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Maximize the Return on Your Time

Every day we have 24 hours. Some of that time is needed for sleep and rest. Some of that time is needed to make a living and do all the things necessary to maintain life: shopping, preparing meals, laundry, cleaning, etc. The allocation of our time will be tempered by the demands of life.

However, we can be selective in what we include in those time constraints. While jobs, careers and home life have certain expectations, we can delegate, we can say NO, we can negotiate, and we can choose activities in our free time that give us a sense of purpose, fun and achievement.

Here are some ways you can maximize your time and make time work for you.

1. Have a regular time to get up and go to bed. Good sleep habits will maximize our time because we will be rested. Resist the temptation to go to bed when you feel like it. If you bring work home with you, stop working at least an hour before bedtime and focus on something pleasant.

2. Develop a positive attitude. It can have an enormous effect on our moods, energy levels and our ability to accomplish even unpleasant tasks. If you are feeling pressured, ask yourself what needs to change? What is under my control – what is not? A positive attitude can make a huge difference in managing our stress levels.

3. Schedule meals. I know it sounds like an impossible situation when everybody in the family is going in different directions. But it is a perfect time for everybody to be together and enjoy each other’s company; even if it is for only one meal.

Make it important enough so family members will want to be there. The TV is shut off, the answering machine takes messages and cell phones are not allowed. Talk. Share. Listen. Laugh. Make this a pleasant time. Don’t scold, remind or bring up unpleasant things. This isn’t the time to talk about chores. Talk about school problems later.

4. Have family meetings. Everybody is included and expected. This is where you discuss schedules, chores, rules, vacations, special events, etc. Kids can share their frustrations and have input in the discussion. 

Establish meeting rules ahead of time. While parents have the last word, it is a way to develop cooperation. Chore lists include everyone – even parents. Be sure jobs are appropriate for age level and ability. Post both chore lists and family rules. Create incentives and rewards for completing jobs. A removal of a reward can be the incentive for completing jobs.

5. Schedule personal down times. Find pleasant things to do in the evenings that give you a sense of satisfaction as well as rest. There will be days when you just want to zone out.

But if zoning out is a habit, it’s time to evaluate what is happening during the day. Are you experiencing high levels of stress every day? What changes are under your control to make? Are there changes I can make at home, adjusting schedules, elimination of some activities, more delegation, etc. Do I fit my job? What can I do to prepare myself for a different job? Taking courses on line can be time well spent for future opportunities. Even in a tight job market, employers are looking for people who can be flexible, creative, responsible, innovative and willing to work together.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

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