You’re busy; Busy being an entrepreneur, busy being a wife/significant other, busy being a mother, busy wearing the 20 to 30 other hats life has thrown on your hat rack.
Being a busy person is a struggle. You dedicate your time to one activity and feel guilty for neglecting other parts of your life. This is the struggle we have to tackle in the 21st Century, the struggle to find balance. But have you ever considered that having fun with your family could increase your success at work? It’s counterintuitive, but there’s logic (and research) behind this hypothesis.
Being more emotionally built up makes us stronger at work. It’s something we rarely discuss let alone intellectually acknowledge. It’s called the “work-home resources model” in a study by Brummelhuis and Bakker, published by the American Psychological Association. They found that couples who have a good and stable marriage are more likely to experience better work performance.
With your busy life, how do you ensure that that the time spent with family is both fun and meaningful? The simple answer is the “s” word: scheduling—but with a fun twist! I encourage my clients to line up their adult responsibilities—and then make having fun a top priority. You’ve got it. Having fun both by yourself and with loved ones should be among your top things to do every day.
Benefits to Your Family
I have three children, and, while I absolutely love them, I’m not Danny Tanner from Full House. I can’t take time out of every day for each of my precious little nuggets to have a warm and fuzzy moment individually. After all, I have my buddy John Stamos to worry about too.
What I can do is a monthly activity with each of them individually. I can set aside a weekend day every single month for one of them and repeat the pattern. Most importantly, I allow them to choose the activity.
This isn’t a totally self-serving act either. The time you spend with them will boost their performance at work or school, too! It makes sense, right? The benefits of fun are powerful work-motivators at any age. So, if you want your loved ones to succeed, have fun with them.
Putting Pen to Paper (…Or Cursor to Word Processor?)
If you’re ready to add leisure to the toolbox of success, open up your calendar and get scheduling! It can be an email calendar, or if you are more a pen to paper person, grab a printed calendar and pen. The medium doesn’t really matter.
We want to establish these family activities to happen at a time that will work easily for both you and your family members. We’ll want to allow for extra room in our schedule so that we don’t feel rushed. This shouldn’t feel like a chore to be checked off the to-do list. After all, what good is family time if you are thinking about other obligations?
Begin with the easiest possible thing that you can schedule: the daily time with your significant other.
Find a time to chat with your beloved beau. In the conversation, schedule a brief, recurring daily time slot for both of you to enjoy together. Perhaps, you’ll experience what many of my clients have reported—that the simple act of setting up a scheduled time brought them closer together, even before they did anything!
1. Scheduling Weekly Family Time
Let’s move on to the next step and create a weekly win. Remember, if you have a weekly activity, like watching Monday night WWE Raw (I won’t judge), you don’t need to schedule something additional. Mondays will account for your time, but make sure it works for the whole family and then add to your calendar.
Incidentally, if you have a significant other, when it comes to the weekly activity, I strongly suggest you schedule a date night. Married couples that go on at least one date, every week, are three times more likely to report improved marital happiness, better communication, and better satisfaction in the bedroom—than those who don’t. Yet a mere 18% of couples go out around once per month.
The activities in those date nights can change, but the consistency is critical. For most people, a weekend night will work well for this; but, remember, variety is the spice of life! One client, a New York executive, has a weekly Friday morning breakfast with his wife. My wife and I have Saturday afternoon dates because we hate crowds. Any time or day of the week is fair game.
All this means you and your significant other will have three new appointments in both of your calendars: a daily recurring brief connection, a weekly recurring family time, and a date night.
2. Scheduling the Monthly Family Time
Now, it’s time to move on to the more substantial monthly family time. This is going to take more coordination, planning, and, perhaps, money. Also, we may have to be flexible in the planning of this event.
For the monthly action you’ll want to develop an idea list with half-day to three-day activities. Think an extended afternoon at a beach or park on the weekend with your family or a three-day weekend. Don’t simply make an executive decision for the family, get input from all members of your family and find out what they want to do. Then, develop a recurring pattern. You might have to table your 3-year-old daughter’s request to ride unicorns through the gumdrop forest…or not.
Imagine you wanted to have a monthly “Family Day” at a park. A consistent pattern could be something like the third Sunday of every month. This allows the pattern to continue independent of the changing dates within a month. It also avoids many of the conflicts that can pop up in the middle of the work week.
Occasionally, you may want to take advantage of a three-day weekend to get extra time in. Schedule these weekend activities out for the year or the next six months at a minimum.
3. Scheduling the Yearly Family Oasis
Now, for the big one: the annual Family Time. Usually, this is going to be something like a family vacation. However, I’ve seen some clients vary this from year-to-year. For instance, one year they go on a vacation, but the following year they make a substantial—yet affordable—purchase that everyone can use, such as a swing set or ping-pong table.
It’s important to take your household budget into account and apply it to your family’s specific situation. Stay well within your means. By “well,” I mean fifty percent or less of what you think you can afford. It doesn’t do you and your family any good if you break the bank on a trip to the Italian countryside or a yacht, and then feel stressed out the rest of the year, sick to death about affording your mortgage.
All of these considerations take routine planning. Don’t rush it.
Our goal is to create a solid commitment in advance by blocking out specific dates for your family time. This reminds you to not schedule other activities during that time. It means letting others know you’ll be unavailable.
Centuries of Impact
What we create with our family has the potential to last beyond a lifetime–potentially for generations. By scheduling out this time, you’re creating lasting, positive memories, and rewarding your family for their support. Even if you do not have the traditional nuclear family, those who you’ve labeled your “family” can be influenced by you forever. The choice you make to spend time with them on a consistent basis can create a rippling effect that can last for centuries.
So, go on. Put on your cape. Be their hero.