With fall just around the corner, and school off and running, it’s easy to get caught up in schedules. If you have school age kids you know what I’m talking about. School activities, extra-curricular activities, church activities, and family times…just typing that makes me tired. And that’s just the kids! Add in the parent’s obligations and you get a headache just trying to fit it all in.
It’s helpful to have a barometer to keep the “too busy” monster in check. It is never a good thing to wait until the boiling over point to realize you have too much on your plate.
One important part of living simply is learning to say no to activities as well as clutter. We just can’t do it all.
Our barometer for a too busy schedule.
1. Family Dinner
In my home growing up, dinner was an important part of our day. It was only on rare occasions that we didn’t eat sitting around the table as a family. Since Brian and I have been married, that is something that we have made a high priority.
Numerous studies indicate that regular family dinners lowers teenagers risk of alcohol, smoking, drugs, and eating disorders. In fact, a teens risk of drugs is more closely linked to how many dinners his family eats (or doesn’t eat) together than the family’s economic level.
For us, mealtime is a non-negotiable. If we don’t have time to be sitting around a table most evenings, something has to go.
Sleep is important, and I have shared with you how to get better sleep. You can have all the good intentions in the world, but if you are out most evenings you are just not going to get the sleep you need. Any evening you are out will inevitably push your bedtime later. It takes awhile to unwind after being stimulated by activities outside the home.
If you don’t know what I am talking about, feel free to come to my house when we’ve had an evening out. My kids will be sure to demonstrate.
This is another barometer for us. If we are consistently not getting enough sleep, something has to go.
3. Evenings Out
Everyone has a threshold of how many nights out they can take. In fact, you and your spouse probably have a different threshold. You need to know what you can handle before reaching that bubbling over point. Having a general gauge for what is good for your family is helpful.
For us, one or two evenings out is more than enough. My husband needs other nights to study, and frankly, we wouldn’t function well as a family if our kids were getting late bedtimes more than that.
This week, for instance, we have an activity at my husband’s seminary for all the families. It is a fun thing that we are looking forward to. But knowing that it is on Friday means we had to say no to another event on Saturday evening that we were invited to.
If you are going to live a slower life, you have to learn to say no to (good!) activities. Obviously, there are specific weeks where things are extra busy. But these should be the exception. If we are out too many nights in a week, something has to go.
Our normal is to eat family meals together, get enough sleep, and only have one or two evenings outside the home. If these things aren’t happening on our normal weeks, it’s a good indication that there is too much going on. Those three things are our barometer.
I can also tell that we’ve reached the “too busy” lifestyle if things are not getting done around the house, I am short-tempered with my kids and Brian, and, in general, am feeling constantly stressed. When all of this is happening at the same time, I almost always look back and realize that we had let too much pile up in our schedules.
Thinking it through and determining these non-negotiables ahead of time helps keep the calendar from spilling over with obligations. Because if I don’t have something in place, I’ll just keep adding things without even realizing how busy we are getting.
What do you have as a barometer for a too busy schedule?