Go to the Grocery Store Once a Week

Young Woman Holding Two Brown Paper Grocery Bags

I was giving a presentation last week to the St. Paul’s Parish Mom’s group (a really nice church and school if you are looking and live in the area) on meal planning and when I told them that I only go to the grocery store once a week, they looked at me as if I was crazy.  I never really considered the fact that I rarely make multiple trips to the grocery store each week anything special.  It is just something that I have always tried to do and there are definitely weeks that I have to go more than once.  But since it was met with such surprise at the presentation I thought I would share with you my strategies for how I manage grocery shopping once a week.  I talked about how I managed grocery shopping and errands a while back, so in this post I will get a little more specific.

How I Plan for Shopping in My Schedule

Grocery shopping and errands are always something I actually schedule on my calendar, so I don’t forget and ensure that I stick with the habit.  For me, late Thursday afternoons are set aside for shopping and errands and I schedule it on my calendar like this.

grocery_shopping_scheduled

Click on image to enlarge

 

I think I chose Thursdays because they tend to be less crowded than Friday’s and because our dinner plans on Thursday are much more relaxed so I don’t feel the pressure to get home and get dinner started.

I also shop regularly at Target and Costco, but I try REALLY hard to only shop at Target every other week and at Costco about every 4 – 6 weeks.  I try and spread all the shopping out so that I don’t have to do all three in the same week.  If it is a week that I need to do more than just grocery shopping then I either have to add time to my calendar or I divide it up between two days.

My husband does all the fruit shopping in our home and I do all the other shopping (household items, vegetables, dairy, staples, meat, etc).  My husband will usually stop at the grocery store twice a week to pick up fresh fruit (it is like candy in our home).

How I Make Sure I Don’t Forget Anything

I meal plan every week during my weekly planning review and create a grocery list at the same time I meal plan.  I save my meal plans and store them along with every recipe I need in a 3-ring binder so that I have everything I need when it comes time to plan the meals for the week.  I then post the grocery list on the refrigerator and write the meal plan on the calendar.  This helps me remember what meals I planned and also helps me add any other items that I realize I need throughout the week.   And because my meal planner is portable (i.e. it is in a 3-ring binder) I could probably take it with me to the store if I wanted to, but I have not done this.  Sometimes I will take a recipe with me, but never the binder.

I review my calendar during my weekly planning review for any events or activities that require either food or something from the store and then add everything I need to my shopping lists.  The planning calendar I talked about here helps with this too.

I am very disciplined about adding items to the grocery list, Target list, and Costco list AS SOON AS I THINK ABOUT THEM.  This habit alone has saved me many trips to the store.  It took a lot of practice, but now it is just habit.  I also tell my kids to add items when they think of them rather than just tell me.  Because they know where the lists are, they can easily add things too.

I keep back up supplies of all toiletries and as soon as I pull the last one from the closet, I add its replacement to the list.  I also keep a list in the bathroom so that I can easily write it down when I realize we are out.  If I waited to write it down when I got downstairs, I would probably forget about it.

For the stores that I shop at less frequently (i.e. Target and Costco), I always make sure I buy enough to get me through until the next planned shopping trip.  In the case of Target, since I only shop there every other week, I make sure that I buy two weeks’ worth of the things I need.  For example, I usually buy our cat food at Target, so I just make sure I have enough to get me through two weeks.

So that is pretty much how I manage to only go to the grocery store once a week.  It took me many years to get get really good at this and I have learned to tweak things to make it work for me.  So if you want to try these same strategies in your own home, take your time, be patient, and try and stay motivated.

Good luck!

7 Habits for a Happier, Healthier Family Life

happy_family

Happy New Year!  As we begin a new year and take stock of where we have been and where we are going, I wanted to share some ideas to help you have a happier, healthier family life this year.  Wishing you all the best in 2013!

