Make time for what matters with these tips
Especially in difficult economic times, it can be easy to put work ahead of family; but no matter what your circumstances, there are simple ways to make the most of your time, and set boundaries on work so your family can grow together. Here are a few ideas that can make a difference for your family.
1. Set a time to completely unplug
Your smartphone, your tablet, and your laptop can be great tools to increase your family time—they allow you to be around for your family when otherwise you’d have to go into the office—but it’s important to set limits on your availability at work. Negotiate with your supervisor or colleagues to determine how much remote contact is reasonable, and then be firm: for at least an hour or two a day, shut down all the gadgets and be fully present at home.
2. Plan your week as a family
Often, the conflict between work and home can be avoided with better time management. When I first started setting my own hours, I frequently procrastinated projects and stalled during work hours, only to have to work 16-hour days as deadlines approached. I’m still not perfect at it, but I find that when I plan out my day, there’s enough time to do everything that really matters.
Especially if you have teenagers, get together at the beginning of the week and synchronize everyone’s schedules. There are smartphone apps for this, like Cozi or Google Calendar, that line up your schedules automatically; that way, you never miss a Little League game or recital, and you can make sure everyone is free when you plan a trip.
3. Live within a budget, and stay out of debt
When you live beyond your means, the pressure to work overtime and impress superiors can be unbearable. Set a budget and stay firmly within it, and you’ll avoid the desperation that creates so many workaholics. Talk with your family about your budget, and for each expense, consider how much work it will take to pay for it. Think of it as budgeting your time, not just your money—and make room in your budget for weekends and evenings with family.
4. Talk to your boss about telecommuting part-time
While telecommuting arrangements have their own challenges, working from home can be a fantastic way to be more present with your family. If you live in the suburbs, telecommuting can add an hour or more to your day just by cutting out drive-time. Telecommuters are there to send the kids off to school or take younger kids to the park on lunch break, and are never late for dinner.
If your boss is concerned about the security or productivity of telecommuting, talk to them about using a thin client—it allows your employer to hold all your work data securely on their servers, while you get things done over the cloud. It’s also much more environmentally-friendly than using a full-size desktop or laptop.
5. Don’t skip dinner
A good rule to make sure you have time for family is to have dinner together, as often as you can. Studies show that families who have dinner together are healthier, happier, and more successful than those who don’t—and if you have a set dinner time every evening, it’s a lot easier to tear yourself away from work and make sure you’re home on time. Once family, friends, and co-workers know what to expect, it’s a lot easier to avoid scheduling conflicts.
[About the author: Aimee Watts is a staff writer for Going Cellular. She has spent ten years telecommuting full-time, and loves spreading tips and advice for fellow work-at-home parents. She loves gadgets, new ideas, and skiing with her two favorite people: her husband and teenage son. They live in Evergreen, Colorado.]