Why Your Family Shouldn’t Be An Item On Your To-Do List

Everyone is busy. Some parents are busier than others. Slide in a “break time” so that you and your children can spend 15 minutes or a half hour together. Set a timer if you need to so that everyone knows when “break time” starts and finishes.

(Erin Kurt, 4 Ways to Spend Time With Your Kids When You Have No Time, Lifehack)

That chills me. It even makes me angry.

Yes, we have busy lives. Yes, I know that many parents are struggling to get by – both working long hours in order to support their family. And I applaud that.

But I also firmly believe that family shouldn’t be on your to-do list. They shouldn’t be something you have to schedule in.

Your to-do list shouldn’t include “spend 20 minutes talking to husband”. Your calendar shouldn’t read “5.30-6.30pm – play with kids”.

Your family are not projects. They are not action items. They are not distractions.

They’re people.

Being Flexible

For me, the key to not treating people like items on a to-do list is to simply allow some slack in my schedule.

That way, I’ve got time to pop round to my Granny’s house mid-afternoon, or to chat to my mum when she phones in the evening – without feeling anxious about what I “should” be doing.

Sure, sometimes I’ve planned that I’ll work on particular projects. But it’s rare that they can’t wait. And I don’t feel guilty at all about shuffling my schedule around.

You can subordinate your schedule to [your higher values] with integrity. You can adapt; you can be flexible. You don’t feel guilty when you don’t meet your schedule or when you have to change it.

(Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

Being Present

Have you ever been mentally elsewhere while you were with your partner, kids or friends?

Maybe your thoughts were on your work, and you nodded through a conversation without really listening to a word.

Maybe you sat there with your iPhone or laptop, checking emails while your children wanted you to play with them.

Maybe you zoned out in front of the television while you ate dinner, instead of talking to your family.

It’s easy – and tempting. I’m not trying to guilt-trip you here: I’ve done the exact same thing myself, too many times.

But I end up asking myself – what really matters here? Would I rather look back on a year where I got tons of work done, or on a year where I enjoyed being with my family, supporting one another?

It’s not “unproductive” to spend time playing silly games with your kids.

It’s not “unproductive” to go out to dinner with your partner.

In fact, those moments, those relationships, are what can give the rest of your life context and meaning.

Your family are not yet another “thing” to squeeze into your day. They’re people. They’re precious to you. Treasure them.

(Post image by Liz Henry, from Flickr)

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2 Responses to “ Why Your Family Shouldn’t Be An Item On Your To-Do List ”

  1. Kristi says:

    While I agree that family shouldn’t have to be an item on your to-do list, there are some people that don’t include their family at all when they are scheduling their time out, which is worse.

    I don’t think that having family time in your to-do list means they are just another item to do – I think it’s a good way for families to set aside time to be together.

    I’m looking at it in terms of having a family calendar, moreso than a business task list. Consider having different family members who work, are in school, play sports, etc. If everyone collectively marks a specific time block for family time, then it will ensure no one schedules something else during that time and they will have regularly scheduled time where everyone is together.

    • Ali Luke says:

      Good points, Kristi. I certainly agree that a family calendar is a good idea — it’s about valuing time together and ensuring that chunks of time get put aside for family events.

      The problem I have is with the idea in some sections of “productivity” writing which suggests that you can squeeze your family into the cracks, a bit like batching together your emails. Sometimes, being there for your family has to come first.

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