  1. Learn how to apologize to your kids when you lose your cool or are in the wrong.  This will help build trust and help make your kids less afraid of you.  Use these opportunities to talk about why you got upset or made the choices you did and how things can be better in the future.
  2. Be the parent your kids need rather than the parent you THINK you need to be.  When we get caught up in “not being that parent” we almost always parent from a place of being “right” and control rather than from a place of trust and acceptance.  If you want your kids to be less uptight or less confrontational, then you need to learn how to be the parent they need you to be rather than the parent you think you should be.
  3. Ask for help.  Parenting is hard and there is no shame in not knowing how to handle every aspect of parenting.  So don’ be afraid to turn to friends, parents, or experts to seek guidance and advice.  Our kids need us to be really good at this, so don’t let your pride prevent you from getting the help you need.
  4. Be fully present by leaving your work at the office, turning off distractions, and making sure you are approachable.  When you take the time to be fully engaged in your relationship with your kids, you really get to know your kids and they get to know you.  And your lives will become less centered around “doing” and more centered around “being”.
  5. Develop interests and hobbies outside of your kids.  Your kids need you to be happy and fulfilled and there is nothing wrong with taking time to do the things you enjoy that don’t involve your kids.
  6. Let your kids fail so that they can learn from their mistakes and learn who they are as individuals.  Letting your kids make mistakes is one of the best ways to build emotional intelligence and confidence in your kids.     
  7. Establish strong morning and evening routines so that you are always starting and ending your days on good notes.  Nothing will ruin a good day more than having a frazzled rushed morning, so get into the habit of starting each day by getting up earlier than your kids, taking some time to relax or workout, and getting important daily tasks done.

Good luck!

How to Stop Living in the Urgent

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. ~ Stephen Covey

To change from living a life of urgent to living a life of balance is not easy.  If it were then most of us would already be doing it.  As busy parents we get caught up in the demands of jobs, schedules, and raising kids and before we know it our lives become one urgent mess.  And we eventually end up asking ourselves, “How did it get like this?”

Busy Dad

If you have read any of Stephen Covey’s books, you have probably run across the concept of using a time matrix to help you plan your schedule and focus your life around your priorities rather than planning your priorities around your schedule.  The Time Matrix looks like this and is divided into four quadrants to illustrate how people spend their time.

Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent – These are our most important priorities and should be done the first thing every day and are things we need to make sure we leave time for in our schedules.  They are also those things that happen completely unexpectedly and require immediate attention.  Things like your child falling out of a tree, a flat tire, and as in the case of the diagram, a kitchen fire.

Quadrant 2: Important But Not Urgent – These are the priorities that usually get pushed off because we are spending too much time in Quadrants 3 and 4.  These are the things that if you don’t take care of, the consequences will eventually catch up with us (i.e. not exercising, not spending time with our kids).

Quadrant 3: Not Important But Urgent – These are the things are that are other people’s priorities and the things on other people’s agendas.  They have real value and urgency to our friends, co-workers, and family, but little value or urgency to us.

Quadrant 4: Not Important and Not Urgent – This is where we waste our time.  They have no real value in our lives or help us in any way to live more meaningful lives and they have no sense of urgency.

The key to living a more balanced life is to try and spend as much time living in Quadrants 1 and 2 with the emphasis in Quadrant 2.  How do you move beyond living in the urgent?  It is a question busy parents ask every day and here are some suggestions to help you get started.

Decide to Stop Accepting it as Fact

Other than some professions (i.e. doctors, nurses, police), most of us actually have a lot more control over how we choose to respond to situations and whether or not we give into the urgent or not.  Rather than just accepting this is how life is, try asking yourself these questions instead.  Is this really urgent to me?  How can this be different?  What can I do to change the situation?  What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t respond?  What are my other options?

Know Where You are Going

When you get crystal clear on what you want in life and where you are headed, your ability to know what is important and what is not important gets so much easier.  When confronted with an urgent request, you should ask yourself,” How does this help me get where I want to go?”

Get Better at Anticipating

Anticipating requests, projects, and schedule disruptions is as much about experience as it is about planning.  The reality is that we cannot anticipate everything in life nor should we try, but we can learn to get better at anticipating some things by paying closer attention to the bigger details, taking more time to better understand each other, and using tools to better plan and manage our schedule (i.e. a planning calendar).

Learn to Say No

Sometimes we let the urgent creep into our lives because we don’t like saying no.  Like the time I went out to run one quick errand and came back PTA treasurer….but I will save that story for another time.  To get better at saying no, try taking some time to understand why you are always saying yes and resist the urge to respond immediately to every request.

Map Out Your Schedule

Try getting into the habit of mapping out your schedule each week and ensuring that the majority of your schedule is spent in Quadrants 1 and 2.  Mapping out your schedule is different than just updating your calendar.  It goes beyond appointments and meetings and helps you plan where you actually want to spend your time based on your priorities and goals.

Good luck!

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