Ready to declutter your crazy schedule?
Family schedules can be unreal. As a working mom of four, I know what it feels like to be the family chauffeur and barely know where the day went when your head hits the pillow each night.
Overscheduled family lives can take a toll on both parents and kids, leaving us tired and stressed out.
If you look at statistics on the American family dinner, it’s easy to see how overscheduling is reducing time for connecting with our kids and spouses, let alone having some time for ourselves!
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Moms are great multitaskers, so we’ll often trudge through and get by somehow. But chances are, if you’re reading this article, you have a feeling there’s a better way.
Even those who excel at juggling can benefit from a slower pace of life, one that allows time for meaningful connections and truly living rather than just rushing from one task to the next.
So what can you do about it?
Try these three rules to declutter your days and take control of your schedule back.
Rule #1: Allow one extracurricular activity per kid
It can be tempting to believe that every activity is an enrichment opportunity for your child. As moms, we have the best of intentions when signing up our kids for music lessons, karate, art classes, and swim team.
But there is a cost. Not only does overscheduling risk making parents stressed and miserable, it can also have negative effects on your kids—the opposite of what you were trying to accomplish.
Children’s playtime has been dropping over the past several decades. Children today have 12 fewer hours per week of free time. At the same time, with rising screen times, unstructured play is even more important.
The benefits of unstructured play include exercise, problem-solving, creativity, and developing social skills. In fact, play is so essential for brain development that the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that pediatricians write a prescription for play at well visits for kids up to 2 years old.
So don’t feel selfish about protecting your family time and reducing structured extracurricular activities. We follow a strict rule in our family: one extracurricular activity per kid at a time.
During soccer season, my son puts music lessons on hold for a few months. He understands the reason for this. We just can’t have our lives be THAT busy—it’s not good for him or our family.
This is not to say your child can’t try different things. It just involves some rotation, but it works.
This practice helps our schedule, our sanity, and our finances.
We also don’t do intensive activities like travel sports. The time investment with those is huge. You really have to weigh the cost to your family when making a commitment at that level.
Like most youngsters, my kids aren’t going to be professional sports players. So it’s just not worth getting that serious.
They participate in sports for the fun, social aspects, exercise, and some skill development. Our city’s recreation league works just fine for all of that.
Give the one extracurricular per kid rule a try, and I bet you and your child won’t miss the extra activities. You may need to do a gradual taper at first.
See how things go and whether you notice any changes in you or your child. You can always add things back, so what’s the harm in trying? But I bet once you try it, neither of you will look back.
Rule #2: Focus on one personal goal at a time
So many moms are guilty of spreading themselves too thin. Similar to the kid’s activity rule, you’ve got to go a little easier on yourself. It can be tempting to try to tackle all of your personal goals at once.
For example, getting healthier could mean meal prepping every week, adding a workout every day, doing a Whole 30 challenge, and reading a new book on healthy living. And maybe you want to tackle your finances and get yourself on a house cleaning schedule too.
With this list, you’re setting yourself up to be one stressed out mama primed for failure!
Allow yourself to focus on one reasonable goal at a time. I’m not saying you’re not committed or not capable of achieving your goals. But as a mom, you’ve already got your hands full. There’s no need to try and do everything at once!
I can certainly see the value in self-improvement. I like to have goals for myself too, and achieving them can be very rewarding. However, busy moms should be careful not to find themselves in self-improvement overdrive headed for burnout.
Give this rule a try and you may find you’re a lot less stressed and a lot more successful.
It doesn’t mean you’re destined to change only one area in your life. Once you’ve completed a goal or a new habit has become part of your routine, you can move on to tackle something new.
This rule really makes you think about your priorities. You only have so much time in your day and so much mental energy—reserve them for what matters most.
When you put your effort into that one thing, your focus will be amplified. By feeling less frazzled, you’re also less likely to give up.
Right now, I’m working on my journaling practice. Once I’ve comfortably incorporated that into my life, I want to work on daily meditation. You can probably tell from these that stress reduction is currently a priority for me.
And you know what? You don’t always have to be working on something for yourself. You can take that motto “never stop improving” and chuck it out the window if you want. I won’t tell!
You’re great the way you are. It’s about what you want.
There are times in your life when your priority will be just getting by. If you’ve just had a baby or are starting a new job, you’re bound to be sapped already. In those situations, don’t add something new unless it’s going to reduce stress.
During high-stress or transition periods, be kind to yourself and focus on taking care of you and your family’s needs. No need to hold yourself accountable to anything else. This is the best time to declutter your schedule. When things settle a bit, you can get back to being the badass driven woman who’s ready to tackle her goals.
The bottom line is, be thoughtful about where you’re devoting your personal energy. Focus on only one new thing at a time, something that matters to you. Then knock it out of the park.
Rule #3: Protect your free time
Block off free time on your calendar like the Queen is coming to visit and you’re hosting the state dinner. I mean it.
You and your family need some downtime. Try a chill weekend once a month. Don’t make any plans—just see what happens.
Give yourself permission to say no. I have mom friends whose calendars are booked with social activities weeks in advance. How exhausting!
Relish in the joy of missing out and see what it can do for your family. I dare you to give it a try.
Practice the phrase, “we can’t make it this time.” Then use it.
We skipped the school carnival—oh well! My kids only occasionally have play dates. But we’ve had some awesome impromptu family game nights. My kids have also played tag with the neighbors until it’s dark and still begged to stay out.
If the weather turns beautiful, we’ll drop everything and go camping at a moment’s notice, tossing our gear into the back of the minivan on a Friday after work.
These types of things require unscheduled time. They’re the ones that make memories and feed the soul.
I love having the freedom of being able to wake up on a Saturday and ask the kids what they feel like doing. Should we go to a museum? Play with sidewalk chalk? Stay in our pajamas all day and bake cookies? Maybe we all need some alone time or quiet time.
Time to recharge and just be together is so essential for healthy family life. Let your family feel the joy of slowing down and having fewer commitments.
When you’ve worked to declutter your schedule using the first two rules, this last one is about keeping those free slots empty. Then block off even more time on your calendar.
Try it out, and I bet you’ll be hooked in no time!
Declutter Your Schedule Starting Today
What do you think—are you ready to implement these three rules and declutter your family schedule for good?
Which one most resonated with you?
I’d love to hear how things go when you put them into action.
My free printable mom burnout workbook has activity sheets where you can go through the schedule decluttering exercise. Check it out.