How to Fill Your Life with What’s Important to You & Your Family
6 Steps to Make the Most of Your Time
Time flies when you are having fun- or maybe just time flies! And if time flies, I certainly want to make sure to fill it up with the things that are important to me and my family. I don’t know about you, but I feel like we are always super busy. I feel like we have a million things to do and a million more that I would want to do if I just had more time!
Clearly there’s no way to add more time to the day. So, I started to think about what I could do to maximize my time and make sure I was using it wisely. That led me to try something new. I pinpointed our priorities and made a concerted effort to plan weekly activities to fulfill them.I call it intentional living, but I guess it is more like intentional planning. The planning is the key element as it takes the week on a whole and fills it with meaningful activities, rather than just attempting to complete a never ending to do list.
Take a minute to think about what you are already doing. Where do you spend your free time? Do those activities fill you up or leave you drained? Do you feel guilty about what you are doing (or not doing?) Do you get sad when people say things like “enjoy it while you have it” and “they grow up so fast! “ (I hope I can remember to never actually say that to anyone when I am older!)
If we choose to be intentional in how we use our time, we can look back and be proud, knowing that we filled our family’s free time with the things we value. We can be proud that we took advantage of the time we had when our kids were at each age, because we thought about what we wanted for them and for our families and planned accordingly!
Here’s how to get started
1. FIGURE OUT YOUR FAMILY’S PRIORITIES!
First you have to figure out what your family’s priorities actually are. Some ideas include health, marriage, family time, fitness, friends, spirituality/religion, learning/personal growth, children, hobbies, volunteering, travel, community, careers, and education. There are lots of choices- so be sure to take some time to consider actually is important to you, not just what you think is supposed to be important!
2. PLAN ACTIVITIES EACH WEEK THAT FULFILL THOSE PRIORITIES
Once you know what is important to you and your family, then you can brainstorm activities that fulfill each area. Once you have some possibilities you can start planning them into your actual calendar. For example, my family values fun so I try to plan at least one playdate each week. I also try to get together with my friends at least once a week (while the kids are in school or at night). Another example for me is I try to get to the beach once a week to satisfy either peace/rest/nature time or health/fitness if I make an active trip like a run, surf, beach tennis, etc.
3. FIND WAYS TO COMBINE YOUR PRIORITIES WITH YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES
In addition to just adding activities into your free time, you can also try to find ways to sneak aspects of what you prioritize into the things you have to do. You can’t escape your responsibilities (like your job, driving kids to school, doing laundry, cleaning the house, etc.) but you can find ways to make them more enjoyable. For example, if you value education, creativity, self-growth or learning, you can clean the house while you listen to your favorite podcasts. Or if you value dance or fitness you can clean while listening to fun upbeat songs that get you dancing along to your dusting. Those can be blended with health easily too if you listen to either while you cook or exercise. You can add either of those to school drop offs as well and find some fun kids’ podcast to get your kids excited about learning too.
4. SCHEDULE THE ACTIVITIES!
Take the time to schedule your important activities into your calendar. Maybe even start a family calendar where you can write it all down for everyone to see (if you haven’t done that already.) As a bonus, once you write it on an actual calendar it’s easier to see if your schedule is balanced or not. Keep in mind, you might not be able to fit everything you want into each week. Whatever doesn’t fit is either lower on the priority list or something to start with for the next week.
5. REVISIT YOUR ORIGINAL PRIORITIES
After some time has passed it’s a good idea to revisit your original priority list and make sure it is really true to what you want. Maybe you thought you valued super fitness but realize that you actually value family time more since your kids are little and you want to soak up the time with them. It is ok to change it up. It is one thing to want a six-pack, but it is another thing to actually be willing to do what it takes to achieve one. Also, the more priorities you have the harder it may be to get them all in. Therefore, you may have to trim down your list or get real with yourself about what really is important. Use your list and scheduling to feel good and fulfilled at the end of each week and adjust as needed along the way.
6. PLAN FOR DOWNTIME
Don’t forget to plan for downtime! With the endless activities available today and the never-ending to do lists, sometimes the thing missing is rest. It was a little bit of a surprise for me, a total extrovert, when I realized something I would like more of is peace and calm, aka downtime! So, I make sure to leave some free time and I also plan a beach day or afternoon as an opportunity to slow down and connect with nature. I also like to read, write and take it easy.
But what about if you are not a planner? What if this is just too much scheduling for you? I get it, though I might challenge you by saying you do keep some kind of schedule. I suppose if you don’t like to keep a calendar just the act of thinking about your priorities and how you spend your time can be helpful and maybe it will help keep that stuff at the top of your mind where you are more apt to do things to meet them. But I would also challenge you to try this method for a month and see how it feels. Maybe the act of planning based on how you want to spend your time will feel better and more palatable.
In anticipation of the holiday season that is upon us, I challenge myself and everyone who reads this to take the time to think about what priorities you have for yourself and your family and talk to them about it too. Then keep up with scheduling in time for your priorities. Fight the hectic holiday pace with planned important activities. Hopefully by having an empowering context and choosing activities that align with your family’s priorities, we can stay more grounded and calm in end of year and into the future.
Let me know your thoughts along the way. I’d love to hear how this intentional living and planning makes a difference for you!